Isaac Hempstead Wright All grown up and back in Game of Thrones

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2016 - 10:00am

SINGAPORE — Isaac Hempstead Wright practically grew up on the set of HBO’s widely-popular medieval-fantasy series Game of Thrones. Now towering at around six feet, the English actor usually gets a double-take these days before getting recognized that he was this cute, little boy who started playing Bran Stark -— the sweet, crippled son of the late Ned Stark of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell — when he was only 10 years old. 

After not being seen for the entire Season 5, Isaac is back and all grown up in Season 6. “The last time people saw me, I was three feet smaller, long hair. So, at the moment, I don’t get recognized at all as Bran Stark, which is nice. When this (new season) comes out, I look like more than I do now,” he said during a presscon held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel along Orchard Road.   

Isaac, who’s turning 17 today, was in this city early this week for a publicity tour, during which he also met fans from this part of the world. “The fans of Game of Thrones are dedicated. It’s really nice to talk to them, why they love the show and what it means to them. It’s a real pleasure.”

Like Isaac, Bran has undergone a huge change as well. In Season 6, he has become more assured of himself, and his power and place in Westeros. “By Season 6, Bran has now got a firm grasp of what his role is within the world,” he said. 

He added that Bran is a “pretty unique character” armed with the kind of talent that can “turn the tables in Westeros, but in a different way to war and political scheming.”

In Season 4, viewers saw Bran discovering the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven in a cave under a giant tree far north of The Wall. In a separate interview, Isaac said that the Three-Eyed Raven, who has been guiding him from afar, would train Bran from the moment they met.

“Throughout the whole series, every character has been trying to find exactly what part are they going to play in Game of Thrones. Some have known it from the start... But Bran has been particularly taking a long time to (work out) what his power is, that controls him and that he learns to control, and that’s kind of going to be his destiny. He’s been pulled towards it for the whole series. Finally, he made it to this cave (in Season 4)… after a lot of hardship and death along the way. And Season 5 he wasn’t in it because he was basically training,” Isaac said. 

“So, when we meet Bran in Season 6, he’s not quite (at home) with his talent yet. But he’s got an idea of what his power is, and what it might be useful for.”

Isaac noted that his favorite scenes in Season 6 include the action stuff and the dream sequences.

When asked about the challenge of acting without using his legs, Isaac said, “I really wouldn’t say it was much of a challenge, not using my legs. I was literally sitting down. I mean, the greatest challenge is probably trying to capture the essence of the struggle for Bran to not be able to use his legs, to be totally immobilized and completely vulnerable. I think it is quite self-explanatory in itself, that Bran is just a terribly vulnerable character. But what’s nice to see is this power about him that contrasts his vulnerability.”

The young actor finds it tough to relate to the “horrendous hardship” his character has been through — such as losing his legs, home and members of his family.

Bran, he also described, “is not one of the glamorous characters. He doesn’t save the day necessarily. He hasn’t got much opportunity to do anything for himself because he’s dependent on others. In many respects, it’s quite difficult for him.” 

He continued, “I think one of the most important messages you can take away from Bran is that struggle through the horrendous hardship, on a much smaller scale for me obviously. One of the nice metaphors is the fact that despite all the opportunities he could have had to not follow this sort of destiny that was calling him, he hasn’t followed them... even if the stacks were against him. I think that’s something I could relate to.”

Adding to the joy of playing his character is his on-set experience, which he called “a shining example of people nice to work with.”

“The whole process is really enjoyable. It’s a really lovely set, it’s very professional and everyone does their thing. I wouldn’t say it’s relaxed, but it’s friendly and welcoming. And there’s no kind of uppityness or no one at least particularly difficult to work with. You all get on beautifully on set. And in between, you chat with the props department or the set department. We all gel together,” he said.

Meanwhile, Game of Thrones is (in)famous for killing off even the most beloved of characters, like the shocking Season 5 ender that saw Bran’s half-brother Jon Snow “dead.” 

Isaac doesn’t feel “safe” for Bran amidst teaser trailers, publicity talk and rumors that seem to suggest he will become one of the more important characters in the forthcoming season.

He recalled the time when he thought it was all over for Bran in Game of Thrones. He shared how cast members are informed that they are about to be taken out from the series. “You get a bouquet of flowers and champagne from the producers, and then you go, they’re awfully nice. And then you get a phone call which tells you tsk tsk…”

He continued, “When I was going to sit out for the whole Season 5, I got a call from my agent in the morning, saying that the producers David (Benioff) and Dan (D.B. Weiss) would like to have a talk with you this evening. So, I spent the whole day thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m done! It’s all over!’ Then they called me up and said you’re going to sit out this season. So, I go, yeah, yeah, it’s fine!”

If Isaac had his way though with how Bran’s story arc would play out, “I would like for him to leave the cave, it’s a bit dark in there (laughs).”

He added, “I don’t think Bran should necessarily rule and I think he’d be perfect to be someone who enables someone else to rule, like a magic sage, who could advise and counsel. More than anything else, (I’d like him to) be some mother-nature kind of character, controls all the trees and keeps balance in the world.”

Expanding his wish list further, he would love for his character to be reunited with the remaining members of the House Stark. 



“I’m holding out for a kind of Stark reunion. It would be nice if we could all get together, a Stark government... That would be fair. That would be something new. I’d like to see Sansa Stark on the throne actually. That would really be cool. Why? Because she’s been exposed to so much politics, been through horrendous stuff herself, she’s already thick-skinned and has a cunning mind, which is exactly what you need to be a leader. So, I think Sansa could be queen.”

Isaac was only a gradeschooler when he joined Game of Thrones. His drama teacher pushed him to participate in an open casting. “It was pretty much by accident. Game of Thrones was just a little pilot back then. I got the part (since) they were looking for unknown actors. I didn’t quite understand how extraordinary it was back then. It was just a new, fun thing to do for a 10 year old.”

Initially, his mom was against it because “from what we heard, child acting in the industry is quite a tricky game.”

And because of some controversial themes tackled in the show, like violence, nudity, rape and incest, being one of the few kids on the set, “at the start, I definitely didn’t watch (the show). My parents were very protective over what I could and couldn’t watch on the series.”

“In some of the read-throughs, I would step out to avoid some dodgy things. But I think I didn’t necessarily have a real concept. At that age, I kind of took everything on. I wasn’t like oh, this is incest, this is a bit dodgy for (a series), let’s find something cooler. It didn’t really sort of scar me.”

For Isaac, what viewers can learn from the series is “how not to behave.”

“It shows you a lot of the worst aspects of politics and society, and it’s a complex portrait and quite honest portrait, I think, of the sordid reality of this kind of world,” he said.

“So, I think Game of Thrones is more for you to look at and take away from it what you will. You can look at which characters in there are the nice ones and which ones are not. You can learn something from everyone in Game of Thrones, whether it is something you learn not to do, or something you learn to do.”

(HBO’s Game of Thrones will premiere its newest season same time as the US telecast come April 25 at 9 a.m. Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s hit book series A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones tells of the epic battle for power in a vast kingdom. The series has earned 26 Emmys to date.)

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