It has been an emotional two years for Kit Harington. Last February, he was in the middle of shooting the most intense scenes in the final season of Game of Thrones. We were inside a production room in Northern Ireland’s Titanic Studios, where its humongous hangars were converted to soundstages for the epic fantasy series.
“I sat where you are,” said the actor who just wrapped up his last days as Jon Snow. A long table, surrounded by many chairs, dominated the room. “It was in this room that we did the read-through for the final season. I chose not to read the episodes until we were in the room with everyone. I found it quite an emotional punch to the gut. Not just what happens generally but just reading the final lines of the end of it.”
Cut to more than a year later, in New York, and Kit is still talking poignantly about the ending of the HBO series that launched
him into international stardom. But he jokes, “I feel fresh as a daisy, actually.”
Born to a family of knighted father, uncle and great-grandfather (King Charles II was a direct ancestor too), Christopher Catesby Harington was bitten by the acting bug after seeing Waiting for Godot at age 14. A few years later, while still attending London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Kit made waves in his portrayal of Albert Narracott in the National Theatre production of War Horse.
Debuting as Jon Snow in 2011 was a breakthrough for Kit, then 24. The role also led him to his wife, Rose Leslie — who played a love interest, Ygritte, in the show — whom he married in 2018. Now 32, Kit has a whole new life ahead of him beyond Winterfell.
When did you get the feeling that the show was over? Or was it like saying goodbye in stages?
A bit down the line, hopefully we’ll get nominations and things and we’ll be at ceremonies together. I said goodbye to the show on set and the actual being with our family out there. It was in stages, and each stage that ended, I let go of it a little bit. I’m terribly sad about it ending.
The words “Game of Thrones” are going to bring the fondest feeling to me forever. Yeah, it was emotional, but each time we celebrated, I felt a little bit of weight lifted and I just got to enjoy what we did.
Tell us more about why it was an emotional time for you.
Over a seven- or eight-year period, we completely change as humans — the stuff that happens to us [changes us], our whole bodies physically change.
What gets me emotional is thinking about that Kit of eight years ago. He’s so different from me. You go through something like this and you pick up a level of cynicism about stuff because you have to, sometimes. I was just amazed at everything. I feel like now I’ve gone through an experience where I sort of just take it for granted a bit. Whereas I remember going to an awards ceremony the first time and it was just extraordinary and dreamlike.
Did you take something from the set?
No, they were very tight with their props and stuff. At first, I was, “So I get my costume, right? And my sword?” And they were, “No.” “Well, why not?” “Because it’s worth so much now.”
But I got my gloves and braces because they couldn’t pry them from my hands on that day. I’ve kept very little. I kept the statue of me that was done in the promos. No one else took it, which speaks more of me than anything. I think it’s all going in a museum. I came to terms with the fact that they were not going to give me my sword. So I’m going to pay the Game of Thrones armorer to make an absolute replica of the sword. I have a fireplace at home. I’m going to hang the sword above it.
Looking back, were there things you would have done differently?
I don’t think there’s [anything]. Fame is a really odd situation to be in. There are times I’ve been a prick, egotistical, and got wrapped up in myself. But I’ve always had people around me who’ve been truthful with me. So, no, there’s not much I’d change, because the mistakes I’ve made within the world I found myself in have made me who I am. And today,
in this moment, I’m happy with who I am.
There’s a lot that the notoriety of the show has brought, but it’s all been part of the journey. I think nothing can really prepare you for something like this.
What do you think about the prequel in the works?
What they’re doing with the prequel is very wise because they’re treating it as a different show. It does not have the
same creative team. It has different showrunners.
Would you do another series like Game of Thrones?
I would. But in the immediate future, I don’t want to do one unless something really amazing, extra special turns up. It would be hard for me to sign on to like a six-year deal on something where I stay within that world for a long arc. Right now, what I’m looking at is theater, limited television series and movies because the idea of signing up to something long-running is quite hard. You can imagine. I think it would be a mistake as well, actually.
And I’d have a strange relationship to it because of its vicinity in my life to Game of Thrones. So, unless something amazing comes up… but probably not a long-form drama in that way. There’s a really interesting division at the moment between limited series and long-running series, in the way that TV has developed. So I think that there’s a lot out there, which means I can do interesting long-form drama but with just not too many recurring seasons.
Photos courtesy of Picturelux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy
This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Smile magazine.