After years of tragedies, upheavals and cataclysms, Winterfell is now safe and recovering in the capable hands of the new Northern Queen, Sansa Stark.
But on a bright spring afternoon, the actress playing it examined a new realm. From a skyscraper on the southern tip of Manhattan, Sophie Turner looks towards the sparkling harbor and beyond to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, finicky landmarks that nevertheless retain their power to dazzle, especially during the first blushes of your honeymoon with the city.
Turner moved here from London last year, realizing a lifelong dream of living in New York – of course, that life covers only 23 years so far, but a dream is a dream – when it moved with the pop star Joe Jonas.
At that moment, in March, Jonas was still only her boyfriend. "Game of Thrones" had not yet debuted its final divisive season, and "Dark Phoenix", the new "X-Men" movie that leads this summer when more established stars such as James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence take second place, was far away enough to seem barely real.
"I still feel a bit in the bubble," he said.
But things move fast when you are 23, and even faster when you switch from one of the biggest pop culture franchises in the world to another. In the coming weeks he will marry Jonas in Las Vegas, marching in the Technicolor peacock show at the Met Gala, doing goat yoga for Vogue, cavort with a unicorn for Harper's Bazaar and analyzing the infamous "Game of Thrones" on "The Tonight Show", all driving Daenerys Targaryen to incendiary madness as Sansa in the HBO series.
(Read the summary of the "Game of Thrones" series finale.)
On June 7th, "Dark Phoenix" arrives, in which both she and her titular character, Jean Gray, leave comfortable cocoons to see if they can do even more than they realize. For Turner this means moving from "Thrones", his home for much of the last decade, to find out if his personal cache of super powers includes the ability to bring a Marvel movie.
Perspective, he admits, is terrifying. When Simon Kinberg, the screenwriter and director of "Dark Phoenix", first explained to what extent the entire film focuses on his performance, he said: "I just (cursed) my pants right there and then ".
But the fact of growing inside an enormously magical and violent phenomenon like "The Throne of Swords" is, it leaves you more or less ready for everything, from the point of view of the show. Goats and unicorns are nothing compared to dragons and armies of zombies. Superhero scale productions feel like home.
"Game of Thrones" was the pop culture franchise of the decade. (Avengers, schmavengers.) But for a girl who grew up in a small English village (Chesterton, about 65 miles northwest of London) and then joined the show at age 13, the seclusion production was also a refuge from a world that was becoming more complicated with fame and exposure arising from being on a hit TV show.
The cast was collectively an emotional disaster as production neared its end – "It was just a big crying party; the makeup artists hated us" and, immediately afterwards, Turner felt a wave of existential terror. "I started thinking, who am I without it?" He said. "What do I do? What do I like? I don't have an identity."
That is understandable But the truth is that Turner is ready to become the biggest star to emerge from the show, a young charismatic celebrity whose fame and opportunity will probably expand only now that he is not shooting "Thrones" seven months a year . At a time when pop culture is defined by the universes, it is part of two of the largest – three if we count the Jonas Brothers. (The video of "Sucker" that starred with the band and its equally charming sister-in-law, Priyanka Chopra, has been viewed more than 130 million times, almost four times the total for a medium episode of "Game of Thrones". ) But it is not yet completely used to it.
"I hate being me in public," he said. "I'd rather be a character."
She is known for tracing the paparazzi, and one can see something of her personality in the photos of her that make strange faces with Joe Jonas or that point their camera at the photographers – ironic playfulness, mixed with self-protection that will not be of the everything lets you ignore them and go on. In person he is fun and accommodating, and sincere about his past struggle with depression and feelings of insecurity.
"When I'm on the set, I feel great," he said. "I feel very happy. But then after the fact – that's when anxiety comes into play."
The idea is difficult to square with the statuary actress sitting in front of you, lying comfortably and casually from a bottle of green tea, a tattoo of a Stark wolf and a show line ("The Pack Survives" ) visible on her arm.
But this combination of easy security and vulnerability that made Sansa's extreme trajectory over eight seasons, from an inveterate neophyte to a commanding leader, seems credible. It's the same quality that made Kinberg want it for Jean Gray, an emotionally delicate hero with more power than he knows how to handle.
"She is a human with an extraordinary appearance of 5 feet 9 inches who also feels insecure and broken like the rest of us," he said of Turner.
The period that followed "Thrones" ended with "a great healing period for me," he said, and she went about doing it as little as possible. When we spoke at the end of that period, she was as curious as anyone else to see how the next few months would go, although she did allow the film to come so closely behind "Game of Thrones" given the control every – and by extension, she – would have received.
Starting from Sunday the first half of the equation has been resolved and … let's say the reviews have been mixed. Less for Turner, whose Sansa was a bright spot in the final episodes, rather than for the loudly detestable season. Most of Monday morning, Twitter felt like a Bellagio fountain in the #GameofThrones haterade and over a million people signed a symbolic petition to redo the last season.
"People always have an idea in their head of how they want a show to end, and so when they don't go as they please they start talking about it and rebelling," he said in a telephone conversation the morning after the finale. (She hadn't seen the episode herself yet, "because I was alone when she came out, and I really can't be alone looking at him.")
He added: "All these petitions and things – I think it's disrespectful to the crew, the writers, the filmmakers who worked tirelessly for 10 years and for 11 months to shoot last season."
But unlike many of the show's associates, Turner faced contempt from fans right from the start. People hated Sansa in the early days – so subdued, in general, since it was designed fascinated by the medieval ghosts that the show aimed to shatter.
"Some people didn't understand that he was a brilliant actress, just because he was doing things he didn't like," the creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff wrote in a joint email. But "we knew that when the character came into his, and how Sophie came into his, people would come to see them both for what they are".
That happened in the end. Over the years Sansa has been the avatar of the show's best and worst impulses. The girl, once immature, with romantic dreams of wearing a crown eventually arrived there becoming an expert and strong, one of the many women with nuances and extraordinarily capable in a story whose men, in the end, were mostly victims.
She was also jerked, to the point that, after Sansa was raped on her first wedding night in season five, Turner found herself at the center of a national protest against the use of sexual violence by the show. Then, last season, the writers had the courage to see Sansa give credit to the abuse to make it strong.
"I don't think it was the intention," he said. "It was that she was strong despite of all the horrible things he went through, not because of them ".
But regardless of what he was passing on the screen, he said, it was often easier than the experience of growing in public.
Turner is, by any conceivable definition, beautiful. But it was also, not long ago, a 16-year-old girl bombarded by her own image at a time when her image was often the last thing she wanted to see. She relied heavily on her sister on the screen, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), the other girl in the world who understood how she grew up in the "Game of Thrones".
"To go home at the end of the day, if I felt really fat that day or if I felt that my face looked strange or that I had a lot of pimples, that I could go home to the hotel room and sit there and cry with Maisie – It was the best thing for us, "Turner said. "I'm glad I didn't cry alone."
To make matters worse, the social media hordes have chosen separately – punishing Turner for Sansa's perceived sins more than anything else – and he felt very much like the inexperienced athlete he was.
"As everyone knew in the first season, I was a terrible actress," he said, with an appearance that is a little heartbreaking if you think of a teenager who, just like Sansa, was tied to a corset in an unfamiliar country, feeling like he was doing a bad job.
On set she was known for her strong professionalism that belied her youth. But he struggled with anxiety and depression attacks, which he learned to manage through therapy. She also consoled herself in Sansa – even though the poor girl was subjected to a series of increasingly baroque horrors, Turner often found a more comfortable space to occupy than her own skin.
He says now that he admires Sansa, especially the way he learned to work on the corners and thrive in a difficult situation. In a sense, even Turner. Pushed into a slightly overwhelming situation, he looked and learned.
He learned how to be an actor by observing Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, he said, especially their naturalism and the way they could enter a room and get them right away.
But regardless of his self-criticism, his talent was evident from the start. Dinklage, who like Tyrion Lannister shared many early scenes with her and some of the best moments of the final season, said that Turner "has a nice immobility towards him as an actor who is incredibly rare".
"Since she was a very young girl she had such discipline," he wrote in an e-mail. "A minute could dance and sing a musical number and in the instant in which they are ready for the camera, she can flip the switch and dig so deeply emotionally. This is a gift."
Turner brought Kinberg to tears with his audition for "X-Men: Apocalypse" in 2016, in which Jean Gray was more of a supporting character.
But in "Dark Phoenix" it is at the center of the story. The film extensively traces the contours of 2006 "X-Men: The Last Stand", the not very good conclusion of the first generation of X-Men movies. Kinberg, who also wrote that, now recognizes that although technically it was primarily the story of Jean Gray, then played by Famke Janssen, he spent most of his time "saved by the boys".
"Dark Phoenix" is different, and is largely due to the phenomenal Jean Gray who rejects the corner in which he was hired by Charles Xavier (McAvoy) to embrace his own agency, with the help of a foreign mentor played by Jessica Chastain.
If you suppose that this plot would give "Dark Phoenix" a feminist subtext, you would be wrong: it's practically the whole text. ("We should call ourselves X-Women", says the character of Lawrence, Mystique at a certain point.) The parallels of the real world are unmissable, both in the broader cultural narrative concerning women who reject the constraints of society and the personal ones of Turner.
Chastain was struck by Turner's attitude when he met her before the start of filming. But he also felt the uncertainty of an actor who was moving to a higher stage of his career. "C & # 39; was this idea I like, what can I do? What can I say? Who are authorized to be?" Said Chastain. "It is really exciting for me to see Soph understand that everything that is happening to her is because of her – she created this."
For Turner, his trajectory is no different from that of any young adult coming out into the world. "It looks like the" Game of Thrones "was in secondary school; now it's X-Men is a university," he said.
His "Thrones" package was scattered around the winds, Turner created a new one with Jonas, who she got married earlier this month in a surprise ceremony in Las Vegas. (They were engaged since 2017). An Elvis impersonator presided; Diplo has posted a video on Instagram.
"I take a lot of inspiration from him," he said of Jonas. "He had a break with his band, which are also his brothers, and this must be really, really difficult. For him to have a wonderful family life and wonderful relationships with his brothers, and still be a very rooted normal person, it's surprising to me. "
The band is back on tour this summer, and together the couples form an extraordinarily attractive and talented group of young people who do young things – hitting the slopes in Switzerland, pouring twists on Penn State students. But for Turner, it's nothing extraordinary. "It seems normal to us," he said.
The paparazzi, he insists, are there only for Jonas. "I'm just like a tag-along," he said, which is clearly ridiculous. But the result is that even now, even in New York, it is still bombarded with its image more than it would like. "Social media sucks," he said.
Yes, it's pretty terrible, I tell you. So how did you and Joe do it, anyway?
"Instagram", he said, and then he laughed hard and sincerely for the irony and, perhaps, what he suggested about the intertwined nature of young fame and multi-platform consumption.
"So it doesn't suck one much."