Winter is coming, something the Stark family should know better than most. As guardians of the north, the Starks of Winterfell always remind us that winter is coming. The fact is, at some point they are always right, winter always comes eventually. The Stark family would rather stay out of the games played in Kings Landing and be left alone, but Ned is dragged into a game he cannot get out of and his entire family is put into jeopardy. In season 1 we saw the death of Ned Stark at the hands of now King Joffrey who did so for his treason of trying to deny Joffrey the throne. Earlier in the season, Bran Stark, who loves to climb catches the queen and her brother being intimate, a secret that nearly cost Bran his life when the queens brother pushes him out of the window. Bran is now paralyzed, unable to use his legs.
In season 2 Robb leaves Winterfell to start a war and with Brans mother out fighting with Robb, Bran is left at Winterfell under the guidance of Maester Luwin to run and watch over the families home. With so many ‘kings’ claiming rights to various thrones, how long before a currently under-defended Winterfell is attacked?
Bran Stark is played by the talented Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about his experience on the show and playing Bran Stark.
How did you get into acting?
By accident really. I joined a local drama group because the alternative was to play football and I didn’t like that because I got too cold outdoors on the football pitch. The drama group was great fun. I really enjoyed all the games and the improvisation.
How did you learn about the role of Bran Stark in Game of Thrones. How does the audition process work.
My drama teacher found out about the casting for the show and a bunch of us went up for the auditions. To be honest, I wasn’t really aware of what the show was about. We had a script and we just read the lines. At the second audition I met the producers and the director and had to do a bit of improvisation, which was good fun. By the third audition, my mum and dad had read up on the show and the book and we had an idea of what it was about. We followed all the developments on Winter is Coming and got really excited about what might happen. When the news came that I got the part I was really thrilled and amazed.
Had you read the books prior to taking the role? have you read them now?
No I haven’t read the books. I’m afraid I cheat and look at Wikipedia or let my Mum or dad update me on the story. They are reading the whole series.
How do you relate to Bran? Are you adventurous like him?
I imagine if I lived in Bran’s world I would probably be like him, climbing castle towers and dreaming of being a knight. (Actually, that’s pretty much what I do in real life – well in Assassin‘s Creed – and it‘s safer! I think Bran would like that game too. )
In the scene where you are pushed off the top of the castle, did you do the stunt work yourself? What was it like shooting that scene.
I really enjoyed doing the stunt work for this scene, but the final fall was performed by a stunt woman. It was pretty scary watching her being dropped from a height onto a pile of boxes. She was on a wire, but it looked like she was free falling.
We shot the final shoving out the window scene 3 times, including the pilot. It was important to get it right because so much of the story develops from that event. We tried different set ups including one where Bran falls from above, past the window and just manages to catch onto the ledge before Jamie notices him.
What was it like going to these remote locations for filming? What was your favorite scene of series 1?
Northern Ireland has some fantastic scenery. We were lucky to visit some very beautiful places like Tollymore Park and Cairncastle. The weather wasn’t always great though! My favourite scene of series 1 was Viserys getting his crown of gold – that was cool!
Who was your favorite person to meet on set?
Well, it was great to meet George RR Martin. But I really enjoyed meeting everyone actually. All the crew and cast are so friendly. In season 2 I spend a lot of time with Kristian Nairn who plays Hodor, and he’s really cool – he introduced me to Minecraft!
Which scene or episode was the most difficult for you? Which was your favorite?
The most difficult scene was the one I had nothing to do in – my coma. Keeping still like that is harder than you think! And my favourite was the wildlings attack because it involved lots of dramatic action.
Did you go through archery training or did you already know how to shoot a bow?
I had some training with Boyd, who’s a really kind and patient teacher. He makes the bows himself and also plays the blacksmith in the scene with Jon Snow. Bran misses the target in the archery scene, so my job was to fire the arrow anywhere but the target. I was surprisingly good at that!
On set you got to work with wolf pups in the beginning but as time went on they were full size. Was it difficult to work with them on set?
When we were filming the direwolf scene the ‘wolf cubs’ were so tiny we had to take care that they didn’t wriggle away and escape or fall into the stream. They were beautiful and very sweet. It was tempting to keep one hidden under my cloak to take home with me.
My nearly grown ‘wolf’ was called Elsa. She was very nervous, and I had to learn how to approach her without startling her. She was very good at her job; on her trainer’s command she would lie down, or get on the bed, or growl, or lick my face! I have tried using some of the training tricks on my dogs, Teddy and Rosie, but they are anarchists so that doesn’t work.
As an actor how do you feel acting as though your legs don’t work? Does it affect the way you portray the character. Do you change his attitude or behavior to reflect to reflect his anger over the loss of his use of legs?
I have to remember not to use my legs and think to myself that I can’t rely on them. For Bran, losing the use of his legs is a terrible shock. He’s pretty angry about it, but so much else is changing in his world, he just has to get on with it.
What can you tell us about Bran’s role in season 2?
Bran is adapting to his circumstances. He is learning how to run Winterfell under Maester Luwin’s guidance, and he is struggling with powerful dreams that really unsettle him. And he needs to get a handle on both if he’s to cope with the traumas ahead!
If you could play any other character on the show, who would it be and why?
I’d like to have been Ned. He has such honourable values, and he is alone in defending them. He is like a lone ranger in the defence of awesomeness!
Checkout a character feature video, a look at House Stark and preview of this Sundays newest episode.