On Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark could have been the Queen of the North — and perhaps she might still rule Westeros side by side with Jon Snow. But Northern alliances are a little complicated, as actress Sophie Turner explains in an animated DVD extra, and the meaningful look that Sansa exchanges with Littlefinger in the season-six finale only promises further complications. Now that Turner has finished shooting her scenes for the shortened seventh season, she’s thinking about the endgame — both for her character, and for her run on the show. On her way to the airport to fly home to London, she told Vulture about her character’s power struggles, why Sansa needs a therapist, and why she’d like the cast to go out with a bang.
How would you describe Sansa’s mind-set in season seven, given what happened following the Battle of the Bastards?
At the end of the season, Sansa gets a taste of power — and it’s the first time that she’s had that ever, really. She feels like it’s deserved because she did so much for Jon and the North, so when she saves the day and doesn’t get any recognition for it, it was like she had that first taste of power and then was immediately stripped of it. She was stripped of the respect that she really feels she deserves. She was trying to give her input to Jon and trying to be a collaborative leader, but it’s difficult when it’s a patriarchy and when there’s sexism. It would be a real adjustment for Jon to listen to her and do what she says. So she was looking to Littlefinger like, oh, you’re right. Maybe that pretty picture you painted of me on the throne and you by my side isn’t such a bad one. And then there’s the smile as well, her walking away after killing Ramsay. That’s also quite interesting. You wonder if it’s just a smile because it’s her first kill, because this man is out of her life, or whether she’s going to get a taste for it. Whether she enjoyed it. Whether it’s a power trip. But she definitely is a lot more powerful, and it’ll be very interesting to see how she handles that coming up this season.
A lot was made about the prospect of a Dark Sansa when she finally got a chance to change her wardrobe in the Eyrie, and came down the stairs all in black. But this seems like more of a possibility of a Dark Sansa now …
Oh, yeah. This is so much more Dark Sansa. When she changed her outfit, that was just the first hint that she was ready to start playing the game. That was a mild version of Dark Sansa, and now it’s really starting to feel like there is a dark side to her. She’s playing the game now, and very ruthlessly. When she wants something, she’s going to go out and get it.
It’s interesting that a lot of this is signaled nonverbally. The smile, the look …
That’s how she survives, you know? Sansa has had to do everything nonverbally. She’s never been allowed to speak up or say anything. She’s learned to never say what she means. She’s always had a bit of a façade, so that’s just the way she plays the game, I suppose. That’s how she’s had to adapt to this cruel, cruel world.
Wouldn’t it be great, though, if she knew someone she could really trust and talk to? And have a proper venting session?
I know! [Laughs.] Or if we could just hear what she’s thinking? That would be hilarious. If they could write that in, that would be wonderful. I would love that. She’d be like [in an irritated voice], “Ugh, and then I had to go back to Ramsay …” If we could have a full venting session, that would be wonderful. She does need a friend. Someone to listen to her. She needs a therapist. That’s what she needs. I suppose playing her has been a therapy session for me, too! It’s a very interesting lesson for me to observe a character over seven years, and to not be living in it myself, so I can have that outsider’s perspective on it. It’s been like a case study for me to observe her, and how different things will affect her.
Okay, so what would her therapy session be like?
Oh, God! [Laughs.] Well, first she’s got to work through the adjustment of the new life that she’s leading. At the moment, that’s what she needs therapy for. Reconfiguring her brain to deal with the power that she now has, and how to be in command. And to use that power without getting carried away in all of it. She also needs to learn to trust. Jon is probably the closest person she can do that with. I think Littlefinger is a great adviser, but you can’t really trust him.
Littlefinger doesn’t trust anyone, which makes it so odd that he trusts her. Sansa’s one of the few people who could do Littlefinger in, since she knows about him conspiring to kill Joffrey and she witnessed him kill Lysa.
Exactly! She holds a power over him. And after she confronted him about selling her to the Boltons, he owes her big time. He knows he has to be loyal to her now, and he has to serve her well, because she holds so much over him. It would destroy his reputation if she revealed any of the stuff that she knows about him. It’s tricky. She has power, but it’s a question of whether people listen to her or not. You’ll see more of that in this upcoming season.
As you gear up for the end, what’s the mood on set been like?
It’s definitely emotional. We can really feel everything slowly coming to an end. We’d have these discussions like, What are we going to do on the last day on set? What are you going to get the producers? It’s all becoming quite real now that we’re coming to a close. It’s quite somber on set, but everyone’s just trying to enjoy it as much as possible. Trying to get the most out of it. Trying not to take anything for granted.
To help lift the mood on set, maybe you could prank the producers?
I think that’s an excellent idea. I don’t know how I would prank them, but I think that’s an excellent idea, considering that they’ve pranked so many of us. Maybe we should all pretend to quit or something, just before the final season starts shooting. Demand an exorbitant amount of money! Just to see the look on their faces. It would be worth it, for sure.
Everyone’s a big fan of the matching tattoos you got with Maisie Williams. Will any other cast members get in on this, too?
I think the plan is for everyone to get matching tattoos if we survive to season eight. That’s the plan. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m in there!
Maybe the cast members who don’t survive could get a temporary tattoo.
Preferably on our faces! On our foreheads. Like a gang-style tat. Perfect. Then I’m good to go. Life’s made. Job’s done. I could die happy now. [Laughs.]
This interview has been edited and condensed.