ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT
TheGame of Thrones star talks growing up on screen and what happens after Winter comes.
Photography by THOMAS WOOD
Fashion by KAMRAN RAJPUT
Words by FRANCESCO LOY BELL
Isaac wears all clothing and accessories by PRADA
When I first found out that I’d be interviewing Isaac Hempstead-Wright - the actor who plays one of the most important characters on one of my most favourite TV shows ever - I didn’t imagine it would be while I’m sitting on my doorstep, locked out of my house, with the unrelenting din of the nearby overpass a whisker away from being too loud to do the whole thing anyway.
But when you’re about to chat to Bran Stark, you can’t let a bit of background noise get in the way. This is Game of Thrones’s omniscient, omnipresent Three-Eyed Raven, we’re talking about. The once-boy-now-man slated to hold the entire future of the Seven Kingdoms in his palm. I try my best not to stan and immediately pry for spoilers from the television adaptation of George RR Martin’s epic fantasy series as soon as he picks up, opting instead for muttering the weirdest sounding “Hey Issac” ever. His greeting is markedly more confident.
Born in Epsom, Isaac did not come from a particularly theatrical home, and being only 12 years old when Thronescame knocking, his cinematic inspirations are limited - “Does Spongebobcount?” - though he reminisces about his love for storytelling as a child. But there is no “I was born for this” origin tale here. Game of Thronesand even HBO were virtually unheard of in the small Surrey town in which he lived and drama school was “something to do at the weekends” when it was too cold outside to play football. “It’s funny because I ended up filming in the freezing cold for nine years!” The now 19-year-old laughs.
Isaac attributes his unknownness in the acting world as to one of the reasons he scored his breakthrough part. “Obviously it’s great to give people an opportunity they’ve never had before,” he explains. “But I also think it’s nice because you get a freshness and rawness when people are new to it, especially with a show like Throneswhere the characters are so well drawn out and well put together and believable. It’s nice to have people whose faces you’ve never seen before, because it’s not like ‘Oh, there’s so-and-so who played a cop in that thing.’ That would take away from the whole magic of it. That’s probably what made it so immersive: people haven’t seen the actors or the characters before so they’re looking at it as if we arethe characters.”
Isaac’s connection to Bran is unsurprisingly unshakeable. When he first started the show, he hadn’t even hit his teens yet, and subsequently spent the majority of his formative years battling White Walkers in “The North”. “Looking back retrospectively, I can just see how fucking weird my childhood’s been,” he laughs. “It’s literally my adolescence! I’ve become a man on Thrones.” With this in mind, I ask him about the show’s penchant for suddenly killing off its protagonists (mostly Bran’s family) and what impact this has on the cast. “It’s devastating!” He exclaims. “You’re spending a huge amount of time in close proximity with these people so they are hugely close and important to you. When you lose one of them, it’s really like losing a very, very good friend. I found that especially with Kristian Nairn, who played Hodor. Losing him was a really sad thing.”
Isaac wears coat by DANIEL W. FLETCHER t-shirt by SUNSPEL, necklace by HATTON LABS, trousers by LOUIS VUITTON and shoes by STELLA MCCARTNEY
Isaac wears jacket by BLOOD BROTHER, blazer by SANDRO, jumper by PRINGLE, jeans by WOOYOUNGMI, belt by SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO and necklace by HATTON LABS
Isaac wears jacket by TIGER OF SWEDEN, shirt and trousers by SANDRO and belt by SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO
As Bran, Isaac has been lucky enough to escape the homicidal clutches of the show’s writers, though he has never been made fully aware of his character’s vital trajectory until he’s received each script. “You get the call of death from the producers where you know it’s curtains for you,” he pauses, recalling his own near brush with death. “I remember one year - when I had season 5 off - I got up in the morning and my agent said ‘David Benioff and Dan Weiss [the HBO series co-creators] want to talk to you later.’ I remember thinking ‘Oh no! This is it!’ So when they were just telling me to take the season off I was massively relieved!”
If the communication between producer and actor seems secretive, that between actor and audience is in a whole new ballpark of confidentiality. Before the upcoming final season, Isaac recalls how he didn’t even want the information about the ending in his head - “It’s too valuable!” - though he has improved at keeping his lips firmly sealed. This wasn’t always the case and the actor recounts a conversation with his maths teacher years ago during which he lamented that fact he could no longer hang out with Dean Chapman because his character [Tommen Stark] had been killed. “What? He’s dead?” He recalls the teacher replying. “I remember just thinking ‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’”
On a more serious note, the actor rues past leaks, decrying the spilling of information as counterproductive to the magic of the show and the story it tells. For the final season, he
explains that there were extensive precautions to guarantee that this didn’t happen, however he puts to bed the urban myth that several endings are filmed to ensure secrecy. “No, we didn’t film different endings,” he confides. “Or, at least, I know the ending. Theending…”
Despite his obvious affinity for the show, Isaac is clear that it’s the right time for things to end, both on a personal and a narrative level. “I truly believe we’ve created something so unique and televisually unparalleled that it would be sacrilege if we tried to do another season,” he tells me. “This is the absolute pinnacle of Thrones, and that’s the thing. It’s a story, and stories have their conclusions. We could do 10 more seasons of this and people would watch it and everyone would make loads of money, but it’s time for the story to end.”
Personally, Isaac is looking forward to having the freedom to undertake more projects. He’s already starred in films such as The Awakening and Closed Circuit and has plans to do much more cinema, citing directors such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Yorgos Lanthimos as people he’d love to work with. However, he can’t resist one final tinge of nostalgia for the show that has seen him grow from a boy to a man. “It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend,” he says. “And one that’s been an incredibly important part of our lives. But, at the same time, it’s such an exciting prospect. I’m not even 20! My life is just about to start and I’ve just done Game of Thrones. It’s bizarre.”
Isaac wears shirt by DANIEL W. FLETCHER, trousers, top and shoes by SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO
Grooming by PETRA SELLGEat THE WALL GROUP using BOY DE CHANEL
Produced by FEDERICA BARLETTA
Fashion Assistants: HARRY CRUM and NAT TONG
Special thanks to Auntie Sonia's