Game of Thrones' Hodor, Kristian Nairn, talks about life-changing role

Kristian Nairn, the Irish actor who played the friendly giant Hodor on Game of Thrones, chats with The Calgary Eyeopener ahead of his upcoming appearance at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.

'I really know what it’s like to work and live every moment now, and I’m really grateful for that'

Kristian Nairn, best known for the beloved character Hodor on Game of Thrones, is coming to Calgary. (CBC )

Kristian Nairn, the Irish actor who played the friendly giant Hodor on Game of Thrones, was working as a DJ when he was cast in the role for the hit TV show. 

Ahead of his upcoming appearance at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, Narin chatted with the Calgary Eyeopener about how his life has changed since. Here's an edited version of that interview.

Q: As I understand it, this was your first major acting role. How did you land this gig?

A: It was a bit of a fluke, really. I was working as a DJ at the time, but had always been involved in musical theatre and the odd dramatic production. That was just basically my life. One thing led to another, I did a few auditions for a few things in the past and lo and behold Game of Thrones came along, and I got the part and everything changed.

Q: What did the part call for?

A: Actually, it was a part I auditioned for for a movie called Hot Fuzz, which was about five years previously, believe it or not, and it was the same casting director who cast GoT in the end. And apparently she couldn't get me out of her head for the part of Hodor, so I never actually saw the brief. She just said this is the guy. She called me up, I went on tape again just to refresh her memory, that was it. It was just fate.

Q: You appear in five seasons but in those five seasons, as far as I know, you only ever say one word. Do people come up to you and say 'say the word'?

A: They normally say it first, but yeah, it's a thing.

It takes approximately 0.3 seconds to say it so if I can make someone happy by saying two syllables, I'm happy to do it.

Q: You did a lot with that word. You managed to convey emotion through that over five seasons. How tricky was that?

A: I'm not going to lie, some things were very simple. It really just involved being there. But there were some pretty complex scenes. You really just have to inhabit the character.

I didn't have the luxury of having great dialogue to sort of portray how I was feeling. I really had to be that part, I really had to try and feel those emotions, so I sort of treated it like a holiday from myself. I got to really be this person for the time that we were filming and it just happens that he was quite a quiet guy, which I'm certainly not, so it definitely gave my jaw a rest.

Q: Are those white walkers as scary in real life as they are on the big screen?

The Night's King, leader of the White Walkers, is one of the supernatural creatures that shapes the lives of characters in HBO's Game of Thrones. (HBO Canada/Bell Media)

A: In some ways, yes, they're usually stunt people and when they come running at you, they really do run like they're coming to kill you. But then you'll turn around and you'll see one with like an anorak on and they'll  have a pink umbrella up to keep the rain off their makeup, and that sort of takes the horror edge off.

Q: You used to be resident DJ for Kremlin in Belfast, then did a tour called Rave of Thrones.  What are you doing these days?

A: It hasn't stopped, I was in four continents last week, it's just absolutely relentless in a good way. It continues. I'm doing music festivals this summer, I'm just about to film a horror movie in Utah, there's a TV show coming up after that. I've just done a movie.

I used to be quite a lazy person, I sort of appreciate that now. I really wasted a lot of time in my 20s. I really know what it's like to work and live every moment now, and I'm really grateful for that.

Kristian Nairn is set to appear at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo running this Friday to Sunday.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener