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Why Bella Ramsey Was Never The Same After Game Of Thrones

The caliber of performance that many children have been able to turn out as actors despite their ages is honestly incredible. Some child actors, like Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman, began their careers with lauded, high-profile performances and continued to rise in talent and prestige as they got older. Many child stars, though, haven't been so lucky. Often, people who started acting in film and television as kids become either so disenchanted with the business they never want to act again, or industry pariahs who can't get hired in Hollywood

Bella Ramsey proved herself an impressive and surprising talent from her first project onward, and has a lot of fans rooting for her to build a sustainable acting career as an adult. Ever since Ramsey (who identifies as nonbinary and accepts both they/them and she/her as acceptable pronouns) began her screen career at the age of 11 as Lyanna Mormont in Season 6 of "Game of Thrones," she's been in the spotlight. It's unlikely that there are very many other young people whose lives went so suddenly from the mundane to such immense fame and stardom, but "Game of Thrones" definitely changed Bella Ramsey's life in many ways.

Game of Thrones was her first professional onscreen role

Bella Ramsey was born and raised in Nottingham, England, where she fell in love with acting when she was just three years old and joined her older sister in performances for their family. After performing in some local stage productions, Ramsey was accepted into the Television Workshop, an acting program that has been a stepping stone for several working British actors (including Ramsey's "Game of Thrones" costar, Joe Dempsie), when she was 10 years old. Not even a year later, Ramsey auditioned for the role of Lady Lyanna Mormont and was cast in what was, at the time, the most hyped show on television. For her first professional job!

"The first day, we filmed on horses," Ramsey told The Guardian of her time shooting Season 6 of "Game of Thrones" just before the Battle of the Bastards. "That was amazing. A member of the crew pointed at the grass and said, 'You know someone got employed to place those tufts of grass in very specific places?'" After "Game of Thrones," Ramsey went on to many other projects, but none were quite so epic (though "The Last of Us" definitely comes close).

She established a reputation for impeccable work and professionalism

Bella Ramsey impressed "Game of Thrones" showrunners D.B. Weiss and Dan Benioff at her audition for Lyanna Mormont, as well as Mark Mylod, the director of her debut episode, "The Broken Man." "She walked in for the casting reading," Mylod told The Hollywood Reporter, "and we were knocked completely sideways. It was one of those moments where you go, 'Oh my God, what a star.' You could not wish to meet a more delightful young lady." 

Ramsey was only 11 when she filmed her scenes with Mylod and the rest of the cast involved in the same storyline, including Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, and Liam Cunningham. "Game of Thrones" was her first on-screen role and everyone involved was nearly shocked by how competent Ramsey was from the jump. They had been expecting a long day helping a young actress learn how to act in such a complex production, but Ramsey only needed a half hour of rehearsal before shooting began.

Mylod added, "Of course, the rest of us felt deeply ashamed, because she knew every single word and every single inflection ... the level of talent there is so ridiculous. She's someone we're going to look back on in 20 years, and she's going to be ruling Hollywood. She's just amazing."

Her scene in Season 6 led to a far more expanded role in the show

Lyanna Mormont was a "Game of Thrones" character that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff originally only wrote to appear in one episode of Season 6 (Episode 3, "The Broken Man"). Her audience with Jon Snow and Ser Davos Seaworthy on Bear Island is a great scene, but Bella Ramsey brought it to another level of quality and impressed the showrunners so much that they expanded her role through the rest of the season and the end of the series itself. 

In the HBO "Inside the Episode" special following Season 8, Episode 3 ("The Long Night"), Weiss said, "Lyanna Mormont was supposed to be a one-scene character, and then we met Bella Ramsey and realized we would not be doing our jobs if we kept her as a one-scene character." If not for Weiss and Benioff's instincts about Ramsey's talent, audiences would have missed out on countless memorable scenes and lines from the character, including her steely verbal takedown of all the northern lords at the end of Season 6 and her epic death scene

She realized that she works better with adults than kids

"Game of Thrones" isn't exactly a kids' show. When Bella Ramsey started as Lyanna Mormont, she was easily the youngest person on set and continued to be such for most of her time on the show. There were some other children in the background in Seasons 7 and 8, but Ramsey was certainly the youngest person with multiple lines and scenes.

It was Ramsey's time on "Game of Thrones" that helped her realize that she was much more comfortable around older people, and that working with adults was easier than working with kids. "I'm neurodivergent and that's part of why I feel more understood by adults," she told The Guardian in October 2023, "It didn't faze me at all. Being around kids my own age would have been so much harder."

While Ramsey is no longer a teenager, she still finds a lot of camaraderie with many of her older collaborators — especially Craig Mazin, the showrunner of her latest project, "The Last of Us." The two of them kept each other anchored through the often dark moments of filming a very serious show.

She bonded with Liam Cunningham and Kit Harington

Because "Game of Thrones" was such a sprawling series, it was often the case that many different actors on the show never shot in the same place, let alone shared scenes. While many of the characters converged in the last two seasons of the show, separate storylines still played out in distinct threads. Bella Ramsey, as the Lady Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island, a hold in the North of Westeros, shared scenes with other folks who found their characters occupying the North for much of the show, including Liam Cunningham's Ser Davos and Kit Harington's Jon Snow. 

In an interview with Metro.co.uk, Ramsey explained that both Cunningham and Harington took time to teach and guide her during her time on the show. "I learnt a lot from them about interviews and about how to go about them and to just be yourself," Ramsey explained. "They were obviously aware that I was going to have to be doing some, so they helped me by preparing me for it." 

For their part, Harington and Cunningham have only ever had wonderful things to say about Ramsey. "There's an old adage about how actors should never work with children or animals, but that's B.S. When kids are as good as this young lady is, it's a joy to play opposite. She was absolutely amazing," Cunningham told The Hollywood Reporter.

She started getting recognized by strangers

As we mentioned above, Bella Ramsey's supporting character became such a sensation on "Game of Thrones" that she was called the breakout star of Season 6. As such, she went from being an everyday kid with a passion for the arts to an international sensation overnight when her debut episode aired at the height of the show's popularity and quality (Season 6, Episode 3, "The Broken Man"). Up until the episode aired, Ramsey had to keep her part in the show a secret from everyone except for her immediate family and her best friend, who was present when her mother came to tell her she'd gotten the role in the first place.

As time went on and Lyanna continued to pop up and stand out in her scenes throughout the last three seasons of the series, Ramsey got recognized more and more, often getting called "m'lady" by strangers on the street. "It was madness," Ramsey once told The Guardian about her overnight fame. It was overwhelming for the young actress, but for the most part, she was adored by nearly every fan of the show.

Game of Thrones thrust her into the spotlight -- for better and for worse

Bella Ramsey has never been interested in acting for the fame, but rather because she loves inhabiting complex characters and learning more about herself and others through her artistic expression. "I never wanted to act to be famous," Ramsey told The Nottingham Post.

Ramsey has only leaned into the trappings of a high-profile acting career out of necessity. "People were setting up fake accounts on social media pretending to me. One of them had swearing in the bio and people were saying 'you shouldn't be swearing!' But it wasn't me. That's why I had to set up official Twitter and Instagram accounts," she told the Post. Ramsey appreciates fans who are respectful and the positive attention she receives, but it can be frustrating at times when she wants to support her loved ones in their own spotlight moments.

Ever since being cast as Ellie on "The Last of Us," Ramsey has experienced an increased volume in negative attention, mostly from fans of the video game upon which the show is based because she doesn't look exactly like the original, animated Ellie, something that has especially frustrated Craig Mazin, the show's creator.

She loved Lyanna and learned a lot playing her

While Bella Ramsey probably wouldn't describe herself as an outgoing or assertive person, when she played Lyanna Mormont, she felt strong and fierce. When asked by The Cut what drew her to the role, Ramsey said, "I like how strong she is — mentally, physically, personality-wise. I like how she sticks up for what she believes in, no matter the cost or the consequences. I really admire her confidence, how she can just stand up without flinching in front of all those people." 

Ramsey loves acting because it gives her the opportunity to explore characters that are not like herself. She told The Nottingham Post that a project's prestige doesn't matter to her when choosing roles, only that she enjoys any roles that are "interesting" or involve playing "multi-layered characters."

Playing Lyanna helped her build her own confidence both as a young adult and an actress, and Ramsey was not disappointed with her character's grisly (but decidedly badass) death at the hands of a giant wight. "I wanted to either end up on the Iron Throne or have a really good death," she told Entertainment Weekly when Season 8, Episode 3 ("The Longest Night") premiered. The small but mighty Lyanna Mormont took out the giant with a warrior's cry right before succumbing to her injuries, and Ramsey was well-pleased with such a brave ending.

It helped her get cast in The Last of Us

It's clear that Bella Ramsey's talent stands on its own — just ask Liam Cunningham, Mark Myold, or anyone who's ever worked with her. That being said, her role in "Game of Thrones" definitely launched her career and helped her get a lot of visibility and success that might have taken a little longer had she not been a fan favorite on what was arguably, at one point, the most popular show on the planet. 

When Craig Mazin — creator and showrunner for HBO's "The Last of Us" — was reviewing audition tapes for the part of Ellie in his new TV adaptation of the mega-popular video game, he couldn't help but recognize Ramsey. "I was like, 'oh s***, it's Lady Mormont,'" Mazin told Elle magazine. Though Mazin definitely set aside his excitement when assessing the quality of her audition, realizing that Ramsey was his Ellie was just a confirmation of the talent he'd already seen from her.

She was convinced to switch to online school

Bella Ramsey struggled with making friends throughout her childhood, and the fame that came with her role in "Game of Thrones" only made her time at school worse, because she was more popular for playing her character than being herself. Ramsey also explained to The Standard that she was never really happy at school. She felt like "everyone was put in a box," and that she couldn't be comfortable when beholden to so many social and academic norms that didn't necessarily work for everyone.

Bella tried homeschooling for a while, but when it didn't work for her she enrolled in Interhigh, which is essentially a high school that takes place entirely online. Interhigh allowed Ramsey to keep a flexible schedule for her acting career without sacrificing her education in subjects like math and literature. Ramsey was also able to bond with her Interhigh classmates, which helped her avoid losing the important social aspects of school. 

Now 20 and done with the British equivalent of K-12 schooling, Ramsey has a much easier time connecting with her peers and looks back on her decision to stop attending a traditional school as the choice that was right for her.

Game of Thrones helped her bond with Pedro Pascal

The relationship between Joel and Ellie in "The Last of Us" is the heart of the story and absolutely the most resonant element for many who have played the video game or watched the TV series. Joel becomes a father to Ellie, and she a daughter to him, and it was essential for the success of the show that Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey be able to replicate this bond on screen. Luckily they had a little help from a shared history.

After getting cast as Joel and Ellie in HBO's "The Last of Us," Pascal and Ramsey were able to quickly connect thanks to their experiences as cast members of "Game of Thrones." Despite the fact that Pascal's character, Oberyn Martell, died a few seasons before Ramsey's Lyanna Mormont first appeared onscreen, the two actors found kinship through their involvement in the saga of Westeros.

"I feel like it made us come from a family without knowing each other already," Pascal told Entertainment Weekly, "to have two characters that the fans liked make their entrance and make their exit is parallel for the both of us and a kind of bonding thing before we even got a chance to bond. So, yes, I am grateful for that." After watching the outstanding performances from Pascal and Ramsey in "The Last of Us," audiences are surely just as grateful.