When last we heard from Game of Thrones' Kristian Nairn, the burly Irish actor was preparing to stuff himself into an airplane seat and fly to America for a bit of rest and recreation before filming begins on Season 2 of the acclaimed HBO series. As you read this week's installment of our interview -- a Skype conversation held a few days after our initial e-interview simply overflowed the confines of email -- Nairn is wrapping up his whirlwind visit and preparing to head back to Belfast ... and more World of Warcraft.
This week, we chat with Nairn about his preferences for PvP and arcane spec, more on his character Hodor, and his very pointed notion of what questing would be like in a Game of Thrones MMO.
Read Azeroth to Westeros with Kristian Nairn (part 1)
15 Minutes of Fame: [Our Skype segment started off with a lengthy conversation about, of all things, the recording software being used for the interview.] ... So you're into tech too?
Kristian Nairn: Yeah, I always have to have the new gadgets and stuff when they come out. I'm not really interested enough in learning how they work. I have to have everything. I have to have iPads. I've had I think every generation of iPod. I've had all the consoles at least once; I've had some of them twice. I get them and get fed up with them and get rid of them.
I blame Warcraft for that, actually. I think to myself I want a new game that'll take me away from Warcraft, but it doesn't work.
I thought you were playing Minecraft, too?
Just a little. I prefer to play at a social level. I like to push people off things and kill them, but I don't really see the attraction of sitting there on my own. It'll be interesting to see what Notch does with the finished game. Obviously, there's new things in every patch. It'll be interesting to see what he actually finishes on.
Speaking of things that have been released -- congratulations on Game of Thrones' being renewed!
Yes! I'm over the moon. I was pretty confident it was going to be, but it's always good to hear that. It's very exciting.
What does this mean for your schedule?
No one really knows [a filming schedule yet]. I'm not looking forward to wearing that costume over the summer. [laughs] It's like wearing bedding, a set of bedding.
But no, obviously, I'm over the moon. The second book is very juicy. It's gonna be a lot of fun to do.
Because you have limited exposure in Season 1, don't you?
Well, yeah. Obviously, Hodor's very much a fan favorite, but he's not a forefront character. Whereas I do have quite a lot more to do in Season 2 -- without giving spoilers ... I've had a few people begging for them; even after the first show, everyone wants to know what happened to Bran. [laughs] And it's like, "I can't tell you! If you really want to know, read the book. It's not a secret!" But yeah, I don't want to give too much away.
Have you had fans yet start recognizing you from the role?
No. No, not really -- I mean, I've had like 2.5 seconds of screen time so far ...
But the fans! As soon as I mentioned to people that I was going to be talking to you, they're all "Hodor! Hodor!" You're really big among the fans.
Yeah, it's like on Twitter -- Twitter was just, ah, I couldn't believe it. Even now, in fact, if you do a search for the hashtag Hodor, it's just insane. Everybody says it; it seems to be the tagline of the show, to be honest.
And no one's actually heard me say it yet, which is interesting too. So I hope they like it. [laughs] [Editor's note: We finally heard it on this past Sunday's episode -- Hodor!]
So no, I haven't been recognized, but I know there's a lot of Game of Thrones fans, and I've been to a few conventions. They're all really cool. I've actually never really met such a nice bunch of people, to be honest. That's been the best. But I'm really excited to do more of it.
Are you planning to do a lot of cons and promotional events?
I'm hoping to go to Worldcon this year; I'm not 100% sure yet. I'm going to TitanCon. It's Belfast's own first science fiction-fantasy con. So I'm doing that. Back in October, I did Octocon and I went to the moot. It's just awesome. Geeks, like -- but that's why I fit in so well, I think. [laughs]
So talking about fitting in -- were you able to play WoW from the set?
I haven't tried to. You don't get wifi down there – or at least, I don't have access to it. [laughs] I would definitely consider that, to be honest; it can be a long day. We usually get picked up between 5 and 6 a.m., and literally sometimes you can be sitting in your trailer for half a day. I would definitely be into playing WoW; that would take away the boredom.
So nobody else in the cast or crew plays WoW?
No, I talked to Alfie (Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy) about it. He was really interested, and I thought he was going to play -- also Isaac (Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran Stark). I thought I was getting dirty looks from his mom; she was like "Don't tell him about this!" Maybe he's a little young ...
I'll never forget, it was a good few years ago, I sort of made a friendship with someone I group quested with somewhere in Redridge -- that's when I was still Alliance, slash-spit! [laughs]. We had our fill of conversation over the period of a week. He was a very accomplished player. And never did I suspect he was all of 8 years old, and I talked to him as an adult. And then after about five days, he said, "Yeah, I'm 8 years old, man" and I said ... "Oh."
What I really miss from the old days is like no one cared what enchants you had as long as it had a nice glow. I'd say, what was it, I want Icy Touch or something? And I don't care what it does. Who cares? I miss those days. I was a miner and an enchanter, and there were very few enchanters. I used to make a fortune at making Enchanted Thorium. Yeah, it was wonderful -- but of course, now it's vendor trash.
One of my pet hits -- it's pretty geeky -- is you know when you get an awesome enchant, like Power Torrent (it's the one that gives you 500 intellect) -- and you already have a staff which has a glow, and you're waiting to have that awesome new glow. ... and it doesn't work. It's like ... yeah.
Because everyone has to look elite now.
Yeah, it's true. Do you do archaeology?
You know, it bores me silly.
I love it. With World of Warcraft, I like the potential for wasting time. I sorta worked out a few years ago that one of my favorite things to do in World of Warcraft is look for things, to just spend the time flying around searching. A good example is the Netherwing eggs. I would actually get addicted to searching for them; that's kinda sad, yeah. I think I have a Netherwing on nearly every character. You do your round; I think they spawn every four to five hours.
Also, hunting for rare spawns -- I love that, like the Time-Lost and stuff. I spent years looking for that, and I eventually got it on my shaman. I nearly had a heart attack.
So do you explore a lot too?
Yeah. Yeah, I've got two or three characters with the Explorer title. After the first time, it was like "Oh my god ..." One of the worst places to explore is the draenei starter area; it's like, "Oh ... I can't fly, I'm never doing this again." And then I'm bored, and I do it again. And I'm bored, and I do it again. And I'm thinking about doing it on my new mage now again.
Yes, I have. Winter is Coming and the Game of Thrones names only came after my character, though. I haven't read the books – isn't that horrendous? I'm a huge fan of fantasy and a huge fan of that genre, but I'm not a huge reader. I usually wait until it's brought out on film or TV, and unfortunately this time, I'm in the TV show.
My mom's a big fan. I remember, I got the call for the audition and I did the audition, obviously, which was a bit half-assed. And I go back to the house and I just said to my mom, "Yeahhh, I think the guy's called Hodor ..." And she just looked at me, and she went, "What?" "Yeah, Hodor." And she went, "You mean, is it from Game of Thrones?" And I said, "Yeah..." And she nearly had a heart attack. She's a massive George R.R. Martin fan.
So basically, that's been our dinner conversation for the last couple of months, so I'd know what happens. Although I'm reading the first book now. I'm going to say I'm reading it; it's sitting beside me here. I haven't opened it yet, but I'm gonna read it.
The series is very, very close to the book.
Yeah, I really like that about it. That's what Mom said. Obviously, she's my litmus paper.
The story isn't like Ye Olde Worlde. It's very modern, with its twists. It reminds me of a cross between Dynasty and The Sopranos and Lord of the Rings. It's just so twisted. And the characters are so deep.
... yes, especially later on, when you come to hate the characters you loved and love the ones you used to hate! ...
It really coins that phrase, love to hate a character. The characters go so deep, the strongest hatred you can feel, it explains why they're like that. And, oh -- yeah, I love that. It's genius.
Have you met George R.R. Martin?
Yes, I've met him twice. He's lovely. Also his wife, Parris -- she's a really lovely girl. "Girl." [laughs] Lady. She's really, really sweet. They're such an adorable couple. She's obviously really into what he does as well. She's a huge part of the brotherhood with the banners; she brings her own banners with her that she's made. They have a great little arrangement there. She pretty much travels the world with him. She's a huge part of it. Seems to be, everybody loves her, as much as him. She's so sweet; she's really lovely. So I'm looking forward to meeting them again soon.
I wonder if you've given any thought to playing a role in the WoW movie?
I think the Horde bosses are so much more interesting than the Alliance bosses. That's probably controversial. What do you think?
I've played both sides as mains at various times, and honestly, I think it's a question of which storyline you like better.
I like the Sylvanas story as well. It's the whole thing: She's evil and she's twisted, but if you look into her backstory you have a bit of insight into why.
And I can totally see you taking on some sort of Horde role as well.
Yeah, I would love it. Like the orcs -- not necessarily my favorite race to play, but I think as far as lore, it's incredible.
I think my favorite race is blood elves, to be honest. But I don't really think they're explored; I don't think they've integrated them into the game as much as they could have, you know what I mean? I'm not really sure why.
But yeah, I would definitely love to play an orc, or maybe a tauren ...
... well, Kristian, they probably won't tap you for a blood elf role. Sorry.
[laughs] Damn. I'm sure I could pull one off -- but not that way! [more laughter] Ahh ... Yeah, I think we're going to have to go with the physicality on this one. It's not going to be a gnome, and it's not going to be a goblin or a blood elf. I'll probably end up with an ogre NPC. [chuckles]
Well that could be interesting, depending whose head they decide to set on your shoulders ...
Oh, Cho'gall's! [laughs]
They need to strike while the iron's still hot -- and the iron's still hot.
So back to the game itself -- what do you think about Cataclysm?
I love what they've done with Cataclysm. I think they've really taken it to a new level on many aspects. But maybe it's the people who play the game are different now; it definitely feels different.
Was World of Warcraft your first MMO?
Yeah. Anything I played before was console. I played on the recommendation of a friend. I wasn't instantly hooked; it took a few weeks. But after that, it was hook, line and sinker pretty much.
I do. I love PvP. That's why I like it so much, because it changes all the time. I think if you're consistently running raids and heroics -- which I haven't done very much this time -- I think it gets very boring. Whereas if you're constantly killing people, they're gonna die in a slightly different way each time, you know what I mean? [laughs]
You can do all sorts of sneaky things. I didn't used to be so sneaky, I'd have to say, before I came to Frostmourne, but being on a PvP server has changed me slightly. I'm slightly warped. [laughs] I like to level on a PvE server. I think it's nice not to have to worry about having your quests screwed up, but yeah, I think PvP's definitely more fun.
And being a mage, it's so easy. You can get in, blow them up, and get out quickly.
That is so cheated! You're frost, aren't you?
[laughs] Nope, nope, I'm arcane. I've always been arcane. I leveled this new one as frost; I said I'm going to try a frost -- that's what I always do, I sort of get these ideas that I have to try something different -- and then it turns out, I just go back to the old way. I just love arcane with the burst. And also, you don't have an animation of a spell coming at you; you don't know what direction they're in. Because then you have like half your health gone in 3 seconds.
I tend to get stressed easily. I get stressed with arena, and I get stressed with raids, and I don't really feel that I want that at the moment. I hate people getting annoyed at each other in games -- unless it's me ganking them, and then it's different. [laughs] But see, I don't listen; my friend always shouts at me for turning my whispers off. Yeah, I can't be bothered with the stress –- that's the long and short of it.
What about something different? What about an MMO based on Game of Thrones? Some people say the idea's too character- and story-specific to work. What do you think?
You could say the same about Warcraft. Imagine there was no Warcraft game, and you only had the books and the lore. You'd very much say the same. You could say it's all based around strong characters; there's no room for MMO-type characters. But it's the same thing; we're just coming at it from a different angle.
Obviously, it is hinged around these strong characters, but there's definitely room for players to be involved in that.
I think a Game of Thrones MMO world would be a more vicious world than Warcraft.
Definitely. It definitely is. It would have to be a PvP server; I don't think you'd have any option. I can just imagine doing your daily reputation quests, it would be like okay, the guy gives you a quest to do, and then you come back and you have to stab him in the face. [laughs] And then go sleep with his wife. And then kill his children. ... That's the daily quest. It is brutal.
So what are you doing right now? Are you just hanging out between seasons?
Well, I'm a DJ as well. I'm pretty much doing that.
And I'm still in the States, and I am having an amazing time. I've actually been over staying with Jake Stormoen, the guy who runs Winter is Coming guild. We started off by going to the red carpet premiere of Thor in Los Angeles. Such an amazing experience, and I loved the movie. Also, we spent a weekend in New York, and the rest of the time has been spent just outside Washington, D.C. I love it here!
Jake and I met through Twitter, actually. He's a massive fan of the books and had been following the progress of the show preparations via Westeros.org. I think he tweeted me saying that my beard looked cool ... LOL And I quickly found out he played WoW. I was having some time off it at the time but was looking for any excuse to start again. And here we are, a year later, and Jake has crazily kinda become my little brother. I've never crossed an internet/WoW friendship into RL before, for obvious reasons. I'm super-glad I did, though.
I've also just shot a scene for a really cool movie project he's working on. The new movie project is an independent film, Anubis. It's a post-apocalyptic theme, something I'm very interested in, so I was very up for doing a scene for them. Will be fun to see how it turns out!
Don't miss part 1 of this interview, Azeroth to Westeros with Kristian Nairn. Tune in on Sunday evenings to see Kristian Nairn as Hodor on HBO's Game of Thrones.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.