You may know Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones, but for her latest television project, the actor shed Arya Stark’s warrior cloaks in favour of a punk-rock wardrobe. Williams is starring in FX’s six-episode limited series Pistol, premiering today, which explores the rise and crash of Sex Pistols—the English band who ignited a counterculture movement in the 1970s London. (The show, directed by Danny Boyle, is based on the memoir “Lonely Boy” from real-life Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones.) “I was aware of the Sex Pistols and the punk movement’s impact at the time, but I didn’t realize how the fashion, music, and art all further triggered the movement,” says Williams. “It was just a real scene in London, and it was like a small group of people that created that revolution.”
The actor plays Jordan, née Pamela Rooke, a real-life punk pioneer from the 1970s who often styled the Sex Pistols for performances and served as muse to the designer Vivienne Westwood, another fixture of the decade. Williams was immediately drawn to Jordan’s own powerful sense of style. “What I love so much about Jordan was the way that she used clothing as a political statement,” says Williams. Rooke rebuked the groovier clothes of the decade in favour of pieces with an edge. Think: leather jackets and ripped tees, always paired with kohl-rimmed eyes and hair gelled sky-high. Williams resonated with hat boldness. “Throughout my entire life, I’ve felt that the way that I look is different from the way that I am,” says Williams. “People think I’m smaller personality-wise based on my exterior—but with Jordan, she had such a grand exterior, and with such nuance behind that.”
One of the best parts of Williams’s new role was, naturally, slipping into the character’s latex-heavy wears. “It took many hands to get the wardrobe correct,” says Williams of her character’s look. “It was really exciting to me—every day was like dress-up, getting locked into these rubber outfits and materials that I’ve never worn before. It felt like I was becoming someone new.” Some of her favourite looks on the show included an all-yellow PVC look—with “rubber knickers and latex stockings”—as well as a skirt and top that reminded her of a memorable story Jordan once told her. “Jordan told this incredible story of one summer in London, where they were having the most outrageous heatwave,” says Williams. “She was wearing this rubber top and skirt, and it was so hot that the skirt basically just disintegrated and melted off of her body.” (Jordan served as a consultant on the series before her death in April.)
To set the stage for her new show, Williams channelled Jordan’s punk-rock style on the red carpet and for her various appearances in the lead-up to the premiere—albeit in a much more refined, glamorous way. Working with stylists Kate Foley and Alexandra Cronan of Studio &, Williams wanted to channel her screen character with intentional garments that showed some skin. “I was inspired by the way Jordan mixes form and structure with flesh and her own body,” says Williams. “Growing up in this industry, I feel like I was sexualized from quite a young age, and for that reason, it made me want to hide my body. But with Jordan, she fixed the male gaze in on itself; She’s so confrontational in the way that she reveals her body, that it actually makes other people feel uncomfortable, rather than herself.”
For the show’s premiere, Williams also wore a vintage, floor-length Junya Watanabe gown from the fall 2002 collection. Recycling an archival look was an homage to punk in and of itself. Designers like Westwood and more would often give old garments or textiles a new life. “So many of Vivienne’s original designs were cut from that last piece of cloth, or created from excess fabrics,” says Williams. For the after-party, Williams changed into a black No. 21 dress covered entirely in large black paillettes. “The way the sequins fall is so effortless,” says Williams. “In theory, it was like wearing a string top, but because of the way the sequins fall, you get the illusion that it’s a completely covered bodice. I had to be mindful of nipple slips—but it was also very on theme!”
Now that the show is premiering today, Williams is excited to hear what viewers will think of her latest on-screen transformation. “I think it’s going to capture a completely new audience that doesn’t know about the Pistols,” she says. “I’m also excited to see how it’s going to influence the fashion and beauty community, and the content creators.” There will be no R&R for her, either: Williams is already onto the next project, and it’s equally as fashion-focused. ‘“I’m in Paris shooting a TV show about Christian Dior and Coco Chanel,” she teases. We’re already hooked—and ready for her next transformation.