Early work in theatre (2008–2010)
Before acting, Harington originally wanted to become a journalist. While still at drama school, he landed the role of Albert in the National Theatre’s adaptation of War Horse. The play won two Olivier Awards and gained Harington a great deal of recognition. He was later cast in his second play Posh, a dark ensemble comedy about upper-class men attending Oxford University.
Game of Thrones and film roles (2011–present)
After War Horse, Harington auditioned for and landed his first television role as Jon Snow in the television series Game of Thrones. The show debuted in 2011 to great critical acclaim and was quickly picked up by the network for a second season. Harington’s role is largely filmed in Iceland and Northern Ireland. It concluded with its eighth season in April 2019. Game of Thrones takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos and chronicles the power struggles among noble families as they fight for control of the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Jon Snow is introduced as the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, the honorable lord of Winterfell, an ancient fortress in the North of the fictional continent of Westeros.
Harington has received praise for his performance. In 2012, Harington was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television for the role. In 2016, Harington was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. He said, “It is a serious understatement to say that I am somewhat stunned … For my work on Game of Thrones to be recognized in this way is an emotional moment for me. I could not be more humbled.” In 2017, Harington became one of the highest paid actors on television and earned £2 million per episode of Game of Thrones (based on shared percentages of syndication payments).
Harington made his cinematic debut in 2012 as Vincent in Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. The horror film was based on the survival horror video game Silent Hill 3, and was a sequel to the film Silent Hill. He was honoured with Actor of the Year at the Young Hollywood Awards 2013, which celebrates the best emerging young talent in film, music and television.
Harington’s first major lead role in a feature film occurred when he played Milo in the film Pompeii. Production for the film commenced in 2013 and took place in and around Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Some scenes were also shot in the actual city of Pompeii itself. The film was a modest box office success, but received negative reviews from critics. That year, Harington also voiced Eret in How to Train Your Dragon 2, which was a critically acclaimed, box-office success, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film and received an Academy Award nomination.
In 2014, Harington also appeared alongside Jeff Bridges in the film Seventh Son, a poorly received fantasy–adventure film. Harington played Billy Bradley, Jeff Bridges first apprentice killed early in the movie by a character played by Julianne Moore. Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander and Emily Watson also star. The film was released in wide distribution in the UK on 16 January 2015. Its world premiere was in The Centrepiece Gala, supported by the Mayor of London, at the British Film Institute London Film Festival in October 2014.
In December 2014, it was announced that he would feature in Xavier Dolan’s upcoming movie The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. On 1 August 2018, it was announced that the film would have its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The film received negative reviews and was critically panned.
He starred in the 2015 HBO comedy 7 Days in Hell, a short film about a seven-day tennis match. In June 2015, it was confirmed that Harington would star in Martin Koolhoven’s upcoming western thriller film Brimstone, replacing Robert Pattinson.
In 2016, Harington starred as Salen Kotch, the main villain in the first-person shooter video game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. In February 2017, it was reported that he would write, star in and executive produce Gunpowder, a three-part historical drama for BBC based on the real story of the Gunpowder Plot. Harington played the role of his ancestor Robert Catesby alongside actors Mark Gatiss, Liv Tyler and Peter Mullan.
In June 2018, it was announced that Harington would star in the West End upcoming stage play True West, written by Sam Shepard and directed by Matthew Dunster. The play premiered in November 2018 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London and closed in February 2019.
In August 2019, Harington joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in an unnamed role. The role was later revealed to be Dane Whitman in The Eternals.
In 2020, he took part in a virtual performance of an extract from the play Burn by playwright Chris Thompson.
In September 2020, it was announced that he would appear in the second season of the Netflix anthology series Criminal: UK. The series premiered on 16 September to positive reviews.
In March 2014, Harington was named the face of Jimmy Choo, starring in the fall/winter 14 men’s lines. In 2015, he returned to front Jimmy Choo’s new menswear campaign for Spring/Summer 15.
In 2016, he became a spokesman for Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti. He starred in a short film marking the launch of Infiniti Q60 titled Tyger.
As of September 2017, Harington has been the face of Dolce & Gabbana The One and The One Grey fragrances for men.