Isaac Hempstead Wright on the 'Fine Balance' of Playing Bran



The young Three-Eyed Raven actor discusses reuniting with his on-screen sisters, rattling Littlefinger, and Bran fighting with his mind.

HBO: What was it like reuniting on screen with Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark)?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: Getting back together was odd because we’ve known each other more in a social context — hanging out on the set together in Belfast. That’s how we bonded, rather than being in any scenes together. We had King Robert’s arrival [in Season 1, Episode 1], but that was such a busy scene, and we weren’t really playing against each other.

We’ve all developed so much from the kids that we saw at the start [of the series], and I think all three of us have developed as actors as well. It was great fun to get to kind of play alongside each other, and they’re hilarious on set. They’re very loud and funny.

HBO: How has the dynamic changed between the siblings?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: I think it’s most shocking for Sansa and Arya to see what Bran is like, because they still have fundamentally the same character traits as they did when they were young: Arya is this spunky, fierce girl, and Sansa is this diplomatic lady. But Bran has definitely become somebody they wouldn’t recognize otherwise.

HBO: Can Arya understand Bran on a different level than Sansa?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: Arya was a tomboy, so she certainly could relate more to Bran in that way. And now, it’s easier for Arya to believe what happened to him, because she’s seen that weird side of the world exists. Sansa has only really been exposed to the human side of Game of Thrones. So immediately Arya and Bran have more in common, and they can both accept that what’s happened to the other isn’t completely implausible. Whereas for Sansa, it’s a bit like, “You’re saying you can change faces, and you’re saying you can see everything? Have both my siblings gone completely mad?”

HBO: Do you agree with Meera’s assessment that Bran died in the cave back in Season 6?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: It’s quite a bold thing for Meera to have said. Sadly, I think in many ways she was right. It’s just this whole idea that Bran has become a much smaller part of the character’s brain, when before 100 percent of his head was taken up with being Bran Stark. Now, that’s just one tiny file in a huge system. But certainly, he’s almost completely a different character. He acts utterly differently, and really any semblance of personality he used to have has gone.

That said, we’ve been waiting for this to happen since the beginning. It’s Bran’s fate to become the Three-Eyed Raven. That has been his destiny from day one; this is where his story arc has been leading up to from the moment he got pushed out of that tower. So the fact we’re here now is actually a bit of a relief. While he may not be that same character, he now has got a lot more to offer. He’s now an incredibly powerful character now; having all the knowledge in the world puts you in a seriously advantageous position.

HBO: Is there anything left of the old Bran?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: In Episode 4 [“The Spoils of War”] he says, “I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but I remember so much else now,” which sums up exactly the situation Bran is in. There is a flicker of Bran left in him, but really, can you imagine putting the entire history of the universe, every single moment, every single second that ever existed in one person’s brain? You’d think it would just short circuit. Bran just becomes this calm, zen character. He’s really like a human supercomputer.

HBO: How challenging was it to essentially take on that new character while still maintaining the fact that you are in some small way Bran?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: It was definitely difficult to get it right. I had a meeting with [series creators] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], and they wanted him to be quite monotone and agenda-less, but at the same time have a slight flair, so it wasn’t just like listening to a robot talk. There had to be a sense of mystery and wisdom to him. He was sort of inspired by Dr. Manhattan in The Watchmen series — being in all these places at once, in all these time zones at once. I tried to base it on the old Three-Eyed Raven [played by Max von Sydow in Season 6] and have a sense of this wise, old, man sitting in a tree. At the same time, still have that slight spark somewhere in there where you know this is Bran Stark. It was a fine balance.

HBO: What’s Bran’s intention when he echoes Littlefinger’s own phrase, “Chaos is a ladder”?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: That was my favorite scene to film this season. It was so neat to say something that cool. The fact that Bran heard that line means that he’s gone back and looked through Mr. Baelish’s timeline. His intention is to slightly rattle Littlefinger, to say, in just a subtle, really creepy way, “I know what you’re up to.”

HBO: Do you think Bran is making a mistake giving away the dagger?

Isaac Hempstead Wright: No, not at all. Bran is never going to be a warrior. I don’t anticipate us ever seeing Bran charging on horseback toward a dragon like Jaime Lannister. But Bran’s strength is having all this knowledge, using it wisely, and guiding people in the right direction. That’s where he will be most useful and crucial. Just like Samwell Tarly.

These are characters who use their brains, wits, and knowledge to defeat their enemy, in the same way other characters use their swords. Ultimately, that dagger is best placed in Arya’s hands — what better character to wield this fantastic weapon than the master swordswoman Arya?

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