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Bella Ramsey on Chicken Run 2, neurodivergence and child acting: ‘The thing I hated most was being patronised’

The Emmy-nominated star of ‘The Last of Us’ talks to Louis Chilton about the ‘fever dream’ of voicing the claymation sequel alongside HBO’s post-apocalyptic hit, and acting as a teenager in ‘Game of Thrones’

Iwant to play a villain. A real dark, evil, nasty human being. Someone like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs,” says Bella Ramsey in a voice as sweet as piped icing. The ambition may seem incongruous emerging from the mouth of the 20-year-old British actor, but they’ve got the range, I don’t doubt. Ramsey has already shown an aptitude for grit in HBO’s post-apocalyptic The Last of Us and Jimmy McGovern’s BBC One prison drama Time (and was effortlessly funny in The Worst Witch and Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy.) There’s something about their earnestness, though, that makes them seem somehow incapable of actual villainy, when push comes to nefarious shove.

Ramsey (who has expressed a preference for they/them pronouns) is chatting on a video call from the East Midlands, their original stomping ground. Wary, maybe, of exactly how much they want to show, Ramsey has set their Zoom settings to obscure everything behind their face, giving them the occasional impression of a floating, disembodied head. It’s been less than a year since Ramsey was on screen tussling with mushroom-headed mutants as The Last of Us’s knife-wielding teen Ellie; now they’re fleeing farmers in Netflix’s sequel to Chicken Run. Ramsey’s filmography is shaping up to be quite the risotto.

“I’ve got a track record of not seeing any of the iconic movies that I should have,” Ramsey admits. “But Chicken Run I actually knew about.” The word “iconic” may be overused, but you could make a case for it here. The 2000 claymation film remains the highest-grossing stop-motion movie of all time; its sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, has been positioned as one of the crown jewels of Netflix’s 2023 Christmas slate. Ramsey’s character Molly is the daughter of the two feathery leads from the original, Rocky and Ginger. In Chicken Run, the pair were voiced by Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha; for the follow-up, both actors have flown the coop – or were perhaps flung out of it – with Zachary Levi (Shazam!) and Thandiwe Newton (Westworld) taking over.

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