Esquire (Philippines) - - NOTES & ESSAYS -

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,

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