Maisie Williams Details Transforming Into Concentration Camp Survivor for ‘The New Look’

Maisie Williams transformed into Catherine Dior, Christian Dior’s sister, for The New Look, the AppleTV+ series that tells the story of how Dior, Coco Chanel, Pierre Balmain and Cristóbal Balenciaga navigated the horrors of World War II and launched modern fashion.

In 1941, Catherine Dior joined the Resistance, risking her life every day to be a part of a covert network titled F2 that gathered intelligence for the Allies during the war. She was arrested by the Nazis in July 1944 and imprisoned at Ravensbrück concentration camp where she was tortured by the Gestapo.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

In order to play this role and physically depict Catherine’s struggles, Williams lost 25 pounds through a regimen, carefully overseen by medical professionals, that included regular blood tests and heart rate measurements. She explained in a Harper’s Bazaar U.K. cover interview that she lost the weight mostly from sweating out fluid before filming and says that she was also eating very little and meditating regularly.

“I had to be up at 4 a.m. to start sweating. The night before, at about 7 or 8 p.m. I was allowed to have something salty and dehydrating — some smoked salmon and a tiny glass of wine,” she told the publication. “Then I had a boiling-hot bath with lots of salts in it. And I sort of levitated to bed and slept for maybe three hours and woke up and had a handful of nuts. I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the night at this point.”

The Game of Thrones star shared that she would also walk on the treadmill while watching the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics because she struggled to understand Catherine Dior’s patriotism that led her to risk her life the way that she did.

“I couldn’t really connect with what it feels to be so patriotic, because I’ve often felt disappointed and let down by the way that my own country has behaved,” Williams said. “But I knew the times when I felt most proud were during the Olympics.”

The actress was cast in the role in February 2022 and spent the rest of the year in Paris, where the show was filmed. Becoming Catherine Dior, she explained, required a lot of research and care, which allowed her to acknowledge the weight of what happened during World War II in a way she hadn’t before.

Some of Williams’ toughest scenes include Catherine Dior’s interrogation in Paris, her journey in sealed cattle trucks to Germany after being arrested and what she endured at the concentration camp, but the actress didn’t mind them.

“It was very relentless,” she said. “The process of doing take after take, it really breaks down your character in a way. It’s not for everyone, but for me, I like to get lost in a role, and keep on pushing until we complete a scene.”

Despite the dark aspects of Catherine Dior’s story, Williams told the publication she understood how it was also important to focus on the more positive parts of it. When Catherine Dior was liberated from the concentration camp, she made her way back to Paris and eventually settled in Provence, France, where she became a rose-grower.

“Every day of filming was a reminder that we were portraying a story of the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting on one another, but also the magic and the hope and the love,” Williams said. “Ultimately, we wanted to make a show that was uplifting.”

The New Look premieres on AppleTV+ on Feb. 14.

Best of The Hollywood Reporter