Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams has detailed how she was “eating very little” and had to “be up at 4am to start sweating” to realistically portray Catherine Dior, the revolutionary younger sister of French fashion designer Christian Dior, in her latest TV project.
The British actress, 26, best known for playing Arya Stark in the popular HBO fantasy series, portrays Catherine, who is credited with being her brother’s muse and who fought as part of the French Resistance during the Second World War in upcoming Apple TV+ series The New Look.
Created and directed by Todd A Kessler, whose previous work includes thriller series Damages, The New Look documents the rise of Christian Dior and his fashion contemporaries including French designers Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Pierre Balmain, and Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, as they navigated the Second World War and launched modern fashion.
Starring alongside Williams is Animal Kingdom’s Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior, Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel and John Malkovich as Christian Dior’s boss and mentor, the French couturier Lucien Lelong.
Catherine Dior, who is also said to have inspired one of her brother’s signature fragrances, Miss Dior, was arrested in Paris and sent to Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp for women.
Williams, who stars on the cover of the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK, told the magazine about her “strict regime” to realistically portray Catherine’s emaciated appearance when she returned to Paris, saying: “I was eating very little, meditating all the time, burning candles and incense in my apartment.
“I had to be up at 4am to start sweating. The night before, at about 7 or 8pm, I was allowed to have something salty and dehydrating – some smoked salmon and a tiny glass of wine.
“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. I kept waking up and feeling like a marble inside a bottle, rattling around.”
Williams, who watched the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics to better understand Catherine’s patriotism, told Harper’s Bazaar UK: “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.
“But I knew the times when I felt most proud were during the Olympics.”
The first three episodes of The New Look stream globally on Apple TV+ from February 14, followed by new episodes weekly, and the series also stars Glenn Close as Carmel Snow, who was editor-in-chief of the American edition of Harper’s Bazaar from 1934 to 1958.
Christian Dior debuted his first collection in 1947 and it revolutionised the fashion industry. One of his signature styles became known as the “New Look”, which featured a nipped-in waist and full skirted designs.
The look marked a departure from the boxy, masculine fashions typical of post-Second World War.
He died in 1957 at the age of 52, after founding the famous fashion house in 1946.
Catherine was awarded the Croix de Guerre medal and the Legion of Honour, for her role in the Resistance. The Legion of Honour was established by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and it remains the highest military and civil medal in the country.
Catherine died in 2008 at the age of 90.
The March issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK is on sale from February 8.