Actor Kristian Nairn officially left the Game of Thrones universe in 2016, but viewers have hardly forgotten about him. Nairn’s character, Hodor, was Bran Stark’s loyal servant for six seasons before tragically dying while holding the door shut to hold off the Army of the Undead, allowing Bran to escape.
Nairn recently reflected on the role, admitting that though he only ever repeated one line, Hodor was a difficult character to portray.
“The key to playing Hodor is just being real—you really have to put yourself into the situation because you don’t have words to express yourself,” Nairn told Star 2. “You really had to immerse yourself into the reality of the scene and put in your body language with having just one word.”
Most surprising about Nairn’s portrayal of Hodor is the fact that not even the actor knew the meaning of his character's name. In his final moments, fans finally find out that “Hodor” came about from Bran warging into Hodor as a youth at Winterfell at the same time they were being pursued by the undead. As Meera yelled at Hodor to "hold the door," a young Hodor seemed to see Bran at Winterfell. Then it seems that Bran also wargs into young Hodor, who suffers a seizure, which leaves him unable to say anything but the shortened version of his dying words.
Fans were shocked by this revelation, and it turns out that Nairn was, too.
“I remember over the years, I have asked the showrunners and George RR Martin what Hodor meant, but they would never tell me,” Nairn said. So he created his own theory for where the name came from, guessing that Hodor was a Clegane due to his unusually large size—but obviously that theory didn’t pan out.
“I was surprised just like everyone else when I found out what Hodor meant. But I never expected the reaction that came from all over the world,” Nairn said, commenting on the collective depression that fans fell into after his character’s death.
While a character who only ever utters one line over six seasons might not be an enticing role to every actor, Nairn said that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss assured him the part would be worth it.
“It was challenging in some ways but David and Dan told me, ‘You’re gonna be one of the fan favorites of the show,' and this was before we even started. I didn’t really understand; I was like ‘Really? But he just says one word, guys.’ But they turned out to be right,” Nairn shared.
Nairn has taken a break from acting in order to focus on his DJ career, but he knows he’ll return to television eventually. “I love fantasy roles, sci-fi stuff. But I am up for anything. I will never do a part like Hodor again … I definitely have too much to say,” he said.