We’re kicking off Game of Thrones season 4 with one doozy of an awesomesaucey interview: the one and only Kristian Nairn.
Now before you even rush to claim the first “Hodor” in the comments section (who am I kidding, there are probably already five), full disclosure: Kristian and I are pretty good friends. We met at the first TitanCon in Belfast back in 2012, and hit it off well. We met again, multiple times, each year after, so I know him pretty well, and even hooked my friends at TVEquals up with an interview at WorldCon. Of all the cast, I probably know him best, with Amrita Acharia coming in a close second. (They’re both friends as well.)
Don’t let the warm eyes fool you, this is one wickedly funny dude. If I had to describe him in two words it would be “Irish wry,” because he never seems to miss a chance to offer any humorous offhanded remark about anything he finds funny–some of which are pretty ribald–and half of which you’re not sure if he’s quite serious. I tend to think he likes to keep us guessing that way. But he has a good heart and is, indeed, a lovely person.
He is also, sadly, exceptionally professional about keeping filming details a secret, though I have from time to time nudged him to reveal what his working relationships are with other cast members. (Isaac: massively talented, and basically the best young dude ever. Natalia: crazy funky cool, and an extremely gifted musician. Art: has way more energy than most mere mortals can handle.)
Kristian was raised in Belfast, and still calls that lovely city home. Before he was more worldly renowned as that lovable Hodoring Hodor, he was a professional DJ–and is still a professional DJ to this day. (He just finished a whirlwind tour that had him spinning in the U.S. one night and then was doing it again back in Belfast the very next. I have no idea when he sleeps, because anyone taller than 5′ 10″ shouldnt be able to sleep on airplanes ever. I know I can’t. No idea if he does.)
Fire And Blood: Let’s start with music first, since that was your first big thing. What musical acts did you like as a teen?
Kristian Nairn: I was a total metalhead as a teen. I still love it too. Back then I was into everything from proper glam stuff like Poison, etc, right through to thrash and death metal like Sepultura and Obituary! The ones that have really stayed with me are ones like The Cult and Danzig… although I still love a bit of obituary grind!
FaB: Never liked Poison, though C.C. DeVille was a passable guitarist. If I swayed toward glam metal, it was maybe Cinderella, but they were really just a rock/blues band masquerading as hair metal. The Cult was wicked good. Rise still gets me going. Anyway, you were an extremely popular DJ in Belfast long before you were Hodoring around, and were (and still are) a staple at Kremlin. What are some of your performance influences?
Kristian: For being a DJ, it’s really anything than can provoke an emotional response for me. And thats a very personal thing. At a gig recently in Pensacola Florida, as I was standing looking over the crowd, it dawned on me that it feels like I’m shooting emotional laser beams out into the crowd. When they respond, it’s the most amazing feeling, and conversely, when a crowd doesn’t get it, it can be like “WHY DONT YOU GET WHAT I’M GETTING?!” We all have gigs like that though, but thankfully more of the former.
I guess it’s kind of funny that maybe growing up you have this dream of being a DJ, where you learn to express yourself and your emotions through music and not words, and then you become an actor in which you are best known for playing a character that has to express all of his emotions using only one word.
Kristian: My first musical dream was to be a guitar player, and believe me, its still in there. I haven’t really put it out there yet, but I’m a pretty damn good guitarist, if I say so myself. I studied players like Yngwie Malmsteen, Ty Tabor, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee, so much, that I could pretty much play on a level with them at one stage, but sadly, at that point, no one really was interested in hearing that from a guitarist anymore.
I totally would! Put something on YouTube, man! I’ll help it gather some buzz. Anyway, tell us about your first paid DJ gig.
Kristian: I was already working in Kremlin at the time (not as a DJ), and one of the DJ’s called in sick, so they were kinda stuck. I remember rocking up with my CD’s all in a toolbox, haha. Was a good night obviously, as since then, I basically haven’t stopped!
If you could describe your DJ-ing style in one sentence, what would it be?
Kristian: Chunky, Deep, Dark, Always with Attitude.
On to what’s most important – no, not Game of Thrones, but rather World of Warcraft! Was WoW your first roleplaying game?
Kristian: Haha. Yeah, it was. I remember being completely lost at first – being killed by a wolf in Elwynn Forest, and thinking “screw this.” Then not playing for a month, but slowly I returned, and from then its had a grip on me HARD.
Hey, I enjoy WoW on occasion (currently more into FFXIV, but hey). I only do the roleplaying servers, however.
Kristian: I love the game. The characters, the lore, the places in the game. I DREAM about the places in the game as if they are real places. On the day the game is switched off eventually ( *shudder* )… it feels so weird and kinda terrible that I might never see those places again.
I’ve seen some things at the Lion’s Pride Inn in Elwynn Forest that I never want to see again.
(Conversely, scenes like that are the BAD part about playing on RP servers.)
Can we say what server you’re on, or is that a secret?
Kristian: I’m currently on Thrall U.S., on the Horde side!
I know you like to keep your screen name secret, but can you give your stalkers any other clues so they can go on Hodor hunts?
Kristian: Hahahaha. Fine, usually I’m a small green goblin hunter with a spectral pet called Jupiter or Hannibal. :P
Let the stalking commence! You recently got a VIP tour of the Blizzard facilities in Irvine, CA, (along with another actor and good friend of mine, Jake Stormoen). What was the best part of that?
Kristian: Really it was meeting all the people behind the scenes, and realising what safe hands the game is in. They all LOVE warcraft as much, if not more, as any of us do!! Was a huge privilege.
You’ve branched out a little since GoT. What was it like working on Ripper Street?
Kristian: Ripper Street was a delight to work on!! SO different to Game of Thrones… not that GoT isn’t wonderful. It was a different kettle of fish, as it was very relaxed and definitely on a much smaller scale. Very glad to see it’s been picked up again for another series!
Can you give us an idea of what the documentary Treasure Trapped is about?
Kristian: Treasure Trapped is a Documentary/Film following a number of events around the european LARPing circuit. It takes a very LARPer-sided look at the whole thing, and its done in a great way that doesn’t make fun of the art at all! In fact i reckon a lot of new people will want to try it after seeing the documentary.
On to Game of Thrones! Has your life been everything you thought it would since the first day you were cast as Hodor?
Kristian: I never dreamed things would have turned out how they have. Things seem to keep happening that I constantly have to check myself and think “Really? Is this real?” I knew Hodor would be a popular character… D&D [David Benioff and Dan Weiss] told me he would, but I didn’t think to the level he has so far! I love the guy, I can see why people like him. It’s a testament to GRRM and the Show that they can make every character so wonderful.
Completely agree. I have some friends in the gay community, “bears” as they’re won’t to call themselves, who hold you on a pretty high pedestal. One good friend of mine (I’ve known since we were in the 5th grade together) says your bear following is “extensive.” Is this something you’re aware of?
Kristian: Well, in all honesty, when you talk about “the gay community,” you are talking about MY community, haha. I AM aware of it yeah, and I think it’s really lovely. There’s not a day that I don’t get a few messages, but 99% or more are super sweet and nothing smutty at all! Again, it’s a privilege, and I really mean that. I’ve never hidden my sexuality from anyone, my whole life in fact, and I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about it in an interview, cos it’s not something you just blurt out. I’ve tried to lead the questions a few times, to no avail!
Well I think most people are respectful enough these days not to ask that sort of stuff directly, especially in print media interviews. But I am curious, seeing as how some people might react negatively to it, did most of the cast and crew have an understanding of it? Or was it just never really brought up?
Kristian: I had an upbringing to respect other people’s privacy, and their right to be and choose what they want, and I expect, no, demand no less for myself. It’s a very small part of who I am on the whole, but nonetheless, in this day and age, it’s important to stand up and be counted. I have and always will stand my ground. So, yeah, people have been great, on the show, but I don’t see why it would be an issue.
I ask because I know there is a certain percentage of parents who might say, “Oh, well, I don’t want my child acting with a gay man.” Old misconceptions can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings.
Kristian:I would love to see the children in question on the show react to [someone telling them] that. (FaB note: he’s right, those kids are pretty headstrong, and would probably not take well to other people telling them how they should think.) That’s so not even been an issue. The families and kids on the show are so switched on to reality, to “old ways” aren’t an issue.
I am extremely, extremely happy to hear that. You hear horror stories all the time. I’m glad your experience, at least with the show, has been good. On to more questions! Other than people asking for piggyback rides, what’s the weirdest or funniest request you’ve ever gotten from a fan?
Kristian: Well, regarding those piggyback ride. Although i DON’T do them, (I’m not ACTUALLY a pony), at a convention recently, for a joke, I put a sign up “ Piggyback rides $5000” obviously to discourage people from asking. But after one or two people stood staring for a minute and were clearly thinking about it… I decided to amend the sign to $150000… just in case!
But for $150,000 you would be willing to give piggybacks? ;D
Kristian: There are LOT of things i would do for $150,000.
“…but I won’t do THAT, FaBio!”
Noted! We’ve seen you be given the opportunity to stretch yourself as an actor more and more, as each season passes. Season three saw Bran actually warg into Hodor, which was pretty cool… but playing out the terror Hodor felt just prior to that must have been tricky. How many takes did they make you do, playing him so freaked out?
Kristian: It’s interesting that i get asked regularly, “So, you have the easiest job on TV…” and also “So, you have the hardest job on TV…” Man, they did an afternoon of takes for that scene. It can be difficult to keep the energy up on a consistent level for that length of time, but David Nutter is an amazing director.
For that scene I thought back to the Asterix Comics I read when I was a child. I remembered that one of their only fears was that the sky was going to fall on their heads, and I tried to picture that in Hodor’s eyes… not knowing why this sound and light was coming from the sky.
Asterix comics! I’m not sure if most Americans get that reference. But can I put you on my fancast shortlist to play Obelix someday?
Kristian: Sure!! I even have the little white Dogmatix lookalike already.
That’s awesome. So… GRRM being GRRM, he has left us some tantalizing hints that Hodor may not be as simple as he seems. Do you have a favorite theory as to Hodor’s origin?
Kristian: There is NO way Hodor is simple beneath it all. I truly believe that, and can’t wait to find out. I do have a couple of favourite theories, but I’ve decided not to voice them anymore, as I don’t want George to see them and think “Hell, no!”
Without spoiling anything (we have a number of “Unsullied” show-only fans here at WiC, so we don’t want to give away any book secrets), did you get the chance to do anything even more crazy for season 4? We’ve seen interviews taken from shoots in which you appear to be beaten up all to hell. Is it safe to say Hodor has his most action-packed season yet?
Kristian: There is literally nothing I can say here without spoilers or being beheaded by HBO. Let’s just say that he didn’t walk into a door!
That would have to be a pretty mean door. I put Hodor’s chances of ending up on the Iron Throne at 0.04%. Accurate?
Kristian: I want to see your calculation workings.
I don’t do math well, admittedly. Okay… finally: The Indigo Question. Do you need any background info on my argument, or do you already have an opinion? Can I get someone other than John Bradley to take my side?
Kristian: I have NO idea what you are talking about!
Fine, here it is: I have always maintained that indigo didn’t make sense as a part of the 7-color spectrum. I mean, you have the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and the three secondary colors (violet, orange, green) … and someone randomly decided to add indigo? Why not add teal instead! Where’s the teal love??
(Thus far, in all my interviews, only John Bradley had stood stolidly by my side. Sophie, Lena, Nikolaj, and Emilia all support indigo. Isaac is colorblind. Aimee Richardson supports it to such an extent that she went and made pro-and-anti-indigo shirts for me last year.)
So I ask you, dearest friend, will you support my worthy cause to have that vile mix of purple-blue removed from the 7-color spectrum?
Kristian: I’m not going to lie to you, I spent at least 5 minutes on Wikipedia and Google on this topic, then realized… that I don’t give a crap!!! :P
Well alrighty then!
Thanks so much, Kristian, for putting up with my bizarre little questions, and thanks so much for being such a fantastic man.
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