To a good number of Game of Thrones fans, there is but one true king — and he speaks one word, which many have speculated could be a name, a key, or a clue to a story that unlocks the future of Westeros. He was last seen in season 4’s “The Children,” where Bran Stark wargs into his massive but gentle protector so he could defend their group from attacking wights, turning him into a powerful weapon that we didn’t think he could be. It was a turning point for their storyline. With a purpose other than guiding and carrying Bran revealed, we are left to wonder what else could this mild-mannered and loyal being could be capable of — as if we needed any more proof that he is a star who could charm anyone with a single word: Hodor.
￼Kristian Nairn, the six-foot-ten Irish actor who plays Hodor, has a more outgoing personality. One might argue that anyone is more outgoing than Hodor, but Nairn is a DJ. He has been one long before Game of Thrones even started, and it’s a job that requires a lot of going out in public, getting people excited, and perhaps a bit of fist-pumping — things that won’t ever see Hodor do. It’s this interesting dichotomy of fiction and reality that has drawn fans to Nairn’s gigs. For his most popular tour to date, Rave of Thrones, Nairn will make a brief one-night stop at The Podium Lounge in Ritz Carlton, Singapore for Formula One Singapore 2015, where he’ll be playing a full-on house set and some of his own music. It’s the closest we’ll get to partying with the Game of Thrones star, and the guest list is long and full of terrors.
A clip from the Australian leg of Rave of Thrones gives us a glimpse of what to expect: blue light and smoke fills the room and the crowd pretty much knows what’s coming — winter, bitches. A White Walker emerges from the shadows, tall, lanky and with menacing blue eyes. It revels in the crowd’s frenzied reaction in that “Come at me, bro” stance that left Jon Snow (the boy who lived, we hope) perplexed. From behind the banners of the houses of Westeros, Nairn appears, sporting a T-shirt and a sculpted beard. Headphones around his neck, Nairn bobs his head, and then, boom, it’s like Battle of Blackwater all over again. Energy spreads like wildfire. Suddenly — holy Mother of Dragons — Dany is onstage, dancing like crazy beside the Iron Throne. And that’s just the opening set.
Nairn, like Hodor, doesn’t say much of course. He does claim he has nothing to do with White Walkers roaming the Earth. When asked if he always brings them to his shows, he laughs. Hodor laughs! “I don’t carry them in my suitcase,” he tells us. “But people seem to like dressing up as them. They tend to pop up from time to time. It’s a mix of people who like the show and people who are into the music. It’s a fascinating mix of people and it makes a really special atmosphere!”
Nairn started playing the piano at three years old, in Kremlin, Belfast, where he’s always lived. “I was a DJ long before I was an actor. I’ve been DJing non-stop for 20 years now. My sets are always house music of some form. Always heavy on the bass, sometimes deep and dirty, or sometimes a little more hands-in-the-air, depending on how I feel,” he says.
In 2011, Nairn joined Game of Thrones on its first season as Hodor, a simpleminded and rather large servant loyal to the Starks of Winterfell. He looks after Bran Stark, who fell from a tower and lost his ability to walk. Hodor has been his mode of transportation since, carrying him in a basket strapped to his back. In the books, Hodor doesn’t have a scar on his right temple; it’s a characteristic unique to the show that covers his star tattoos on his face. In all the show’s four seasons (Hodor has been MIA in Season 5, attending to Bran while he trained — or maybe moonlighting as a DJ, we don’t know), Hodor only ever says “Hodor,” which is something George R.R. Martin is yet to explain. His unique “flaw” has made him a favorite and an Internet hit, which leads us to think “Selfie” may have rigged the elections for Word of the Year. Nairn has said that he has 70 different ways of saying Hodor. Along with body language, he displays a range of emotions that could rival Jon Snow’s, who only ever makes one face, but could rouse fervor in the hearts of cold, hardened killers. That’s saying something.
Nairn describes his concurrent transition into acting as a natural progression, having had singing and stage experience as well. “The Hodor audition came off the back of another audition I had done a few years previously. They wanted to see how I could act and react with no words or one word and demonstrate a range of emotions silently. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s very difficult,” he says. “But I understand my character very well. Having no words, if I didn’t understand him, I wouldn’t be able to do the part. He was a stable boy in Winterfell, who, through circumstance and his great strength has ended up on a quest, as a kind of protector of Bran Stark.”
Being Hodor has changed Nairn’s life, and since joining the cast of Game of Thrones, the popularity of his gigs has shot through the roof. “It’s been great being part of such an amazing team and group of awesome people. It has been a pleasure since day one,” he says. Currently, Nairn is working on original music, and just wrapped up with shooting a movie called Four Warriors. “It’s been a really intense year. Right now I’m actually listening to my next single, Beacon, on repeat, trying to hear things that I want to change,” he says. His debut single, Up, is out and will be part of his Rave of Thrones sets. “It’s based around the vocal house that I love so much and has elements of old school to it. I just feel different ideas out until one really starts to flow. Being a DJ really helps, as I’m always picturing the crowd’s reaction. I just think that if you produce something you really are proud of, then you have done something worthwhile. It’s a bonus if people like it!”
And speaking of people’s reactions… Is Jon Snow coming back? “You just have to wait and see.” He may as well have answered, “Hodor!”
Kristian Nairn will be at The Podium Lounge at Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore on September 18. For information, visit http://www.thepodiumloun.
Photo by SIMON CRAWFORD