More than Hodor
By Stacy Lambe
On Sunday, the fourth (and bloodiest) season of Game of Thrones drew to a close as one of HBO's highest rated series, but one of its most enigmatic characters is known for saying just one word: his own name. In a series that constantly shocks on screen, Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor, the towering half-wit who carries around a crippled Bran Stark for most of the first four seasons, surprised many fans with news of his personal life.
“I just thought everyone knew,” Nairn says concerning his sexual orientation. Nairn knew he was gay since he was 14 years old, explaining that he was relieved to realize nothing was wrong with him when he developed a crush on Luke Skywalker rather than Princess Leia. It was only recently that he found himself “coming out” publicly when he discussed being gay in a March interview with a GOT fan site.
“It was alien at the time that I had to actually come out at 38 years old — after never having been ‘in,’ ” says Nairn. “But I guess, since then I’ve realized that our personal lives and media lives are very different. So that’s what I like to say: 'My media coming out was definitely then.' ”
Yet, if anyone scratched the surface of the actor’s background, they would have quickly realized that Nairn is hardly “in.” In addition to his role on the series — which he survived — Nairn moonlights as a popular DJ, with a long-running residency at the Kremlin, Ireland’s largest gay nightclub. (It’s the same place that several members of the cast, including Kit Harrington, have been spotted partying in the past. “It’s just a safe environment—no one bothers them,” Nairn explains. “During filming time, you can definitely see them there.”) At the club, he regularly plays a mix of house, French electronica, and techno music. “I just love dance music.”
As a DJ, he’s played at festivals and venues around the world and with growing stature thanks to his character on the HBO series. While he gets to express himself through a range of beats and sounds at shows, on GOT Nairn is limited to a single word in his role (“Hodor”), which has been a gift and curse for the actor. To outsiders, it may seem like an easy job, but it’s really a challenge to live up to the fully realized character that exists in George R. R. Martin’s books.
“Sometimes I’ll be having a conversation with [television director] Michelle MacLaren of Breaking Bad, who just won Emmys and stuff and she’ll be, ‘OK, no. A little bit more like this. A little bit less scared, maybe a little bit more angsty but with a little bit of happiness.’ And I’m like, ‘What? It’s just a word, Michelle.’ But, what I’m saying is, they ask a lot and it definitely is a challenge.”
Though he’s limited to one word, Nairn has made a big impression on screen thanks to his height—at 6-foot-10, he towers over his co-stars—and as one of the few men to bare his body fully on the series that often has the women shedding entire wardrobes. Although Nairn argues it wasn’t really full frontal because he was wearing a prosthetic over his own genitals—something he requested due the age of his co-star Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), who was 10 years old at the time.
“The prosthetic definitely was very uncomfortable,” Nairn recalls of the fake penis, which required paint and glue to be attached to his own body. “They promised me that it was going to be closed-set, like the bare minimum number of people there, and it was not a closed-set. There were, like, hundreds of people there."
“A tough day at the office,” Nairn adds. Maybe the next time it’ll be less difficult if it’s a scene shared with Jaime Lannister (portrayed by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). When asked which character he’s the most attracted to, Nairn reveals it’s the knight most noted for his incestuous relationship with his sister. “I’m not sure about the whole incest thing, but he definitely has a dark side and that can be very attractive."