Important: There are NO spoilers for Game of Thrones season eight below, but this article does contain some plot details up to the end of season seven.
The end is near for Game of Thrones as its final season begins, but the cast of the show have been fearing the death of their characters for years.
A grisly demise is the first thing they look for when they get scripts for each series, Isaac Hempstead Wright tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
He’s played Bran Stark since the first episode, when he was pushed from a tower and crippled by Jaime Lannister.
Bran had a lucky escape that time, but Isaac’s been worried about getting bumped off ever since.
“The first thing everyone would do when they got the script was check if they were dying,” he says.
“Then when they saw they were safe, they’d check if their friends were dying.”
And when the axe fell (quite literally, at times) viewing was as rough for the cast as it was for the fans at home.
“You’d always be dreading any particular landmark scene that you knew was coming up, like the Red Wedding.”
If you haven’t watched the show a) why are you reading this?! And b) that’s a major event in season three when some major characters are killed off – most of them were Isaac’s on-screen family, the Starks.
“We all knew that was on its way and we were going to lose lovely Michelle [Fairley] and Richard [Madden] and Oona [Chaplin]. That was really sad.”
‘I nearly quit on the first day’
Isaac has just turned 20. He’s been acting in Game of Thrones since he was 11.
Bran has so far survived seven seasons, taking an extended trip from his family and home to travel “beyond the wall” and return as the Three-Eyed Raven – a time-travelling psychic who lives for centuries.
But when he started the job, Isaac wasn’t sure he could hack the pace.
“I can remember the very first day and we shot in this beautiful place called Tollymore Forest, just outside of Belfast. It rained non-stop all day.
“It was the scene where we find the direwolf pups and it was just relentless.
“I remember going back to the hotel with my mum and saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, it’s really hard’.”
And sure, things brightened up the next day, but the conditions rarely improved for the cast while filming the show for the best part of a decade.
“It was a pretty good introduction to what weather we would be facing for the next nine years of our lives.”
‘No sex with your brothers or sisters’
Starting on the show young meant that Isaac was exposed to things most people don’t have any knowledge of until much later in life.
Incest, extreme violence and sex are all recurring themes right from the start.
Isaac’s character Bran is pushed from a castle tower when he catches brother and sister Jaime and Cersei Lannister having sex in the first episode.
He says there were parts of the early seasons he was too young to watch.
But he says seeing some of the more shocking scenes in the show being filmed was less traumatic for him than they might have been for viewers.
“When you are on set and you see a decapitated body and you see the guy hiding behind the chopping block pumping out blood from the prosthetic it takes all the magic away from it,” Isaac says.
“Sex-wise, it just meant my mum would give me endless embarrassing lectures on it, and say things like, ‘So darling, no sex with brothers or sisters, that is wrong’.”
But while what happened on set didn’t have an affect on him, it was what happened off set – back in real life – that made him understand the change Game of Thrones had made.
“University was the first time I was like, ‘Oh this is not much fun’,” he says.
Isaac dropped out of his maths and music course at Birmingham University in 2017 after just eight weeks because of the attention he received on campus.
“I’d anticipated people would be excited but I didn’t see that coming. That was really full-on.
“I couldn’t walk out of my halls without having to take a selfie, I was terrified to go out and get drunk because everyone would be watching and taking pictures.”
The end is ‘terrifying’
But while he’s clearly more comfortable in front of TV cameras than being snapped by fans, Isaac’s now ready to mark this moment and move on.
“There was talk of everyone who made it from the pilot season to the last to get a tattoo,” says Isaac.
“There are only about eight of us from the original pilot who are still alive.
“It is really bizarre – we all feel like we have lived an entire life and career but our lives have just started so it is a pretty amazing position to be in.
“It’s really exciting. It is terrifying, but it’s exciting.”
There were some extra bits from our interview with Isaac that we really didn’t want to cut out. Below are some bonus nuggets.
Spoilers for Sean Bean
Sean Bean had no idea what happened to his character Ned Stark in series one – until his co-stars broke the news.
“We were shooting the pilot with Jennifer Ehle, who originally played Catelyn Stark and we were just chatting,” says Isaac.
“She said, ‘Yeah you die at the end of the first book, Sean.’
“He goes, ‘What? Do I?’ He didn’t know he was getting killed off.”
His teachers loved it
When filming was over and Isaac went back to school, it wasn’t his classmates who were impressed with his TV job – they were too young to care about the land of Westeros.
“It was the teachers who would get really excited,” he says.
“I had a really nice English teacher who was a massive Game of Thrones fan – he was really sweet.
“I think it meant I could interact with them as an adult.”