The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


Season 4 Interview: Isaac Hempstead-Wright & Thomas Brodie-Sangster

Concluding our interviews from February, I had the chance to meet and talk with Isaac Hempstead-Wright—the adorable Bran Stark, who I had last met years ago during the first season filming—and Thomas Brodie-Sangster whose portrayal of Jojen Reed has been a study in maturity and understated performance.

When Isaac saw me, his genuine pleasure at meeting again reminded me of the cheerful, enthusiastic child I’d met years earlier. He’s grown up in a lot of ways—I remarked that Kristian Nairn has mentioned how glad he is that he hasn’t had to carry Isaac on his back any longer thanks to that!—and he (and Thomas) both gave some very thoughtful answers to the questions posed.


So, what can you say of any visions you have this season?

Isaac: Over the series, we’ve seen Bran explore his mystical elements more and more. By season 3, with the arrival of Jojen, he definitely starts to understand it better and what this higher calling is. Season 4 continues this, and aiming at the pinnacle—at this supernatural force desperately pulling Bran towards it.

In the books, Jojen knows the date of his death and what happens to him. Is this something present in the show?

Thomas: I believe he doesn’t think the future is set, as such, but he gets senses and feelings. He just knows something, but without knowing it in its entirety. It’s a general feeling that he can’t really change and just has to accept. He’s aware of his own mortality, but this makes him calmer, more upstanding, clearer. Everyone dies, of course, but knowing when or where—or both—must ... Well, I wouldn’t want to know, but Jojen is quite cool about it. He’s accepting of it. That helps him have clarity.

You’ve been growing with the show. How has that shaped your work and how you are as well?

Isaac: I’ve been doing it from such a young age that it’s just become something that you do for one half of the year. You go to the school, then from June-July onward you’re off in Belfast taking part in this crazy fantasy. It’s still very surreal, the fact that you go off and do this thing. It hasn’t dominated my life as much as you think it would—I still go to school, I still hang out with friends—but it’s a big part of my life.

And how is Bran’s growth this season?

Isaac: Bran has definitely had to grow up crazily-quickly. He’s lost his legs, he’s lost his family, he’s lost his home—he’s had to grow up quickly. And without the partiarchal or matriarchal figures in his life, he’s found himself with this giant and this wildling lady. His life has been destroyed by a lot of events around him, and his life becomes so much more mature and he’s had to take on a lot more responsibility.
That this goes hand-in-hand with the mystical element, it’s very lucky for him. As Bran had said once, he’d rather be dead than be crippled—he wanted to be a knight, and without that, what was there to live for? But with the magic, this higher calling, he has something to strive for.

How would you describe the relationship between your characters?

Thomas: Even in the beginning, when Jojen is first introduced, there’s an immediate connection—I suppose it’s because I’m in his dream, which is a bit weird! But there’s a parallel understanding, that they understand so much of one another without needing to say a word. And that trust is enhanced in season 4. There’s not an awful lot of dialog between us two, but there’s just a constant sense of understanding between the two, that we’re both strongly connected. Bran learns to trust Jojen a lot.

Is this connection tied at all to the friendship between your characters fathers?

Isaac: I think it’s a lot to do with the fact that Bran’s had no friends at all really. To have somebody like Jojen who has been through some of the same things as Bran helps them relate. Jojen guides him, but he also gives him some company, who knows the kind of topics Bran is interested in. Rather than this completely random wildly lady in Osha—who took great care of him, but she didn’t really understand him or what he wanted to know.

How about in real life, does it help to have other young actors around?

Isaac: In my case, yeah, it did help. I had Art—Rickon—with me for the first three seasons, and that was great. It’s lovely to be part of an adult world, too, since you’re working with experts in their fields.

Has there been any cast member who has given you particularly memorable advice?

Isaac: Donald Sumpter, who played Maester Luwin, was really lovely and helpful. Every scene he did—big or small—he had this quality and richness, this layering of his voice and he made everything sound like a beautiful Shakespearean sonnet. He would advise me all the time, suggesting I should do something this way or try that, and that was really great.

Given your age, how much are you protected from the more adult aspects of the show, and how do you yourself see that material?

Isaac: When I started filming the pilot, I was 10, and by the time it came out I was 11 or 12. That’s rather young to be watching a show filled with sex and violence. But the violence was very much debunked, because you’d be walking around set and you’d take pictures with severed heads, or you’d see buckets of fake blood, or you’d see the guy who was working a pump to get blood to spurt from the body. So that wasn’t so much of a problem.
The sex was more difficult, but my mum would just give me equally inappropriate talks about it.
Thomas: I’ve done violent films before. When you’re an actor, you know that it’s part of the fun—seeing how they do it, how they make it realistic, and you realize it’s all just special effects and it’s not real. You smile almost, you don’t take it very seriously anymore because you have an insight into it, that you know how everyone was laughing when you were filming that scene with a guy’s head getting chopped off or whatever.

Are you a fan of Game of Thrones?

Thomas: Oh, yeah. I enjoy watching it. It’s a very well done show, it’s beautifully shot, the production and the people are at their best. It’s just quality.

And how much did you know of the overall story of season 4?

Thomas: I purposefully skipped certain sections of scripts just so I could watch them as a fan.

Who’s your favorite character on the show (besides your own!)?

Isaac: I like Joffrey. Not as a person, but as a character study. It’s interesting watching this insane, hormonal teenager given power over an entire kingdom and watching it completely destroyed. It’s interesting to watch a child lunatic kill everyone.
Thomas: I think Joffrey would be really fun to play. And Tyrion, I like Tyrion.

Do you guys get much fan mail?

Thomas: I get it in clumps. It sort of builds up at my agents. I’m not very good at getting it back at a certain time frame—it does get back eventually, I hugely appreciate it, and so much effort goes into some of them. The craftsmanship is… some of it I could submit to my art A-level. It’s beautiful!

Have you ever receieved anything strange?

Isaac: I’ve had some correspondence with a girl… we’ve had entire conversations, with different funny pictures, and I’ve sent her funny cards.
Thomas: I had a girl show up at my flat, all the way from Italy. I let her into my gate, thinking she was living there and then I realized she didn’t. I was very nice to her when I realized—she was very sweet—but that was a bit much.

What do your schoolmates say about the show to you?

Isaac: It’s more my teachers who are into it! We’ll have these long conversations about it. I remember my English teacher was a big fan and he told me that he had planned to reveal his love of the show by waiting until it was starting to get cold, and when someone complained he’d say, “Winter is coming.”

The cast of the show is enormous, but are there any actors you’d love to see as part of the show?

Thomas: I answered this yesterday, and I said Jim Carrey just because I think it’d be funny.
Isaac: I’d like the guys from Flight of the Concords.
Thomas: Hmm…. Sean Connery!

Good one. What about Alan Rickman?

Isaac: [gasps] He’d be so cool!
Thomas: That’s a good one! Yeah, yeah.