Maisie Williams was willing to go all the way to transform herself into punk icon Pamela Rooke (better known as Jordan) for the TV miniseries Pistol. While the makeup team ultimately saved her from drastic measures, the Game of Thrones star had a liberating experience slipping into Jordan’s shoes. Considering Jordan hoped to be portrayed as “utterly unshakeable,” Williams’ fearless approach proved to be the perfect match for the series.
Maisie Williams had to transform into a bold fashion icon
In the mid-1970s, a 14-year-old Jordan walked into the now-famous SEX Boutique in London with the confidence of a rock star. Sporting a wild combination of vintage clothing, Jordan made an impression on the shop’s owners and soon was brought onto the staff, according to Dazed Digital. More of a hub for the brewing punk movement than just a clothing shop, the boutique would become a trendsetting centerpiece of London’s Chelsea district.
Not long after Jordan came aboard, the Sex Pistols could be found regularly hanging out at the boutique. Jordan, along with owners Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, was credited with crafting the punk look of the Sex Pistols (per Grunge). As detailed by The Independent, when the Sex Pistols had their first live performance on television, Jordan was there on stage wearing her infamous anarchy shirt.
Often seen with spiked hair and face paint, Jordan would eventually be considered a pioneer of the entire punk movement. And when Pistol director Danny Boyle needed a confident young actor ready to play Jordan, he knew right where to look: Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams. Williams would soon prove she was willing to do whatever it took to nail the look and charisma of the punk legend.
Williams was ready to get rid of her eyebrows for the role
Jordan recalled that Williams was already very prepared for the role by the time they first met. Per Metro, Williams claimed she already had read Jordan’s memoir, Defying Gravity: Jordan’s Story, and was eager to get to work. Reflecting on her time at the center of the punk movement, Jordan said,
“I decided that I wanted to be me, like a walking work of art, if you like, and I was totally and utterly unshakeable. So, she (Williams) had to bring that to the role, that nothing would upset her.”
Part of that unshakeable mentality was going wherever the role took her. As Williams explained in a Q&A for Wired, that almost meant completely getting rid of her eyebrows to match Jordan’s look. Williams explained, “When I met Jordan, she said, ‘how do you feel about waxing off all your eyebrows because I don’t have any eyebrows?'” Williams says she immediately responded, “Yeah, absolutely,” and prepared to say goodbye to her brows.
Luckily for Williams, however, the makeup department stepped in to save her eyebrows. The show’s makeup artist suggested bleaching her eyebrows instead of waxing them completely off, letting Williams pull off the look without having to go to extremes.
But Williams did have other opportunities to show off her Jordan-level self-confidence and charisma. After filming a scene that required biking in a completely see-through outfit, she immediately texted Jordan about the experience. “I’ve been riding down the street on a bike topless and I feel liberated,” Williams reportedly told Jordan.
‘Pistol’ was marred in controversy from the beginning
Though many Sex Pistols fans were happy to see the band take center stage again, lead singer John Lydon did not share their enthusiasm. Known better by his stage name, Johnny Rotten, Lydon raised objections early in the production and had no interest in letting the series use the band’s music. Ultimately, drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones won a lawsuit against Lydon and the series was able to use the music, reports The Guardian.
Released at the end of this past May on Hulu in the U.S. (Disney+ in the U.K. and elsewhere), Pistol showcased the rise and tragic fall of the band from the mid to late-1970s. Based on Jones’ autobiography, the six-episode series jumps headlong into the punk explosion, with the SEX boutique serving as a meeting ground for the movement.
Although critics were split on the result, critics like Joy Press of Vanity Fair called it “Watchable right to the end,” though she also noted the clumsy writing behind Williams’ character. While Jordan was completely behind the production and very supportive of Williams, she never did get a chance to see how it all turned out. Jordan died at the age of 66 in April 2022 —less than two months from the premiere of Pistol, according to The New York Times.