We Talk To Maisie Williams from GOT About Trolls, Her Secret Tumblr, And Her New Channel 4 Drama
The Debrief: ' I know they secretly want me to reply because it’s a bit of buzz on their page'
You probably know her as Ayra Stark. Small. Spunky. Super resilient with a right jab that’d floor an orc – or at the very least Hodor. But she’s put down Needle and washed off the sweat, mud and blood to film something a bit different for Channel 4.
Her new drama, Cyberbully, is about cyber bullying (obv) and the way it can creep into a teenager’s world. Casey (played by Maisie) finds herself in a dark relationship with someone online and has to outwit him. It’s just her one character, filmed in one bedroom, at one computer, in real time over one hour. It's a little intense and a lot brilliant so we decided to go and hang out with Maisie on set and ask her about it.
Chilling out with her nose ring and trainers, she looks pretty much like any 17-year-old. Except we quickly realise she’s twice as wise, grounded and bad-ass than we ever were.
The Debrief: Hey Maisie! You’re very active online on Twitter, Facebook and IG. Have you encountered the negative side of that?
Maisie Williams: Of course. I get trolls on the internet every single day. Sometimes you can tell it’s just people being excited and sometimes you can tell it’s people who genuinely want to say something nasty and as much as you can say people just do it for kicks, it does hurt. People throw insults out at you but sometimes they hit something. And it’s about not showing that because they’ll pick on that. Don’t feed the trolls, basically. Or they know how to grind your gears.
DB: Is a lot of that through Twitter?
MW: Yeah, I got Twitter when I got the part in Thrones. I was 12 then and was a bit scared of the internet because it was constantly stressed to us what a dangerous place it is and you have to be really careful not to talk to strangers. So when I got Twitter and people were tweeting me saying 'Why don’t you reply to me?' or 'Why aren’t you following me back?', I remember being really confused in my naïve twelve-year-old mind, like, this isn’t right, you’re strangers.
DB: Are you still conscious of this now?
MW: Well, a lot of my friends are learning about it through me tweeting them and then people going on their handle. I stress to a lot of my friends to keep their stuff private or I won’t reply to them. And they’re like, 'Oh, you didn’t reply to me on Twitter' and I know they secretly want me to reply because it’s a bit of buzz on their page. I totally get it and I’d be exactly the same. But I stress to them that anyone will see your page and now they can see your Facebook and Instagram and photos and it’s just a picture of you in a bikini on holiday but anyone can see that. I’ve had to learn very quickly – not the hard way, by any means – but at a young age that there are a lot of people that can find you and just because you don’t know they’re there, anyone can be looking at your posts.
DB: Did you any of your personal experiences to the story?
MW: The piece been infused with a lot of different stories. I’m close to a girl who was stalked on the internet and am very familiar with her story. And I’ve been the girl at school who is the victim. I also realised reading the script that I could have been the person that’s really hurt someone.
You don’t realise that you’re a real person when you hide behind the keyboard. You don’t realise the messages on your phone could be taken and put into the wrong context. That was a real eye opening moment. The things that you say you couldn’t imagine saying them outright to a person. So it did really open my eyes to things I say, things people say, things I get online. You think, it’s just trolls, but it’s like someone’s actually sat down on their computer and written this.
DB: Who is this script aimed at? Who did you all want to educate?
MW: Teens. Parents too so they know what’s going on over the internet. Sometimes I wish when times were a bit more difficult at school and I was the kid in the TV show, my Mum knew what girls said. And yeah I was horrible too. But I wish someone was there who could’ve said, “Oh Maisie, that’s not nice.” Because we’re all young and it’s easy to say, just ignore them. But when you’re 13 and someone says something, you say, I don’t want to ignore them, I want to hurt them like they hurt me. You get into a bitchy cycle and now I look back and think, why did you even bother? Why did you care? It’s easy to say that now when I’ve matured and figured out what I want to do with my life and who I am. And they’re still bitching. And that’s okay.
DB: I bet they’re the ones that go, 'Remember me from school!'
MW: Constantly! I recently met Ed Sheeran and loads of people messaged me who were really, really nasty saying, 'Tell Ed I said hey.' I’m like, “What? No!” Now I just ignore them. People say, why don’t you just tell them. And I say, because I don’t care anymore. And I wish that I didn’t care when I was 12 or 13 but there’s not that support out there, without it being patronising or saying: “stay off the internet, kids!” I think the internet can be a wonderful place when used correctly. It can be a wonderful place for teenagers to let their emotions out but it comes with its difficulties, like everything does.
DB: What advice would you give people who are getting cyber bullied right now?
MW: Honestly, it would be switch it off. Delete your Facebook. It’s very difficult because you think you won’t be able to keep in touch with my friends because no one texts anymore - which is true. For a long time, I didn’t have anyone’s number because I’d just Facebook them. My honest answer to that is if they’re your real friends, they’ll stay with you by texting you. And if they don’t, then they’re not. For a little bit, you may end up on your own, but there’s no easy way to get around horrible people on the internet. It’s either leave it or get sucked into the whirlwind of it all.
DB: What do you reckon’s the worst network for cyber bullying?
MW: Ask FM – my answer is don’t fucking get it. Anyone can ask you an anonymous question and there are people that might not necessarily even dislike you but they’ll think, they need knocking down a few pegs. It’s just awful that a thing like that was ever invented. I can’t imagine Ask FM ever being used for anything useful, ever. No one’s going to ask someone out on an anonymous date. I don’t think it’s benefitting social media. It’s just an excuse for people to bully.
DB: Have you had a personal experience with that?
MW: I had an awful experience with Formspring, a similar one. I knew who the girl was who was sending anonymous things and I’m being completely honest with you here, we started sending horrible anonymous things back. She deleted her Formspring because she was being bullied. And then she set it up again. Why are you setting it up again? My advice would be to stay off it. It’s the worst thing. We’ve brought into the script – we’ve used a different name for it – when people see the screen they’ll know exactly what it is. It’s just bad news. It was the worst year of my life and it was all down to Formspring.
DB: What did they say to you?
MW: Paragraphs of speech saying you’re weird because you’re not at school, you’re a stuck up bitch because you talk about it too much, no one likes you, we all just pretend to like you because you’re rich and famous, horrible messages. Mum’s like, just delete it. It’s easy for an adult to say. But when you’re in this world and your body is changing and your hormones are everywhere and you just want to fit in. I don’t blame the girls who doing what they did. It doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt and that it wasn’t wrong. But I understand it.
DB: How do you think bullying online is different for guys and girls?
MW: It’s a difficult one. I would say girls can be much more bitchy but I know there are guys that bully that don’t realise they’re bullying because it’s just lad banter. This word lad has been taken way out of hand. I see this word online used in the sense of, “Oh, he’s a lad, he can handle it” but I think it’s actually not nice. And I think it’s a lot more difficult for boys to come to someone and say I’m being cyber bullied. But I don’t know because I haven’t been a teenage boy, that might be complete rubbish.
DB: Finally! Do you have any secret accounts we don’t know about?
MW: I have a Tumblr where I have a false name and no-one knows it’s me. It’s a way to get things off your chest without fingers pointed at you.
Cyberbully is on Channel 4, Thursday 9PM
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