The Evolution Of The Last Of Us's Bella Ramsey

When Bella Ramsey was cast in "Game of Thrones" in 2016, she became an overnight star for her acerbic, fierce portrayal of the young Lady Lyanna Mormont, a young aristocrat in Westeros. It was the then-13 year old's first professional role — and the beginning of a skyrocketing acting career.


After winning millions of fans for her guest role on the hit HBO show, she quickly racked up more high-profile roles, appearing in films like "Two for Joy," "Holmes & Watson," "Judy" and "Resistance." She also won her first leading role in the TV adaptation of Jill Murphy's children's book, "The Worst Witch" in 2017. She went on to win a recurring role in HBO's "His Dark Materials," a leading role as Lady Jane Grey in "Becoming Elizabeth" and the titular role in Lena Dunham's feature film "Catherine Called Birdy." In 2023, her career continued to reach new heights when she starred opposite Pedro Pascal in the much anticipated HBO adaptation of the video game "The Last of Us" as Ellie, a young girl who is immune to a fungal virus that has taken over the world. In just seven years, Ramsey had become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. 


Read on to learn a little more about her journey from Nottingham to Hollywood stardom.

Bella Ramsey was born in Nottingham and fell in love with performing early in life

Bella Ramsey, born in September 2003 in Nottingham, England, grew up with a passion for acting (via People). 

"I first started stage acting at the age of four when I joined a local Stagecoach group," Ramsey once told the BBC. She went on to explain that she also performed in small amateur stage productions. Despite her love of acting as a child, she didn't initially considered pursuing an acting career. "I only thought of acting as a hobby until three years ago when I got into Television Workshop [an acting training center for young people in Britain], which is an amazing place," she said. It was there that she landed her first professional auditions. 


As she said in another interview with The Guardian, her journey into professional acting was practically an "accident." "I was doing it for fun and then it just happened, and I'm very thankful for it," she said.

Bella Ramsey got her start in a fan favorite role as Lady Mormont in Game of Thrones

As part of the Television Workshop, Bella Ramsey began auditioning for professional roles. In 2016, she landed a small role that would change her life. As Lady Lyanna Mormont in "Game of Thrones," Ramsey played a young but fierce aristocrat who made a big impact on the succession battle at the heart of the show. 


As a young actor on her first professional project, "Game of Thrones" wasn't exactly an easy start — but ultimately, it proved to be the best kind of training. "I've just been thrown in at the deep end, with my first project being 'Game Of Thrones,'" she reflected to AV Club in 2023. "I think I was forced to learn very quickly and I think that's been the best way."

Though the role was relatively small, she quickly won fans' hearts thanks to her powerful performance. As Ramsey later told The Cut, she was surprised by the response. "I just turned up, did my filming, and would see what happens," she said. "I wasn't sure whether people would like her or not, because she's quite a unique character. But I'm very glad and very grateful that people do like her."


Bella Ramsey went on to appear in a number of small roles in film and TV

After finding fame as Lady Lyanna Mormont in "Game of Thrones," Bella Ramsey landed role after role throughout her teens. In 2017, she landed the leading role of Mildred Hubble in the BBC's "The Worst Witch" after auditioning through the Television Workshop (via BBC). 


This was followed by a guest role in "Requiem" in 2018, in which she played the young version of Lydia Wilson's Matilda Gray. The same year, she appeared in "Two For Joy," alongside Samantha Morton, Billie Piper and Daniel Mays, and "Holmes & Watson," the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly comedy. In 2019, she landed a role in Rupert Goold's Judy Garland biopic "Judy" alongside Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley and Rufus Sewell (via IMDb).

For Ramsey, all of the success came as a surprise. "My life has completely changed. I guess I've got a career now, which is really weird to say," she told SheKnows at the time. "I was very much just catapulted into the world of film and television and new projects kept coming in."


But, as Ramsey told the Nottingham Post, she continued to attend the Television Workshop even though her career was taking off. "I still go to Workshop now. Why? Because there's always something new to learn," she explained.

Bella Ramsey did online schooling after her career took off

As Bella Ramsey's career took off, things changed in her personal life, too. For one thing, she made the decision to leave traditional in-person schooling and complete her education online with King's InterHigh, a fully online school system. As she told the Evening Standard, she was unpopular in school after becoming an actress. In fact, a teacher apparently "humiliated" her after she missed school to film. "That was what tipped it and so the next day I didn't go back," she said. 


Switching to full-time online schooling meant she had the flexibility to pursue acting full-time. "I fit school in when I can, that's why King's InterHigh works really well because it's so flexible," she said in an interview with King's InterHigh.

As Ramsey explained to the school, she also joined because she found in-person schooling wasn't a great fit for her. It "decreases peer pressure and the desire we all have to fit in to a certain box," she explained. "I think it allows people to be who they truly are and it leaves room for people to do the non-academic things they love."

Bella Ramsey's mental health suffered while she was filming The Worst Witch

Bella Ramsey played the lead role of Mildred Hubble in the BBC's "The Worst Witch" — but her time on the show wasn't always easy. "I never really was an anxious kid, but I guess that got exacerbated as I started working in high-pressured environments," she told Elle. The actor explained that the show meant living away from her parents for 16-week stints. As her mental health declined, she eventually developed an eating disorder.


As Ramsey later explained on Twitter, she first developed anorexia in 2017. In 2018, things began to turn around for Bella Ramsey as she focused on her mental health. As she explained on Twitter, her recovery from anorexia was linked to her Christian faith. On World Mental Health Day, the actor tweeted, "There's always light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dim it might seem. I am fortunate to have reached that light, at moments it felt non existent. But it was always there. For me that light was Jesus." In fact, earlier that year, Ramsey had been baptized, per Twitter. 

Ramsey eventually went on to write a film script based on her experiences with the disorder. As she told The New York Times, the script is about "imperfect relationships and complicated people."


Bella Ramsey controversially left The Worst Witch in 2020

In 2020, after starring as the mischievous Mildred Hubble, the leading role in the BBC's "The Worst Witch," for three seasons, Bella Ramsey shocked fans by announcing her decision to leave the show. "Forever grateful for my time as Mildred in The Worst Witch... but there is a time for everything under the sun," she wrote on Instagram. The actor went on to explain that her decision to leave was based on "reasons I can't really go into" and hinted that she had left because of her mental health.


As the actor explained to Elle, her decision to leave the show was all about having a fresh start. "I had resolved a lot of my mental health problems by that point," she said. "And then the idea was that, 'I'm not going to do this fourth season because it's not worth it, because I'm in a better place now.'"

Bella Ramsey got to experience working with an ensemble cast in Becoming Elizabeth

In 2022, Bella Ramsey landed a leading role in "Becoming Elizabeth," STARZ's historical series about Queen Elizabeth I. Ramsey portrayed Lady Jane Grey, a real historical figure who was famously made queen for nine days before being executed.


For Ramsey, the role was a welcome change, mainly because it featured such a strong ensemble of actors. "To be honest, I just loved the ensemble cast. We all got along so well," she told ScreenRant. "I've never been part of a really big ensemble, other than 'Game of Thrones' — but obviously I was a lot younger then, and I still was very shy. I was the new kid, I suppose." In "Becoming Elizabeth," Ramsey felt more at ease. "For this one, it definitely felt like we were all coming in as equals for season 1." By the sounds of things, a lot had changed for Ramsey since her last historical ensemble drama!

Bella Ramsey got the chance to work on a comedy

In 2022, Bella Ramsey appeared in her first starring role in a film. In Lena Dunham's "Catherine Called Birdy," she played Birdy, a young woman with a passion for animals who is growing up in medieval times facing a loveless marriage. While it wasn't Ramsey's first period drama, it was one of her first comedies. And by the sounds of things, it was a welcome relief for the actor, who hadn't had much of a chance to try her hand at comedy since her days at Stagecoach as a child.


"It was cool to leave every day with smile lines from laughing," she told The Daily Beast. "Because I tend to accidentally mesh so much with the person I'm playing, it's nice for it to be someone lighter. Not to say that I don't love playing the dark, intense, depressed characters — I also do love that!"

Critics also took notice of the change of pace for Ramsey. One critic for Collider praised Ramsey's range and comedic chops. ScreenRant complimented her "charming and fun" performance, while The Guardian also noted her range as a comedic actor.

Bella Ramsey was cast in a career-defining role in The Last of Us

After a series of successes, Bella Ramsey's career took another big turn in 2022 when she was cast as Ellie, the leading role in "The Last of Us," HBO's adaptation of the famous apocalyptic video game. 


As showrunner Craig Mazin told Elle, he was already a fan of Ramsey thanks to her performance in "Game of Thrones." When he saw her audition, he knew she'd be perfect. "I was so freaked out that [the other crew] weren't going to see what I saw," Mazin said. "Because in my mind, I was like, if we don't cast Bella as Ellie, then I will go to my grave knowing that we could have made a better show than we did."

Even though Mazin was convinced that Ramsey was the right choice, she wasn't so sure. The role promised to catapult Ramsey from fame to super-stardom — so it's no wonder Ramsey was hesitant to take it on. "It took a long time, actually, for me to accept that I was Ellie, and that I could be her and that I was the right fit," said Ramsey.


While filming The Last of Us, she discovered she was neurodivergent

Bella Ramsey began filming "The Last of Us" in 2021 in Canada. It was during this production that Ramsey officially learned that she was neurodivergent. "I've been thinking for years that maybe I was, and then to find that out whilst filming this show was super special," she told Elle.


Around the same time, Ramsey also opened up about her relationship with gender, which, as she explained, has been complicated since childhood. "I guess my gender has always been very fluid," she told The New York Times. "Someone would call me 'she' or 'her' and I wouldn't think about it, but I knew that if someone called me 'he' it was a bit exciting." In fact, as Ramsey went on to tell the publication, she recently began describing herself as nonbinary. "Being gendered isn't something that I particularly like, but in terms of pronouns, I really couldn't care less," she said.

Bella Ramsey adjusted to life in the spotlight after The Last of Us

"The Last of Us" proved to be a huge hit for HBO, bringing in over 20 million viewers for many of its episodes (via Variety). For Bella Ramsey, this meant a massive increase in attention.

Before the show was released, Ramsey was nervous to show the world what she and the team had been working on."It's something that feels very personal to me ... So it's bizarre, in a way, to share it with the world. But it's a joy at the same time that people have been responding so well to it and being inspired by it and by the story, like they were initially in the video game," she told AV Club. But while sharing the show with fans was exciting, it was also occasionally overwhelming. During an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (via YouTube) Ramsey admitted that the huge posters of her were "unnerving." "The unnerving part is realizing that everyone else is seeing it too," she said. 


Even if Ramsey finds her newfound fame a bit daunting, it's a price she's willing to pay to play a character like Ellie. In fact, she is eager to return for more seasons — for as long as it's possible to do so. "There's no limits for me," Ramsey told Elle. "They can do as many games as they like, as many series as they like, and I'll be here, flying back out to Canada."

Bella Ramsey has big plans for the future

As of 2023, 19-year-old Bella Ramsey is well on her way to becoming one of the most celebrated actors of her generation. Shortly after the premiere of "The Last of Us," HBO announced on Instagram that a second season was already underway. So, it seems that Ramsey will definitely be returning as Ellie in years to come. But that's not the only thing Ramsey is planning for her future.


As the actor told Elle, she's looking for a new project that feels like the right fit. Lena Dunham, who directed Ramsey in "Catherine Called Birdy," suggested that Ramsey should play an iconic role. She "would make a killer Peter Pan, would really crush Amelia Earhart, and could also deliver quite an exceptional David Bowie," said the director. And acting isn't the only avenue Ramsey is pursuing. As she told AV Club, in the next decade, she's also keen to explore writing and directing, too. "I've written a film that I'm hoping to make and direct this year, if it all goes to plan," she said. 

Whatever the future holds for Ramsey, it seems pretty clear that the young actor won't be going anywhere anytime soon. And by the sounds of things, the best is still yet to come.