How Bella Ramsey's Nonbinary Identity Helped Shape Her "The Last of Us" Performance

Bella Ramsey is finding connection with her character despite the post-apocalyptic landscape. The 19-year-old actor memorably appeared as Lyanna Mormont on "Game of Thrones," and nearly four years later, she has taken on Ellie, a teen trying to survive a zombie-infected United States in HBO's "The Last of Us." Now, Ramsey is opening up in a new GQ interview about how the role has allowed her to have profound conversations off screen, particularly around gender, sexuality, and identity.

Ramsey previously shared that she is nonbinary in a New York Times profile released in January. (Ramsey said she "couldn't care less" about pronouns and is currently fine with she/her.) Speaking to GQ, Ramsey said her costar Pedro Pascal, whose sister came out as trans in 2021, was "super supportive." On their conversations about identity, Ramsey said, "They weren't always deep: they could be funny and humorous, the whole spectrum. We were just very honest and open with each other."

"If you don't want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that's on you, and you're missing out."

Ramsey uses acting as an opportunity to go outside of herself, and experiment with different performances of femininity. Though, she made it clear, the clothes she wears on screen don't give others the freedom to misgender her. "This is what bothers me more than pronouns: being called a 'young woman' or a 'powerful young woman', 'young lady,' but I'm just not [that]," she said. "'Catherine Called Birdy,' I was in dresses. 'Young Elizabeth,' I was in a corset. And I felt super powerful in that. Playing these more feminine characters is a chance to be something so opposite to myself, and it's really fun."

Ramsey also revealed she wore a chest binder "90 percent" of the time while shooting "The Last of Us." "Which probably isn't healthy, like please bind safely," she said. She added that wearing the binder helped her focus on set.

For some nonbinary, transgender, or gender-fluid folks, chest binding can help flatten the chest and reduce feelings of gender dysphoria. The process involves compressing the chest tissue with multiple layers of clothing or kinesiology tape, according to Cleveland Clinic. Homemade alternatives such as elastic bandages, duct tape, or plastic wrap are widely considered unsafe.

According to The Rainbow Project — which aims to improve the physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people — chest binding for more than eight hours at a time can prove dangerous. Per Cleveland Clinic, side effects of wearing binders too long can include pain in the chest, shoulders, and back; itching; scarring; bacterial infections; and shortness of breath. More severe side effects include musculoskeletal and neurological issues.

The first season of "The Last of Us" has unfortunately received some criticism for its changes to the original game plot to showcase more queer stories. While a vocal few have expressed their hostility toward the changes online, Ramsey isn't bothered. "I'm not particularly anxious about it," she said. "I know people will think what they want to think. But they're gonna have to get used to it. If you don't want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that's on you, and you're missing out."