Kit Harington hardly needs an introduction to fans of Game of Thrones, but for those who are new to the story, lets just say that his role as Jon Snow is one of the most central in the series. The bastard son of the Lord of Winterfell, Jon has grown up without a mother but has had his father and siblings around him all his life. Driven by a hunger for glory and a chance to prove himself, he joins the Night’s Watch, and finds life there harsher than he imagined. Harington agreed to be interviewed while beginning filming on Silent Hill 3D, shooting in Toronto, which will reunite him with Sean Bean, who starred in the original Silent Hill film.
You graduated from drama school in 2008… but you had already landed the role of Albert in the South Bank (and then the West End) productions of War Horse. In what way did the role and play appeal to you, as an actor?
The role of Albert in War Horse was very much a dream role to walk out of drama school with. I’d been going to The National Theatre to see plays since I can remember and so to play one of the leads on its main stage was an incredible and humbling experience. That alone was appeal enough for me, you could have put me in the smallest of roles on the Olivier stage and I would’ve kissed you. But the play and part just happened to be brilliant as well. its a beautiful story and I’d encourage anyone to go and see it.
Who took you to the theatre when you were younger?
My parents took me and my brother to the theatre, I think primarily because they thought it essential to our education and development. My mother used to be a playwright so I guess it was a love of hers especially, but both my parents encouraged seeing and supporting theatre. My family was very supportive of me wanting to go to drama school and choose to be an actor professionally, they realised it could be a tough business but I think they wanted me and my brother to do what we loved first and foremost.
My family never pushed me in any one direction, they just supported.
I’ve read in a prior interview that you see your career as being one focused more on theatre than on film or television. What draws you to theatre, and have your recent acting experiences changed your views at all as to your preferences?
I love theatre and the stage. Going to the theatre as a child is what made me want to act, I loved film and TV also but I pictured myself on stage when I thought about acting. Having been lucky enough to experience film and theatre, and seeing how vastly different they are, I now want to continue doing both mediums.
When you had the opportunity to audition for Jon, what was your process like? Did you research the books and the character at all, or did you stick to what you were provided?
When auditioning for Jon I stuck only to the script I had. I didn’t pick up the book until I got cast in the pilot. When auditioning I find it easier to keep things as simple as possible, making choices on the information you have in your hand.
The scenes for the audition were Jon’s first encounter with Tyrion and his talk about the wall and joining the Night’s Watch with his uncle. Both good scenes. There were three auditions and each one was more nerve wracking than the last, its one of the most excruciating and exciting feelings knowing you’ve nearly got a part like that but waiting to hear the final word. I jumped three feet when I got the call saying yes.
The role of Jon Snow is one that, if the show goes the distance, will be seen as one of the pillars the series is built on. What sort of added pressure does that put on you, if any?
Only when I read the books did I fully realise what playing Jon would mean. He’s got an epic story line, a great one for an actor. I like that he goes the distance, if anything it means I can develop and improve what I’m doing over the course of the series and grow with him, its exciting. There is pressure, but I like that.
I believe a dog named Cooper was used for a lot of the scenes with Ghost. What was that experience of working with an animal like in those sorts of scenes?
Cooper was both wonderful and a nightmare. I think he played a wolf really well. It is hard working with animals because they may only get it right once and that’s the shot they’ll take regardless of what you did. there were times when I did my worst take when Cooper finally hit his mark. But he was great and annoyingly lovable and the handlers were helpful. I wanted to really get to know him because of how important Ghost is to Jon, but you have to realise he’s not your dog in real life.
One of the things John Bradley mentioned in our interview with him is that they’ve added some additional scenes for Sam and Jon. How does that relationship work, what is it that makes these two somewhat unlikely friends?
I love how David and Dan expanded on the Jon/Samwell relationship. Firstly, me and John get on very well off set, we clicked as friends pretty quickly and I guess this really helped in the process of building their friendship on screen. I think their relationship is a deep understanding of each other and each others needs. In this very sentimental and tough world where they live, its great that they have this close bond and a lot of the time its based on humour. Samwell lightens the pressure Jon loads upon himself and makes him see sense when he’s pig headed and Jon in return offers protection and friendship to a a young man who’s had little of either in his life.
At the first Belfast Moot, George had a signing at a bookstore, and you had apparently said you’d reached the fourth novel, _A Feast for Crows_. Did you consciously decide you were going to read the whole series at some point, or was it just a bit for research and then you just couldn’t help yourself with the rest? They are rather addictive!
They are addictive. I told myself I’d only read the first so I didn’t get too far ahead of myself but once I started that was it. I stopped reading just after [a certain, notoriously bloody event] because I needed to just start concentrating on book one and that chapter was so good I wanted to stop there. Hope the series carries on so I get to see that scene.
So are you generally aware of where Jon ends up by the end of A Storm of Swords, through browsing on-line, or have you tried to keep yourself from knowing too much more of the story past that point?
I do know some of what happens to him after the point I’ve read to. I think I won’t read further until hopefully we get there with the series. I want to keep it simple at this point and not end game with the character. I think its best for me to take one book at a time.
I think it’s safe to say that Jon’s initially disappointed and resentful about what he finds at Castle Black—it’s not what he imagined it would be. What motivates Jon to go there in the first place, in your view? What’s going on in his head?
Jon has always glorified the Wall and maybe because he has heard tales of when the Night’s Watch was a force to be reckoned with and was seen to be an honourable calling. But most of all I think his motivation to go to this place is his uncle Benjen. Me and Joseph Mawle talked a lot about their relationship and I think we came to the conclusion that they felt they had an understanding that both of them were outcasts in their own way. Benjen sees himself as a younger man in Jon and Jon sees what he could become in Benjen. I think at the point where we join the story Jon is at a definite crossroads, stay at Winterfell and serve under his brother or become a member of the Night’s Watch and be his own man. With his ambition there is only one option he can take out of those choices.
What do you think of where the series has takes the characters (especially Jon) compared to where it starts?
They all go on pretty massive journeys throughout. I like how brutally the world treats all of them.
Is there one moment for you during filming that stands out for you, whether off or on camera?
Walking on to the set of Castle Black was a very special moment. It was a kind of ‘oh my god this is Jon’s world’, I knew it had been coming but when you’ve pictured it all and then you walk into the reality of it… it gave me shivers. Also galloping through woods at night on horse back in full Night Watch outfit was pretty cool.
There’s a bit of a question around Jon Snow’s parentage, because his father won’t talk to him about his mother. How has this mystery, this not knowing such a basic detail as her name, affected Jon and your approach to playing the role?
This is at the core of Jon, whose main objective is to find out who he is. I think the question of his parentage gives him real turmoil, everyone has their agenda in these novels and this for me is definitely Jon’s, he wants to be loyal to his family and loyal to the Nights watch, but really he wants to know who his mother is.
There’s at least one very important scene between Catelyn and Jon that highlights the tension between them, because of his being born after she married Ned. How would you describe Jon’s relationship with her?
I came to the conclusion in my head that Jon had always avoided his stepmother at all costs, he doesn’t fight with her and he always obeys what she tells him to do. He hates her with a passion only because of the hostility that she has shown towards him all his life but he knows his place in what is essentially her home, he is the bastard child. He has always had to tread on very thin ice with her, he knows she wants him gone and he knows its only his father’s word that keeps him there. However the scene in Bran’s chamber is the first time he gets to stand up to her, he’s leaving and he doesn’t have to be frightened of her anymore, he can hate her fully and show he does. I think it makes for a great stand off, especially given the situation and who else is present in the room.
Is the process of acting still a learning process for you at this stage, or is it now more a matter of refining what you already know?
Acting is always a learning process. I’m sure if you asked an actor as experienced as Peter Vaughn or James Cosmo they’d tell you they’re still learning. And working with the actors I worked with on this show, young and old, was one of the best experiences of my life. You have to watch what other actors do and how they do it, its essential.
News recently broke that you had signed on as a lead to Silent Hill 3D which I believe is now filming in Toronto. What do you think of horror, as a genre? Is it something you enjoy personally?
Horror is not a genre i know a lot about but then neither was fantasy. Its great to be able to discover these different areas of work and see how they fit with you. I want an eclectic body of work and it seems so far that I’m building that.
If, as fans hope, the series gets the go-ahead for a second season… is there any particular scene or event from A Clash of Kings you’re looking forward to acting on the screen.
As far as an event goes I love the fight with Halfhand. I’m looking forward to Jon’s storyline with Ygritte. She’s the focus for him in the second book and it’ll be interesting to play with his honour and really mess with his emotions. ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’, great line.
So, how about a prediction, as a fan of the books: when all is said and done, when the dust clears and the last book (and last season, we hope!) is done, who do you personally believe is going to be sitting on the Iron Throne?
Hard one. I think its too early to tell and I don’t really want to hazard a guess. There are so many contenders, I’m going to let them fight it out in George’s head.
Thanks very much for your time, Kit!
Do pass on my gratitude to the fans, their support is so appreciated. I hope they’re as excited as I am and that they like what they see.