It’s a pretty safe bet that Carrie is not going to get killed off halfway through Homeland, or that Sookie Stackhouse won’t bite the fairy-dust while Bill, Eric, Pam, and Lafayette continue on their misadventures. Most television shows, however successful or critically adored, operate by a certain set of rules—the relationship with the audience is a reciprocal one and you can’t capriciously kill off the protagonist before the end of the series.
This is not the case with HBO’s Game of Thrones. Easily the most expansive program on television, the opening credits seem a little longer each episode as actors are added and the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos grow larger. With so many spare characters, no single one is safe. Everyone has their favorite—Lena Headey’s Lady Macbeth-like Cersei, Peter Dinklage’s witty Tyrion —but the resident heartthrob is the painfully earnest Jon Snow, played by British actor Kit Harington.
Game of Thrones is, Harington gushes over the phone, “a pipe dream for an actor.” Harington began his career in the theater, but Thrones has since propelled him to worldwide fanmail status. Next year, Harington will star opposite Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, and Ben Barnes in The Seventh Son, and will start filming Pompeii with Paul W.S. Anderson, and his first animated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2.
EMMA BROWN: I heard that you went around the Natural History Museum after your shoot for us, how was the museum?
KIT HARINGTON: It was fantastic. It was really great. I haven’t been there since I was a child, so it was all very nostalgic. We looked at lots of crystals and minerals and things and we just looked in the Great Hall. It was brilliant!
BROWN: Is “Kit” what your parents and friends call you?
HARINGTON: I was called Kit from day one, really, I only found out my name was Christopher when I was 11.
HARINGTON: Yeah. It was very strange, I went to school, and I remember that you had to do these tests to find out what set you’re in—how clever you are. I put down “Kit Harington,” and they looked at me like I was completely stupid, and they said, “No, you’re Christopher Harington, I’m afraid.” It was only then I learnt my actual name. That was kind of a bizarre existential crisis for an 11-year-old to have, but in the end I always stuck with Kit, because I felt that’s who I was. I’m not really a “Chris.”
BROWN: Does anyone ever call you Christopher?
HARINGTON: Very occasionally. When I’m applying for a new passport, or something, someone will call me Christopher. Other than that, no one ever calls me Christopher.
BROWN: I read that your mother is a playwright, is that true?
HARINGTON: She used to be. Not anymore. She does many things now. She teaches creative writing and she also is an artist, she paints. And my dad runs his own business. I’m very lucky, I’ve got two very loving parents, still very much together, and always been very supportive.
BROWN: Does that mean that becoming an actor was always a viable career option in your house? Or were your parents more along the lines of, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a lawyer?”
HARINGTON: [laughs] No, my parents brought us up in a very clever way, which was that they saw what we were interested in naturally, and then they encouraged whatever that may be. When I started sharing a keen interest in drama and the theater, instead of steering me away from it, they encouraged me to see plays, and think about drama school. There was no pushing me or my brother into doing anything that we didn’t want to do.
BROWN: Whereabouts do you shoot Game of Thrones—Iceland or Belfast?
HARINGTON: We shoot in both. The whole series shoots in Croatia—this year it was Croatia, Morocco, Iceland, and Belfast. But my bits are very much focused around the cold weather, so I’m either in Belfast or in Iceland. I love both. Belfast feels like home for Thrones now, because we’ve been there for three years. Iceland, I’ve been in for the last two years and I’m in love with that country, the people are incredible and you can see the landscape from what’s on the show. Whenever anyone gets me started on Iceland I can bore them silly about everything there because I’m very fond of that country now, and I’ll go back—whether we shoot there again or not.
BROWN: Can you say anything in Icelandic?
HARINGTON: [laughs] It’s very difficult to say anything in Icelandic. I can say “takk,” which means “thank you.” That’s about all I learned. They’re all brilliant at speaking English, so it’s one of those problems that you don’t have any trouble communicating.
BROWN: Have you met all of the other Thrones actors, then, if you are all shooting in separate locations?
HARINGTON: I’ve met pretty much all of them; most of the principal characters I know very well, and a lot of the other actors you sort of meet in passing in Belfast. I never get to work with a lot of them, but because you have read-throughs and we sort of get to know each other at big cast meetings like that.
BROWN: Do you do bonding activities?
HARINGTON: A bit of drinking. [laughs] A bit of drinking to get to know each other, but other than that, not really. Quite often there’s more than one unit filming at one time, so you come back [to the hotel] and it’s nice to hear stories of what they’ve been doing, and the kind of torture that they’ve been through with the show. [laughs] That’s the kind of bonding that we do, we talk to each other.
BROWN: I heard that the producers sent Alfie Allen a fake death scene. Did he believe them?
HARINGTON: Did he believe them? Oh, I can’t speak for Alfie, but I think a few people have had jokes played on them by the producers, which is always fun. But I think Alfie was the most laid back about it. I think he might have believed them briefly.
BROWN: If you could play another character on the show, whom would it be and why?
HARINGTON: I think Tyrion’s got a fantastic storyline. I think Peter [Dinklage] does an incredible job, he’s one of my favorite characters in the series. I quite like Alfie’s character; Theon’s a great sort of villainous, faulted human being, and he’s got some brilliant bits coming up this season.
BROWN: Do you like Jon Snow as a character? Do you think you’d want to be friends with him if you met him?
HARINGTON: Yeah. I think he’s definitely got a sort of dark outlook on life, which you’d have to counterbalance by being very cheerful all the time. I’ve got a very dear place in my heart for Jon, though. He’s constantly getting a rough deal of things and doing the very best he can to be the best person he can be around other people.
BROWN: I know that you’re from London and Worcester; did you have to learn how to do Jon’s northern accent?
HARINGTON: I auditioned for Jon Snow in my own accent, and then when we got to filming the pilot, they asked all of Sean Bean’s sons to do Sean’s accent, so we had to go and learn it quickly.
BROWN: Did Sean Bean make fun of you?
HARINGTON: Sean? He was encouraging, actually. He found it funny that we were all doing his accent. He said we were all doing it well, which was quite nice to hear.
BROWN: Who is your favorite fictional character?
HARINGTON: Well, my favorite book is 1984 by George Orwell, so I suppose Winston Smith. Henry V—I love him.
BROWN: When you have to prepare a monologue for an audition at the last minute, do you have a go-to one from drama school?
HARINGTON: I’ve got a couple of go-to ones, yeah. Whether I can still remember them I’m not sure, but I always used to do the brilliant speech in Henry V—a speech that Hal gives to the French messenger about tennis balls that he’s delivered. That’s a brilliant speech, if you ever want to give one. And there’s a speech from the film 25th Hour—a monologue that in the film Edward Norton delivers, which is one of my favorites.
BROWN: You’re also in The Seventh Son with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, can you tell me a little bit about working with them?
HARINGTON: It was amazing. You find with the really great actors, the ones you really admire and look up to, very often they’re very giving, generous, warm people. And that’s what I found with Julianne and Jeff. It was the first time they’ve worked together since The Big Lebowski—The Big Lebowski, that’s one of my favorite fiction characters!—so I was very privileged.
BROWN: And you play Jeff Bridges’ former apprentice? Are you evil? That sounds like an evil character.
HARINGTON: I’m going to be really boring here, and not be able to give anything away about this project, because it’s still in the making. [laughs]
BROWN: Fair enough. With something like The Big Lebowski, did you want to go up to Julianne and Jeff and say “Oh, I really love that movie”? Or was it more: “That’s so obvious, I must not mention it”?
HARINGTON: Oh, I’m very much a “that’s so obvious, I must not mention it” kind of guy. I would love to gush and tell Julianne and Jeff how wonderful they were in this movie. But I’m sure they’ve heard it 5,000 times. And I don’t want to be the 5,001st. If it comes up naturally in conversation you can tell them that you loved it. But if not, keep it to yourself.