The world of Game of Thrones can be a cruel place for children—just ask any of the Stark kids. But for teenage actors on the show, it must be the job of a lifetime. And no one appears to be having more fun than Isaac Hempstead-Wright, the 15-year-old who plays Bran Stark. I rolled my eyes back into my head and warged into a chinchilla to interview the young star, and we talked about Hempstead-Wright literally outgrowing Bran, which Stark child has had it worst, and what's coming up for Bran in Season 4.
Each season of Game of Thrones has a different dominant feeling. Season 1 was an introduction, Season 2 was about war, and Season 3 was about ripping our hearts out. What tone can we expect from Season 4?
Usually each season has a climax point, and it's all leading up to something. And I guess Season 4 is, in a way, that something. Everything that has happened previously is culminating and reaching this huge explosive conclusion-y point. There are lots of different parts of the season, there is no climax as in the previous seasons. There are lots of crazy things happening all over the place.
And how much Bran will we be seeing this season?
There's a bit less of Bran, but his storyline is hopping up and getting truly interesting now. I think I'm in four episodes.
When we last saw you, you were going beyond the Wall. That doesn't seem like a very safe place, how is Bran going to handle that?
Obviously, everybody is going south of the Wall, and Bran, who is a cripple, with only a giant, two strangers he met, and a wolf, are heading into the deep dark North with all the horrible creatures. [laughs] He's taking a huge risk. But at the same time, he absolutely knows he has to go north. There's no other way for him to go, he can't just hang about elsewhere or head south to see his family, because he hasn't got a family anymore. He's on his own now, he has to be his own Stark family and himself. And there's this supernatural force calling him to somewhere, or rather, and he doesn't know where it is or what it is or why, but he just knows he has to follow it.
One of those supernatural forces is the three-eyed raven. How do you think the pesky bird is connected to Bran?
That's a cool point. It's interesting to think whether, after Bran fell, would he always have been a warg if he hadn't fell? I think maybe it's to do with the fall and the trauma of it, I think that's how he has a relation to the three-eyed raven.
The Reeds, Jojen and Meera, are your traveling companions, but they're still relative strangers. How much more will learn about them this season?
We explore a lot more about Jojen and Meera and how Jojen is going to help Bran, and how absolutely crucial he is for helping Bran reach wherever he has to get. And helping Bran truly unlock his powers.
I know you get this question a lot, but I wanted to hear the answer straight from you. How much did you grow between seasons?
About ten feet. Quite a lot. [laughs] It's a pain for Kristian [Nairn], who plays Hodor. The good thing is I'm sitting down, so I don't have to stand up and no one sees how tall I am.
Have you talked to George R.R. Martin about your growth?
I saw George again the other day, and he was like [launches into high-pitched George R.R. Martin voice with panicked voice], "Oh my god! Oh god, you've grown! You've gotta stop growing!"
What's your favorite Bran moment so far?
I think my favorite moments for Bran are coming up this season. But I think Season 3 was the most exciting for Bran because he finally left Winterfell, where he was stagnating a bit. He wasn't really getting out so much. And now that he's out on the road, he's doing something for himself rather than waiting—because he's had to rely on other people. And now he's taking that into his own hands, and he's saying, "No, I don't have to rely on other people. I'm going to get where I need to get."
Since the beginning of Season 1, the Stark children have had pretty crummy lives. Who do you think has had it the worst?
I think Bran probably, because Bran always wanted to be a knight, and then he lost his legs. Then all his family went south to King's Landing and he was on his own, then his father died, then he had to leave his home because it was taken over by one of his companions or friends, then a load more of his family died and he's on his own in the North, with nobody but a giant, a Wildling lady, his younger brother, and these two mysterious people. And that's pretty awful for Bran, because at least the other Stark kids have—Arya has her fighting and Sansa has, I'm not sure what Sansa is trying to scheme in King's Landing—and Bran can't do that for himself, because he's disabled and stuck on his own.
When Bran is asked to "warg out," what's your acting process?
I don't really think about it, I just roll my eyes in the back of my head and don't think about anything really. Then they add the effects and it looks a lot cooler.
Bran's warging ability has given him the ability to control Hodor. I know you and Kristian Nairn are good friends. What's the first thing you would do if you could control Kristian?
Ooooooh, I think I would have to start pummeling—I mean I would use Kristian to start getting back at people. I would definitely get back at Jaime Lannister, who was less than nice to Bran in Episode 1, and start revenge!
And last question, because we're all so concerned about poor little Rickon, is he going to be okay on his own with Osha?
Osha's a sensible lady, she understands things and she never trusts anyone, so I think Rickon is in safe hands with her. He's happy enough wandering around with his Shaggydog.
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO.