Kit Harington in character as Jon Snow.

Snow Slays

30th June 2017

He shot to international stardom along the record-breaking path that Game of Thrones has carved for itself through television history. As the fantasy epic gets set for its seventh – and penultimate – series, Kit Harington looks back on the phenomenon that made him a household name – and where his career might take him next. Jake Taylor finds out more…

For nearly half a decade the battle to be rated the greatest show on the box has been conquered – series in, series out – by Game of Thrones, screened by American cable/satellite television network Home Box Office. So established at the top of the tree is George R. R. Martin’s tale of swords, dragons and sorcery, that the show’s central cadre of leading men and women are now known for receiving the highest salaries per episode in all of television history. It’s just the latest in a long line of records that Thrones has effortlessly blown out of the water, and, with the show’s penultimate run descending onto our screens soon, it’s almost a given that HBO’s flagship will be ending the year with a new set of accolades to add to its glittering hoard.

At the centre of the action since 2011 has been Kit Harington, who plays the dour-faced and exceptionally unlucky Stark family stalwart Jon Snow. Having secured the dubious honour of being the only main character to have – spoiler alert! – died and then been brought back to life, Harington’s alter ego’s seven-series survival has seen the Acton-born star gradually take front and centre in the seemingly endless quest for the coveted Iron Throne.

“It’s amazing to be on a show where people are universally enthusiastic – they love it and they love the character,” 30-year-old Harington smiles. “I’ve lived a kind of double life with Jon Snow and the character means a great deal to me. He isn’t driven by ego or a thirst for violence – he has spent his life trying to defend the lives of others who can’t defend themselves. He’s one of the good guys.”

Essential heroics aside, Harington’s Snow has often been seen as inhabiting a realm of solemnity that perhaps has come from his years of watching family members murdered and fighting ice-zombies in the frozen wastes of Westeros. But the actor himself is quick to set straight the rumoured accusation that, off-camera, he’s beginning to tire of the perpetually po-faced Snow.

“I’d be a fool to be complaining about it,” Harington says. “It’s been incredible to work with so many great people and get to shoot in some very beautiful and exotic settings. But I want to be able to find other kinds of roles and play seriously messed-up or damaged people. I don’t want to keep on playing these very serious and sombre roles. I’m fortunate though, because I’m starting to get a lot of different opportunities – it’s quite exciting.”

With the final series of Thrones looming, several of its stars are now casting glances to their future schedules – and there can be no harm in having such a behemoth of a show on their CV. Harington’s previously unknown co-stars Emilia Clarke and Sophie Turner, for example, have gone on to join huge Hollywood franchises in the form of Terminator and X-Men respectively. Harington, meanwhile, is now joining his fellow Thrones alumni in Tinseltown once again, alongside Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon and Thandie Newton in The Life and Death of John F. Donovan, which is slated for release in 2018.

Harington already made a successful foray onto the silver screen in the form of 2014’s Testament of Youth and 2015’s Spooks: The Greater Good. He is, however, naturally keen to avoid repeating the mistakes that saw him front the sword-and-sandals disaster Pompeii in 2011, or the fantasy flop Seventh Son in 2014.

“I’ve made some so-called opportunistic choices for my career in the past,” he grimaces. “They turned out to be mistakes; I really regret them, and I will not do it again.”

Whatever the critical or commercial outcome of his next cinematic venture, Harington’s astronomical rise as Thrones’ stoical Snow has thrust him inescapably into the spotlight – for better or worse.

“Being in the public eye is a real channel into the extremes of human life,” he says. “There are really pleasant people who are great, and then people expect things from you that they shouldn’t expect from anyone. Smartphones are just a nightmare; there should be some form of phone etiquette. There’s a really ugly culture of taking anything without that person’s permission. Everyone thinks they’re a journalist.”

And though Harington laughs off the suggestion that a disguise of some sort may be handy in dealing with uninvited attention – “I would go crazy if I felt the need to do that!” – Thrones is certainly not about to start scaling down in the face of the smartphone menace.

And what can fans expect from the next two series? He’ll not be drawn on specifics, but points to a ramping up of production values which are already sky-high. “They’ve spent an increasing amount of money on fewer episodes, so it’s going to be much bigger in scale,” he reveals. “The CGI is out of this world and we’re trying new things, experimenting with new camera techniques. We’re trying to break new boundaries in these final two series.”

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