Spoilers for the series finale of Game of Thrones to follow…
It’s a bit weird to see Bran Stark casually walking around.
Over the years on HBO’s Game of Thrones, the character (who lost the use of his legs in the show’s 2011 pilot) has always been carried, dragged and wheeled into scenes (aside from a few vision sequences). During our set visit to the production in Northern Ireland last spring, there’s an uncanny feeling when Bran Stark gets up from his wheelchair that’s parked under Winterfell’s weirwood tree where he’s waiting for the Night King and stroll over for chat about the series finale.
First, to answer the inevitable question, yes, actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright knows there’s a good chance you’re not going to be thrilled that Bran is crowned king of the six kingdoms (not seven, read our series finale recap for the details).
“Not everyone will be happy,” the 20-year-old says. “It’s so difficult to finish a series as popular as this without pissing some people off. I don’t think anybody will think it’s predictable and that’s as much as you can hope for. People are going to be angry. There’s going to be a lot of broken hearts. It’s ‘bittersweet,’ exactly as [saga author] George R.R. Martin intended. It’s a fitting conclusion to this epic saga.”
That said, after years of fans wondering “who will end up on the Iron Throne?” the actor was thrilled to find out his unlikely character was chosen for the honor (even if Red Keep’s iconic seat of power was destroyed by Drogon). And at first, Hempstead-Wright couldn’t believe this was the real ending.
“When I got to the [Dragonpit scene] in the last episode and they’re like, ‘What about Bran?’ I had to get up and pace around the room,” he recalls. “I genuinely thought it was a joke script and that [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] sent to everyone a script with their own character ends up on the Iron Throne. ‘Yeah, good one guys. Oh s—, it’s actually real?’”
That said, “I’m happy,” he says. “Though I kind of did want to die and get in one good death scene with an exploding head or something.”
So will Bran be a good king for the people of Westeros? Almost certainly yes. Bran knows the entire history of the realm, and some of the future too. He’s utterly fair and makes decisions without emotion.
“I think he’ll be a really good king actually,” Hempstead-Wright says. “Perhaps there will be something missing in having real emotive leader, which is a useful quality in a king or queen as well. At the same time, you can’t really argue with Bran. He’s like, ‘No, I know everything.’”
Bran Stark has always been pretty meme-worthy, but his fan playfulness with his odd character went to an entirely new level in the final season, with Bran’s hazy stare becoming a thing. Across the series, Hempstead-Wright’s all-time favorite Bran moment was in season 8 during his confrontation with the Night King.
“Getting to do those night shoots when the Night King gets [killed] was pretty powerful,” he says. “Seeing the end of one of the most important powerful characters come to an end. There was a moment between Bran and the night king where Bran almost feels sorry for him. He didn’t ask to be the Night King. We saw him being strapped to the tree and get that Dragonglass plunged in his heart and he’s been on a hellbent mission of destruction. That was probably my favorite thing to shoot.”
At least now Hempstead-Wright is free to talk about his character’s reign. While most of the show’s actors have said they felt pressure to protect final season spoilers, Hempstead-Wright had all those secrets plus the desire to share his character’s enormous victory.
“I just want to shout: ‘King motherf—ers!,’” he says. “Though that’s probably not a wise plan, obviously.”