THE SOPHISTICATED MAN’S HANDBOOK TO MATTERS OF SOCIETY, STYLE & CULTURE.
“I’LL ENJOY THE MADNESS QUIETING A BIT,” HARINGTON SAYS. “I’D LIKE A FEW YEARS OF RELATIVE OBSCURITY.”
When Harington was brought in to audition for the role in 2009, he’d never been on camera. He’d landed only one professional gig of any kind, when he was 21, as an equineobsessed World War I soldier in the London production of War Horse, in 2008.
Success came easily to Harington; struggle was not in his vocabulary. When he got the part, he was enrolled at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, whose alumni include Judi Dench and Gael García Bernal. He grew up comfortably in West London and then Worcestershire, listening to people address his uncle and, more recently, his father—a businessman and now baronet— as “Sir.” (The younger Harington seems embarrassed by his family’s royal forebears, who trace back to King Charles II, though he is proud of the ancestor who, in 1596, invented the flushing toilet.) His mother, a former playwright, encouraged his love of theater; both parents supported his career choice. “It’d be far more interesting if I said, ‘I never knew my father and I was adopted by my mother,’ ” he says. “But it was a very normal upbringing.”
Following an audition that he performed with a black eye—the result of a late-night brawl at a McDonald’s after a fellow patron insulted the woman he was with—and two callbacks, Harington was offered the role of Snow. He accepted immediately. “I’ve been very fucking lucky,” he says.
For Benioff and Weiss, experience didn’t matter as much as presence. “He just had the look,” they say via email. “The brooding intensity; the physical grace; the chipon-the-shoulder quality that we always associate with extraordinarily short people.” (Harington is five-foot-six.)
The cast and crew grew closer to one another, forming friendships that could at times resemble sibling rivalries. Harington pranked Benioff and Weiss more than once: He’d steal their phones and send texts that his friend and costar Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) declines to quote but describes to me as “disgusting, distasteful, and hilarious.” The showrunners gave as good as they got: One time, they sent Harington pages from a fake script in which Jon Snow’s face becomes disfigured by a fire, since, they told him, “HBO was worried that his underdog, outsider-hero thing was feeling too Harry Potter.” In my correspondence with them, for every bit of praise they give their show’s star, they throw an equal amount of shade. “It takes real strength of character not to let being Kit Harington turn you into an asshole,” they write. “And in the past eight years, Kit has not taken a single step in that direction.”
Harington’s costars are just as quick to sling insults his way. Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen): “There’s a consistent drumbeat of taking the piss out of his incredible hair and startling good looks. His hair just takes over everything. My ridiculous handcrafted wig doesn’t come close to standing up to his man bun.” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister): “There’s a change in the level of female lust in the room when Kit is there, which all the males find annoying and disrespectful.” Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth): “His hair has its own trailer.” The barbs even spill into the show’s scripts: After seeing Snow’s naked corpse, one character says, “What kind of god would have a pecker that small?” Benioff and Weiss explain that line: “There has to be some downside to being Kit Harington, right? It seems only fair. He’s handsome, talented, smart, and so decent to the core that it’s impossible not to like him. Maddening. The one thing we can do is saddle his character with a tiny pecker.” Harington’s reaction to all the ribbing? “They’re all reprobates.”
At the dawn of Peak TV, niche entertainment geared toward a small but dedicated fan base was supposed to be the future, and pop phenomena on the scale of Lost were supposed to be endangered species. Thrones proved that theory wrong. One measure of its enormous success is the dizzying number of think pieces it has inspired: “How Game of Thrones Explains Brazilian Politics.” “How Game of Thrones Explains Our World.” “Is Game of Thrones a Metaphor for the Spread of Infectious Diseases?” “Game of Thrones: A Metaphor for America.”
Martin is gratified to see his books and the show used to discuss everything from global warming to Donald Trump. “I think Joffrey is now the king in America,” Martin told me, referring to Thrones’ sadistic, power-mad brat. “And he’s grown up just as petulant and irrational as he was when he was thirteen in the books.” For his part, Harington would prefer not to weigh in on American politics. “I believe in experts,” he says. He found it “annoying when Sean Penn decided to get involved in the Falklands. I was like, ‘It has nothing to do with you, Sean Penn. Fuck off.’ ” Still, he cannot help himself: “Mr. Donald Trump—I wouldn’t call him President, I’ll call him Mister,” he says. “I think this man at the head of your country is a con artist.”
As Thrones enters its seventh season, its political resonance may only grow stronger: The head of a wealthy, ostentatious family sits on the throne. Refugees have immigrated through the kingdom’s border wall. From abroad, dragon-sized chickens are coming home to roost. Former slaves are revolting against the elite. Harington’s pure-of-heart,