For months Kit Harington has been keeping a secret that everybody wants to know. It’s been an exhausting balancing act, like treading water with a smile on your face.
Of course he isn’t going to tell you how Game of Thrones ends, whether Jon Snow lives or dies, who ends up on the Iron Throne, or even if his beloved direwolf Ghost survives till the end. Nevertheless it hangs in the air every time he talks about ending the biggest television show of all time.
Now, with only three episodes remaining, he is starting to look forward to the freedom that will come with it all being over.
“I’m just going to be really relieved when everyone’s seen it,” he tells me on the phone from New York, where he is currently living while his wife (and former Game of Thrones co-star) Rose Leslie films drama The Good Fight. “It’s going to feel like closure and I think that’s going to be incredibly satisfying, if a bit sad.”
For Harington the series has been a bittersweet experience. The show gave him unimaginable success as a young actor, introduced him to the love of his life and surrounded him with a group of co-stars who we have watched grow into a close (if somewhat murderous) family. But then it also resulted in a poor spell of mental health where he questioned whether he could really act and felt any semblance of privacy was being wrestled from him.
The obsessive coverage was at its most intense after he died in the finale of season five and for months was dogged with questions about whether he’d return. But even this period proved bittersweet, as it lead to his proudest scene: “When Jon is asked what was beyond death and he says ‘Nothing, there was nothing at all’” he says. “It’s rare to have had someone die and come back, and I think that was the most profound moment for Jon.”
Of course, his proudest moment might still be to come. But he’s too acrobatic at spoiler-dodging to even hint there’s a big scene for his character on the horizon.
In between filming Thrones over the last eight years the London-born actor has appeared in other projects, like BBC drama Gunpowder, and opposite Johnny Flynn in the Sam Shepherd play True West. But after each project finished he always went back to Thrones, like returning to school each year after the summer holidays. Until you don’t. No longer is he contractually obliged to make sure his hair matches Jon Snow’s. He’s free. So where do you go after fronting the biggest television event of the decade?
“I’ve been part of a really successful drama so I don’t feel I have to achieve that now.” he says, “It gives me the freedom to take more risks and take work that may not go anywhere.”
Since Ben Affleck officially hung up his cape, Harington has been linked to 2021 film The Batman after offhandedly saying “I’d love to play Batman” when asked, well, ‘Would you like to play Batman?’ I ask about whether he’d do another big franchise and he remains vague, saying it would be a “different type of challenge”, but he’d still consider it.
If indeed he does consider doing Batman, it might be one with a sunnier disposition than the brooding figure others have made of the masked hero, as Harington seems keen to move on from some of the sombreness of Jon Snow.
“I’m often seen on Thrones as a very serious guy,” he says, explaining how as a result photoshoots have often been brooding and dark. “It was becoming a bit too much of a thing that I did”. The solution? A Dolce & Gabbana fragrance campaign (for The One Grey) in which he can be seen merrily bowling through the streets of a quaint Italian village, air-kissing a smiling nonna and being offered a tray of margarita pizzas – a charming city break that looks plucked from the pages of an inflight magazine and almost unrecognisable from the furrowed brow he’s sported while rallying the troops of the Seven Kingdoms. “It was a chance to have a bit of fun,” he says. “Not walking down the street with models but with real Neapolitan people.”
“I tell you who I love,” he says, as we get onto the subject of men’s style, “Richard E Grant. I’m the most guilty of trying to act cool so I think it’s lovely when you see people being cool by being not cool. That’s style to me.”
Grant had a tour de force awards season, flitting between Hollywood luncheons in outlandish shirts and uploading every celebrity he met to his Twitter account as though it was a football sticker album. Harington, an advocate of dark colours and sharp tailoring, is unlikely to be sporting such garish garms anytime soon, but he does recall one attempt at ripping up the sartorial rulebook with amusement. “I bought a multi-coloured Jesus Christ superstar fleece once and got papped in it. My friends will never let me live it down. That’s the closest I’ve come to losing the plot.”
The photo in question was taken while he was in New York, a city he believes London “could take some real lessons from” when it comes to restaurants, but doesn’t claim host to the best night out he’s ever had. “It was in Berlin and I went to a club called Berghain, which is just the most insane place in the world. I had the best night,” he says as though marvelling at the memory. Given Berghain’s famously stringent door policy, you can only assume Harington said something more impressive than the time he tried (and failed) to get into a French nightclub by saying, “Je Suis Celebrité.”
Harington spends a lot of time in America, and although he says he loves it, often it reminds him of just how different it is to where he’s from. “I don’t know what’s happened in the UK but we somehow think we’re not European. It always strikes me when I come [to America], how European we are,” he says. “There is a big cultural divide and I get quite lonely because of that when I come to America.”
Unlike the majority of the Thrones cast who have embraced social media as a way to speak directly to fans, revel in the memes the show spawns and take some control of the narrative about them, Harington still hasn’t succumbed to Instagram. “There’s always that temptation of, well, if you have so many followers it helps you get jobs,” he says. “But using it as a way of showing how many people like you is just intrinsically cynical to me. I give enough of myself away that if I did it on my own time it would drive me mad.” Who knows whether that will change when the annual Thrones media circus doesn’t return next April, but he’s unlikely to need to remind people who he is any time soon.
So when those last moments are played out to the world, and Game of Thrones finally ends on Sunday 19 May, 80 minutes (plus advert breaks) after 9pm EST, what does Kit want the legacy of the show to be?
“I’d like it to be remembered in the same way that great HBO series are, like The Sopranos or The Wire. Those shows came along and they changed TV. Game of Thrones came along and it was like nothing else.” [Source]