KIT

Af­ter nearly a decade of play­ing Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, KIT HAR­ING­TON is fi­nally ditch­ing his ar­mor

InStyle (USA) - - Directory - by TIM BLANKS pho­tographed by JOACHIM MUELLER-RUCH­HOLTZ styled by EMIL REBEK

Kit Har­ing­ton in a Bottega Veneta jacket, a The Row T-shirt, and Saint Lau­rent by An­thony Vac­carello jeans Pho­tographed by Joachim Mueller-ruch­holtz.

We

meet in East Lon­don on a rooftop al­most as windswept as a Wes­teros moor. Kit Har­ing­ton is wear­ing a jacket in an indigo linen weave and a shirt in a sturdy ox­ford cloth. He looks a bit like a farm boy dressed up for a day in town. The cas­cade of curls that was the sig­na­ture of his Game of Thrones char­ac­ter, Jon Snow, is tamed. For Har­ing­ton, the show is over. For us, the home­stretch of the most epic se­ries in the his­tory of tele­vi­sion has barely be­gun.

I cast my mind back to July 2011 and a Dolce & Gabbana event in Lon­don’s West­field mall. It was a month af­ter GOT had débuted on HBO. The pa­parazzi were swarm­ing around the de­sign­ers, Naomi Camp­bell, lo­cal It girls—and Al­fie Allen, the brother of Lily and an­other soon-to-be Thrones star. No one no­ticed the slight, pretty, curly­haired young man stand­ing all on his own. I went up to him to say how much I loved his show. He told me he was dis­ap­pointed that no one had rec­og­nized him.

“Those in­no­cent times,” Har­ing­ton, 32, re­calls with a laugh. “Those times when I wanted to be rec­og­nized. I was com­pletely naïve. I don’t think I was pre­pared for any­thing like this.” He doesn’t re­mem­ber the night. He was a kid. But that was how he’d got­ten the part in the first place. Jon Snow was writ­ten young, in keep­ing with GOT au­thor Ge­orge R.R. Martin’s char­ac­ters, most of whom were in their early teens at the be­gin­ning of the saga. “I didn’t have a beard back then, and I’ve got a bit of a baby face un­der­neath this scruff, so I think that helped,” Har­ing­ton re­calls. “Then they went for a com­pletely dif­fer­ent take. ‘Grow a beard. Look rougher. That’s what we want.’ I pushed out this scruffy thing that they had to draw on and fill in, but, weirdly, I re­mem­ber it as a rite of pas­sage. I’d never tried be­fore, and I grew this thing, and it changed me. I felt like a man … a young man.”

Ex­tra­or­di­nary as it seems now, Game of Thrones— the eighth and fi­nal sea­son resumes on April 14—was scarcely guar­an­teed suc­cess when it kicked off. “I hon­estly didn’t think about that at all,” Har­ing­ton says. “Be­ing in an HBO show was suc­cess enough for me. Un­til Sea­son 5 or 6, lit­er­ally that far in, I was think­ing, ‘Next sea­son, am I gonna get paid?’ That’s how I treated it. When we first got nom­i­nated for an Emmy, I didn’t know what that was. It was when I went to Comic- Con that I re­al­ized there was a cult fol­low­ing spring­ing up. And soon it was more than a cult fol­low­ing. It’s be­come a big­ger thing on tele­vi­sion … Yeah, I guess I have to slightly ad­mit that now—it is kind of one of the big­gest shows ever.”

How is Har­ing­ton feel­ing now that film­ing has wrapped? “You don’t feel one thing; you feel a hun­dred,” he says. “Sad­ness. Ela­tion. Ex­cite­ment. Dread, def­i­nitely. But more than any­thing there’s just this flick­er­ing light at the end of the tun­nel. Once it’s aired and done, I think I’ll just have this great sense that some­thing’s been lifted off my shoul­ders. I’ve un­der­es­ti­mated how much

pres­sure has gone with the show for 10 years.”

And never more so than with the fi­nal se­ries: nine months to shoot six episodes when it used to be six months for 10. “You’d come in for a week and be off for two weeks. But I was there the whole time this year. I barely left Belfast. For the last cou­ple of sea­sons I’ve done more days than any­one else be­cause of the na­ture of my char­ac­ter. There are just a lot of the bat­tles and the ac­tion se­quences.”

Then, fi­nally, it was over. “I think I got my fi­nal day changed about 18 times, to the point where I didn’t know when it was. I was like, ‘Just don’t tell me.’ Then it came, and I had that fi­nal scene, which was very av­er­age. I was just walk­ing some­where with Liam [Cunningham, who plays Davos Sea­worth] and Jacob [An­der­son, who plays Grey Worm]. It couldn’t have been more of a wet fart of a scene. But I com­pletely broke down af­ter it. I’d seen Pe­ter Din­klage do his last scene ear­lier in the day, and he broke down. I’d been at other peo­ple’s wraps, like So­phie Turner’s. You just saw them col­lapse. And it hap­pened to me. It was a beau­ti­fully weighted end­ing. Then it was like, ‘OK, I’m ac­tu­ally done with this show. I love it. It’s my pride and joy, and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of it, but I’m done.’ ”

Of course, when we’re talk­ing “last scene,” we’re not talk­ing last scene. “I still don’t trust that the end­ing that was writ­ten down is the ac­tual end­ing,” Har­ing­ton says wryly. “I think they kept it from all of us. The se­crecy this year was just huge.” At the same time, he teases, “No one I’ve spo­ken to has guessed the ac­tual end­ing. No one has got it right yet.”

One of the other tremen­dous perks of the show is that Jon Snow’s on­screen re­la­tion­ship with Ygritte turned into a real

life love af­fair: Har­ing­ton and his co-star Rose Les­lie mar­ried in June 2018. The cou­ple have bought a fairy-tale home in the English coun­try­side, with a wat­tle­and- daub ex­te­rior, a thatched roof, mul­lioned win­dows, and the sug­ges­tion of a moat, but there is a catch in this story of ye olde true love. “I think al­most the worst thing about fall­ing in love with Rose and mar­ry­ing her is that it’s go­ing to be very hard to work with her again,” Har­ing­ton says rue­fully. “Work­ing op­po­site her was one of the high­lights of my life and ca­reer. I don’t know when, if ever, I’m go­ing to get to do that again, be­cause we’re mar­ried now, and it’s hard to work op­po­site your wife.”

You get the im­pres­sion that Har­ing­ton likes to tor­ture him­self with such no­tions. It’s def­i­nitely some­thing he felt he had in com­mon with Jon Snow. “I’m quite a con­cerned hu­man be­ing. Deep down I over­think things. That’s where Jon and I part. Where we con­nect is that we beat our­selves up.” Five years into Game of Thrones Har­ing­ton was com­pelled to seek ther­apy. It was around the time his char­ac­ter died and was res­ur­rected. ( Metaphor alert!)

Now it seems he con­fines the self­abuse to his work. Har­ing­ton’s most re­cent per­for­mance was on­stage in Lon­don as Austin in Sam Shep­ard’s clas­sic twohan­der True West. “I love char­ac­ters that self- de­struct,” he says en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. He’s look­ing for­ward to play­ing more of them. “I’m not in­ter­ested at the mo­ment in play­ing a hero. Af­ter 10 years of play­ing a trou­bled guy who is a good per­son, I want to play some­one who’s not good.”

He ad­mits he was frus­trated with Jon Snow for a while. “He al­ways seemed quite thick,” he says. “He’s some­one who is driven by truth and honor. The fur­ther he goes, the stronger his prin­ci­ples be­come. He’s much bet­ter than me.” But as Har­ing­ton dis­cov­ered, it isn’t easy play­ing a hero. “There’s just nat­u­rally less char­ac­ter there. They’re harder to play than vil­lains. The thing I strug­gled with for a long time with Jon was try­ing to de­velop that char­ac­ter. Only now I look back on it and I’ve be­gun to be proud of what I did.”

It’s an ac­tor’s cliché that his defin­ing role should be both a bless­ing and a curse. Har­ing­ton is prag­matic. “I’m al­ways go­ing to be ‘that guy.’ For all its won­der­ful things, it brings dif­fi­cult things too.” But that is a dif­fer­ent, more pri­vate sort of re­gret from the one he is feel­ing at this mo­ment. “The most im­por­tant job I’ll ever have is about to fin­ish … ” He catches him­self. “Well, not the most. Hope­fully, I’ll be a fa­ther.”

And that’s some­thing else Kit Har­ing­ton will owe Game of Thrones. n

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