Exclusive: Bran Stark's storyline to have some 'Inception'-like plotting

By James Hibberd
December 29, 2015 at 09:32 PM EST
Helen Sloan/HBO
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Game of Thrones season 6 is going to employ some Inception-like storytelling to show us parts of the history of Westeros that we never thought we’d get to see. This extremely exciting narrative twist is a major part of Bran Stark’s return after a one-season absence. 

But before we tell you more about that, we have to go back a couple years — to the end of season 4 when actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright got the dreaded message that Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss wanted to speak to him. 

“When I first heard the news Dan and David wanted to have a chat with me, I was like, ‘Oh no!’ ” recalls Hempstead-Wright, who has grown to nearly six feet and cut his hair much shorter since we last saw him completing his journey north to meet the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven. “Usually that’s to tell you [your character is] dead. So comparatively, missing a season was like, ‘phew!‘ “

The showrunners explained to Hempstead-Wright that they wanted to fast-forward through most of Bran’s cave-based psychic training with the Three-Eyed Raven, comparing the narrative move to how when Luke Skywalker went from a shaky novice in The Empire Strikes Back to a full-fledged Jedi master at the opening of Return of the Jedi. “And they’re exactly right,” the 16-year old actor says. “I would have just been sitting in a cave going, ‘Oh, I can nearly do it now.’ “

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Since then, the producers recast the Three-Eyed Raven with legendary silver screen icon Max von Sydow (The Exorcist). “There are certain lines that you think are almost fillers, like, ‘He’s over there,’ but when Max von Sydow says them, he can make it sound like it’s the most important news you’ve ever heard,” Hempstead-Wright says (and indeed, producers used Sydow’s unmistakable voice for the season 6 teaser trailer narration).

Anyway, that’s enough of all the backstory: What’s Bran doing next season?

We can tell you the wait for Bran’s return has paid off: This is his biggest and most crucial season yet. When I asked Hempstead-Wright for his reaction to reading the season 6 scripts, he replied, “Oh! That’s the best scene I’ve ever done! … Oh! That scene is even better!”

As usual, he cannot say much about the ultra-secret series. But this year is such a game-changer for Bran that even what little the actor can say is pretty revealing, especially for a show that’s largely avoided the use of flashbacks in prior seasons.

“Previously Bran’s seen tiny glimpses of future or past but never has he been very much in control in the situation,” he says. “Now we’re given looks into very important events in the past, present and future of this world and Bran is beginning to piece them together like a detective, almost as if he’s watching the show. Equally, he’s now discovering how crucial he could be in the Great War. It’s quite Inception-y.”

For more Game of Thrones, pick up the First Look issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now or available for purchase here.

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