The North Star
Having triumphed on Game of Thrones as the newly crowned Queen of the North, SOPHIE TURNER is diving head first into an even more exciting new life chapter – starting with marriage and a blockbuster leading role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. She talks to JANE MULKERRINS about Sansa’s fate, speaking up about mental health and why some things are best kept secret
“I don’t know if I feel like a wife yet,” muses Sophie Turner. “I don’t know how I feel.” She laughs, then adds hastily: “I mean, I feel good, obviously. But it happened so recently that I’m just kind of floating at the moment.” It’s early on a Thursday morning in the brasserie of The Standard hotel in New York, and the 23-year-old British actress, star of juggernaut series Game of Thrones, has been married for seven and a half days, give or take the three-hour time difference between here and Las Vegas. She and American music star Joe Jonas, 29, tied the knot at the Little White Wedding Chapel in a semi-spontaneous ceremony, officiated by an Elvis impersonator, following the Billboard Music Awards.
I say semi-spontaneous, because, as Turner explains, Vegas weddings are not what they once were. “I think because there are so many annulments and divorces, you can’t just get the license at the chapel now, so it does take a little bit of planning.” Less planning though, presumably, than the big French wedding the couple were said to be preparing for this summer. Will that still be going ahead? “I don’t know,” says Turner, eyes wide, giving absolutely nothing away.
I can’t say I blame her; the Vegas nuptials were supposed to be a private affair too. “But it’s tricky when people livestream it,” she notes, raising an eyebrow. Diplo, whom the couple booked to be their wedding DJ, broadcast the ceremony on Instagram. “It would have been better if no one had known, but I actually think it was funny,” shrugs the actress. Would she really have kept it a secret otherwise? “Maybe not forever. I think at some point I would have had to stop saying ‘fiancé’, but yes, I would have kept it a secret. Marriage is a private thing between two people and I think that’s how it should always be,” she says, firmly. “It’s not about the dress, it’s not about the food. It’s about being husband and wife, and being dedicated to each other forever.”
“Marriage is a PRIVATE thing between two people. It’s not about the dress or the food. It’s about being HUSBAND and wife, and being dedicated to each other FOREVER”
Her refreshingly low-key take on nuptials is Turner to a T. In spite of having spent almost half her life in the bubble of the biggest show on television, she could not be more grounded. Writers say that all the time about celebrities, but with Turner it’s actually true.
She’s also now a fully paid-up member of the fashion pack as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, along with the likes of Michelle Williams and Emma Stone. Three days before we meet, she was at the Met Gala, in a glittering catsuit covered in over three million sequins, custom-made for her by Nicolas Ghesquière. This morning, however, her look is rather more dressed-down – sweatpants, sneakers, a white denim jacket, wet hair and no makeup. She’s also sporting a very fetching pair of clear-lensed aviators. “They’re not real, I don’t need glasses,” she confesses, when I compliment her on them, “they’re just to hide my eye bags.”
“There’s this EXPECTATION for actresses to look good all the time, which is NOT what being an actress should be. WHY should all actresses have to be stick-thin and beautiful?”
She and Jonas live nearby, in fashionable Nolita, which can be something of a paparazzi hunting ground. “I’ve learned to accept the fact that if it’s my worst-dressed day, they’ll probably catch me, and I’m okay with that,” she laughs. “There’s this expectation for actresses to look good all the time, which is not what being an actress should be,” she continues, warming to her theme. “It should be about playing a role. So why should all actresses have to be stick-thin and look beautiful all the time?” It’s a problem on-screen too, she believes. “Every director is like: ‘We really have to fall in love with this character.’ Why does the audience have to fall in love with her? What if she’s a serial killer? F**k that s**t.”
While the system may be sexist and deeply flawed, Turner is, nevertheless, now one of the most bankable young stars in Hollywood, as evidenced by her titular role in the latest X-Men installment, Dark Phoenix. She’s heading up an all-star cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. “I felt like I’d won a contest,” grins Turner. “Every time I was on set, I thought: I shouldn’t be here. It was mad to have one-on-one scenes with Jess or Jen or Michael.” Her character, Jean Grey, already in possession of superpowers, comes into more extreme abilities following an accident in space. “There are very clear mental health undertones to it,” she explains. “There’s a loss of control over her mind and her powers, representative of schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and addiction.”
“People feel so much SHAME about [mental health], so if, by talking about it, I can even have an IMPACT on one person, that would be AWESOME”
The theme has particular poignance for Turner, who has spoken openly about her own struggles with anxiety and depression, and who is passionate about destigmatizing mental health problems. “The first step to any kind of movement is just to put it out there, talk about it and make it less of a taboo so that people can go and get help and not feel embarrassed to do so,” she says. “People feel so much shame about it, so if, by talking about it, I can even have an impact on one person, that would be awesome.”
The vicious online trolling she has received – a grisly part of global success in the digital age – contributed to her depression and self-image issues. “I think that was a catalyst, but it was probably always there.” And she believes the UK lags well behind the US in acceptance and treatment. “My parents are still like, ‘Why do you go to therapy?’ and I’m like, ‘Because I’m depressed, remember?’” she says. “It’s a very British thing – that idea you should just get on with it, ‘chin up’. Therapy is seen as a bit self-indulgent, a bit soft. But therapy and medication have helped me immeasurably.”
“When I read that [GoT] script, I was so HAPPY – it feels like the most PERFECT ending for Sansa. She’s so CAPABLE now, she’ll be an incredible ruler”
She is not, for a second, knocking her parents, who she says have always been “incredibly supportive”. They still live in the Warwickshire village in which she grew up; her father works in logistics for a pallet company and her mother is a nursery school teacher. Her two older brothers, Will and James, are a lawyer and a doctor. “They’ve got real jobs,” she notes wryly. Turner was sent to weekend drama classes at the age of four. “I think just so they didn’t have to sit through any of my plays at home anymore,” she grins. Even then, she says, she was “obsessed with acting”. She was 13 years old when the casting directors for Game of Thrones held nationwide auditions in schools and, having won praise for her role as the scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz, was put forward. “My mum had a little panic for a second when I got the part,” she chuckles. “But my dad was like, ‘Look, it’s what she’s always wanted to do, and it’s probably going to be nothing. We’ve never heard of this show before. Just let her go for it.’”
“‘The lone WOLF dies, but the pack survives.’ I love that line [from Game of Thrones season seven]. I had it TATTOOED on my arm long before we knew the ENDING”
Ten days after our meeting, the morning after the final episode of the final season of Game of Thrones has aired in the US, Turner and I speak again on the phone; she is in Berlin, on the press tour for Dark Phoenix, and is thrilled to finally be able to discuss Sansa’s fate as the newly crowned Queen of the North.
The internet is blowing up with heated debate about the ending, but Turner is more than satisfied. “When I read that script, I was so happy – it feels like the most perfect ending for Sansa,” she says. “Having gone through everything she has, it’s the most positive outcome, and it feels right for her. She’s so capable now, she’ll be an incredible ruler in the North.”
With Bran the Broken the surprise new leader of the Six Kingdoms, Jon Snow back in charge of the Night’s Watch and Arya off to explore the world beyond Westeros, it is, I suggest, an ending that would have made their fictitious father, Ned Stark, proud. “Yes, the Starks really came out on top,” she agrees. “It’s like that line of Sansa’s from season seven: ‘The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.’ I love that line. I had it tattooed on my arm long before we knew the ending.”
My only disappointment, I confess, is not seeing Sansa and Tyrion Lannister get together for real, something I’d been hoping for all season. “Maybe we should do a season nine?” Turner suggests with a laugh. “In 20 years, when I’m old and haggard and out of work, I’ll definitely be up for a season nine.” It’s a thrilling idea. Somehow, though, I suspect Hollywood will be keeping Turner busy for quite some time to come.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is out June 5 (UK); June 7 (US)
Sophie Turner, Celebrity Therapist
Press play to see counselor to the stars SOPHIE TURNER give guidance to some of her trickiest patients: Arya Stark, Jean Grey, Professor Charles Xavier and Daenerys Targaryen. The doctor will see you now…
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