WARNING: This post contains spoilers from season 8, episode 2 of Game of Thrones.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Williams admitted that when she first found out her character would lose her virginity to Gendry (Joe Dempsie), she thought the creators of the HBO show had sent her a bogus script.
“At first, I thought it was a prank,” she said. “I was like, ‘Yo, good one.’ And [the showrunners were] like, ‘No, we haven’t done that this year.’ Oh f—!”
The scene unfolded at the very end of Sunday’s episode as those fighting for the North gathered at Winterfell, preparing to wage war against the Night King and his army of the dead. Arya, determined to make the most of what might be everyone’s last night alive, sought Gendry out after he forged a custom dragonglass weapon for her.
After demanding to know details of his sexual history since they’d parted ways as children in season 3, she suddenly grabbed him and kissed him. Later, the camera panned to them lying in bed together as the White Walkers arrived.
It’s a pairing fans have been rooting for for years, especially given how their coupling would unite the Stark and Baratheon houses as their fathers had once hoped. (Gendry is the bastard son of late King Robert.)
By the time the scene was read aloud at the final season table read, it finally sunk in for Williams.
“I got to the read-through and I’m reading the scene and thought, ‘Oh, we’re actually going to do this. When do I shoot this? I need to go to the gym,’ ” she recalled. “A whole list of things.”
One thing Williams had complete control over? Exactly how much skin Arya would show on screen. Many cast members have appeared nude on the show, though they typically signed onto the series when they were at least 18 years old and agreed to nudity as part of their deal. Williams, now 22, was 11 when she joined Thrones and has grown up in front of fans.
Williams said co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss let her decide what she was comfortable with.
“David and Dan were like: ‘You can show as much or as little as you want,’ ” she said. “So I kept myself pretty private. I don’t think it’s important for Arya to flash. This beat isn’t really about that. And everybody else has already done it on the show, so …”
When it came time to film the scene, Williams said there was some natural awkwardness due to the fact that she was half-naked on set.
“In the beginning, everyone was really respectful,” she said. “No one wants to make you feel uncomfortable which kind of makes you feel more uncomfortable, because no one wants to look at anything that they shouldn’t look at, which in turn makes you feel like you look awful because everyone is kind of like [averting their eyes.] You want people to act more normal.”
“Then [the scene] was rushed,” she continued. “We were [directed by] David Nutter, who has a habit of speaking fast anyway. By the end we’re rushing to finish the scene and David is going, ‘Okay, you’re going to come in and do this and do that and, great, take your top off’ — and then walked off. And I’m like … ‘Okay. Let’s do it.’ “
Dempsie, who at 31 is almost a decade older than Williams, admitted the experience was “obviously slightly strange” for him considering he’s known the actress since she was 11.
“At the same time, I don’t want to be patronizing toward Maisie — she’s a 20-year-old woman,” he said. “So we just had a lot of fun with it.”
And for Williams, she was glad to explore a different side of Arya, who has spent the last couple of seasons preoccupied with murder and revenge.
“It was really interesting because it’s a very human relationship for Arya,” Williams said. “This is something she’s stayed away from, an emotion we’ve never really seen her engage with.”
“David and Dan were like, ‘It’s the end of the world, what else would you have her do?’ This may be is a moment where Arya accepts death tomorrow, which she never does — ‘Not today,’ ” she continued. “So it was that moment where she says, ‘We’re probably going to die tomorrow, I want to know what this feels like before that happens.’ It’s interesting to see Arya be a bit more human, speak more normally about things people are scared of.”
Game of Thrones airs Sundays (9 p.m. ET) on HBO.