The wildling actor gets into the frozen lake battle, his love for Brienne, and some spirited board games.
HBO: What's driving Tormund to fight the White Walkers? Is it simply an urge for survival?
Kristofer Hivju: The White Walkers have been nightmares the Free Folk have dealt with as long as they can remember, so I think it’s something deep down in him. The Army of the Dead has always been his greatest fear, even more than the Night’s Watch. If you see the wights, you know what’s at stake. Tormund saw so many of his people die and become wights at Hardhome, and it was a terrifying experience. So he’s fighting for his people, and on a larger scale, he’s fighting for humanity.
HBO: Tormund’s relationship with Jon Snow has really changed overtime, when did that shift begin?
Kristofer Hivju: I think Tormund has always liked Jon. And he saw Jon and Ygritte starting to get along, and Tormund loves stuff like that. He has given Jon Snow great sex advice, and it was been the soap opera of Tormund’s reality to watch them come together.
But the moment he really came to respect Jon was before they went to Hardhome.. Tormund saw the mercy arrow Jon gave Mance. It was an important moment when Jon took off Tormund’s chains and showed he trusted him and understood they had the same goal.
HBO: What does Tormund think about the group he’s with north of the Wall?
Kristofer Hivju: He’s pretty skeptical in the beginning, but he’s happy to have every good warrior on his side. And he’s very interested in the Hound, who’s so serious. Tormund is the guy who needs to talk without pressure, so when he has this deadpan guy walking around, he needs to find some harmony there. And they have a common acquaintance, so that’s fantastic.
HBO: Speaking of their common acquaintance, why do you think fans have responded so much to Tormund and Brienne’s flirtation?
Kristofer Hivju: It’s very unexpected; nobody saw that coming. When Brienne came into Castle Black on that horse, the arrow of love just penetrated Tormund’s heart. I think it’s really funny. It’s like throwing a bit of sugar into all that dark salt when you bring some light and love into this dark universe. Watching somebody falling totally in love is always pleasant to watch; especially since Brienne doesn’t really enjoy it. Although...I think she does a bit. Tormund might have a plan. It could be fantastic.
HBO: What was the on-set dynamic like with the group for “Beyond the Wall”?
Kristofer Hivju: I love those guys, we had a great time. When you gather seven roosters in a small box, it can go wrong very easily, but these guys are so deeply secure in themselves, and are filled with so much warmth and love. We played a lot of music and Risk. All the guys are very competitive, so sometimes it became intense and it was hard to get us out of the game. They had to force us to shoot.
HBO: What was it like doing the polar bear scene?
Kristofer Hivju: It was cool. Of course we didn’t have a real-life wight ice bear, we had a big look-a-like in flames. I have a beard to take care of so I didn’t want to get too close.
When we shot it, we joked a lot that Sheila had turned; there was a line that was cut, when they first see the bear, Tormund says, “I’ve danced with plenty of bears.”
HBO: What was involved in the massive frozen lake fight sequence?
Kristofer Hivju: It was a huge sequence. It took at least a month to shoot. There were so many kills we didn’t have the time or capacity to choreograph every single move. So the fantastic thing we did was an alphabet of choreographed movements; every one of us had an alphabet of seven kills; seven movements. So they could just throw wights at us, and because they [the stuntmen] knew the language too, we could just improvise with that alphabet. So after a couple of days it became very organic, and extremely real because people were coming from everywhere.
HBO: How did this compare with the Battle of the Bastards?
Kristofer Hivju: It felt more similar to “Hardhome,” where you’re chopping down as many guys as you can in a short amount of time. But in relation to the Battle of the Bastards — chaos, is the only thing you can’t fake; it has to really happen. So it becomes wild, and that claustrophobic feeling is real; there’s nothing to fake about it. When they said “action” and you have 20 guys coming at you; it’s just crazy. It was like chopping for your life, and it was pretty physically intense, actually.
HBO: And you’re in some pretty heavy gear when you’re doing this.
Kristofer Hivju: My costume is 18 kilos [about 39-40 lbs.], so it’s pretty heavy. You just have to do pushups in the evening.
HBO: Do you have a method for psyching yourself up for these scenes?
Kristofer Hivju: For Tormund, I always go with the Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV. When he has to face Dolph Lundgren [playing Ivan Drago] Dolph is running in a fitness center, with barometers everywhere on his body, but Rocky goes out in the woods and he chops wood and lifts trees. So that’s how I get in my wildling mood.
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