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15 Minutes of Fame: Azeroth to Westeros with Game of Thrones' Kristian Nairn

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

If you've read the books behind the spellbinding new HBO series Game of Thrones, you'll instantly recognize the character portrayed by the bearded beast of burden above -- yes, that's Kristian Nairn as Hodor, on the set with young passenger Isaac Hempstead-Wright (as Bran Stark). While you may not recognize Nairn yet if you're new to the gritty fantasy series (he hasn't been onscreen yet), the show itself has been hard to ignore, debuting amidst a deluge of publicity and earning a renewal for a second season after only a single episode. Luckily for us, Nairn's enthusiasm for the World of Warcraft proves to be as capacious as both the series' success and his own 6'10" frame. The Belfast resident, who's also a professional DJ, plays on both US and EU servers (yep, he's that enthusiastic about the game), and once we'd covered the basics by email, he felt there was still so much left to say that we wound up chatting on Skype a few days later.

So Hodor -- no, not Hodir, Hodor ... although come to think of it, they're both rather remarkable in stature, and ... awww, heck, set thy nose to the page if you haven't yet read George R.R. Martin's best-selling Song of Ice and Fire series and you don't know who Hodor is. These are characters that'll grab you by the short hairs -- it's the ride of a lifetime. In the meantime, settle in with us for the first of two interviews with Kristian Nairn, from Azeroth to Westeros and back again.
EU main Finvarra of Taka No Dan, Azjol-Nerub (EU-H)
US main Stårk of Winter is Coming, Frostmourne (US-H)

15 Minutes of Fame: So Kristian, let's start off with the basics and get this straight -- how is it that you play on both American and European servers?

Kristian Nairn: So, yes, I do play on both EU and US servers. To be honest, it's a little difficult to split time between them, and I usually end up playing one more than the other. I have an amazing set of friends on both servers. I wish Real ID would cross over internationally some time in the future!

What about your playstyle? What do you enjoy most about the game?

When I started on Frostmourne, I told myself, "Okay Kristian ... no more furious alting. Pick one character, and play the shit out of it." Alas, that has fallen by the wayside already. I was determined not to play a mage again, as it has pretty much been my main since vanilla ... so I leveled a paladin, a warlock and a shaman as doubles ... and in the end, all I could think of was wanting another mage!!!

I think altaholic is honestly the best way to describe my playstyle! Since Cataclysm has been around, I haven't done a single raid, which is strange as it was a big part of BC and Wrath for me. I'm a big fan of PVP. I don't get bored of battleground and world PvP at all. I'm ashamed to admit that I have partaken in the odd round of ganking from time to time ... although I tend to turn my whispers off, as I can't be bothered with the QQ! LOL

I play WoW very much as a social thing right now, and while I do play the odd arena, I find it stresses me out -- and at the minute, I need my gaming to be as relaxing as possible. Maybe that's why I have avoided raiding so far!?

You're in a somewhat unique situation, playing on both European and American/Oceanic servers. Have you found any appreciable differences in the player cultures?

I don't see a massive difference in the people on EU or US servers. In my personal experience, I've found maybe that the European servers are a tiny bit more helpful and pleasant. Not to any large degree though, and I'll bet there is a shed load of people who would say the exact opposite!

We hear your American guild is quite a Game of Thrones-themed affair.

My US guild is called Winter is Coming, run by my friend Jake Stormoen. The name comes from the tagline for the show and the house motto of the Starks in Game of Thrones. Jake is an actor also and a GoT fanboy, so I think I was destined to end up there. My EU guild is Taka No Dan, where some of my oldest and best WoW friends are. They are a great group of people too.

And what about the Game of Thrones cast and crew? Any fellow WoW players there?

As far as I know, there aren't any others amongst the cast who play WoW, unless they are hiding it under a bushel! I remember trying to get Alfie (Theon Greyjoy) interested in it on set, and I think he is definitely the type who would like it. Sadly, he hasn't taken the bait ... yet!

So the series has already been renewed for a second season -- congratulations! This acting thing is all new stuff for you, though, isn't that right?

Although I have been performing in all sorts of ways and roles since childhood, GoT is my first proper venture onto the screen. I would definitely like to get into different genres. Alongside fantasy and sci-fi, comedy and horror I feel would be my greatest areas of interest. Having said that, I'll give anything a go!

I have mentioned that it'd be great to portray a villain in the future. I would relish a role that really shows a bit of background into how the bad guy got the way he is ... a little more complex than cackling behind a hooded cloak.

What about a role in the upcoming WoW movie?

The thought of a WoW film greatly excites me!!!! I could never see myself playing a goblin or gnome, without some serious CGI at least! I think it would be great to portray an orc leader or soldier. I think the lore surrounding the orcs and the rise of Thrall to Warchief is one of the best in the game, and I'd love to see that somewhere in the film.

The whole idea of WoW crossing over into your current realm of work and back again sounds irresistible. And speaking of crossovers, plenty of fans are already clamoring for an MMO set in Westeros, the Game of Thrones world.

I see there is a strategy Game of Thrones game coming out in the not-too-distant future. I'm not a huge strategy fan -- not at all, in fact.

I've been thinking if GoT would lend itself easily to an MMORPG. I mean, it certainly has the background and incredible storylines for it, along with some pretty huge characters to hinge the story around. I'm sure there would be a clever way to represent the houses with factions and allegiances, and it would be great to see the twists and turns in the story reflected in that! You would never be sure who you were "repping" up with. I imagine it would be like: first stage of daily quest for reputation ... second stage, kill the quest giver! LOL

Let's talk about how you're handling the role of Hodor. It must be an incredible challenge to work around expressing such a wide range of nuanced emotion as I know will be demanded of you in upcoming episodes and seasons with only a single word to his vocabulary: "Hodor."

I love Hodor's role in the book. I love that he is a simple character, but no one really understands him, and that he is an enigma in many ways. I have had a tonne of ideas thrown at me by fans about where they think he came from and indeed what could be next for him, as he is currently (kiss of death?) still alive and kicking in the series of books. Some of the suggestions for him would be really interesting to act.

I was glad that HBO shared my view of the character, as they didn't want him played as a howling, over-the-top idiot. I was a shy kid and teenager to a point, to be honest, and I definitely called a bit on that when I was thinking of how to do my scenes. Growing up being practically a giant does give you a different perspective on certain things, and not just physically. It affects how people treat and see you, for one, and I imagine Hodor would be in the same boat. Even with his childish mind.

So what do you see ahead?

I fully intend to work my ass off after and even during the run of Game of Thrones. I'm a big fan of going to conventions, and I love meeting the fans of the series. I haven't met a nicer bunch of people!!! I realize, of course, that I am bound to be cast in niche roles, and I welcome that to a large degree; however, I would definitely like to do something that doesn't prioritize my physicality somewhere down the line.

I have to be honest and say that musically, things are pretty quiet right now. I still work as a DJ, but since filming, etc., started, I haven't written or produced anything. I have literally a pile of material to go back to when I feel ready ... but I don't want to when my head isn't fully in it!

Speaking of where his head and enthusiasm are, text proved woefully incapable of containing our conversation at this point, and we decided to take to Skype to finish our conversation.

Read more from Game of Throne's Kristian Nairn: Hodor! Part 2

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to an Olympic medalist and a quadriplegic raider. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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