With the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones just around the corner, there’s no doubt that the show has irrevocably changed the lives of everyone who’s been even remotely involved with it over the past nine years. For Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran Stark, aka the Three-Eyed Raven, that might be more true than for most; Wright has played the role of Sansa and Arya’s brother who becomes paralyzed after Jaime Lannister pushes him off a tower since he was 10 years old.
Wright had never heard of HBO, never mind the term “pilot episode,” when he first signed on to the show. Now he is 20, and it’s safe to say that the second half of his life couldn’t have been more different from the first. “It’s pretty weird,” Wright admitted last week, while in New York for the series’ final premiere. “I feel like I’ve lived an entire life, and I’m actually only just starting [mine].”
After all, Wright realizes that Game of Thrones is most likely how he will be remembered for some time, no matter what projects come next. And, quite unlike Kit Harington, who plays his half-brother, Jon Snow, he doesn’t have an issue with that. Here, he talks growing up on Game of Thrones, filming with his onscreen sisters (and famous BFFs) Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, and that pesky Night King theory that’s been plaguing him.
You were so young when you first started working on the show. What do you remember from back then?
To begin with, I mean, I hadn’t really heard of anything. I’m from a sleepy village in the English countryside, and we hadn’t heard of HBO or Game of Thrones or the series of books or anything—or even what a pilot episode was. I didn’t find out until my drama teacher told me to have a go at an open casting for a new HBO pilot, and even though I got three callbacks I didn’t really think about it at all. I was a kid—9 or 10 years old—so it wasn’t like I was going, you know, When am I going to get this job? But then I did get the job, and nine years later, here we are today. Who would have thought?
How old were you when you first realized how big of a deal it was?
I’ve watched all of it since, but the first season my mom was a bit selective about what I could watch, understandably. You could see it was getting bigger and bigger, but I think it was season five, when I took a break. When you’re out of the machine, and looking from the outside in, and you see how excited everyone is about it, and you also get excited because you also don’t know what’s going on—that’s when I realized it was something phenomenal.
That was when you tried to go to university, and got assigned a campus police officer, right?
Yeah, that was fun. [Laughs.] No one’s really written a handbook on how to go to university when you’ve been in the world’s biggest television show, so I had to figure that one out for myself. It was just a bit overwhelming, but I don’t regret it at all. Nobody was nasty, per se—I just think it was the wrong time. I’m actually going back, now that I know some ways to handle it.
Which would be?
Studying somewhere more metropolitan would help. And not staying in the dorms—that was definitely a major error.
You finally got to spend some time onscreen with Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner at the end of the last season. What’s it been like to work with them, since they’re so tight-knit?
It’s funny, actually. We’re all brothers and sisters onscreen, so we obviously feel like we work together, but that’s only the second scene we’ve all been in together, apart from the king’s arrival. It was really interesting for our characters to come back together, since they’ve changed so much over the course of the series, but also because I’ve known them more in a social context. There was definitely a lot of giggling.
In Maisie’s words, they’re a “nightmare” to work with.
I will neither confirm nor deny that. [Laughs.] But it’s all in good spirit. They’ve always been close. They’re both girls and were both 12 or 13 when we started, and I was 10, which is quite a big age gap at that age, so they’ve been bound together and going through the same things since we all started. They’re great fun to be around—though they are very loud on set. But they’re great fun to be around!
Sounds like it, from their stories of getting high and sitting in the bath once the days have wrapped.
Is that what they’ve said?! Well, I can’t say Sophie and Maisie have invited me to a bath.
How do you feel about how things end up for Bran?
It’s definitely satisfying. In fact, I don’t think there’s anyone from the show who isn’t happy with how it’s come to an end and how their character’s storyline has finished. I didn’t envy Dave and Dan having to wrap up all of this in six episodes. I remember at the end of season seven I thought, I don’t know how on earth they’re going to do this—there’s still so much that needs to be answered, so many things that need to be woven back together. And yet they’ve done it, and I think they’ve done it very well, indeed.
Sorry, but I have to ask about what you’ve said has been “the bane” of your life for the past year—the theory that you’re the Night King.
Well, it’s an interesting theory. I think the thing with Bran is, because he’s got that evolvement with time, he’s very easy to theorize about. But I don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see. It’s always nice seeing who people are so excited about and invested in the show that they’re coming up with all these theories, however outlandish they may be. I was doing press with Conleth [Hill] this morning, and the theory that Varys is a mermaid certainly gets him ticked off the most.
It seems like the Night King theory has been the most intense one for you so far, though.
Yeah, it just seems to have…people just seem to think it’s happening. I can’t see how there have been any clues for it, but it just seems to have really gained traction. But yeah, you’ll have to wait and see.
How are you aware of what people are speculating? Do you ever look at Reddit, or things like that?
Everyone’s always messaging me about it on Twitter and Instagram. But I don’t dive into the Pandora’s box that is Reddit. I think it’s a box best left alone.
Other than that, what’s been most challenging about working on the show?
To be fair, I haven’t had it that hard on set. I haven’t been in long battle scenes or anything like that. I’ve always been taken care of pretty well—always sitting down, being carried around. I think the weather is one of the things that’s been difficult. It can be quite temperamental in Belfast and Northern Ireland, where we shoot, which is a pretty slow, drawn out process, so there’s a lot of waiting around. It’s not a very glamorous job—it’s definitely not Hollywood.
Are you glad to have sat out the battles, or did you ever feel like you were missing out?
I kind of wish that I’d been able to have at least one sword fight. [Laughs.] It would have been great to, like, do a back flip off a horse and cut somebody’s head off. But alas, Bran’s got cool weapons in his own way: his mind.
At least you got to sit out some of the sitting around, once they let Hodor carry a life-size dummy of you instead.
Oh, yeah, that was really strange. I remember when they told me it was happening, I was like, Does this mean I’m getting killed? It’s a weird thing. They do your body first, and then they put a big cap over your head and cover you in what’s basically plaster of paris. It’s really odd because when plaster of paris sets it gets hotter, so you kind of boil to death. The head took about 15 or 20 minutes, and you’re in total darkness and you can’t really hear much. It’s really, really strange, but quite meditative in a way because you’re just inside your head and have no contact with the other world. And getting to have a life-size model of yourself is pretty cool. It’s probably in some warehouse somewhere now. I should probably get a copy of that.
How much was that question, of whether or not you’ll be killed, on your mind, in general?
A lot. That’s the first thing you think about whenever you receive the new script. You sort of flip through the pages in the preview for where it says “Bran is dead” or whatever. And really, from early on, nobody’s safe, so you worry about it.
Did you cry on your last day on set?
I did cry. I didn’t think I was going to. I just remember going, Oh, wait, no, I am. I’m about to cry! Oh, I’m crying. There were quite a few of us who wrapped on that day, so everyone was blubbering away. It was quite a sight to behold. Most people cried, and not even just the cast and crew—there were people who worked on it for years and years and years, who are practically family to me and have seen me grow up. It’s a real crazy thing that we’ve all shared in our lives, so it’s very emotional.
Do you think you’re going to keep in touch?
Yeah, definitely! There are lots of people I already keep in touch with. Dean Charles-Chapman, who played Tommen, is one of my best friends in the world. I’m in touch with him all the time. And then, of course, Kristian Nairn, who played Hodor, is a very close friend of mine. But I’m sure we’ll be running into each other for many years to come—probably at a convention, when we’re all signing things until the age of 90. [Laughs.] And we’ve all got a group chat.
It must be huge.
Yeah, it’s pretty big. I tend to just read it all, but Dean puts funny stuff in, and Kit’s quite vocal in it. It’s most funny pictures and memes. There are quite a lot of memes in there. I remember once, when we were filming a scene with Bran lying on his side, sort of like the “Paint me like one of your French girls” meme, I knew as we were filming that then I was going to get turned into a meme. And, behold, I did.
So besides university, what’s next?
I’ll probably fit some things into the summer, but I’m kind of enjoying having a bit of time in the real world. It’s crazy to have been part of this machine for so long. I feel like I’ve lived an entire life, and I’m actually only just starting my life. It’s pretty weird. I’m just taking it as it comes. I have to say, sometimes I do this whole thing where I’m like, Oh, I get this all the time, I look just like this guy—apparently we even both wear glasses as well. And most of the time it actually works. [Laughs.]