Recent Game of Thrones production stills released by HBO show a grown-up Bran Stark, played by 17-year-old English actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright. As Bran, he’s spent most of his days in Westeros escaping and overcoming every possible stroke of bad luck thrown his way — from losing the ability to walk to losing pretty much his entire family. As Isaac, he’s a child actor who’s grown up in the company of friends and co-actors, in a TV series that’s given us some of the most brutal deaths and most memorable finales in history. What’s it like growing up as a Stark kid without any actual Starks around, and coming to terms with a power that’s more powerful than anyone in all the Seven Kingdoms could imagine? GIST interviewed Isaac just before the big reveal — an older, wiser, more powerful Bran — in season 6 of Game of Thrones, set to air on April 25, 9 a.m. on HBO.
What did we miss while Bran was away in season 5? In season 5, Bran was training his magical talents, learning the skills he could use and learning about their origins. He’s mastering the power of The Sight, seeing the past, present and future.
What’s it like returning to set, after a year of being away? I suppose we’ve all changed a lot. For me, I started when I was so young, it didn’t really occur to me exactly how the experience was going to be. You learn more and more as you get older and you kind of realize how extraordinary and lucky you are. It’s quite nice because now, we’re becoming adults. It’s lovely, you feel like you’re kind of holding your own on set. It was slightly intimidating, and watching how huge the show has become so far. It’s all quite alien now. And I’ve missed so many of the people and it’s nice to catch up with them again.
Are we going to see a very different Bran Stark this season? I think he’s certainly have a more adult kind of vibe about him. Throughout the past season, we’ve had glimpses of Bran’s powers. In season 6, he’s so focused now, he’s got a zen aura about him now. He’s like a Three-eyed Raven in-training.
And you got to walk…and maybe fly? It was nice to shoot the visions. I get to stand up and walk around. But after that I have to sit back down in the cave. Haha. I can’t say any specifics, but this season especially, Bran is starting to do some interesting things with his powers. He’s actually using them. As an audience, I think you’ll really enjoy seeing what Bran can do with his powers.
Which Game of Thrones scene has had the biggest impact on you? The biggest impact was Oberyn’s death. I really didn’t know it was coming. I hadn’t read the script for that. Having watched the scene unfold, to see things for a fun, fresh good guy go so wrong very quickly, it was such a gruesome exit. We’ve lost so many lovely characters and awesome actors. We have to say goodbye to them every year. Kit Harrington was obviously very sad for me. And I miss the Starks.
How is Hodor? Did you miss Kristian (Nairn)? My relationship with Kristian is great. That was the saddest thing about not being in season 5. Actually the first time we met, he smashed my phone! Since then we’ve been pretty good mates. (Laughs)
Do you see Bran Stark taking his revenge, now that he’s so powerful? I don’t see Bran stark as a vengeful character. He’s a kind of sage of Westeros. He’s got to have a maturity to keep everything in the balance.
Do you want Jon Snow to come back? As me, I’d love him to come back! It would be lovely to have Kit back. As Bran, definitely. Even if Jon Snow wasn’t necessarily a Stark.
If you could date any character on Game of Thrones, who would it be? Maybe the dragons!
If you could play any other character on Game of Thrones, who would you want to be? I’d love to do some swordfighting stuff. I would like to Oberyn, because he’s cool. And it would’ve been fun to shoot that death scene.
Can you imagine life after Thrones? That’s a tough, terrifying thought because it’s been such an integral part of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever escape Game of Thrones now, but I don’t see that as too much of a problem. It’s such a fantastic show. It’s nice to be remembered for being in such a nice TV show. I’ve also grown as a person, and people also see that I’m changing and growing up. Right now I’m really enjoying acting and I’m just gonna follow that along as long as I can.
Which do you think will get you far in Westeros, strength, power, or brains? I don’t think one single strength is good on its own and you see that with a lot of the characters. A lot of times, you’d get disadvantaged by the limitations of your talents. Jon Snow, even though he knows nothing, he had what it took, the leadership quality and tactical know-how and the strength to be a good leader. But I suppose that wasn’t meant to be. Littlefinger is very smart and cunning. I think it’s the brain more than the strength, because so much of Westeros is controlled by politics.
How different is young Bran from older Bran? Young Bran has had every possible thing the world could throw at him. He lost his legs, his family. But he had to keep a level head and focus. The older Bran has an intense focus that the young bran didn’t have. Older Bran has become wiser. He’s even a little stoic, with almost like a three-eyed raven vibe about him. Which makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Who do you think will be the next to go in Game of Thrones? Everyone. (Laughs) No is spared in terms of who’s likely to survive. Everyone’s in jeopardy. Any moment, any one could die.