Even though Maisie Williams hasn't shared a scene with her "Game of Thrones" mother, Michelle Fairley, in more than two years, her lingering respect for Fairley has her popping up to fetch bottled water for Mama Stark just seconds after entering the hotel room in Beverly Hills, Calif., where the junket for Season 3 is being held. And just like in a real family, she checks in on her TV sibling Isaac Hempstead-Wright's hydration needs as an afterthought.
"I have them well trained. It's a real shame that we don't get to work together anymore," Fairley cracks before giving credit where it is really due. "No, their own families have raised them right. They are gorgeous, beautiful individuals. [I have] so much love for them. When we see each other in Belfast when our schedules cross, we just have a lot of fun together."
They are well aware that behind-the-scenes socializing and media-day matchups will have to tide them over because for at least the foreseeable future, their character tangents will not realign.
"It seems like so long ago now. I miss the Stark family," Williams reminiscences before adding that the Season 1 memories of an intact House Stark help her to get into character as Arya, who is still roaming the Westeros countryside, after escaping from the Lannister stronghold Harrenhal, hoping to be reunited with her clan. "It is nice to have something real to think back to."
Fairley's trick to finding that place of longing is "thinking back to the scene in the courtyard when the Lannisters arrive in Winterfell and we are all together. I think back to the family dynamic of everyone standing in the line and [Arya] running in late. It is incredible, from Season 1 to 3 -- we can physically see [the young actors'] bones shifting. The Starks and the Lannisters had a lot of fun together, but unfortunately our paths don't cross anymore either."
She isn't the only one who noticed the kids are growing up fast. "When we first got the parts, [Isaac and I] were sort of similar heights. I was really worried because I was supposed to be the older sister. I thought, 'What if they have to get someone new?' Then we went sort of like this for ages," Williams says while demonstrating their back-and-forth growth spurts with her hands. "Then I saw Isaac a couple of months ago and he'd completely shot up. Brilliant. Now there's no chance I'm going to catch up."
Williams feels a kinship with Arya. "She has had to get used to this world and fight for what she wants alone most of the time. She has had to grow up very quickly, and I think I've grown up a lot quicker than I would have if I wasn't doing [this show]. We have grown up together," says Williams, who has enjoyed the company of her escape partners Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie). "The pressure builds a little [each season], but I learned to relax watching Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister). He is saying all the words how they are written, but he makes them seem so fluid. You just have to concentrate on the scene you are doing that day." (Speaking of specific scenes, she remained mostly mum on what happens once our fearless female comes in contact with the Brotherhood Without Banners but did allow that she had high expectations for a particular, important scene with Dempsie.)
Although Hempstead Wright also misses working with his faux family, as well as with Donald Sumpter ("Maester Luwin was like my dad"), he actually finds the distance helpful in portraying Bran, the Stark son with the sixth sense who starts this season on the run, looking for brother Robb and trying to make sense of his prophetic dreams of three-eyed crows and his ability to commune with his pet wolf. "I think it is important not to think of other people's storylines because most characters wouldn't know at all what is going on with others," he explains, adding that it is especially important this year because Bran has a new direction. "Bran has lost a lot, and it has been a bit of a tough journey for him, but before, he never had anything to strive toward. He has just been hanging out at Winterfell, and now he is aiming for something like all the characters. It gets a little better for Bran."
The outlook is not, at least as the third season gets under way, so bright for Catelynn, who freed the King Slayer in hopes of exchanging him for Sansa behind Robb's back. "Catelynn is still in manacles, and she's basically estranged from Robb. She spends most of her time on her own," Fairley teases. "Every day [the character] still evolves. You think my life is pretty sorted -- mother, wife, runs a castle -- and then you have the external forces that cause grief, loss, strife, worry, and those are wonderful things to play. Even though 'Game of Thrones' comes under [the banner of] fantasy, the people are human, and the issues they're dealing with are ones that we have to deal with ourselves."
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"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO.