Game of Thrones actor on that heartbreaking death
Caution: The interview below contains a major revelation from Game of Thrones season 6 episode 5, “The Door,” please do not read until you’ve seen Sunday’s episode…
Hodor has said his final “Hodor.”
Bran Stark’s longtime companion and protector perished in Sunday’s hour after heroically saving Bran and Meera’s life. Hodor held the door, and fulfilled his destiny, before being overcome by a horde of undead wights. The sequence was doubly emotional and impactful because we also learned Hodor’s condition was actually caused by Bran, who went back in time to Hodor’s youth in Winterfell and ordered him to “hold the door,” causing a brain-melting seizure that left him only able to say one word for the rest of his life: “Hodor,” which eventually the name everybody called him. Thrones fans learned an essential part of Hodor’s story, only to horrifically lose him moments later, and discovered both his condition and his death were accidentally caused by the same person, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whom Hodor cared about more than anybody else.
Below we speak to Irish actor Kristian Nairn — who is also an accomplished DJ (hear his music here) — about his character’s fatal twist.
Entertainment Weekly: Let’s go back to before last season. What was your reaction to taking season 5 off?
Kristian Nairn: It wasn’t really a surprise. I kind of expected that to happen. Our storyline was ahead of everyone else. The other storylines had to catch up. It was also disappointing because it’s a big family and it felt very weird to not be a part of that for a year. I live in Belfast so I would always see people coming and going. And we’d meet over dinner. The cast is very close.
How did you find out this would be your last season?
I got The Call. [Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] gave me the call. You know what’s going to happen. Some of my friends got the scripts before I did, so I sort of got the hint it was going to happen. With Game of Thrones nothing is ever certain, and that I made it this far is pretty good. Ned Stark only made it to episode 9!
What was unique about shooting this season, in general?
Watching the kids grow up has been interesting. Isaac is no longer a little boy. He’s massive, and he’s a teenager now — a sweet teenager, but not the 9-year-old who used to follow me around. He still follows me around a little. Watching him develop as an actor, he’s a superb actor. It’s a very confined set this year. We’re in the weirwood tree. We have quiet moments where you get the see the intricacies of the character and do some tender emotional things. So we could focus on the characters that way.
You have to be the only series regular in the history of TV who did 5 seasons and only said one word. That must be some kind of record.
Yeah, it must be! I can’t think of anybody else. I wonder if anybody has counted up how many “Hodors” I’ve said over five seasons.
I bet there’s an official Hodor count.
I should know, but I don’t.
How do fans react to you? Even as a journalist covering this show, when you emailed all I wanted to do was reply “Hodor!” over and over.
It depends. It varies from country to country. Game of Thrones is big everywhere now, and you’ll get “Hodors” yelled. I tend to do my grocery shopping in the middle of the night now because it’s awkward. But it’s fun, too. People love the show and identify with us as the characters. People always ask me, “What’s your worst fan interaction?” I don’t have any. Everyone is super chill, even the slightly annoying ones. Thrones fans tend to be respectful.
What did you think of how Hodor went out?
I love it. Funnily enough, I just saw [the scene] today for the first time. I couldn’t be happier how he has gone out. The interesting thing is it’s kinda left open. You don’t actually see him [die]. It’s implied. So who knows? He may come back as a White Walker, maybe he got away. But it’s a really good way to do it. I couldn’t have asked for a better goodbye to a character I love. My favorite part is it ties up the question of why is Hodor “Hodor.” Why does he say the word “Hodor”? Only George R.R. Martin or David and Dan could have come up with this. It’s incredibly sad. The minute you finally learn something about Hodor, they kill him!
The backstory was so very sad, it made him such a tragic figure.
I had tears in my eyes. I don’t see myself on screen, I see Hodor. I always talk about him in the third person. I just saw the character die and it was very sad. I think people are going to a) freak out, b) be very sad.
Fans are not going to expect the explanation, and they’re not going to expect to lose him — it’s going to be a double shock.
In season 4, there was the scene in Craster’s Keep where people thought I was going to get killed. And people were like, “If Hodor dies, we riot.” It will be interesting to see. I can’t wait until it airs. It’s weird talking to you about it as I haven’t been able to talk about it for so long.
And now he’s never going to to end up on the Iron Throne.
Again, we don’t know! But I never expected that anyway, to be fair. I don’t think he’d make a very good king, he’s somewhat limited in his dialogue. I’m considering this open ended — because you never know in the crazy world of Game of Thrones.
What’s your best memory of working on the show?
[The pilot]. Joffrey and the Lannisters arrive in Winterfell. It was one of my first days on set. That was probably one of the biggest gathering of the cast. Everyone was still alive among the Starks, Robert Baratheon, the Lannisters. Apart from Daenerys, the whole cast was there. That was the day I realized what a big production it was going to be and what I was a part of. That was a fantastic day. Everyone together for one of the first and last times. That’s one of my best memories.
In all your line readings, what was your favorite “Hodor”?
Actually there’s one I really like in the current season where Meera and I are talking about sausages. This guy loves his sausages, clearly, and his bacon. His face lights up and starts talking about food. I also enjoyed the one in season 3 with Osha . She’s complaining about having to build the camp and he did this “Why you telling me?”-type “Hodor.” That was a fun one. I can’t believe I can actually isolate two “Hodors” from all those times!
I don’t suppose you have least favorite? That’s harder.
No. Each “Hodor” is like one of my children. I love them all.
What was your last day on set like?
When it was finally wrapped at the end of season 6 they allowed Isaac to be the one to wrap me. It was an emotional moment. It’s been an incredible journey that completely turned my life upside down and gave me a lot of hope for the future. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I have a lot more words than “Hodor.”
More: Bran Stark actor Isaac Hempstead Wright and producers talk about losing Hodor (“It’s so sad!”); our deep-dive recap of “The Door”; and Gwendoline Christie on Tormund crush.
Here’s that scene Nairn mentioned where Osha is complaining to Hodor:
HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.