Most of the characters on Game of Thrones are larger than life, but one stands even taller than the rest: Hodor, the affable giant who protects the young Stark children using his massive girth and the only word he knows how to speak: his own name. Hodor!!!
In advance of the premiere of season 4, HBO took the show on the road with a Game of Thrones exhibit filled with props like the actual iron throne, a virtual-reality simulator, and special appearances by the few cast members who aren't dead yet. We caught up with the exhibit in Austin at SXSW where Kristian Nairn -- aka Hodor -- kindly shared a pint of Ommegang's Fire and Blood Red Ale Game of Thrones-themed beer and proved himself much more eloquent than his on-screen persona. And, at 6' 10", much shorter.
Your role as Hodor is one of your first acting gigs, right?
Yes, but I've been in the entertainment business for years as a DJ. I went to acting school and drama school, obviously, but I didn't really plan to be an actor. It just kind of happened. I just follow the stars. I definitely have a taste for it and am pursuing it. I never dreamed that one character could change my life in so many ways.
At the end of your DJ gigs, do you get on the mic and say Hodor?
No, never. Sorry to disappoint you. I try to say Hodor as little as possible when I'm not being paid. Are we getting beer or what?
I don't know. They said they'd bring us one.
It sounded like we were.
Hopefully it will come soon. Are you big into food and drink? Do you consider yourself a foodie?
I am. I kind of hate that word though. I actually trained to be a chef many years ago. I wasn't very good at it. I liked the part of making food for myself and friends and family, but when it came to commercial production it felt rather different. The kitchen is a very dynamic and almost threatening place. So after I went to culinary school for awhile and went to work, I decided that I hated it and it wasn't for me. But I do love food, it's fascinating.
Do you have a favorite type of food or something you seek out while traveling?
I like Japanese. Sushi. I always like to find the best sushi place in town. But I like all Asian food. Anything Asian is probably my favorite.
Do you cook a lot at home?
No, not at all. Usually when I'm at home I'm extremely tired and end up getting takeout. That's an entirely different type of Asian food.
What do you eat on set? Turkey legs and goblets of mead?
It would be nice to say yes, but it's more like Shepherd's pie and trifle. There might be a suckling pig on screen, but we get Shepherd's pie and peas. It's not bad, but I wouldn't look forward to it every day.
Is there ever a scene with Hodor eating?
Oh my God, there is. It was cold potatoes, rice, and peas. I thought they'd do something nice for me, but no, absolutely horrendous. Really, when the camera went off, I spit it out. They weren't very kind to me.
(The Fire and Blood Red Ale finally arrives)
Are you a big beer fan?
I've become more so since all the traveling. For a while I didn't drink, but now I drink quite a bit of wine in my downtime to unwind. When I was younger I didn't really like beer, but now I'm starting to get it. I think as your taste buds die, beer becomes more appealing. I was always more of a spirits guy, stronger flavors.
Do you have a favorite beer?
Game of Thrones beer! No, I like Belgian and European beers. Hoegaarden. I like fruit beers as well. I was in Toronto recently and had a very nice grapefruit one. It was just like drinking grapefruit juice with a little twinge of beer to it. It was so nice. It just feels like drinking pop, and the next thing you're in an ambulance.
How do you like the Fire and Blood?
I really like this one. It has a nice, strong, but not overpoweringly hoppy taste. Is that even a word when not talking about rabbits? It's very refreshing!
How many beers does it take you to get [um, boozy]?
Not many because I don't drink that much... well, still quite a lot, actually. I was at a convention recently down in Florida, and they all knew I didn't drink much, but challenged themselves to keep up with me. It wasn't working. They couldn't do it. They were falling by the wayside, very disappointing. I'm always thirsty. I'm a thirsty guy, so I can drink a lot and I have a huge bladder. I'm not one of those people who are up and down like a yo-yo. I can do a good camel impersonation.
If Hodor had his own brew, what type of beer would it be and what would it be called?
It would be silvery light in color, and it'd be called Hodor's Ho Garden.
Lastly, who's your favorite character on the show?
Me (pauses)... HODOR!!!!!
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He regularly hangs out with celebrities in medieval contexts. Follow him to turkey legs and goblets of mead at @Dannosphere.