Maisie Williams on her jaw-dropping transformation into punk icon Jordan for new Disney+ show ‘Pistol’

The second episode of Gun, the new Disney+ miniseries from writer Craig Pearce and director Danny Boyle that charts the stratospheric rise and spectacular fall of the Sex Pistols, opens with a photo of Maisie Williams as Jordan. Born Pamela Rooke, the punk icon is seen cycling down a quiet street in her hometown of Seaford in East Sussex. She has her platinum blonde hair piled up in a towering beehive, dramatic eye makeup, and wears a completely transparent yellow PVC coat. Young men heckle her, older women cower and mothers try to shield their children’s eyes, but Jordan keeps her head held high, even as she boards a train to London and the stares intensify. Meanwhile, Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” plays to their chatter. It’s a standout moment, one of the strongest in the entire series, and one that encapsulates the revolutionary power of the woman author Derek Jarman called “the original Sex Pistol.”

It’s also a reminder to the audience that he doesn’t own Williams either. After all, the now 25-year-old Bristol native came of age on screen, playing the brave and later vengeful Arya Stark across eight seasons of game of thrones. It earned him a string of Emmy and SAG nominations, but led to unimaginable scrutiny. When, in the latest episode of HBO’s epic, her character – then a young adult – had sex, some viewers were horrified. Since then, Williams has shown her range in films like The New Mutantsbut this role, and this streak in particular, marks her most dramatic departure yet – a sign that she is rushing into the next phase of her career and ignoring her detractors (and those who still see her as a tween to the ‘sword) with a boldness that Jordan would surely admire.

She steals every scene she appears in Gun, but Jordan isn’t the focus of the rowdy six-part series. Based on the memoir of Steve Jones Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol, it follows the troubled guitarist (played by gruff Toby Wallace) as he forms a band with Paul Cook (Jacob Slater), Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon) and Glen Matlock (Christian Lees), the latter soon to be replaced by Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge). They’re run by the eccentric Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and frequently bask in SEX, the King’s Road boutique run by Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) whose employees include both Jordan and Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler) . This groundbreaking establishment is where Jordan visits his elaborate ensembles daily, asking customers about their reasons for buying the fetish garments on offer and insisting that being seen in them is a political act. As the Pistols gained notoriety, Jordan remained a staple of their tumultuous gigs and parties, a visual embodiment of that thrilling and turbulent era.

To celebrate the release of Gunwe caught up with Williams to chat about her extraordinary costumes, spending time with the real Jordan on set, and the fashion trailblazer she’s set to play next.

How well did you know Jordan before getting involved in this project?

I didn’t know her that much but, once I did some research, I realized that I had seen her picture a lot. I had just never really associated that iconic Mondrian face and makeup with the name. So I had this whole archive to dive into from the team that made Gun. It was a pleasure to know more about her. This project had actually been on my agent’s radar for a while, and she was giving me all the details she could get. I knew there would be some amazing women featured in it, so I sent in an audition and it was more of a general read. Then I got called back for Jordan and zoomed in with [director] Dany [Boyle]. It had been a dream of mine to work with him for a long time so I was very excited.

How did this audition go?

So, I didn’t do Jordan’s hair or makeup, mostly because I don’t have the skills, but I decided to wear this totally transparent Charlotte Knowles two-piece. [laughs]. There’s that moment on Zoom calls where you see your reflection for the first time and I was just staring at my nipples like, “I really hope I didn’t make a horrible mistake.” But, it went well and it was great chatting with Danny. He gave us all a real taste of what it was like to be in the UK in the 70s. In this cast, we are all very young and none of us were there then, but these boys [in the Sex Pistols] were very young. Older actors play younger characters so often, and it can make everything feel more calculated, but here you feel their fragility. These boys were portrayed as threatening, but they were only young boys. Danny really captures that.

I know you’ve read Jordan’s memoir, defy gravitybut what other research did you do and what surprised you most about his story?

I was intrigued by his upbringing. She has such a unique way of looking at the world and making these political statements. It was a time when many women protested, but not necessarily with the same methods as Jordan. She was using her body as a moving piece of art and it was completely normal. She did something revolutionary for women but also for this movement. I wanted to know where all this came from, so I read his memoirs. She trained as a dancer, and I bonded with that because I did too. Then I saw so many stock footage. Jordan has been in many art films, including [Derek Jarman’s 1978 film] Jubilee, where she dances a lot. I was completely mesmerized by her.

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