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Bella Ramsey never meant to be an actor — no, really, she’d be the first to tell you. And yet, the 18-year-old actress has already amassed a career with credits including, but by no means limited to, The Last of Us, Becoming Elizabeth, and Game of Thrones. Each role has been part of the “happy accident” that is Ramsey’s burgeoning career. The actress chatted with SheKnows about playing Lady Jane Grey in the Starz series, life after Game of Thrones, the upcoming adaptation of the beloved video game The Last of Us, and more — read our conversation below.
For Becoming Elizabeth, in which Ramsey plays Lady Jane Grey, portraying this iteration of the real-life historic figure also meant learning the rules of Tudor Court. “[The chessboard] was definitely a theme that we all felt and that we talked about, just being this massive game of dangerous chess,” Ramsey says of the British period drama series.
But as for where Lady Jane Grey finds herself amongst the minacious squares on this particular Tudor chessboard? Ramsey says that Jane is a young woman aware of her power, but she’s still being used as a pawn in others’ plans.
“She’s becoming aware of her position, from what she’s been told, but also becoming aware of it for herself. I think she’s crafty,” Ramsey shares.
“She definitely, as she grows up toward the end of this season and hopefully in further seasons, gets to understand better the stakes of the world that she lives in. She can manipulate certain situations in order to get onto the throne. Although, to be fair, I don’t know whether that’s her or whether that’s the work of her father and the people around who actually make that happen,” Ramsey tells us.
In playing this version of Lady Jane Grey, Ramsey imbues the malleable noblewoman with as much ambivalence as she does wit and cunning: “I think she’s aware of what’s going on. She’s very, very smart. Though she lacks emotional intelligence, she definitely has worldly intelligence.”
Just as Lady Jane Grey is thrown into Tudor Court and quickly educated on its ways, Bella Ramsey is no stranger to the art of learning as she goes. Ramsey’s breakout role — and first acting gig — came in 2016 as Lyanna Mormont on HBO’s record-breaking, Emmy-winning fantasy drama Game of Thrones. As the young warrior and ruler, Ramsey became a fan favorite, stealing scene after scene, and having one of the most poetic (if brutal) conclusions to her character’s journey. Since the series’ conclusion in 2019, Ramsey will be the first to tell you just how much her life has been forever altered.
“My life has completely changed. I guess I’ve got a career now, which is really weird to say,” the young star shares with SheKnows. “I was very much just catapulted into the world of film and television and new projects kept coming in. It’s just kind of what I do now, apparently!”
Through it all, though, Ramsey’s humble regard for her place in the industry has kept her grounded. “It’s such a happy accident. I never really intended to be an actor. It just kind of happened, which, I’m so happy it did — best accident ever.” Despite those precious memories and opportunities Game of Thrones afforded her, Ramsey wants to be more than the Lady of Bear Island.
“I think the challenge for me now is to be not just known as the girl from Game of Thrones. I think you can’t deny that you’d always be remembered for that. Hopefully, I’ll be known as the kid from Game of Thrones, but also as a person in other cool shows.”
Ramsey’s journey on this anomalous new path through Hollywood led her to the highly anticipated The Last of Us. The 2023 HBO series adaptation of the 2013 video game features Ramsey as Ellie, a young girl immune to a deadly strain of virus that turns people into cannibalistic, zombie-like creatures. The post-apocalyptic series also stars Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Game of Thrones) as Joel — a smuggler tasked with transporting Ellie across a pandemic-ravaged United States.
Given the video game’s dedicated fanbase, Ramsey knew what a task it would be to bring the lauded, beloved story to life. “I think people are going to love [the adaptation]. I know there were people worried about it, of course. When something is so precious to you as a viewer — as a gamer — of course you’re going to be worried about the adaptation.”
“But honestly, I think people are going to love it. It very much follows the emotional beats of the game, and it’s very respectful of the game and honors the game. But [the live-action series adaptation] brings a new life into it. It explores different avenues that weren’t explored so much in the game. I do think people are going to love it. I hope they do. It was so much fun to make, such an experience. I hope that [audiences] feel that experience too when they come on the adventure with us.”
Regardless of where the adventure takes Ramsey next, we’ll surely journey along with her as the deferential young talent’s star continues to rise.
The next episode of Becoming Elizabeth airs Sunday, July 31, on Starz.
Before you go, click here for more British dramas worth binging.