Life Prin­ci­ples by In­jap Sia

IN­JAP IS BEST KNOWN FOR BE­ING THE MAN BE­HIND MANG INASAL, ONE OF THE MOST SUC­CESS­FUL FILIPINO BRANDS IN MOD­ERN BUSI­NESS HIS­TORY.

Esquire (Philippines) - - NOTES & ESSAYS - Pho­to­graphs by NOR­MAN JEAN ROY

He’s the face of tele­vi­sion’s most ob­sessed-over show. His hair alone has more fans than most ac­tors. But as Game of Thrones en­ters its sec­ond-to-last sea­son, KIT HARINGTON faces a dilemma:

To en­ter the next phase of his ca­reer, must he leave Jon Snow be­hind? By Lo­gan Hill

it Harington has bob­ble­heads on the brain. “I have to ap­prove a new one ev­ery day,” he says. “I’m not jok­ing. I’m asked, ‘Are you happy with how this looks?’ I’m like, ‘It’s a fuck­ing bob­ble­head—what do you want me to say?’ ”

To be fair to the prod­uct de­sign­ers, cap­tur­ing in plas­tic the hir­sute at­tributes that have be­come the ob­ses­sion of Harington’s many mil­lions of fans prob­a­bly re­quires a level of at­ten­tion re­served for con­ser­va­tors at the Lou­vre. And soon they’ll no longer have a live model: Harington is count­ing down the days un­til he can get a proper shave and a hair­cut. The time, as it hap­pens, has nearly come: He has one last shoot day for the sev­enth and penul­ti­mate sea­son of Game of Thrones, in Belfast, North­ern Ire­land. For now, the scruffy face of one of pop cul­ture’s defin­ing fran­chises is sit­ting across from me in a back booth at a restau­rant in New York’s East Vil­lage. He ar­rived smelling faintly of a freshly smoked ci­garette and wear­ing celebrity cam­ou­flage: thick-frame glasses and a base­ball cap, which is do­ing its mea­ger best to con­tain his un­ruly jet-black mop.

The hair will soon dis­ap­pear, along with, in 2018, the show that made Harington fa­mous. But what will live on is the out­sized, tor­mented spirit of Jon Snow, the frost­bit­ten hero he’s played for the bet­ter part of a decade: the brood­ing bas­tard prince who’s lost ev­ery­one clos­est to him; who was stabbed to death at the end of sea­son five and then res­ur­rected in sea­son six; and who will con­front the pos­si­ble an­ni­hi­la­tion of ev­ery liv­ing thing in sea­son seven.

Harington un­der­stands that his like­ness will be mass-pro­duced and hawked while the suits still have the chance to make a buck. But time is run­ning out. “With­out say­ing whether I make it to the last sea­son,” he says, de­spite wide­spread re­ports that HBO ex­tended his con­tract at $1.1 mil­lion per episode through the fi­nal thir­teen episodes—seven this sea­son, six in the next—“we’ve been try­ing to say good­bye to the show this year.” That means say­ing good­bye to Jon Snow, too.

Not that he’s re­veal­ing any vul­nera­bil­ity. For most of our con­ver­sa­tion, he’s af­fa­ble, loose-limbed. His con­fi­dent de­meanor cracks just once, when he re­luc­tantly agrees to show me some of the hun­dreds of on-set pho­tos he’s taken as part­ing me­men­tos. He reaches for his leather cam­era satchel, blanches, and leaps out of the booth; he can’t find the bag. His eyes go wide; he bends over like a fold­ing knife and sticks his head un­der­neath our ta­ble, then rights him­self and swivels around to in­spect the booth be­hind us. His panic isn’t just from a fear of lost mem­o­ries: If leaked, the im­ages could make their way online and lead to dev­as­tat­ing spoil­ers. He fi­nally finds the cam­era on a nearby chair nes­tled against the wall. “Oh, thank fuck!” he says, the ten­sion in his com­pact frame dis­solv­ing like he­lium from a bal­loon.

“Thrones nicely bookended my twen­ties, but I’m thirty now,” he says in be­tween bites of a very thirty-some­thing meal: pro­sciutto, a leafy salad, jas­mine tea. “Maybe I can rein­vent my­self and get away from an im­age that’s so syn­ony­mous with Thrones,” he says, his voice trail­ing off for a beat. “But maybe this was the role I was al­ways meant to play and that was it.”

In ret­ro­spect,

the raunchy ap­peal of Game of Thrones seems ob­vi­ous. But when it de­buted in 2011, the series was a mas­sive block­bus­teror-bust gam­ble for HBO, a costly pro­duc­tion with the scale and CGI of a Hol­ly­wood fran­chise. The nov­els mak­ing up Ge­orge R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, teem­ing with graphic sex (in­cest!) and spec­tac­u­lar vi­o­lence (cas­tra­tion!), had been deemed too ex­pen­sive, too provoca­tive, and too com­plex for the screen, big or small. Un­like Twit­ter, the joke goes, Thrones doesn’t have a 140-char­ac­ter limit.

Fur­ther­more, Martin’s series was—and re­mains—un­fin­ished. He’s pub­lished five of seven planned books, the most re­cent com­ing out three months af­ter the show be­gan air­ing. (Years be­hind sched­ule, Martin has stopped mak­ing prom­ises about when we can ex­pect the next in­stall­ment.) Thrones, then, was the rare adapted series with­out an end­ing.

The pre­miere alone re­port­edly cost be­tween $5 mil­lion and $10 mil­lion to make; at $60 mil­lion, the first sea­son was one of the most ex­pen­sive in tele­vi­sion his­tory. Still, HBO’s bet did not pay off im­me­di­ately. Just 2.2 mil­lion view­ers watched the first episode, about half the num­ber who tuned in to the first episode of Board­walk Em­pire, the net­work’s other sprawl­ing saga at the time.

Word of mouth and strong re­views helped that num­ber grow. At the end of sea­son five, in 2015, eight mil­lion view­ers tuned in live to watch Jon Snow die. By the time he came back to life in sea­son six, and with the in­tro­duc­tion of HBO’s new stream­ing ser­vices, an av­er­age of 25.1 mil­lion in the U. S. were now watch­ing each episode. (An HBO rep couldn’t tally to­tal global view­er­ship but said Thrones airs in ev­ery coun­try where Amer­i­can pro­gram­ming isn’t banned.) Along the way, the show broke records, both ven­er­a­ble and oth­er­wise: As of this writ­ing, Thrones has won the most Emmy Awards of any fic­tional series, with 110 nom­i­na­tions and 38 wins. It also re­mains the most pi­rated show in the world, peak­ing at 14.4 mil­lion il­le­gal down­loads for the sea­son finale in 2015.

Showrun­ners David Be­nioff and D.B. Weiss knew that the char­ac­ter played by the show’s most fa­mous cast mem­ber, Sean Bean, would be killed off at the end of the first sea­son, and that Jon Snow—a heroic coun­ter­point to Thrones’ craven ve­nal­ity— would be­come the pri­mary fo­cus. Who­ever played him would need to em­body a man so no­ble he could just as eas­ily be re­sented as adored. “Snow is a chal­leng­ing part,” Martin told me. “In the books, what’s go­ing on with Jon is in­ter­nal. I can tell you what he’s think­ing, but you can’t do that on TV. The ac­tor has to sell the depths and sub­tleties and con­flicts of his char­ac­ter.”

With a fore­word by Jol­libee Foods Corp. founder and chair­man, Tony Tan Cak­tiong

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