‘Game’ Changer: ‘Game of Thrones’ actor talks TV, music careers

‘Game’ Changer: ‘Game of Thrones’ actor talks TV, music careers

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If Kristian Nairn looks familiar to you, you are either on the dance floor of some club on a Saturday night or watching TV on a Sunday night.

The towering (6-foot-11) out Irish DJ and actor is now probably best known for his role as Hodor on the wildly popular TV series “Game of Thrones,” which in turn has ended up shining a brighter spotlight on his career as an electronic-music producer and remix artist.

“I had a successful career as a DJ before this happened,” Nairn said of the “Game of Thrones” success. “It just gave me an extra bit of fuel. I think it’s fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better way to do it.”

Based on the best-selling book series of the same name, “Game of Thrones” has been a breakout hit since its 2011 debut, both among fans of the books as well as newcomers to the series, which is set in a violent and sexually charged world of swords, sorcery and political intrigue.

Nairn said he wasn’t familiar with the books when he was cast in the series but didn’t have to look far for someone who could bring him up to speed.

“My mother is [a fan of the book series] and she was able to tell me all about them,” he said. “So that was the subject of our dinner conversations for many a year after that.”

One would think that playing Hodor, a friendly child-like giant who can only speak one word (his name), would be an easy acting gig.

But Nairn said it is not the cakewalk it would seem.

“It’s really not [easy],” he said. “It depends on what type of scene it is. Obviously in some scenes, he’s like a background piece of furniture. When you have a scene that has complex emotional reactions and you only have one word to portray it, you are really relying on your body language and your facial expressions. So it’s really a task.”

Being on a popular series means having large groups of fans instantly wanting to learn about the actors in the series. Nairn said he’s always been openly gay but being on the show put his sexuality in the spotlight, especially after his 2014 interview with a “Game of Thrones” fan site. 

“I’ve been out since I was 14,” he said. “Every member of my family and everyone who knew me, knew. I worked for a drag queen for nearly eight years and traveled the world. But it just seemed that it took me to say it in an interview before people latched on to it. It’s kind of weird, having two ‘comings-out.’”

There are still two books in the “Games of Thrones” series that have yet to be published; the book’s author, George R. R. Martin, has been known to take up to five or six years to write each volume. The series is almost caught up with the last published book, which means the next few seasons might go ahead without books to be based on.

Nairn said that situation puts old-school fans of the books and newer fans on equal footing.

“We’re in a unique position,” he said. “I don’t know it’s happened before: a series overtaking the book. I know they are going to keep it as faithful to the book as possible, but obviously there have been some changes already. We just really have to go ahead with it. The public is ravenous for it. Also, for the first time, the book readers are in the same position as the show watchers in that they don’t know what is going to happen next.”

On the other hand, the series has put the actors on the spot with fans who may or may not take issue with the show’s deviations from the written material — as well as new fans who are sometimes taken aback by the violent and sexual behaviors of some of the show’s characters.

“You have to remember, and I know it’s not an excuse, but this is not set on Earth,” Nairn said. “It’s escapism and fantasy. It’s a violent show and there are some things HBO has added to make it more violent, but in some ways some things have been changed that were worse in the book. Some of the characters were younger in the book and the show made them older to make it slightly more acceptable. It’s a two-way street. There are differences from the book to the TV show. I just think that HBO knows how to make a good TV show and not all parts of the book [adapt] well. Some fans have plots and characters that they loved and obviously they are gong to sometimes be disappointed. I understand that. But at this stage, you have to take them as two separate entities. If I was a book reader, I’d be happy because you have this story that you love and now you have two different versions of it. You get to enjoy it in two different ways. That’s how I see it. But I understand the purists. I’m not going to bash the book readers because, without them, we would be nowhere. They supported this long before we ever got involved. Without them, the show wouldn’t have taken off. But I think it’s important to go with it.”

Nairn said he didn’t expect there to be much of a crossover among fans of the fantasy series and fans of electronic-dance music, but was surprised at how many fans of the show are into his music.

“I didn’t think there would be but there definitely is,” he said about the overlap of fans of his work. “There’s nothing more gratifying to me than watching excited people who really shouldn’t be interested in the music. But then by the end of the night, they are jumping around as much as everybody else. That to me is a very successful night for me. You’ve won people over.”

Nairn added that being on the show has given him more opportunities to work with a wider range of artists with his music.

“There are so many,” Nairn said when asked about artists he would like to collaborate with. “Really, it depends. I write a wide variety of music. When I produce a track, only after it is done do I think about who I’d like to work with to remix it. But I have a list as long as my arm of who I’d like to work with. The thing is, with ‘Game of Thrones,’ it’s a door opener that makes those things possible. I’m grateful for it.”

 Kristian Nairn’s debut single, “Up/Beacon,” featuring Leanne Robinson, is out now on Radikal Records. For more information, visit www.kristiannairn.com

 


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