Arya has acquired a taste for killing.
In the latest episode of Game of Thrones (Sundays, 9/8c, HBO), the youngest Stark daughter realizes that just by uttering a name, she can condemn a person to death at the hands of Jaqen H'ghar, a mysterious man who claims he owes her three deaths to repay her for saving his and two others' lives. And although this proxy murder is shocking, it's not the first time Arya has taken a life. Last season, the pint-sized girl impaled a stable boy with her sword in self-defense. The act serves as a rite of passage and a gateway for kills to come.
"I find it really hard to relate to Arya because I can't even imagine killing someone, but I think that first kill is completely lost on her now," Maisie Williams, who plays Arya, tells TVGuide.com. "Although that was a huge deal at the time, that's just a tiny little piece of this whole madness that's kind of going on in her life at the moment, and I think there's more to come. She definitely feels that's kind of the first of something, and when she realizes she's capable of doing that, I think it almost scares her a bit, but gives her more confidence because she can stand up for herself."
Arya has had to grow up fast ever since witnessing her father's beheading and then fleeing King's Landing disguised as a boy traveling with recruits for the Night's Watch. "She's still not 100 percent confident with where she's at and who she can trust," Williams says. "She's always going to be a bit cautious about things like that because she's had some people very close to her ripped away. I think it has definitely made her mature an awful lot; She's not just this kind of fun-loving kid anymore. She's cheeky and she hasn't lost that kind of feistiness about her, but she's a little more reserved."
Check out the rest of our interview with Williams, who discusses the men in Arya's life, her haircut and "singing" the Game of Thrones theme song:
How does Arya view Jaqen (Tom Wlashchiha) once she realizes that he's killed a person by her command?
Maisie Williams: When Jaqen tells her that he's going to grant her three kills, she kind of has to trust him then. When she meets these new people who are kind of nice to her and she can trust even the slightest bit, I think she's then worried to lose them. She's trying to not get too close to him, because she's worried that he's doing this very dangerous thing. She's not sure what to make of him, but he's then got this almost power over her. When she realizes that he really means business, and that he does these kills in a way that it looks like it was an accident, she then gets even more nervous that he's going to be taken away from her.
Was it hard to kind of get into that mind-set to be that murderous, obsessive girl who recites this hit list of people she wants to kill?
Williams: No when we did that scene it was a rain scene so we had the rain machine, and it was like a nighttime thing so I could really get into my own world and get into that weird kind of mind-set she has. I think because that is probably one of the most iconic parts in Arya's story, I was really worried in how it was going to go.
How would you describe Arya's relationship with Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the blacksmith's apprentice who just also happens to be one of King Robert's bastards?
Williams: When he first kind of helps her out in the first season, I think she thinks there's something a little bit fishy going that he may have sussed out something. When she does find out that he knows she's really a girl, she realizes he has known for a while. Throughout the course of the second season, she learns to trust him and sort of gets on even ground with him and tells him things. Since he kind of knows who she is, she almost has to trust him a little bit.
Do you think that she views him as she would one of her older brothers?
Williams: Because she's lost her father figure, all of her family, and she gets her sword Needle taken away from her as well, he's almost like a role model to her at times. When things get tough, he's a bit like a brother to her. I think she misses just being able to just forget about everything and go and have a bit of fun. He kind of reminds her of back at home.
How does Arya feel after Yoren (Francis Magee) is killed, because once again, he's another father figure who's been taken from her?
Williams: There's that scene when Yoren shares a really deep story with Arya, and it's kind of that one time where she can let loose and just pretend to be this kid that doesn't care about anything again, and then the attack comes, and she's completely helpless. From the big distance she sees this guy who took her under his wing taken away from her. That then really kind of destroys Arya and that is probably the final twig into kind of madness I'd say. It's kind of then it just goes downhill, and she can't trust anyone. I think she's almost a bit kind of psychotic with Gendry and Hot Pie. They're going to be pulled away from her any moment, and she can kind of see that coming, and I think it's deep. She's got it into her head that everyone's going to die around her.
Is there anyone on the cast that you really look up to and enjoyed working with?
Williams: I have a lot of scenes to do with Charles Dance [who plays Tywin Lannister], and he was lovely and really nice to me and made sure I was okay all the time. I was really thankful because most of our scenes are kind of one-on-one... He kind of commands this respect when he walks in a room. I really do admire him and I think it's amazing that kind of presence he has.
And what about your peers? I heard that Ben Hawkey who plays Hot Pie, was constantly either doing impressions or singing or other silly things.
Williams: Either he or Eros [Vlahos], one of them bought a ukulele. That was the most annoying thing ever. They took it everywhere with them and would just sing. But any weekend that we were still in Belfast, but not doing anything we'd always go out. We went ice skating. We were going to do golf, but it was raining so we didn't do it, but we did bowling as well.
We can see that you actually cut your hair in real life to play Arya disguised as a boy. Why did you decide to cut it instead of wear a wig?
Williams: When I was 10 cut off my hair, randomly really, really short, and I really liked it, but I started growing it again two years ago. It was just past my shoulders, and I knew the question was going to be asked if I was going to have my hair cut or not when I heard the second season was greenlit. My immediate reaction was, "No way!" because I've been growing it for so long and just really wanted to get it there. But then a lot of people get really attached to their hair, and I was just thinking, "It is only hair." It feels an awful lot thicker when I have it cut short, and then when it gets longer it's kind a bit scraggly anyway, so it's probably the best thing.
At least this way you don't have to deal with wigs.
Williams: That was so itchy in the first season. I can definitely tell the difference between the last episode of the first season, and that first returning scene of the second season. I think it looks better with my own hair.
So now that there's one season under your belt, are fans recognizing you more?
Williams: Most commonly I've been recognized from people who aren't actually from England. They're just over here on holiday or something, and I find that really funny. I remember I was in KFC, a fast food restaurant over here, and there was a man who'd just come over from Canada and he had been watching Game of Thrones on the airplane over.
I've also heard people say, "I want to adopt Arya." Is that a reaction you've heard before?
Williams: How funny! I think a lot of people on Twitter say, "Oh you're really cute. I want to adopt you," and things like that, yeah.
A lot of fans loved it also when you, Sophie Turner and Isaac Hempstead-Wright sang the Game of Thrones theme song for the first season DVD commentary. Did you have a lot of fun doing that?
Williams: Yeah, we were so hyper that we just thought it would be funny, and only later realized everyone was going to see it. We forgot about that, and then it came out. It's really embarrassing, because a lot of people keep posting it on my Twitter, and then friends at school who also have Twitter find it, and then put it on Facebook. But it's nice that people can see that kind of side of you though, that we're not just these roles, that we are people too, and we do stupid things like that.
Check out this sneak peek of Sunday's episode, "The Old Gods and the New":
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
What do you think of Arya's killer instincts this season?