Bella Ramsey says neurodivergence ‘massively’ influences their acting craft

Ramsey, 20, learned they are neurodivergent while filming ‘The Last of Us’

Maanya Sachdeva
Saturday 21 October 2023 12:56 BST
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Bella Ramsey has said being neurodivergent “massively” feeds into their acting process, in a new interview.

The 20-year-old, best known for playing the role of Ellie on the hit HBO show The Last of Us, also admitted they may not have been an actor “if it wasn’t for that”.

In a new interview with The Times, Ramsey was asked whether their neurodivergence, including a sensitivity to “micro-expressions and social cues”, influences their craft.

“Massively,” they replied. “I don’t know if I’d be an actor if it wasn’t for that. One of my things is I’m very perceptive, sometimes too perceptive. I get paralysed because I just see everything – it takes me four hours to get round Tesco’s.”

Ramsey previously revealed they discovered they were neurodivergent at the age of 18, while filming The Last of Us in Canada.

“I’ve been thinking for years that maybe I was, and then to find that out whilst filming this show was super special,” they told ELLE.

In the post-apocalyptic video game adaptation, Ramsey plays the show’s 14-year-old protagonist, opposite Pedro Pascal’s Joel, a smuggler tasked with escorting Ellie to safety amid a zombie apocalypse.

Both actors earned rave reviews for their performances in the show’s debut season, with fans also praising their wholesome off-screen friendship.

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in ‘The Last of Us’
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in ‘The Last of Us’ (Max)

In his four-star review for The Independent, Nick Hilton praised Ramsey’s talent, noting they were “breathtakingly convincing as a precocious yet vulnerable teenager making her way through a bearpit of a world”.

Elsewhere in the new interview, Ramsey said their gender identity is “one of the least interesting things to talk about” within the context of media coverage since they came out as non-binary in January during the press tour for The Last Of Us.

The Emmy nominee briefly reflected on the fact that “every article” written about them since coming out is now “prefaced” with their pronouns, adding: “Why can’t I just be Bella Ramsey?”

During an interview with The New York Times at the beginning of the year, Ramsey explained that while their gender has “always been very fluid”, they weren’t particularly bothered by which pronouns were used to refer to them.

“I’m very much just a person,” they said at the time. “Being gendered isn’t something that I particularly like, but in terms of pronouns, I really couldn’t care less.”

However, Ramsey later affirmed that being called “they” is the “most truthful thing for me”, adding that they had “fought” the word “non-binary” for a long time over the fear people would think “ I was just trying to be trendy”.

In an interview in June, they told British Vogue: “I had a lot of anxiety around pronouns. When The Last of Us first came out, I was like, ‘Everyone just call me “she” because I look like a “she” to you, so it’s fine.’ But now I’m able to vocalise it more, being called ‘they’ is the most truthful thing for me. That’s who I am the most.”

(HBO)

Ramsey’s acting debut as the fierce and proud noblewoman Lyanna Mormont on season six of HBO’s runaway hit Game of Thrones remains one of the show’s highlights in the years since its controversial ending.

They won the BAFTA for best young performer in 2019 for their portrayal of bumbling sorceress-in-training Mildred Hubble on the CBBC show The Worst Witch.

Ramsey will next be seen in the second season of Jimmy McGovern’s BBC prison drama Time, in which they play pregnant heroin addict, Kelsey.

The new series will air on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday (29 October).

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