Time star Bella Ramsey says being neurodivergent ‘massively’ impacts their acting

Bella Ramsey in a still from prison drama TIME.

Time star Bella Ramsey has shared how being neurodivergent has “massively” impacted their acting.

Ramsey, who uses they/them pronouns, received critical acclaim for their portrayal of young apocalypse survivor Ellie Williams in HBO’s The Last of Us earlier this year – so much so that they’re nominated for a “Lead Actress” Emmy for the role.

Speaking to The Times, the 20-year-old actor shared that being neurodivergent – they were diagnosed when they were 18 – has “massively” influenced the way they approach their roles.

“I don’t know if I’d be an actor if it wasn’t for that,” they explained. “One of my things is I’m very perceptive, sometimes too perceptive. I get paralysed because I just see everything – it takes me four hours to get round Tesco’s.”

Bella Ramsey wears a suit at the 2023 Met Gala.
Time actor Bella Ramsey. (Getty/Mike Coppola)

While the star said that they are hyper-aware of “micro-expressions and social cues”, they added that their neurodivergence doesn’t encourage them to learn their lines on time, as they often end up reciting them “in the car on the way” to the studio.

Ramsey fans have a while to wait until the premiere of The Last of Us season two, but their role in the second season of BBC prison drama Time should be enough to satiate them.

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They will play a young woman called Kelsey, who arrives at a women’s prison while heavily pregnant.

Alongside fellow new prisoners Orla (Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker) and Abi (King Charles III’s Tamara Lawrance), Kelsey has to navigate her new surroundings and the threat of violence, though an “unexpected sense of community and a shared understanding” is still possible inside the prison walls.

Speaking at a press conference, Ramsey explained why they were “terrified” to take on the role, which is markedly different from anything they’ve taken on before.

Bella Ramsey, Tamara Lawrance and Jodie Whittaker in a first look at ‘Time’ (BBC)

“Kelsey was a character that felt more external, that was terrifying. So to be given this opportunity, to be trusted with this character that I didn’t feel like it came naturally to me, it was scary,” they explained.

While they have previously admitted that they “knew nothing about drug misuse”, they shared that they visited HMP Styal in Cheshire to speak to people with real-life experience of addiction and the prison system.

“There is a lot of responsibility because, with all of the characters, there’s a lot of sensitive subject matter,” Ramsey shared.

“So it’s making sure that that was done right. And although the characters are all fictional, we’re representing real people in the world, so there was a lot of responsibility, to make sure that it was done correctly, respectfully and accurately.”

Time season two premieres on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Sunday 29 October at 9pm. Season one is available on BBC iPlayer now.