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.
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.”
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