Isaac Hempstead-Wright on life after Game Of Thrones and the joy of fan theories
Is it mixed emotions? This is the end of something that’s dominated a large chunk of your life, but is there also an element of relief there too?
Definitely! It’s been an important part of all of our lives but it feels like the right time for it to all come to an end. It’s a little bit like finishing school: we’ve all learnt loads, made friends for life and we’ll keep in touch with them, but all things come to a conclusion. It’s really exciting now to see what everyone is going to go off and do. Everyone’s careers have been completely made from this show and now is a chance to really go out and find where we slot in. Also, the way we’ve managed to wrap up this final season is so much bigger than we’ve done before. I know we say this every time, but I really think that there’s no way we could possibly do another season because it just wouldn’t be as good. We’ve reached the absolute pinnacle of Game of Thrones in this final season 8. It’s a good moment to finish it.
Is it right today that each episode wouldn’t look out of place if we were to watch it in the IMAX?
They should do that! The money that’s been spent on this season is astronomical compared to any TV show ever, let alone just Game of Thrones. To give you an idea, it’s taken us nine months to shoot six episodes and it usually takes that long to film 10 episodes. That’s the kind of level of content and effort that has gone into season 8.
A common theme among actors is the sheer amount of downtime they have while filming. Have you found this too?
The thing with Game of Thrones is that there are so many characters so there’s a lot of movement in schedules. So things inevitably do get moved around last minute and a day when you were supposed to be filming becomes a day when your just waiting around on the off chance that you might film. There are big setups in Game of Thrones as well so every setup could take half an hour. It’s just the name of the game in this industry really, it’s hurry up and wait, so you kind of get used to it.
What do you do in your downtime then?
Read, every time I’m on set I’d have my little Private Eye and a couple of books, Opera, listen to music, watch films, write. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained.
Private Eye is weirdly one of the few publications that are absolutely smashing it.
I discovered it and thought it was amazing! It’s better than any newspaper or anything like that.
What has it been like to be a Beatle of TV?
It’s only been in the last 6-7 months that we’ve wrapped up that it’s really kind of dawned on me how weird my childhood had been. At the age of 10 it wasn’t that bizarre and I kept a pretty normal life, I stayed in school and I wasn’t gallivanting around too much and being a ‘superstar’ so more or less it was just a weird thing I would do in summer where I would dress up. Looking back on it now it’s bonkers and so unlike anything that’s ever happened before and unlike anything that will happen again in my lifetime. The chances of everything aligning are so slim and we’ve become a total phenomenon. I can honestly say that it’s just been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The thing that I find most extraordinary is that we can go to any country in the world and people are excited to see us and hang out. It’s made the world a much smaller place, everyone wants to be your friend which is quite a unique position to be in.
What is that fandom like?
It’s not like we’re part of some really lame and boring thing that people just tune into on a Sunday; we’re involved in something that people absolutely adore and have dedicated their lives to. There is a really and genuine love for Game of Thrones so however weird those conventions are, people are just so thrilled to meet you and to get to chat to you. The ability to actually make someone’s day just by saying hello and taking a photo is really special. I don’t think I’ve ever met a fan of Game of Thrones who isn’t an absolutely charming person. Everyone is so terribly sweet and really enthusiastic and that’s the nice thing about getting recognised in the street as well, people love it and their so excited, we’re people that they’re thrilled to see.
Have you deliberately kept a low profile?
I think so. I came off Instagram for six months and it was the best six months of my life. In this day and age, everyone is hyper-connected and even if you’re not famous there’s no privacy anymore, everyone is broadcasting everything out to everyone. Where possible I’ve tried not to reveal everything about my life. You’ve got to find the balance between giving enough that’s interesting and spilling your life story. It’s a funny one, the press has all kicked off again so we’re getting back into gear. With a lot of the press I’ve done this year, it’s felt a lot more honest and I’ve been a bit more myself whereas before I was a bit more tense.
Will you take some time out now and take a break?
I’m going to go back to uni but also keep the work going while I’m there. It’s quite a thing to come out of nine years of intense television and being on the world’s biggest television series. It’s a good time to take stock and do something for me for a bit and do something different. The weird thing as well is that I’m only 19 and I’ve got so much time ahead and have just come off of what feels like an entire lifetime of a career. It’s a bizarre crossroads in my life where I can try all sorts of things. I’ve been making music, auditioning for a lot of things and going back to university so it’s an exciting time.
How did acting come about for you?
Back then it wasn’t a monolithic TV show, it was a pilot. I came from a little village in Kent and I just used to go to a local drama group on the weekend for something to do and I sort of agreed with the teacher and my mum that I could do six auditions for adverts and little things like that. My final, 6th audition came along and it was Game of Thrones. We hadn’t heard of HBO really, or of the books, or the world of ice and fire. I was a 10 year old just doing it for fun, I wasn’t there needing a job and thinking I had to be an actor and had to be famous, I was just taking it as it came. I was at school, and auditioning and acting was very much on the sideline and something I was just doing for fun. I did one audition, then got a callback, and then another, and it just so happened that I got it. I remember I got in the car after school one day and my mum had gotten me a little card saying congratulations Bran Stark. I just thought wow this is happening! I didn’t realise I would spend three weeks filming a pilot let alone what the fuck was to come. I think I was supposed to audition for a Top Gear advert but didn’t because I was skiing. When I got the part it wasn’t really a clear cut thing as a parent to sign your kid up to. Imagine if they had said no don’t do it!
Is there anything you can tell us about Bran in this final season without any spoilers?
The most interesting thing about this season is that things are concluding and wrapping up. There will be things from many seasons ago that are finally getting their answers. In terms for Bran, season 7 was a very interesting time for him and he was overwhelmed. He hasn’t quite come to terms with being in control yet. I think moving into season 8 you’ll see a slightly wiser Bran. He’s had a bit more time now to become a bot more used to his super-duper power. Geographically everyone is coming a lot closer together now so I think that will be the most interesting thing about season 8, characters interacting who never have before.
So we should re-watch from the start…?
It’s so extraordinary to think of the development of the characters up until now. Even just Bran from season 1 to 2, you think, Christ I never saw that coming. So it would be really interesting to go back and watch the character develop to refresh yourself on just how extraordinary the journeys they’ve been on are.
You enjoy reading the fan theories and laughing and how inaccurate they’ve been over the years?
Yeah! I think now that there’s an ending to it’s fun to look at them and think what people got and haven’t got. I certainly haven’t come across anything where someone has got it right. One of my favourites is that Varys is a mermaid because he gets everywhere so quickly and you never see his legs.
Game Of Thrones is on Sky Atlantic; Mondays; 9pm