'Game of Thrones' Exclusive: Actor Kristofer Hivju on Tormund's return after last season's cliffhanger

'Game of Thrones' Exclusive: Actor Kristofer Hivju on Tormund's return after last season's cliffhanger

Run wild

Text: Aravin Sandran

Image: Helen Sloan/HBO

In the days leading up to the eighth and final season premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones on 14 April, we will be taking a look back at the show's four most fascinating supporting characters. Along with brief highlights that include their backstory, an iconic mic-drop moment and speculations on where they might be headed (read: dead), we'll be reminiscing with the outstanding actors who play them, in a Singapore-exclusive interview courtesy of HBO. Up next: the rugged and bearded Tormund played by Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju.

Backstory: Tormund Giantsbane might be the most garang warrior in the entire Game of Thrones universe, matched in ferocity only by the Dothrakis. After all, the default King Beyond-the Wall of Free Folk aka Wildings has been through some insane trials on the battlefield including going H.A.M. during the Battle of Bastards and surviving a stand-off with an army of undead wights on the frozen lake. Besides being one of Jon Snow's most proficient killers, he has also developed a soft spot for the statuesque Brienne of Tarth.

Breakthrough: Tormund's moment of reckoning arrives at the end of last season when he encounters the army of undead wights at The Wall. When the Night King uses the now undead Viserion to destroy The Wall, Tormund and the Eastwatch collapse along with it. However, he remains alive, and we know this because we see him in the full trailer for season eight.

Iconic mic-drop moment: In season five, Tormund and Jon Snow descend on Hardhome in hopes of bringing the remaining Free Folk south of The Wall. They meet the ghoulish Lord of Bones, who torments Tormund for aligning himself with a southerner. After stating that he doesn't fight for the Crows, Tormund then beats the hell out of the Lord of Bones.

Prediction: He goes through hell and comes out alive. It seems nothing can bring this husky man down. He was nearly dragged and drowned beneath the ice by wights (saved by The Hound) and buried under The Wall when it collapsed. He is also currently the most prominent Free Folk besides Gilly, the partner of Samwell Tarly, which makes him that much more significant to the plotline. But of course, we know all too well, that the show has no qualms with killing off an entire lineage or people.

How does the final season begin for your character? 
The last we saw Tormund was at The Wall. The White Walker dragon attacks the wall and he's falling down off the ice. There wasn't any revelation of what happened next. I've seen a lot of speculation online where people have seen a hand out of the snow and stuff like that, but I'm here so I can say that he survives the avalanche.  

From when he was old enough to hear, Tormund has been hearing stories about the White Walkers and the wights. That's the biggest threat; those are the horror stories of his childhood. Then he teamed up with Mance Rayder who hadn't been talking about anything else  how can we escape the dead? So for his whole life, this has been the threat. He tried to get through The Wall to get away from them and to take Castle Black and stuff like that. He missioned up with Jon (Snow) because of the same perspective. Now the attack is on and now it's about saving the rest of humanity. The line goes right through the show for Tormund. 

What was the final all-cast table read like?
It's a funny thing because when you read the script, you have your own personal experience, but when you hear it and when you act it out, it becomes something else. 

What do you think some of the reactions will be to the final series?
I think there will be a bit of everything: some people will be sad; some people will be happy because maybe their theory was right; some people will cry and some people will destroy their TV. I think people will react in many different ways, but that's the whole concept of the show  it has very unpredictable storylines. It doesn't follow Aristotle's beginning, middle, end. I think that's part of the success of the show because there is no prediction of what can happen. People don't know.

I sat undercover at a Game of Thrones bar in Atlanta some years ago because that was the only place I could see the show, watching the episode where Rory came back. It was like America won the Olympics or something. It was like everybody was screaming and I thought this is closer to sport than art at some level. That's the key  people don't know how it's going to end and the final season is the same. It could go any way. 

Looking back over the series, when was the moment you realised that everything had gone to another level? 
With my beard, it's like I can't take off the mask. Sunglasses don't do it, but people are cool in Scandinavia where I live. I came in season three and it was already a big thing then and it has grown from that. People are cool for most of it. It's not like I feel threatened.

There's plenty that you'll miss of course from making Game of Thrones. Is there one thing that you won't miss?
For a very long time, this beard has had a trademark  it said, "Owned by HBO". It doesn't anymore so maybe I'll shave it off. I'll see.

Stream the eighth and final season on HBO GO (available on the App Store, Google Play, SingTel, StarHub, and Toggle) or watch the premiere on HBO (Starhub TV Ch 601/Singtel TV Ch 420) on 15 April at 9am, with a same-day encore at 10pm, or catch it on HBO On Demand.

Catch up on all of the Game of Thrones news and collabs.