The much-anticipated seventh season of Game of Thrones returns to our screens and things haven't gotten any easier for Bran Stark, the character played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright.
Stark has already lost his father, his legs, and been both cursed and blessed by the power of mystical foresight as the 'Three-eyed raven’.
As new seven-episode season begins, Stark has also lost his faithful companion Hodor, who has quite literally carried him through the previous six seasons, and his beloved pet direwolf. Things aren't looking promising, notes Hempstead-Wright.
"In the first episode we find Bran in a bit of a predicament. He's lost Hodor and his direwolf, who has got a very deep connection with Bran and is practically a part of him as well as also being quite a valuable protection asset. Coldhands has also left him, who came and saved the day last time. So it's now just him and Meera at the foot of the Wall."
Fans of the show will already be aware of the intense struggle Bran has endured most recently. And for non-fans, the plot lines of Game of Thrones, which charts the warring feuds of dynastic families in a violent fantasy world, require a glossary. Speaking to the show's millions-strong following, Hempstead-Wright says the character has been challenged to the degree that he is barely even human anymore.
“He has now got this huge responsibility upon his shoulders of being the Three-eyed Raven. He’s no longer Bran Stark,” the actor says. “He remembers what it was like to be Bran Stark, but then he remembers everything that’s ever happened in the universe.
“He’s got all this knowledge about Jon Snow and all the knowledge about the origin of the White Walkers – which may come in handy for defeating them. It all means that Bran is a really, really valuable asset for Westeros right now. He needs to make sure this information gets to the right people in time. As such, at the start of season seven, Bran is on a mission to get to the right place and save the day.”
Game of Thrones is notoriously secretive about its forthcoming storylines, so the actor's revelation is something of a rarity – and he's not done.
"[Bran] is now basically the arch-enemy of the Night's King. They are sworn enemies from the first day of time – the Three-Eyed Raven and the Night's King. So Bran knows better than anyone, I think, the terror and fear they should all be feeling with this threat looming over them."
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The 18-year-old actor admits that playing this character has not been easy, saying that over seven seasons Bran has developed from an innocent young boy, to a seemingly heartless cripple crucial to the Machiavellian twists and turns of the show's would-be kings. He has lost most of the characters close to him along the way.
Intriguingly, the actor, who has also appeared in The Awakening (2011) and Family Guy (2014), says he used Alan Moore's Watchmen comics as inspiration for his character's development as the Three-eyed Raven.
"[TV show co-creators] David [Benioff] and Dan [Brett Weiss] said when they read the Watchmen comics, it was like Dr Manhattan," he says.
For those unfamiliar with DC Comics’ blue superhuman, he is an all-powerful character who is cursed to see the innate faults of humankind, but is unable to correct them. Ultimately, he isolates himself on the moon in order to allow humanity to destroy itself.
“It was tricky to work out how exactly we would play [the Three-eyed Raven]. It was clear that he needed to have this kind of emotionless, soulless, slightly mysterious aura to him, but we didn’t want it to be really dull and monotone,” Hempstead-Wright says.
"So it was trying to capture the fact that there was this massively interesting spark within him, of basically knowing everything ever. At the same time, the practical effects on the human mind that it would have, were huge."
The actor says that he would try to recall a mass of information from past series when he was filming. "Because that's exactly what's going through Bran's head," he says. "He's got this whirlwind of information spinning around the whole time – 'Oh that happened, that happened, that happened'. It's like he's not really in any fixed time."
Game of Thrones screens on OSN Play and OSN Demand on July 17 at 5am and will show again at 11pm on OSN First HD – Home of HBO.