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Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey on Lady Lyanna Mormont and Becoming an Ambassador for the Prince William Award

3 June 19 interview: Ashley Carter and Derry Shillitto
photos: Fabrice Gagos

With the television juggernaut that was Game of Thrones leaving our screens for the final time last month, fans are starting to adjust to life without the enormous cast of incredible characters the HBO show has given us over the years. Amongst the most memorable was the fierce Lady Lyanna Mormont, played by Nottingham actress and Television Workshop alumni Bella Ramsey. We caught up with the young giant slayer to talk about trending on Twitter, life post-GoT and her new role as an ambassador for SkillForce’s Prince William Award...

First things first: how crazy has this past month been for you?
Probably one of the busiest periods I've had so far! After my final episode aired I ended up doing seven interviews in one day. I feel the same as I always have, but can't quite comprehend that all these people suddenly know who I am.

Do you get recognised a lot?
Mainly by kids, from The Worst Witch, but it’s becoming more common from Game of Thrones now. There's a certain look people give you – then they get their phones out and I can see them Googling to see if it’s actually me.

Your character is in Game of Thrones is fierce. If fans come up to you, are they ever a bit intimidated?
Yeah! People have come up to me, done a little bow and said: “My Lady.” It's kind of weird. I think if I met an intimidating character in real life, I'd find it a bit scary. It's just about breaking down those barriers and reassuring people that I'm not going to stab a dragon-glass dagger in their eye or anything.

When did you know that your character was going to stab a giant in the eye?
Probably a year and a half ago, if not more. I've had to keep it quiet all this time. It was just me and my mum who knew, and then my dad found out quite recently. Everything in Game of Thrones is a big secret until it comes out. It’s hard to keep quiet sometimes, especially when people are talking to me and speculating. A few people thought I might die, but they didn't know how.

Which shoots did you most enjoy?
The night shoots in season eight, where the giant comes in and knocks me out of the way. I was in a harness and they pulled me onto a crash mat – it was great. I thought I'd wrapped about four or five times but they kept ringing us up to say “Sorry, we need a little bit more to pick up.” There were lots of layers to it.

When you saw the scene for the first time, was it as you’d imagined?
I didn't really know what to imagine. They showed me what the giant was going to look like but, in the context of everything else, it was mind blowing. So real. It's all done on a massive green screen and when I was on the set, I stabbed the dagger into a green polystyrene ball symbolising his eye.

When you first appeared on Game of Thrones, you were a young girl in an important role but, within two or three lines, you'd established yourself as one of the leading people in that room. How did you approach giving your character that much presence?
There was a mantra I recited before I did it: “I am Lyanna Mormont, I am powerful, I am strong.” It’s about instilling that confidence Lyanna has. You have to throw away any inhibitions or embarrassment and just go for it-  otherwise it ends up being half-hearted.

People have come up to me, done a little bow and said: “My Lady.” It's kind of weird.

What was it like being part of that ensemble cast knowing it was the final series?
Everyone was making the most of it. There was almost a melancholy undertone, especially in the last few weeks. Everyone was taking it in and reflecting on the whole eight seasons. There was a lot of nostalgia. I still can't really believe I'm part of it.

As one of the younger cast members of the show, were you treated differently at all?
They were really welcoming and treated me like an adult, which I was pleased about. Being treated differently for being a child is something Lyanna Mormont doesn't like, and it’s the same with me.

You've recently become an ambassador of the Prince William Award. Can you tell us about the new scheme?
It's an amazing offshoot of the charity SkillForce, who work to build life skills, resilience, confidence, self-belief and teamwork within school children. It's something I would have benefited from immensely when I was at school, so I want to make sure others get the opportunity to be part of it. I’ll be promoting the award through more school visits like I did recently, going to events and hopefully inspiring people my age.

As you mentioned, you recently visited Our Lady and St Edward's school in St Ann's. What did you get up to with the kids?
We did lots of structured games, talked about the skills we used – like teamwork, trust, and self-belief – and did a journal session at the beginning and the end, discussing how we were feeling and measuring how that changed by the end of session.

In an interview you did with us a few years back, you said that if you hadn't become an actress you wanted to work with special needs kids doing theatre and acting workshops. Will your new role as ambassador facilitate you to be able to do anything like that?
It’ll give me experience, definitely. The Prince William Award goes to special needs schools too, so that's something I want to get more involved in. I want to see what works, what doesn't, and the way they approach things.

Can you tell us a bit about how the Television Workshop prepared you to work on a big TV series?
I auditioned for Workshop when I was ten and I didn't get in the first year, but auditioned the year after and got into the main group. It's an incredible organisation. What's so important is that they nurture what's already there. Everyone has some sort of ability and they work with you to develop what you already have. They nurture naturalistic acting, so they focus on film and TV rather than stage and theatre which was very helpful. It's not drama school-y at all; it's another kind of family, which is clichéd but true.

Now that Game of Thrones is coming to an end, what does the future have in store for you?
There's a few things that I shot last year, and the year before, that are coming out. There's a film called Resistance which I think is coming out late in the summer. It's a biopic about Marcel Marceau and the part he played in the war helping German-Jewish kids escape Nazi Germany. Lots of people don't know that about him. I play a German-Jewish girl called Elspeth. It's an incredible story of crossing the border into a safe space.

There’s also Zero, a short film which was premiering at Tribeca Film Festival, and Judy, a film about the later years of the life of Judy Garland. I think this year’s going to be a big year.

You can listen to the full interview with Bella Ramsey by downloading the LeftLion Film Podcast

Skillforce website

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