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Game of Thrones star Kristian Nairn: ‘Being so tall when I was teenager was horrendous’

By Victoria Leonard

Belfast actor Kristian Nairn reveals what life holds for him after his Game of Thrones exit.

Q. You're from Lisburn - tell me about your life?

A. I grew up there and went to Hillhall Primary School, born and bred there. I now live outside Lurgan towards the lough. I only moved there about six months ago with my mother and we're very happy. I absolutely love it.

Q. How tall are you - and what age are you?

A. I'm 41 and I'm 6ft 10in. Some people say I'm 6ft 11in, some 6ft 9in. I don't want them to shave off an inch, but I don't want them to add an inch either to disappoint people.

Taller people get very competitive. When I meet someone who's close to me or taller I'm straight up, I don't wanna be smaller than them.

On Game of Thrones we have a lot of tall people. There's Ian White, who's 7ft 3in, who played The Mountain in season one and also a White Walker.

I never understood it when people said to me, "You're quite intimidating", but I sort of understand now since I met him.

Q. Did you always feel your height was a blessing?

A. No, definitely not. Growing up it was horrendous. People can be quite cruel and small-minded.

When I was growing up I was very introverted because when you're having that sensitive phase and you're a teenager and everywhere you go you just hear "Oh my God look at him", you know, "Look how tall he is", "What's the weather like up there?"

It doesn't seem so sinister, but when you're going through your teenage years something like that can set you right back.

But it really was just one day a switch flipped in my head and I thought, "I'm not going to worry about this anymore, I'm going to use it to my advantage". Since then I really haven't looked back.

Q. You kicked of your career as a DJ?

A. Before that I was a guitar player. I played in bands, I had normal jobs as well - I worked in Sainsbury's and I was a BT operator, but I always maintained my music in the background.

I always played guitar and I always played in bands. Then I ended up working in the Kremlin, I actually started working as a drag artist and that changed into being a DJ. I had a lot of fun doing both.

I was quite a shy person growing up and drag was very much a shield for me to perform behind. My drag name was Revvlon.

In a way for me it was a two-fingered salute to the people who said I couldn't do that kind of thing.

If I was to have a message for people it would be that, just do what you want to do and don't worry about what people say. Any sort of performance was always what I was really born to do.

Q. What made you decide to transition into acting?

A. I was still DJing in the Kremlin and obviously you meet people through being a drag queen, and this guy had offered me a few auditions through the years. One of them was for a movie with Simon Pegg called Hot Fuzz.

I had been DJing at a club in Belfast called Event Horizon until 6am and I literally got on a plane at 7.30am, and did this audition at 9am in London. It was the world's worst audition ever.

Funny enough, I didn't get that part, but four or five years later the same guy called me back and said: "That casting director in London really liked you and they want to see you for the part of Hodor in Game of Thrones."

I didn't have a clue what Game Of Thrones was. My mother, who's a big reader and also a massive fan of Game of Thrones said: "Oh my God, you have to take this part if you're offered it."

The whole Hodor thing of just saying one word wasn't really my dream part.

You picture yourself playing the lead roles and getting to do all the inspirational speeches.

So when I heard you only have this one word, I was like, is this really how I want to make my debut?

But then I researched the franchise and the character and I just loved the whole enigmatic side of him. I just fell in love with the character and I really miss him actually.

Q. What is the most memorable thing you'll take away from Game of Thrones?

A. Obviously the death scene and the nude scene, which was probably the most traumatic day of my life. I never thought I would be parading round Carryduff in the nip without being arrested at least!

I had added layers of humiliation - we had this massive prosthetic and it had to be attached to my body with glue and it's actually glued into your own region. That did not come out quickly, I'm telling you! I felt sorry for the make-up girl - these things you suffer for your art! That was one of the worst and funniest experiences.

Q. What was your relationship like with the rest of the cast?

A. Isaac Hempstead Wright is a very close friend - I'm actually going to his 18th birthday. He's like a little brother actually.

There was the Knight of Flowers Finn Jones, he's a good friend, there is Daniel Portman who plays Podrick, he's also a good friend, and Gemma Whelan and I bonded, we go to conventions and stuff together.

Q. What do you think of the publicity the show has brought to Northern Ireland?

A. Just to see the focus being on Northern Ireland for something other than politics is just so nice, and people now know how beautiful it is here.

It makes you very proud to speak of that when I'm away in other countries. It's done the country a lot of good.

And also the craftsmen, the set builders, all the people who work on set like the runners. I think they've worked at the highest level of TV and will have no problem continuing on other jobs.

Game of Thrones was a game-changer for Northern Ireland. There's going to be a massive gap when it goes.

Q. Tell me about your last scene in Game of Thrones?

A. It was incredibly emotional and physically demanding, and at the end it felt like an exhale.

I was proud of that scene and Isaac was the one who got to wrap me and say over the microphone: "Mr Nairn that's us finished, you're wrapped."

It was the best way to go. You got to play the magical stuff about all the time travel, you got to be honourable and there are so few honourable deaths in Game of Thrones, they're usually just brutal and horrible.

Q. Would you like to come back as an instrument of evil?

A. As a fan I'm not sure I would love that, but as an actor I would absolutely love that and it would be so much fun to play that.

But I kind of think it's nice the way it's left, there have been enough rebirth moments in Game of Thrones.

Maybe he's not dead, maybe he's just roaming round the countryside eating berries like a grizzly bear!

Q. So are we going to see a White Walker Hodor?

A. I'm just going to say no but I might be lying. I can't give anything away. I have let things slip before by accident and I've learnt the hard way.

Q. What do you do in your spare time?

A. When I have any I like to be in bed! I spend my spare time at home because I am so seldom here.

I like to go out for dinner in Belfast with my friends, I like to work on the house, I like working on music.

It's all very normal stuff but I really cherish being at home. I've got three dogs - a little Maltese, a Lhasa Apso and a Samoyed. I've had dogs all my life, I'm a huge animal lover, especially dogs so that's one of the hardest things about being away all the time, I really miss them but my mum does a really good job looking after then when I'm gone.

Mum's awesome, she's a very feisty open-minded woman. She's my best friend as well as my mother.

Q. You came out as gay three years ago in 2014?

A. No, that was in the Press. I was always out, I've never been in the closet, ever.

I came out to my mother when I was 14 and all my friends and family have always known about me and not all of them were accepting. I'm lucky it was in the 90%, a lot of people don't have that luxury.

I got the joy of coming out twice because I made a comment in an interview. There's a BEAR community - bigger gay men with beards - they are lovely people and someone made a comment.

They were like, "You're a bit of a BEAR icon, how do you feel about that?" And they were almost saying it in a negative way.

I said, "Why would that be a problem to me, it's my own community, and they were like, "What?!" I was like, "Do you never use Google? I used to dress as a woman for God's sake!"

Q. Has anything changed for you since you had your 'second coming out' in the media?

A. Being gay is obviously very important to me, but it's not a massive part of my life.

I think there's more interesting things about me.

I don't think it's anyone's business who I sleep with. I certainly don't think it's my business who anyone else sleeps with.

I don't have a boyfriend at the minute. I was seeing someone until recently, sadly it's just so difficult with travelling.

Of course I would like to have a relationship.

I just don't know if I'm in a place for it at the minute. It'll happen when it's meant to happen.

Q. Where do you see your career going next?

A. I'm going to Reykjavik to DJ at a festival, then I'm going to Utah to film a horror movie called The Abbey.

One of my best friends - Jake Stormoen - is starring in it with me.

We're doing it like a buddy movie in medieval times.

Also I've just taken on the lease of Cuckoo on the Lisburn Road with two business partners, so I'm now a bar owner. We've some very, very fun ideas for it.

It's going to be a very different place very shortly - the first of its type in Belfast. The nerds and the geeks will be very happy.

Q. Apart from that you're going to be DJing.

A. Yes I will be DJing and we've just done a movie called Biopunk. We've just filmed the opening sequence.

I've got a huge music festival coming up called Middlelands in Texas.

It's a medieval-type festival, but there's a lot of big-name electronic artists playing at it, that's in May.

Up until then I'm just constantly bouncing around the world either filming advertisements, conventions, acting work and DJing and I'm also writing music.

Q. Which people do you most admire in the world?

A. People like Ryan Reynolds and Meryl Streep. I've met Ryan Reynolds and he hasn't lost his humanity, he's very funny.

I DJed at the Critics' Choice Awards ceremony in LA a few weeks ago and they were all there - Nicole Kidman and everything.

Ryan and a number of other people came over to me and they were asking for selfies and stuff. It was a really surreal experience.

Q. How would you like to be remembered?

A. I would like people to think I wasn't afraid to do my own thing.

I would like people to say I was a kind person.

And yeah, individuality. Just not being afraid to do what you want to do as I think a lot of people are. Don't be sorry for who you are.

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