x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Game of Thrones star can relate to the character she portrays

Sophie Turner says it's not easy playing Sansa Stark, the rather uppity young aristocrat in the fantasy series Game of Thrones.

Sophie Turner says 'big events happen for Sansa Stark in season three' of Game of Thrones. Courtesy HBO
Sophie Turner says 'big events happen for Sansa Stark in season three' of Game of Thrones. Courtesy HBO

"A lot of people hate my character," Sophie Turner says with a mock wail. "I get stopped in the street and people say: 'I love your character', but I know they're lying. Everyone loves the little sister and hates me!"

It's not easy playing Sansa Stark, the well-behaved, rather uppity young aristocrat in HBO's epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, which returns to OSN First tomorrow for a third season.

"But that's fine," says the 17-year-old actress over the phone from her parents' house in Warwickshire, where she's being home-schooled for her A-level exams. "I'm playing a controversial character. I knew that was going to come with it."

Sansa may not have as many fans as her younger sibling Arya, who's determined to become a warrior, but she's earned the right to some sympathy over the last couple of seasons. Her dream of living like a fairy-tale princess has been crushed after being betrothed to, and then pushed aside by, a prince who's anything but charming.

And there's more trouble to come.

"Big events happen for Sansa in season three," Turner says. "They pretty much turn her into a woman." The character is still clinging on to her childhood dream of finding her prince, but she's less naive. "She manipulates others and is good at it; she has accepted that this is the way the world works," Turner says. "It's quite a depressing season for her." She pauses for a beat and adds with a laugh: "Again!"

It's a challenging role but Turner, who has been in a youth theatre group since she was 3 years old and was cast in the series at the age of 13, has found a way to relate. "Sansa was thrust into an adult world at 13," she points out. "She grew up faster than she should have. The same has happened to me. I was thrown into [filming], I had no idea what to expect and I was surrounded by all these accomplished adults. I've grown up very fast as well."

She dealt with the pressure by forming a "little alliance" with her child co-stars, Maisie Williams (Arya), 15, and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran), 13. "We all have this special bond," she says. "We can't explain what we're going through to anyone except to each other."

She is also close to Peter Dinklage, who plays the sharp-witted dwarf Tyrion, and Sibel Kekilli, who plays his concubine-turned-lover Shae. English is Kekilli's third language - she's German, with Turkish parents - and Dinklage and Turner would play tricks on her during the shoot by telling her the wrong meanings for inappropriate English phrases and then enjoying the awkwardness that ensued.

Then there was Finn Jones, who plays the refined Loras Tyrell, the Knight of the Flowers. When they were filming in Croatia, Turner says: "He just wouldn't stop burping!" She cackles in a way that Sansa Stark would frown at, and adds: "It's a pretty fun cast. We're all close."

A lot has changed since her "overwhelming" first day on set, when she met Sean Bean (Ned Stark) and Mark Addy (King Robert) for the first time, and filmed the king's arrival at Winterfell. She has finished shooting her first feature film, Panda Eyes, and after this interview she's off to LA for the red-carpet premiere of Game of Thrones' third season at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

But at the same time, she says, she still feels like a bewildered 13-year-old sometimes: "I still can't comprehend that I'm in [the series]. It's crazy. Maybe one day I'll realise it."


Season 3 of Game of Thrones starts tomorrow on OSN. Check out tomorrow's edition of Arts&Life for our unofficial guide to the popular TV series