Interview: Game Of Thrones' Stark Children on Growing Up in Winterfell

Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner and Isaac Hempstead Wright speak to Complex AU about growing up on set, and what comes after Game Of Thrones

Sophie Turner in promotional still from HBO series Game Of Thrones

Sophie Turner in promotional still from HBO series Game Of Thrones

Sophie Turner in promotional still from HBO series Game Of Thrones

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Isaac Hempstead Wright have had rather unorthodox childhoods. Growing up on the set of Game of Thrones, the three youngest actors held their own alongside a prestigious cast, displaying a maturity and talent beyond their years.

Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran Stark, was just ten years old when filming began.

“I have only recently come to terms with how weird my childhood was. You just kind of go with it when you’re doing it at the time, but I’ve now realised [that] I’ve spent my formative years on the world’s biggest television series, which is strange to comprehend.”

The Surrey native had only starred in a commercial before securing Thrones. What followed was hardly a glamorous introduction to the industry.

“I can remember my first day of shooting, because it just rained non-stop and I was like, ‘I don’t think I can do this. What have I gotten myself into?’”

Bran is arguably the show’s most integral character, his cataclysmic shove out of the window being the “Helen of Troy” moment that launched a thousand warships.

“I just think he has the most extraordinary story, as a disabled ten-year-old, in one of the most brutal universes ever created, who loses his home and his family… and yet, despite all of that, or maybe in fact because of it, he is able to remove himself and dedicate himself to the strange mystical power he has, and actually ends up becoming one of the most powerful characters there is.”

Bran’s sisters also endured their own unspeakable, often near-fatal tribulations. In a most developmental arc, Sansa Stark turns from a deferential “little bird”, constantly violated by powerful men around her, into a queen with agency and reverence.

“I think [Sansa] is not power-hungry, which automatically makes her a better leader than most people in Game of Thrones, because they get blinded by that power. I think she’s very diplomatic and fair, politically minded, honest, and she’s been through the worst and has come out of it on top.”

Turner and Williams are fast friends in real life, whereas their characters often quarrel, as sisters are wont to do. The reunion at the end of season 7 was a tender reminder of just how far the Stark daughters had come on their separate journeys.

Acknowledging her older sister’s travails, Arya offered: “I never could have survived what you survived.”

“You would have. You're the strongest person I know,” replied Sansa.

Williams takes full credit for what she dubs the “best line of last season”.

“You know [series writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] stole that line from an interview I gave. I said Arya would never survive what Sansa survived, and Sansa would never have survived what Arya survived, and then [the characters] said the lines!”

“Surely you should get writer’s credit,” jokes Turner.

The Stark daughters were always starkly different: as children, while Sansa daydreamed of being a perfect wife to her future betrothed, Arya would play-fight with boys and hone her skills with the bow.

Reflecting on their characters’ journeys, Turner admits that she envied Arya’s agility.

“I would have loved to do proper stunts, because I never really got to work with the stunt team unless it was [when I was] getting beaten. They are an Emmy-award winning stunt team, and I never got to work with them!” 

“I would have loved to have worn a corset at least once. A really, really nice dress for just one scene,” says Williams.

“I would have liked to have worn trousers and no corset.”

“Grass is always greener.” 

While cherry-picking the most iconic scene out of all eight seasons may seem an arduous task, it really isn’t. It’s that scene from “Hold the Door”.

“That was really dramatic, watching [Kristian Nairn] act his heart out in that scene [with] all the hands gripping at Hodor in that final selfless gesture… that was quite emotional,” says Hempstead Wright. 

“But I think because it’s such a long drawn out process, you don’t quite register how powerful and emotional it is on the day. I kind of thought that when I watched it back. I would be like, ‘I saw all that, I know what’s going to happen’, but it really made me cry.”

Before his demise, Hodor and Bran were an inseparable duo. Literally. After Bran was left permanently crippled from his fall, the friendly giant would carry him everywhere on his back.

“Kristian Nairn (Hodor) was my uncle/dad figure, a very close friend of mine. I was literally strapped to his back from day one – so he kind of had to get on with me! 

When I was younger, I used to sing little Sponge Bob songs in his ear. It would really annoy him.”

As the seasons progressed, so did Bran’s weight. 

“The guy’s poor back started getting damaged.”

Bidding farewell to the cast and crew after almost a decade together was never going to be easy. The final day of filming was emotional to say the least.

“I did [cry], I didn’t think I was going to,” says Hempstead Wright.

“It was really nostalgic, and very emotional… It was just a season of heartbreak. After so many years, it is impossible to say goodbye in the right way,” says Turner.

“It’s impossible to put all of that emotion into your final take [as] they call cut,” says Williams. “It’s impossible to be able to, one, feel all of that in one moment, and two, be able to thank anyone enough. We knew it was going to take a lot of time to set in. Still is.”

The farewell was but a short one. After filming wrapped, the three co-stars attended a cast reunion special hosted by talk show host and Thrones superfan Conan O’Brien.

Also in attendance was Sean Bean, who played Ned Stark, the ill-fated patriarch of House Stark.

“It was amazing,” recalls Turner. “Seeing Sean Bean was the craziest thing. I think I cried when I saw [him]. It was so emotional seeing dad again!”

Now in their early twenties, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Isaac Hempstead Wright face a crossroads similar to most others their age.

“I’m 21 and ready to go into the next chapter of my life. Everyone has just left university, and we’re all trying to figure out if we want to go on a gap year or start working,” says Williams.

Hempstead Wright enrolled once more in university, after leaving the previous year.

“It was impossibly difficult. I left because it was literally just as I started filming the new season, and I’d spend all my time at university stressing about going back to Belfast and working, and all my time working would be spent worrying about getting back into lectures.”

Work and study aside, how else does the young trio plan to unwind?

“I’ve just spent nine years [acting] and feel like I’ve just lived an entire lifetime – but I’m only just turning twenty, and my life is only just beginning. So I just feel like I want to do something a little bit different for awhile,” says Hempstead Wright.

“Holidays and free time,” says Turner.

“A lot of partying,” adds Williams. “And petting my dog.”

Game Of Thrones is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray, via Roadshow.

Latest in Pop Culture