“I don’t really know any woman who isn’t a feminist. I just think it’s without question that a woman or a man should be a feminist.” -Sophie Turner
Sophie Turner, the British actress who plays Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, describes herself as a “big pushover,” but she clearly takes a definite stance on important issues. Sophie was just thirteen when she started on the hit HBO show, which has steadily gained a huge base of dedicated fans. It’s a show which often grabs headlines for controversial displays of sex and violence, but it’s also become known for complex character development, in particular of powerful women.
It’s the show’s strong female characters that Sophie loves about it. “They’ve taken a time period where women didn’t have the same rights as men, and they weren’t as powerful economically, or politically. But they’ve taken this time period, and they’ve put in these strong female characters who do have power, and who can achieve what they want. They’ve done it really subtly, and I really love that about the show.”
From the name recognition she garnered from Game of Thrones came a slew of movie deals, with several due out in 2015 and 2016, giving Sophie an opportunity to expand her acting range and get out of the Game Of Thrones schema, which can take a psychological toll on her. While playing Sansa Stark, she got a little bit too accustomed to acting depressed. “I’m so used to crying and being sad a lot of the time in every scene I do, when I have to do something that’s happy, I can’t do it.” The comedy, Barely Lethal, starring Hailee Steinfeld, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jessica Alba, gave Sophie a chance to loosen up a bit and improvise. “We really had a chance to play and be stupid on set.”
She will also star as a teenaged Jean Grey, a telekinetic and telepathic mutant, in the new X-Men: Apocalypse. Her character is “fiercely intelligent, and stands up for what she really believes in.” When asked what she would do if she had Jean Grey’s telekinetic powers, she said, “I would make everyone accepting of other people’s religions, that’s what I would do. I would put that into their brains somehow, that other people would be different, and that will be okay.” Wise words that show maturity and depth from a girl often bullied for her character’s actions. “People would sometimes come up to me and be like, ‘listen, I really hate you.’ And I’d be like, ‘alright, fair enough.’ It’s awkward, but fine.” She manages to take it positively. “I sometimes just take it as a compliment – that they think I’m so annoying…that I’m just playing myself. I hope I’m authentically annoying.”
In the new season, which premiered April 12th, Sophie’s character, Sansa, has “definitely evolved into this kind of manipulator, who’s very powerful now…. So although there are a lot of downfalls for her, she picks herself up very, very, quickly, because she knows what to do, and how to get what she wants.” Sophie relates to her character in the sense that she pretty much grew up with her. “Our stories are quite similar. I was never abused, but…when I got the job on this show, I didn’t know anything about acting, and I was kind of thrown into this world. It was finding out what this fairytale for me would be like in reality. And the same thing happened to her in a sense…we kind of – I’m talking about her as a different person – we bonded in a way.”
Being thrown into such a big production while still so young, she has come up against some uncomfortable situations. “There was one scene that was really awkward. It’s the one that sticks out the most in my mind. There’s a scene where terrible street men try to sexually abuse me. And that was the day that my dad decided to come up on set. My mom was always up on set with me, because she was my chaperone, but my dad decided to go as well. So the producer, Dan [D.B. Weiss], the creator, he just kind of sat on this chair watching the monitor, and he had my mom on one side, and my dad on the other, while I was just lying on the floor screaming.” She learned that despite being young, she wasn’t going to be coddled. “I always thought that my hand would be held the whole way, and everyone would forgive me for things…But it’s very much like an adult industry, and people treat you like an adult, and they work you like an adult, which I love.” Completely without pretension, Sophie says, “It sounds so cheesy, but I do actually learn something new every day that I work on a film set.” She says, “I never really found a mentor in one person…. I would watch how Lena Headey works, or watch Natalie Dormer, or even my friend Hailee, who I just did a movie with. She educated me so much about the business, because she’s been in it for years.”
The attitude that women can’t do as well as men in some areas doesn’t sit well with Sophie. She recalls a story her friend Maisie [Williams] told her, “Maisie was watching something like Bridesmaids, and her friend said something like, ‘Oh, I don’t like female comedy.’ And that really gets me. I just hate the fact that people think that women aren’t as funny as men, or women can’t do things as well as men, and constantly, every day, women are proving to be just as able as men are in our everyday lives.” Entertainment shapes society, and although film and television is her career, Sophie is first and foremost a woman, and recognizes the media’s ability to hold women back, but also create change. “We’re moving forward so much in terms of gender equality, but we still have those films from the past where there is that kind of social difference, and I think people watch them, and it resonates with them still. I think that’s what’s dangerous about film and television, and everything else that’s been kept in the past, because you’ve captured something from the 1950s, when women didn’t have a say in the world, and people still love those old films, and watch them, and they think that’s how life should be. And I think it’s just infiltrated into our everyday lives. It’s going to take forever to get rid of it. It’s just very small things. I think we have a long way to go still, but we’ve come very far.”
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine #GirlPower Issue
Photography by Jessie Craig
Stylist: Simone Konu
Make-up by Kelly Cornwell
Hair by Tracie Cant
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a print edition of the issue today!