I’ll let you all know, first and foremost, that this was very hard for me.
Every time I sat down to write this, it felt like a eulogy. Like I was speaking words of praise and affection for someone who had passed away, every word a sad or morosely reflective one. And I didn’t want that. Not for him.
Hodor (Wylis) may have moved on to the Night Lands following a heroic final stand against the massed might of the Night King’s wight army, but Kristian Nairn is most certainly very much alive and well, and very much thriving right now. But every time I began a sentence it veered down a road of personal remembrance, a past-tense-a-palooza that made me more depressed with every word I typed.
And it was silly. I knew it was silly. It’s a goddamned television show. Kristian’s fine! He’s not even unemployed! Dude’s got a couple projects in the works (Victrix, and Mythica: The Godslayer), and he makes music! And tours! Professionally!
…I’m still sad. Can’t shake it. Four days later and a Twitter post in-between. Still sad Hodor’s gone.
You know what? Fuggit. We’re going full-on eulogy.
(I would declare an Irish wake, except if I poured out any alcohol, Kristian would probably pop me on the skull and call me a knucklehead.)
So let’s hit memory lane.
I first met Kristian in 2011. It was at TitanCon, in Belfast, and Kristian (along with Miltos Yerolemou) accompanied us all on a tour of Belfast shooting locations. It poured rain down on us nearly the entire time; we bonded over the miserable conditions amidst the nerdy coolness of it all.
Our first live interview with my TVEquals peeps:
Don’t be fooled by the stature or the musical acumen —Kristian is a nerd in the first degree. He’s a World of Warcraft geek of the highest order, and he grew up with the same social awkwardness that many nerds experience in their formative years —albeit as an exceedingly tall one. That couldn’t have been easy either. Anyway, short answer: He is one of my people.
Our friendship did not end in Belfast. Kristian and I have a mutual friend, Jake Stormoen (of Mythica fame), and on rare occasion when he is in L.A. we all decide to meet up at the Cuban restaurant Versailles and just, you know, hang. These formerly-intimate gatherings have ballooned a bit since, with other GoT luminaries joining in every now and again, such as Amrita Acharia, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gethin Anthony, Dan Portman, and Eugene Simon, as well as a gazillion other cool people and friends I have garnered because of these. (I’d like to think it’s all for me, being generally Axeycentric, but really it’s for the garlic chicken. Y’all ain’t had chicken ’til you’ve had Versailles chicken!)
I was speaking to Kristian during our last visit just a few months back, and I was kind of taking the piss, though in a nice way. I mean, I admire what he’s done as Hodor –making the big lug so lovable, this character everybody roots for (as evidenced by the internet’s devastation at Hodor’s shocking and game-changing death)– but I rightly pointed out that acting wasn’t really even his first calling. No offense meant at all to him, he did a singular job with one bloody word. But…
Have you listened to his music? As an electronic artist, he is fucking singular. He brings this old early 90’s pop sound and blends it with modern trip-hop, techno, rave, and dance (some of his shit even has a disco vibe, so he’s reaching back to the 1970’s in certain respects). Not just his own stuff, but what he did with Dan10 & Kendra’s Koor? I love it. He’s at the top of his game.
So I was kind of joking with him, and I asked, “Does it make you feel weird, being known by 95% of the world as Hodor’s actor, when music is kind of really your true calling?” He sort of smiled, shrugged it off, and replied matter-of-factly, “Maybe, but I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today without Thrones.” And he’s thankful for the show. You can tell. It’s genuine.
And here’s the trippy thing —me, after playing the cheek with his thespian skills, had a moment watching episode 602, Home. I can only really describe it as evolutionary. Bran does the time warp to Winterfell and encounters Young Wylis, and upon his return says to Hodor, “You could talk!” Hodor, of course, replies “Hodor”… but inside of it was so much. His face (eyes especially), the pause just before speaking, even his body language, slightly sad, as also as though he’d just taken this huge, cleansing sigh. And man… it really affected me.
Then in The Door, when Meera speaks to him (about the simplest joys —food of all things), and he has that wistful, somewhat hopeful look… It kind of brought me back to that quiet “Hodor” he gave to Bran, and my eyes immediately misted up.
That was also when I kind of started fearing for Hodor’s life. The sinking feeling never left, only got worse, and … you know the rest. But I was so floored with his performance, I had a kneejerk moment in which I considered writing him and saying, “You know what? Your music is now bollocks next to your acting. I was so wrong before!”
(No, I’m not going to do that! Honestly I love both.)
I’m still sad for Hodor, and I’m weirdly glad too. They could have given Hodor some inconsequential sendoff. “George will probably just kill me and leave me in a ditch somewhere,” Kristian has been known to quip, but this was anything but. One of the most iconic deaths/reveals in television history. It changed the game and the very scope of the story we thought we were watching. This thing is going to resonate for many, many years. (And Kristian will be asked to hold doors for… many, many years…)
So I just want to thank him. It’s weird doing this for an actual personal friend. But he gave the gift of Hodor, he continues to give the gift of music…
Oh! And lastly, he gave me a personal gift. As some of you may or may not know, I am the father of a very lovely 21-year old young woman. As Game of Thrones fans go, she’s… let’s call her a casual fan. (Back when I began covering the show, she was too young to watch.) But of course like most young people, she loves music, and at one point was invited by some friends to go to one of Kristian’s shows. Being that he plays Hodor, she dropped me a note to gleefully point out that she was going to go see a GoT actor and I was not.
Well. One quick message to Kristian later… and my daughter had backstage passes to meet him.
Guess who suddenly became the cool dad? Me! This guy.
Guys. I have NEVER been the “cool” dad! (I’ve never been the “cool” anything!)
Kristian has impacted my life in many ways, and I am so thankful I know him. And if I want to communicate anything to him right now, it’s that he is beloved –not just because he embodied a character and made it his own (honestly, who can read the books from now on and not picture Kristian Nairn?) –but because of who he is. A lovely, sweet, kind, man who makes you feel better just by knowing him. And, successful or no, what else can we ask of any person in life?
I absolutely love this dude. Give him all your love, House Gatewatch!