Bella Ramsey didn’t join the Game of Thrones cast until its sixth season, but her first appearance made waves. Her feisty, confident portrayal of Lyanna Mormont, the only surviving heir of the powerful Bear Island, instantly earned her fans among the series’ most ardent viewers. And as a result, the show’s creators took note.
It turned out that the series creators had considered using Ramsey for only one episode. However, after her initial appearance in season six, they realized they had a star on their hands. So, Ramsey appeared in nine episodes, concluding with the show’s long-awaited battle of the living and the dead. And, naturally, the young leader of Bear Island joined the fight.
Of course, characters fighting for territory or clout is a big theme in Game of Thrones. Furthermore, Ramsey’s final appearance took place amid the biggest battle ever recorded for television or film. And yet, she revealed to the Los Angeles Times that her parents wouldn’t let her watch her epic on-screen performances for one simple reason.
Ramsey was born in September 2003 in Nottingham, England. And at just four years old, she showed great promise as an actress. Indeed, the future star began her training in the craft at that age and went on to join the casts of several amateur productions. By the age of ten, Ramsey had earned a spot at the Television Workshop, a program that prepares young artists how to act on screen.
And the training at Television Workshop would certainly come in handy for Ramsey, whose first professional gig just so happened to be on Game of Thrones. Interestingly, she got cast in a roundabout way – she auditioned for a role in the movie The BFG in front of casting director Nina Gold. But, Ramsey told Entertainment Weekly in April 2019, “I wasn’t right for that part.”
However, Gold saw potential in Ramsey to play the part of Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones, another of her major casting projects. The TV show’s team asked the young actress to come in for an audition in which she’d read a bit of the show’s script – and she got the part.
As mentioned earlier, Game of Thrones’ creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, imagined that Lyanna Mormont would appear in a single episode of the show. But Ramsey’s take on the character would change all that. Mark Mylod directed the pre-teen actress in her first scene, and he told The Hollywood Reporter that her professionalism and talent embarrassed her older co-stars.
Mylod recalled, “[Ramsey] walked in for the casting reading, and we were knocked completely sideways. It was one of those moments where you go, ‘Oh my god, what a star.’” Not only that, but the actress came with all of her lines and characterizations ready, too. He continued, “We ended up rehearsing for only a half-hour because she was so on it.”
And show creator Benioff had similar warm words for Ramsey in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He said that the star served as the perfect example of a Game of Thrones actress “going so far beyond what was expected for [her].” He added, “[She was] just supposed to be in one scene. Bella is such an incredible actress that we kept bringing her back because we wanted more Bella.”
In total, Ramsey starred in nine episodes of Game of Thrones after making her debut in the sixth season of the show. And throughout her run on the fantasy series, her character, Lyanna Mormont, had a number of scene-stealing moments and lines that endeared her to the show’s fans.
As the story goes, Lyanna had an interesting journey to becoming Lady of Bear Island. Her mother, Maege, held the title after her older brother, Jeor, left to join the Night’s Watch, a military faction meant to protect the border from the dangerous creatures dwelling on the other side. And his son, Jorah, could not rule, either, since he had been exiled.
Eventually, Maege followed suit – she left Bear Island in her daughter’s hands to fight in a war and never returned. After her mother’s death, Lyanna became the Lady of Bear Island, which made her an important player in Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, she made her presence known in her first appearance on the series.
At that point, the Stark family needed the support of the other Northern houses, the Mormonts included, to reclaim their territory at Winterfell. When they arrive, they try easing into their conversation with the Lady of Bear Island, but she brushes off their attempt to do so. She says, “I think we’ve had enough small talk,” cutting them off and introducing the world to her to-the-point character.
Eventually, Lyanna pledges all of her 62 soldiers to fight for Winterfell, but she doesn’t stop there. Indeed, she delivers one of the series’ most memorable quotes during a meeting with other Northern houses – many of whom feel hesitant to back the Starks’ quest for Winterfell under Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned Stark.
Lyanna declares, “House Mormont remembers. The North remembers! We know no King but the King of the North whose name is Stark. I don’t care if he’s a bastard. Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins. He’s my king – from this day until his last day.” And in spite of her young age, Lyanna’s speech inspires the rest of the houses to back the Starks.
In season seven, Lyanna once again stands with the Starks in their preparation to fight against the dead, who will return with the winter. When it’s suggested that women and girls shouldn’t train for battle, the Lady of Bear Island delivers more memorable words. She states, “I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me.”
Lyanna doesn’t end there, either. She concludes, “I might be small… and I might be a girl, but I am every bit as much a Northerner as you. And I don’t need your permission to defend the North. We will begin training every man, woman, boy and girl on Bear Island.” And yet again, her words endear her to even more fans with her feminist take on the fantastical war ahead.
So, it’s no surprise that, when the army of the dead finally descends upon Winterfell, Lyanna refuses to sit idly and watch the men fight. Even though her cousin Jorah reminds her she’s the last remaining heir of the House Mormont, she refuses – and she pays the ultimate price for her decision.
As the battle takes off, young Lyanna helms the troops stationed in Winterfell’s courtyards. The army of the dead have an incredible weapon, though. This comes in the form of a wight giant, which breaks its way through the castle gates. And as it barges in, it swipes Lyanna out of the way. And though this causes injury, it also ignites a fire within her.
At that point, Lyanna stands up and charges the massive being on her own. The giant easily lifts the teenage fighter and begins crushing her with his fist. As she takes her last breaths, though, she musters the strength to reach for her dagger made of dragonglass and stab the giant right in the eye. And as a result, both of them perish shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, at the end of Ramsey’s character’s bold and brave storyline, the actress reflected on Lyanna’s arc. For one thing, she couldn’t believe how many fans loved her. Indeed, she told the Los Angeles Times in May 2019 that she didn’t know when she began that she’d be so well-received by Game of Thrones viewers.
Ramsey said, “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if people were going to like [Lyanna or] hate her, so I’m very pleased that she’s been received how she has.” To that end, Ramsey also appreciated the way that the show’s writers chose to say goodbye to Lyanna. In fact, the actress loved it as soon as she read the script, she said.
“I was pretty excited [about the script],” Ramsey told the Los Angeles Times. She continued, “If you’re going to die on Game of Thrones, at least die well. There’s been so many deaths over the series so I was very happy to be given the death that I did. It’s heroic, which I’m very grateful for.”
Of course, acting out such an intense final sequence required a lot of hard work and imagination on Ramsey’s part. Indeed, the showrunners didn’t have an actual giant to act alongside her, after all. Instead, as she described to Entertainment Weekly , she “was in this massive claw machine” set in front of a green screen.
Ramsey sat inside of the claw-like contraption as it elevated into the air and simulated the giant shaking and squishing her in its fist. She then had to deliver her final, fateful blow to the being. The actress continued, “I had to… stab [my dagger] into a green polystyrene ball which was representing the giant’s eye. It was surreal.”
But that only covered the physical aspects of the scene – Ramsey said that her director, Miguel Sapochnik, helped her to understand what Lyanna would feel as she headed into battle. She told the Los Angeles Times, “We talked about whether Lyanna would be scared or show her more vulnerable, childlike side.”
However, Ramsey said that take “didn’t really fit” with what she knew of Lyanna’s personality. Instead, she said, Sapochnik “gave [her] a great bit of direction.” He advised Ramsey to act as if “someone removed [Lyanna’s] fear gene. It’s like fear wasn’t a word in her vocabulary.”
Indeed, the idea of removing the fear gene helped Ramsey in her final scene on Game of Thrones. She concluded, “It gave me a clear picture in [my] head in how to play the death, just with absolute confidence and sheer determination. She knew that’s what she had to do and she did it.”
Meanwhile, Ramsey hoped that viewers would learn a lesson from the demise of Lyanna Mormont. She told the Los Angeles Times, “I hope people take from it to keep going and persist in the battle because she could have easily stayed on the floor and just died. She kept going, kept fighting until the end – she has a sheer courage and confidence.”
And, although Ramsey understood her character so well – and played her with ample confidence and maturity – she’s still a teenager in real life. As such, she said she hasn’t seen all of Game of Thrones for a very relatable reason – her parents wouldn’t let her just yet.
Ramsey did say that she had seen some of the series. She told The Daily Star in May 2019, “I’ve been watching Season eight. And I’ve watched a bit of Season seven. I’ve not watched the rest of it. I’ll probably watch it all when I’m 18, maybe.” And, if what she does watch happens to get too “gruesome” for her parents standards, as she told the newspaper, they have a way to deal with that, too.
“There’s a few bits where my mom and dad just stand in front of me,” Ramsey told the Los Angeles Times. Still, her parents allowed her to watch her final episode of the series. Indeed, she woke up very early to catch it live in England. She said, “I watched it at 2 o’clock in the morning. I thought we should watch it when it first came out. You only live once, don’t you?”
Funnily, Ramsey said she’d be hosting a viewing party for her final episode with her grandparents and sister. Furthermore, she thought her grandparents might have a tough time watching Lyanna’s ending. She said, mimicking her parents’ protective nature, “I feel like I might need to warn [them].”
Meanwhile, once Ramsey’s final episode aired, Game of Thrones fans chimed in with their opinions. And though they hated to see Lyanna go, they appreciated her heroic death. One Twitter user wrote in May 2019, “I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again. Nothing but absolute respect for Lyanna Mormont, the baddest of them all, slayer of the giant.”
So fans reacted strongly to Lyanna’s demise. But they also had strong feelings about the conclusion of Game of Thrones, which came in May 2019. Many felt the last episode – and much of the last season – didn’t live up to the sky-high expectations set by previous Thrones installments.
Fortunately, there’s likely to be more Game of Thrones-related content in the near future. Before the show ended, HBO had already begun to develop a number of series that could serve as prequels to the story that has already unfolded. Four projects remain in development, and the network ordered a pilot from one called Bloodmoon, starring Naomi Watts.
According to HBO, Bloodmoon will “[take] place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones.” But it will have ties to the beloved series, sharing the fantastical world’s historical origins, as well as legendary members of the Stark family.
And, just as the Game of Thrones universe will live on, so will Ramsey’s burgeoning acting career. Since landing the part on the HBO series, she has made the leap onto the big screen. Indeed, she’ll be acting alongside Renée Zellweger in the upcoming flick Judy and funnyman Will Ferrell in 2018’s Holmes & Watson.
Still, Ramsey did admit to The Cut in April 2019 that she’d miss one thing about her iconic character. The actress said, “I think playing confident characters also helps with your own confidence. Say you’re in a situation where you’re feeling anxious or nervous. You can become a character and work through it that way. I’ll miss that about her.”
But Mylod, the man who directed Ramsey in her very first Game of Thrones scene, felt confident she would be able to find success just fine on her own. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “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.”