JUST SO FANS ALL SNOW IT
British actor Kit Harington spends his time away from Game Of Thrones compiling varied film credits, including one playing a real person
Game Of Thrones fans know him as the brooding and noble Jon Snow – but that is not all there is to Kit Harington. The global hit television series takes up about half of the British actor’s year and he has made the most of his time inbetween to make some wildly different films.
Last year he appeared in the sword and sandals disaster epic Pompeii, and also voiced a character in the animated How To Train Your Dragon 2.
But his new movie, Testament Of Youth, provided a new challenge – the first time he has had to play a character based on a real person.
“It’s a beautiful and harrowing true story of a young woman who lost all the men in her life in the First World War,” says Harington, who plays one of those men, starring alongside Alicia Vikander.
“I have spent a lot of time in the fantasy world with Game Of Thrones, so I have loved playing a character who really existed.
“They are very different stylistically, but … I found Testament Of Youth offered more freedom as an actor.”
Harington says he felt a responsibility to the real Roland Leighton, a poet, and prepared for the part by looking at old photographs and reading his work, as well as all the letters he exchanged with his beloved, Vera Brittain, on whose book the film is based.
“It is quite a profound thing to play someone real, and I really wanted to do him justice,” he says.
Harington’s GoT character is becoming ever more central to the show, but the actor says that Snow, the bastard son of the late lamented Lord Ned Stark, is not a complicated man.
“There’s a lot of turmoil, a lot of frustration and rage churning inside Jon – and that’s where he keeps it,” Harington says. “He doesn’t overthink what’s going on with him. He’s not a modern man. He’s not seeing a shrink.”
Snow looms large in a crush of characters portrayed by an evolving ensemble of stars, including Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj CosterWaldau and Emilia Clarke.
Harington was signed for Game Of Thrones at its pilot stage after his run in the West End production of the hit play War Horse – which he had landed soon after graduating from London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
“What I’ve always responded to when watching actors is their stillness,” Harrington says. “When they’re not making too many choices. When they’re concentrating on what’s going on up here (taps his temple) rather than showing everybody what’s going on with gestures.
‘‘I believe in stillness, and that’s how I like acting myself.
“Maybe that’s what they wanted for Jon.”
But what is it he enjoys about this line of work?
“I keep asking myself that,” he says with a laugh.
“I like the moments: moments in a performance, moments of truth.
“The moments you find that no one else will ever know about – I like those best.”
Harington had nearly instant stardom through GoT.
“What’s that like?” he says. “I achieved it – or got given it – a year out of drama school.
“It’s amazing, too big a thing to process. The part that feels real for me is doing the show.
‘‘Walking on to set with CGI giants and talking about Valyrian steel – that’s the most real part of my life.
‘‘This (his arms sweep the Manhattan hotel lounge) is the unreal. My real life is more like fantasy than performing the actual fantasy.”
But acting may not be forever, he cautions.
“I have to look ahead and figure what I want to do,’’ he says. “It has to keep proving itself that it’s fulfilling me.”
Thrones has been renewed through to at least a sixth season, which starts production in July.
“But I can’t tell you whether I’ll go back to work in July,” he adds, acknowledging the everpresent threat that Snow will not survive season five.
“Might, might not.”
Alicia Vikander (Vera Brittain) and Kit Harrington (Roland Leighton) in a scene from the film
Testament Of Youth.