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Bella Ramsey on The Last of Us, writing a ‘scary’ movie and BAFTA recognition: ‘It’s been a year of change’

Exclusive: "Little me would've found this cool!" says Bella of being a 2023 BAFTA Breakthrough, as they talk directorial ambitions, feeling "imposter syndrome 24/7" and why focus on actors’ looks makes them "so angry"

By Jamie Tabberer

Bella Ramsey photographed for BAFTA ((Images: ©BAFTA/Vivek Vadoliya, 2023)
Bella Ramsey photographed for BAFTA (Image: ©BAFTA/Vivek Vadoliya, 2023)

“It feels like it’s a point of no return,” says Bella Ramsey of their extraordinary 2023, in which they played Ellie, the heart and soul of the TV hit of the year: apocalyptic sci-fi series The Last of Us.

Indeed, while the 20-year-old made their screen debut in Game of Thrones back in 2016, their starring role alongside Pedro Pascal this year feels like a new arrival of sorts. “It’s quite scary in that regard,” admits the star in our exclusive interview. “Realising this was going to change my life in some amazing ways, and ways that are a bit more complicated.”

Capping off an amazing chapter, Bella’s today announced as part of BAFTA’s 2023 Breakthrough UK programme, which spotlights and supports creatives in British TV, film, and gaming having a breakthrough year. Successful Breakthroughs, previously including Jessie Buckley and Florence Pugh, receive voting membership of BAFTA for a year and free access to BAFTA events “Little me would’ve found this quite cool!” laughs Bella, who uses they/them pronouns, and whose screen credits include Time, and The Worst Witch.

Bella Ramsey, photographed for BAFTA (Image: ©BAFTA/Vivek Vadoliya, 2023)

Here, to mark the occasion, the aspiring director talks to Attitude about the “spooky” movie they’re writing (“it centres around mental health”) and why they “can’t wait” to film season two of The Last of Us

How does it feel to be part of BAFTA’s Breakthrough programme for 2023?

It’s a huge honour. It’s something I’ve known about for ages and applied to several times before. So, it’s really cool to be accepted this year and be on the list with phenomenal people.

How does it feel to be recognised as one of a diverse cohort of talent, as opposed to one of five competing for an award?

It’s so lovely. I love the range of people that get recognised. People right at the beginning of their careers, people [far] into their careers. At the photoshoot, I met people I’d never normally bump into. For it not to be a competition is so lovely. Everyone can chill, and celebrate each other, without any underlying politics.

You’re going to be a BAFTA voter for a year. Can you speak to the importance of diversity and representation among voting memberships, and the knock-on effect on who gets nominated and who wins?

Absolutely, yes. What a cool question. What I’ve learnt is, there are so many pre-existing biases we have in our heads that we’re not even aware of. Subconscious biases that we have when we look at the world – when we look at anything. Especially when it comes to voting, right? That’s why it’s really important to have a diverse range of people voting, because everyone comes to the table with different life experiences and biases. It’s important so it’s fair, so that everybody gets recognised, and that it’s on talent rather than how you look, or the background you came from. Having diverse people in the voting room helps with that massively.

Bella in The Last of Us (Image: HBO)

The word ‘breakthrough’ is key in your case, because while you’ve ‘broken through’ many times, you’ve truly broken through in a new way because of The Last of Us, which has obviously impressed BAFTA. To what extent do you credit the show with bringing about this opportunity, and is it just one of the ways in which it’s changed your life this year?

Yeah, definitely. The Last of Us was definitely the breakthrough ‘thing’, in that it feels like it’s a point of no return in terms of fame and stuff like that. It’s quite scary in that regard, realising this was going to change my life in some amazing ways, and some ways that are a bit more complicated. It’s been a massive year of change. My biggest thing of that is really what an amazing experience it was to make, and the people I met on that show. I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

While amazing, I imagine this recognition comes with pressure, because the world is listening to what you, Bella, have to say. Do you feel a sense of responsibility in being a member of Team BAFTA, and is that exciting, or scary, or both?

It’s really exciting, actually. I feel like I’m at a place in my career – which is so weird to call it that! – where I’ve seen so many things, I’ve been a part of many different projects. I feel I have enough knowledge and understanding of the industry to actually have some benefit to being a BAFTA member. I know just enough to be able to contribute. Which is a nice position to be in. Often, it’s imposter syndrome 24/7. But it’s really nice to actually feel like I have some value in that regard.

[Georgia Oakley], who directed my favourite film of the year, Blue Jean, is also on the list. I love the idea of you starring in her next film as a result of being part of the same network. What lessons have you learned about mentorship being a two-way street, regardless of generational differences, as is apparent in your work with Pedro Pascal?

It’s really interesting, what you say about mentorship being a two-way street. I’ve made phenomenal friends through working on different sets. Especially The Last of Us. You support and help each other. For me, generational differences are completely irrelevant. Some of my best friends – all, pretty much – are older and we have different life experiences. But we meet and connect on this middle ground. I love that. I definitely will be applying the same here. 

Many Breakthrough alumni have gone on to develop their own films and TV shows. Is this something you’d like to do?

Definitely. This is the thing BAFTA will be able to help with the most, and being part of this programme will support the most: those different avenues of the industry I’m interested in going down and have dipped my toe into. I’ve written a film, and that’s still in development, and is something I want to make in a few years. When I have time! I want to also direct this film. It’s going to be helpful in connecting with different parts of the industry.

Can you share any details about this project?

It’s a feature film. I’ll give you that. I started writing it when I was 14. It centres around mental health. But I don’t want it to be ‘this is a mental health movie’. That’s the balancing act I’m working on. It’s a bit scary, I’d say. I think mental health can often be quite scary. It centres around this girl with an eating disorder, and it’s done in an interesting, slightly spooky way.

Bella at the Catherine Called Birdy premiere in 2022 (Image: Wiki)

Sounds fascinating! If you’d known when you started your career at 13 that you’d have this recognition at 20, would you have approached anything differently?

No. I don’t think I would. I think my journey through the industry has been very sheltered, in a lot of ways. I basically have no idea what I’m doing, and take every opportunity as it comes, and go off instinct most of the time. The word ‘BAFTA’ – there’s such prestige surrounding it. I think little me would’ve found this quite cool!

And now you’ve got somewhere cool to hang out in central London if you’re ever at a loose end. It’s a lovely building!

That’s true!

Big question: if you could change one thing about the industry as result of this opportunity, what would it be?

That is a big question. I would change the emphasis on people’s appearance. I have several friends who are phenomenal actors who want to break into the industry, but because of their appearance, that’s literally one of the barriers. It makes me so angry. Why does it matter? It should be about their talent rather than how they look. That really bothers me. I’d love for that to change. 

 The full class of 2023 for BAFTA Breakthrough, supported by Netflix


  • Adjani Salmon, writer/performer/exec producer – Dreaming Whilst Blac
  • Bella Ramsey, performer – The Last of Us 
  • Cash Carraway, creator/writer/exec producer – Rain Dogs 
  • Charlotte Regan, writer/director – Scrapper 
  • Cynthia De La Rosa, hair & makeup artist – Everyone Else Burns 
  • Ella Glendining, director – Is There Anybody Out There? 
  • Funmi Olutoye, lead producer – ‘Black History Makers’ (Good Morning Britain)
  • Georgia Oakley, writer/director – Blue Jean 
  • Holly Reddaway, voice and performance director – Baldur’s Gate 3 
  • Joel Beardshaw, lead designer – Desta: The Memories Between 
  • Kat Morgan, hair & makeup designer – Blue Jean 
  • Kathryn Ferguson, writer/director – Nothing Compares
  • Kitt (Fiona) Byrne, 2D artist/game designer – Gibbon: Beyond the Trees 
  • Michael Anderson, producer – Desta: The Memories Between 
  • Pete Jackson, writer/creator – Somewhere Boy 
  • Raine Allen-Miller, director – Rye Lane 
  • Rosy McEwen, performer – Blue Jean 
  • Samantha Béart, performer – The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow
  • Talisha ‘Tee Cee’ Johnson, writer/director/presenter – Too Autistic for Black 
  • Vivian Oparah, performer – Rye Lane 


  • Amanda Kim, documentary director – Nam June Paik: Moon Is The Oldest TV 
  • Aminah Nieves, performer – 1923 
  • Apoorva Charan, producer – Joyland 
  • Cheyenne Pualani Morrin, senior games writer – STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor
  • Edward Buckles Jr. documentary director – Katrina Babies 
  • Gary Gunn, composer – A Thousand and One 
  • Jingyi Shao, writer & director – Chang Can Dunk 
  • Maria Altamirano, producer – All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt 
  • Santiago Gonzalez, cinematographer – Shortcomings 
  • Shelly Yo, writer & director – Smoking Tigers 
  • Sing J Lee, writer & director – The Accidental Getaway Driver 
  • Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, writer & director – Mutt 


  • Abhay Koranne, writer – Rocket Boys 
  • Abhinav Tyagi, editor – An Insignificant Man 
  • Don Chacko Palathara, director/writer – Joyful Mystery
  • Kislay, director – Soni 
  • Lipika Singh Darai, director/writer – Some Stories Around Witches
  • Miriam Chandy Menacherry, producer – From the Shadows and The Leopard’s Tribe 
  • Pooja Rajkumar Rathod, cinematographer – Secrets of the Elephants
  • Sanal George, sound editor/mixer/designer – Gangubai Kathiawadi 
  • Satya Rai Nagpaul, cinematographer – Ghoomketu 
  • Shardul Bhardwaj, performer – Eeb Allay Ooo!