Who Is Bella Ramsey?
Bella Ramsey is an English actor who first generated attention for her breakout role on the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones, in which she portrayed the young noblewoman and warrior Lyanna Mormont. She is best known for her starring role as Ellie on The Last of Us, HBO’s 2023 television adaptation of the popular video game of the same name. The non-binary actor has also appeared in shows like The Worst Witch and films like Catherine Called Birdy (2022). Her work has earned her a British Academy Children’s Award, among other nominations.
FULL NAME: Isabella May Ramsey
BORN: September 30, 2003
BIRTHPLACE: Nottingham, England, United Kingdom
ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Libra
Early Life and Education
Isabella May Ramsey, better known as Bella Ramsey, was born on September 30, 2003, and grew up in Nottingham, England. Her family dabbled in the arts, with her father playing trumpet and her older sister acting in amateur groups. Ramsey began acting at age 4 and joined the Stagecoach Theatre Arts in Loughborough around age 7, studying there for about seven years. Her Stagecoach teacher described Ramsey as skilled and attentive, saying: “Bella would pick things up within two or three goes. What talent, to be able to do that.”
Ramsey attended the King’s InterHigh online school as a child, both so she could pursue acting, and because she “didn’t enjoy mainstream secondary school and wasn’t happy.” At age 10, she enrolled in the Television Workshop, a Nottingham-based drama group for young people, but says she still didn’t necessarily believe a full-time acting career would be possible. “I didn’t even consider it,” she said. “It would have blown my little brain to smithereens.”
"Game of Thrones"
Ramsey’s involvement with the Television Workshop led her to audition for Game of Thrones, which became her first credited acting role around age 11. She portrayed Lyanna Mormont, the young leader of House Mormont and an ally to Jon Snow in the HBO fantasy television series. The character is quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and unafraid to fight despite her young age. Ramsey made her debut on the show during its sixth season in 2016 and continued to appear until its eighth and final season in 2019.
Ramsey said she was immediately drawn to the character upon reading the script, telling New York magazine: “I like how strong she is—mentally, physically, personality-wise. I like how she sticks up for what she believes in, no matter the cost or the consequences.” The character quickly became a fan favorite, much to Ramsey’s surprise. “I didn’t expect it at all,” she said. “I just turned up, did my filming, and would see what happens.”
D.B. Weiss, executive producer of Game of Thrones, praised Ramsey’s performance and said casting Lyanna Mormont was particularly challenging because it meant “putting a lot of dramatic weight on the shoulders of somebody who needs to be very young.” Despite appearing on the show, Ramsey’s parents would not let her watch the violent and sexually explicit show due to her young age.
Other Acting Roles
In 2017, Ramsey was cast in a starring role in The Worst Witch, a CBBC television adaptation of the children’s novel series of the same name by Jill Murphy. Ramsey portrayed the protagonist Mildred Hubble, a young witch learning magic at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Ramsey said there was a feeling of sisterhood between herself and the other actors on the show, which she described as having “lots of great parts.”
For her performance, Ramsey won the Young Performer award at the 2019 British Academy Children’s Awards. However, Ramsey departed from the series in 2020 after three seasons. She later revealed that she developed the eating disorder anorexia nervosa while filming the series and announced on Instagram that she left the show to prioritize her mental health. Ramsey said her Christian faith played a “huge part” in helping her recover from her eating disorder.
In addition to The Worst Witch, Ramsey voiced the title character in the Netflix original series Hilda starting in 2018, portraying an adventurous young girl who moves from her enchanted forest home to a bustling city. She received a British Animation Award nomination for Best Voice Performance for the portrayal. In the show’s second season, Ramsey wrote and performed the song “The Life of Hilda” after series director Dave Peacock suggested the idea as a joke.
Ramsey also appeared in the film Catherine Called Birdy (2022), a medieval comedy written and directed by Lena Dunham and based on a book of the same name by Karen Cushman. In the film, Ramsey plays a teenage girl living in 13th century England, attempting to avoid her father’s plans for her arranged marriage. The performance earned her a Critics’ Choice Movie Award nomination for Best Young Performer. The film also features a song called “Birdy Song,” which Ramsey wrote when she was 10, inspired by a time her friends were mean to her during a sleepover.
"The Last of Us"
Ramsey received her highest profile role to date when she was cast in the leading role in The Last of Us, an HBO adaptation of the 2013 video game of the same name. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a mass fungal infection has turned most humans into zombie-like creatures, Ramsey portrays Ellie, a headstrong 14-year-old orphan who is immune to the infection. Pedro Pascal co-stars as Joel, a hardened survivor attempting to smuggle Ellie out of a quarantine zone and across a pandemic-ravaged America.
Series co-creator Craig Mazin said dozens of young actors were considered for the role of Ellie, but he was immediately impressed by Ramsey’s audition tape, saying “It was like Ellie realized in live action. It didn’t feel like watching an actor.” Ramsey was initially reluctant to accept the role because of the fame that would come with it, fearing it would “propel me to a place I don’t want to go to in terms of being seen and being known,” but she ultimately reconsidered.
Although Ramsey and Pascal both appeared in Game of Thrones, they did not share any scenes together and had not met prior to working together on The Last of Us. Nevertheless, Ramsey said “that chemistry was just there immediately and just grew and developed as Joel and Ellie’s did.” Pascal and Ramsey both received wide critical praise for their performances, with the Radio Times writing that they “embody the characters tremendously, handling emotional moments and comic frissons with aplomb.”
Ramsey identifies as non-binary and says her gender has “always been very fluid.” As a young child, she enjoyed being mistaken for a boy by strangers. She told The New York Times that she “really couldn’t care less” what pronouns people used to describe her.
Ramsey also plays guitar and writes songs. In 2019, announced plans for a podcast called Not Bella Ramsey, which she later dismissed as “a bad idea that I had” and never released.
- I’m always up for a challenge. I like a challenge. I’ve had lots of challenges already.
- I just want to keep getting roles that challenge me to be the best actor and the best person I can be.
- Don’t let people look down on you because you’re young. I think adults can learn a lot from kids, just like kids learn a lot from adults.
- I think it’s important for [young people] to see a character who stands up for herself and who keeps fighting, is persistent, and doesn’t give up.
- Occasionally when I look at my Instagram and see how many followers I have, it shows me how it’s going up by the minute. It blows my mind, but everyone around me keeps me grounded.
- Young people are just as capable as experienced people, and women are just as capable as men.
Fact Check: We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!
Colin McEvoy joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.