Maisie Williams’s performance as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones has helped make her a role model for girls everywhere — both an opportunity and a challenge. “I leave all of that at the door when I <a

Thrones debuted two days after Williams’s 14th birthday; she’s now 20. As the biggest project of her life so far winds down, she’s coming into her own. “I think it’s quite exciting that the show’s coming to an end,” she says. “I think it’s a time to look quite positively at the future and really try to shape my career without being tied to anything.”
Williams spoke to TIME in March for our cover story on Game of Thrones, whose seventh season premieres July 16; here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.
What does it mean to you that the show is winding down?
I think it’s quite exciting that the show’s coming to an end, not only because we get to tell the end of the story, which is what everyone’s been waiting for for a long time, myself included, but also because there’s a whole sector of opportunities that I have for after the show now. It’s nerve-wracking, and it’s going to be very sad to say goodbye to the show, but I think it’s a time to look quite positively at the future and really try to shape my career without being tied to anything. Although Game of Thrones has been the most amazing opportunity and has opened so many doors for me, for eight years, for six months of the year every year, I’ve been tied into this one job. And I never really realized what that meant until now it might be coming to an end, and I’m like, “Oh, I can just go traveling for a year — I can do anything, really!”
B-maisie-williams-arya-starkMaisie Williams
Have you been told where Arya will end up?
We just finished [season] 7, so I know marginally more than viewers at home. But in terms of the next season and the final season, we don’t find out anything until they release the scripts, and they usually don’t release the scripts until about a month before shooting, so I won’t know the end until the very end, really. People are quite surprised by that, but spoilers are so sought-after by fans and trolls alike that they try and send the script to the least amount of people possible, so as not to leak anything. It’s the way it has to go for this show. It’s quite nice, really: If I knew the ending right now, it’d be really difficult to keep it a secret!

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