Kristofer Hivju interview: "This is the nightmare moment where you have to face centuries of bad dreams"

By James Hibberd
March 27, 2019 at 10:52 AM EDT
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The secret is out about the fate of Tormund Giantsbane.

The Game of Thrones season 8 trailer revealed that the gruff fan-favorite red-bearded Wildling played by Kristofer Hivju survived the Wall’s collapse in last season’s finale. The clip showed Giantsbane walking purposefully with Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) somewhere.

EW spoke to the 40-year-old Norwegian actor about his return for the final season. For months Hivju says he took extra precautions to not tip off fans that he was still on the show, such as trying to stay under the radar while in Belfast and refusing to take selfies. “We didn’t see him die; season 8 could have started episode 1 with dead Tormund,” Hivju said.

When we spoke, the actor wasn’t yet sure when his participation would be revealed, but he was hoping that Tormund’s return would delight fans of the HBO hit. “I sat in a bar when I was shooting The Fate of the Furious and I watched an episode of Thrones with diehard fans, and it was like seeing a sporting event,” Hivju said. “I didn’t understand the impact of the show until watching it with other people. It was the episode where [Rory McCann’s character, the Hound, who was presumed dead for a time] came back, and there was this roar. I’m going for that.”

As for Tormund’s story line, that’s being kept secret for now. Hivju has been with the show since season 3 and is one of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) most loyal allies, while also carrying a not-so-subtle crush on Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). Both those characters are at Winterfell, however, and it’s unclear if there will be a reunion.

But the actor was able to tell us a little about Tormund’s mindset at the start of the season.

Helen Sloan/HBO

“He wants closure,” Hivju said. “All the Free Folk grew up with the horror stories of the White Walkers, like that story Nan told Bran in season 1 with the ice spiders — except having seen them. This has been the terror of their worst nightmare as long as they’ve existed. Tormund has confronted them many times. This is the nightmare moment where you have to face centuries of bad dreams.”

Like many longtime GoT castmembers, Hivju says he’s feeling the weight of the show concluding, and notes that everybody has been trying to give the final episodes their best performance yet. He also had a particularly philosophical way of looking at his time on the show.

“Every seventh year there isn’t a cell in your body that hasn’t changed,” said Hivju. “Even your bones. Your new cells learned what your old cells knew. And you have your soul. This flesh is not the same as what was sitting here seven years ago. Everything has an end. Everybody is exhausted and nobody is tired. It’s a long, intense journey, and extremely satisfying; it’s so seldom to have this positive drive through every season, from your first day to your last day. Everybody wants to up their game and make it even better. We feel like we’re always competing with ourselves. So it’s satisfying to end it and we’re ending it when everybody still loves being here.”

Looking ahead: Hivju will also appear in the U.S. remake of the film Downhill starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, about a family who narrowly survives an avalanche.

GoT returns April 14. Listen to our GoT podcast. EW.com will have daily GoT coverage until the end of Game of Thrones, including post-episode recaps and interviews. Follow @jameshibberd for GoT scoop. Bookmark our Game of Thrones content hub.

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HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
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