Back-breaking work ... Game of Thrones Hodor played by Kristian Nairn.
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In a show dripping with glorious but divisive characters, it is a tribute to Northern Irish actor Kristian Nairn that his gentle giant Hodor is beloved by all fans. The 2.08 metre tall Nairn is coming to Australia for Oz Comic Con in Melbourne on July 5-6, but I spoke to him in Los Angeles. He had been hoping for just a holiday, but has been kept busy with on shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, Entertainment Tonight, and the Big Bang Theory.
Is this what life is like for you now, and could you have imagined doing this?
No, I never thought this would happen. I’ve always worked in the entertainment sector [Nairn is a respected DJ in Belfast], and I’ve always suspected I’ve had the capacity to do this, because if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s the point? But it still takes me by surprise every day. I’m so lucky, I’m very thankful for what has happened. Every week there’s a definitely a moment of: "What the f---, is this my life?"
Your character is probably the only character on Game of Thrones who is universally beloved. The others divide opinion, but everybody just adores Hodor.
They do. I couldn’t figure it out at first. But he is lovable. He’s got everything, he’s got loyalty, he’s got purity, there’s really no downside to him. I’m very lucky to have a character like that really.
Your Mum was a big fan of A Song of Ice and Fire series, and had read it before the show and before you got cast. Do you live up to her vision of Hodor?
She’s not the type of mother to give praise lightly. She loves the show though, and I think she is super proud to be honest. I just had her out in Las Vegas, I was doing an interview event, and for the first time she got to see the fan hysteria, and she was really, really taken aback. She just didn’t realise how intense it was. I think she has a better idea now.
You had a spectacular sequence at Craster’s Keep when Bran possessed Hodor and used him to break Lock’s neck. I write columns on Game of Thrones, and a lot of readers were shocked to see Hodor commit such an act of violence, even though he was being possessed. What was that scene like for you?
I can reassure the lovely readers that it was the most fun scene I’ve had so far! Breaking someone’s neck on camera is a lot of fun. But people are definitely torn on how they see the scene. Some of them feel sorry for Hodor because obviously he’s doing it against his will. Or perhaps slightly against his will, but I myself believe if he thought it was necessary he would let Bran do it. Not that he was given the choice! But the other 50 per cent were like “It’s about time he kick some more arse here”.
You have a good working relationship with young Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran. Does that inform your on screen relationship?
Yes. I can see it even more now, in the performance. I love Isaac, I’ve been with him now for four years and he feels like my little brother. In real life I’m immensely protective of him, I definitely think that comes across in the character. He’s an amazing actor, an incredibly talented little kid. I’m calling him a little kid, because when I first got to know him he was nine, but now he’s 14, coming on 15 years old, which is incredibly scary. I feel like almost his surrogate parent.
We’re watching Isaac grow up in front of our eyes – is he getting heavier to drag?
He is incredibly heavy! He’s three times the size he used to be. It’s not good for my back and that’s the truth.
Are you getting massages or help there?
I think I’ll need more than that by the time I’m finished. I might need some sort of walker! We have doubles for wide angled shots just to give both of us a break. Because even being carried takes it out of Isaac as well, it’s really not the most comfortable.
And given the big costumes and working outdoors in Northern Ireland, which is obviously beautiful, but I can’t imagine it’s always the best weather...
No it’s not the best weather. Definitely not, it’s horrible!
What’s it like to film in your own country?
I think the scenery of Northern Ireland almost forms part of the cast. It really sets the mood for the show. I know all the parts that have been used and it’s weird for me to see them looking so beautiful, and HBO adding their magic to it. But it’s done so much for Northern Ireland, there are Game of Thrones tours now, and exhibition there. It makes me very proud. Obviously Northern Ireland has had its problems in the past and continuing to a lesser degree, but it’s definitely had a positive, showing how beautiful it is.
Would you like to see Hodor have another line of dialogue, and in what context?
Yes! I would like, you know, it’ll be in his future, whatever happens, to say something really emotional to Bran like "It was always a pleasure to look after you", and then just to be snuffed out. I think that would be really emotional... an epitaph, almost, something that would really pull the heartstrings.
What can we expect from the season finale?
It’s going to be the best episode of the season, I think. It’s going to just whet people’s appetite to see more, to see season five.
But we have so long to wait!
I know, a whole year. Cry me a river!
Kristian Nairn will appear at the Oz Comic-Con Melbourne show on July 5-6.