The character was a fan favourite, a loyal servant to the Stark family who said only one word: his name, Hodor.
Nairn says he’s “super pleased” that Hodor got such a monumental exit.
“I kind of expected (his death) coming. I never expected it be so revealing about his past.”
Before he found out the truth about his character, Nairn imagined Hodor as a long-lost sibling to the series’ fearsome Clegane brothers.
There was a also a fan theory that Hodor was the Night King, the evil boss of the White Walkers, “caught in some sort of weird warg,” he said: the word for people on the show, like Bran, who can enter the minds of other humans and animals.
As for Hodor’s actual past, well, it’s complicated. We learned that Hodor was originally a stable boy named Wylis who became Hodor — an abridged form of the words “Hold the door” — after a vision of the future intruded into the past.
Hodor died holding a door to keep back wights as Bran and his companion Meera escaped, hence the supernatural echo of “Hold the door” in young Wylis’s mind, which led to him having a seizure and becoming essentially mute.
“That’s usually the main topic of conversation is the death scene,” says Nairn, about meeting fans. That and “people trying to get information about the next season: Am I coming back?”
He was looking forward to his visit to Toronto, a city he said he loves, although the self-described “comic book and superhero nerd” will be trying hard not to “spend all my cash on plastic figurines.”
Whether or not we see Hodor again as Game of Thrones comes to a close with its eighth and final season in 2019, there seems to be plenty of life left in the character’s popularity.
“Since the scene of my demise quite a lot people are quite emotional” when they meet Nairn, he says. “I get a lot of people who cry. They want hugs and stuff.”
Then there are heart-rending encounters, such as the parents in Chicago who told him their autistic son lit up whenever he saw Hodor on TV.
Nairn calls it a privilege to have been part of the show and an honour to play such a beloved character, but it does have its inconveniences.
“I have to do my grocery shopping at 2 in the morning,” says Nairn, who lives near Belfast. “I can’t go into the city centre. I’m probably the most spottable person in the world. I have tattoos on my face, I’m seven foot tall. There’s no way I can hide.”
The fans, however, are “usually very respectful and very nice. You do get the odd one who chases you around the frozen produce aisle shouting, ‘Hodor!’ ”
Nairn’s notoriety has also meant an explosion in his work as a DJ, with gigs all over the world.
His DJing might have had something to do with him getting cast as Hodor in the first place.
He did what he called “the world’s worst audition” for a role in the 2007 movie Hot Fuzz, hopping on a plane to London after DJing all night in Belfast. But despite Nairn failing to make the cut, the casting director remembered him and pursued him for Game of Thrones.
Nairn’s been DJing for about 20 years, a lot longer than he’s been acting, and “I just couldn’t see my life not performing that way.” But doing film and TV allows him to connect with people he’s never met, he says.
Toronto ComiCon runs March 16 to 18 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. W. Kristian Nairn will appear March 17 and 18. See comicontoronto.com for information.