Now that he’s Game of Thrones’ omniscient Three-Eyed Raven, the rise of Isaac Hempstead Wright’s Bran Stark as a Westeros power player seems all but assured as the HBO hit heads into its penultimate season.
With clans Lannister, Targaryen and Stark — and all their trusted and dubious allies — preoccupied with the Iron Throne, young Bran knows best the bigger threat that looms. Dialing in from the U.K., the 18-year-old Brit shared some knowledge of his own about Season 7, the Starks’ future as a family — and why we need to get over Hodor.
I promised myself I wouldn’t give you crap about Hodor — but do you ever, say, meet Kristian Nairn for lunch and have him tote you into the restaurant for old times’ sake?
Isaac Hempstead Wright: Oh, yeah! I’m like, “my Hodor Uber!” [Laughs] But I do see Kristian regularly. We’re always texting and taking the piss out of each other.
Tell me a little bit about what it’s been like to just grow up in front of the cameras and really developing a whole second set of family members in the process.
Honestly, I would describe the cast and crew of Game of Thrones as a second family to me, and many people I think will agree with me there. We have bonded very strongly, some of my best friends have come from the Game of Thrones cast, like Dean-Charles Chapman who played Tommen, and Kristian, who is Hodor of course, is like a brother to me. And it’s been a strange thing to have grown up on it. For me though, because I started at such a young age, it just became a regular, integral fixture of my life, just like school. It was like ‘Yep, I’m at school between September to July, and then from July til September I go to this other medieval kind of school.’
So it never really featured that heavily in my mind that I was growing up in front of a camera, or in this role. It was just a part of my life.
When I told people I was interviewing the gent who plays Bran, a common reaction was “Oh, the guy who ruins everything!” Set folks straight about Bran’s worth and purpose.
People really got angry at Bran after Hodor. I woke up to a torrent of abuse from the internet — “@#$% you, Bran! I hate you!” Really, guys, blame the writers! This is not my doing! But to be honest, it’s almost a relief that Bran doesn’t have many people left around him, because now he can just focus on being the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran a while back had to surrender being a normal person and it became clear that he was still in a much wider, much, much more powerful game than just vying for the throne and endless cycling between various houses.
This does appear to be the season that we find out Bran’s true calling …
It’s a very interesting new time for him. This is what we’ve been leading up to in Bran’s story arc ever since he fell out of that tower in Season 1. When we’re first introduced to him, it’s like “OK, yep — grow up and be a knight. Very good! You’ll be a Stark nobleman!” And then that was so completely out the window, pardon the pun. Ever since, it’s been clear that Bran has had this sort of predetermined, more important role to play. So to actually have reached that after what feels like an eternity, it’s exciting — and nerve-wracking!
How is he handling his rather unwieldy powers now that he is the Three-Eyed Raven, he no longer has a mentor, and it’s go time?
Well, the Three-Eyed Raven himself said to Bran, “You’re not ready for this.” [Laughs] So, it’s really frightening that Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven, and he hasn’t completed the full training. The last time Bran gave it a shot, it ended catastrophically — and now the whole Wall’s pretty much in his hands. So he really needs to keep a very level head and come to terms with the fact he is the Three-Eyed Raven, he’s not Bran Stark. He’s got to come into his own.
But he’s also more vulnerable than ever, because he’s marked by the Night King — in more ways than one — and the wights can attack him anywhere. What might happen there?
As you said, Bran now has the mark of the Night on him, and I don’t really understand the technicalities of why that means the spell doesn’t work now. But basically the Night King and the Three-Eyed Raven are archenemies from the beginning of time. We saw when the Night King came in and killed the Three-Eyed Raven that was played by Max von Sydow, there was that tension there between these two ancient foes finally battling it out, of finally that chapter coming to a close. I love that every character in Game of Thrones has got some serious enemies after them, but Bran now has the most powerful creature in the history of Westeros on his tail, and that might destroy him. Bran should be very, very frightened.
But there’s strength in numbers, and viewers clamor for a reunion of the surviving Stark kids — even though we now know that Jon Snow isn’t one. Hope for that this season?
I can’t comment on any specifics, but they’ve all been in very different corners of Westeros, doing very different things. Arya is a ninja assassin. Sansa is a sort of cynical diplomat in many ways; she’s been around some of the cruelest characters in the Game of Thrones world. And Jon has grown into this super-warrior. So, I think if the four of them did get back together in the future, who knows whether they’d even get on? Would it be the reunion everyone has hoped for? I don’t know!
Uh-oh! Well, on the subject of unity, Bran arguably has the best understanding of the White Walkers and the Wall — and we are clearly headed to a showdown between the living and the dead. Could these final seasons entail an epic truce?
I think we’d all like to think that the living would come together in the face of this universal threat. But you look at all the endless petty squabbling that goes on between these various houses and I don’t know whether people will be able to get over their own qualms with other people enough to be able to recognize the threat. They really do have to come together — and even if they were to come together, it would still be a pretty close call. You’re up against a massive army of ice zombies, so you’re going to need the biggest army possible, it seems.
Are the actors sometimes as befuddled as the viewers about what is going on?
Oh, absolutely! We’re constantly theorizing. One of my favorite moments of the entire process is when your script just gets sent and you get to lock yourself away for hours and just read it, brand-new. Especially this season, we’re way beyond [the] books, so this is totally uncharted territory. Having the privilege to be some of the first people to get to read and hear that arc is super cool. … I think the finale will end up quite dark. We’ll see!
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres Sunday, July 16 at 9/8c on HBO