I’ve gotten to do a lot of fun and interesting things since starting this website, but waking up at 7 AM on a Saturday to video chat with Jon Snow was probably one of the most unexpected.
As I mention in the interview, we have been trying to get Kit Harington for years, almost since the moment he was cast. We came close this past year when Kit was in New York City for the New York Comic Con to promote Silent Hill. I was going to be in NYC a few days after the Comic Con ended and hoped he would still be in town so we could sit down for an interview. Alas, it was not to be. However, he promised, through his publicist, that he would do an interview with us before season 3 premiered. And that is how I ended up sitting in my home office at the crack of dawn on a chilly December morning Skyping with Kit Harington.
Funnily enough, Kit was talking to me from his mom’s basement in the UK, as his own computer was on the fritz. “It’s very cool of me, I know,” he says sarcastically. Except it is cool, because it is Kit. We chatted for roughly 30 minutes and, just from that bit of interaction, you could tell that Kit is a genuine and down-to-earth person. No sense of inflated ego, which you might expect from a guy starring in the biggest TV show on the planet. Just a regular bloke, happy to be where he is, but not at all letting it get to his head.
We chat in depth about season 3, Jon’s journey, the characters he meets, what it is like to work on location and also the experience of being on a hit show and how his life has changed. And, of course, we get his stance on indigo. So, without further ado, our interview with Kit Harington…
Winter Is Coming: Thanks for agreeing to do this!
Kit Harington: Not at all. Not at all. I really wanted to.
WiC: I don’t know if you know this, but this is kind of the culmination of a long attempt to get an interview with you. We tried way back, when they were first shooting the pilot. And we got a polite but strongly worded email from Mara (HBO’s VP of Publicity), basically tell us “It’s just a pilot. Calm down. We’re not doing any interviews.” So that was kinda funny. And it’s cool to finally be able to talk to you.
KH: That was before I even knew Mara, I guess. It was a long time ago, it feels like a long time ago that pilot now. I guess it was in some way.
WiC: Yeah, three years ago, I think.
KH: Hmm… yeah.
WiC: That is a long time, plus a lot has happened for you, so I’m sure that it seems like a lifetime ago. So let’s jump into it here. So you just got back from Iceland, right?
KH: Yes, about a week ago today, actually. It was a much shorter stint out there this year. Last year most of my stuff was shot out there and this year quite a lot was shot in Belfast and we had about 10 days or so in Iceland to get quite a lot done in the north of the Wall scenes, as it were.
WiC: And this year you filmed near a lake? Last year was on a glacier, but from the reports it was in a different location this year. How was it filming there compared to where you filmed last year?
KH: Yeah it was a different location. Last year we flew into Reykjavik and then we were in three different locations on the south coast. So we started on the furthest, which was by a big glacier, and then we worked our way back to Reykjavik, essentially. This year it was just the one location, we stayed at the one hotel. We flew to Reyjkavik and then flew 40 minute journey up to the north of the country. It’s quite big, Iceland. You don’t realize how big it is until you go there. It was a lake called Mývatn. A massive lake in the middle of the country. But the main difference was it was in the north of the country, so it was much colder. Snow was sort of up to our thighs.
It’s one of those gambles you take with filming in a place like Iceland, is that you go there for the beautiful scenery, but also you want the snow and blizzard-like conditions to show the harsh conditions north of the Wall. So the director has this toss-up; he goes and sees these beautiful locations and then you turn up on location and actually you can’t see any of the background because it’s so blizzard-like. And some scenes you want like that, to show the harsh conditions north of the Wall, and some scenes you actually want to show the beauty. So it’s a bit of a risk going to Iceland for those reasons. But I found this year was much harsher weather, much lower temperatures. It was amazing, as it was last year. I really can’t go on about Iceland enough, I’ve fallen in love with that country.
WiC: Do you find shooting on location is easier for you to get in character or do you prefer shooting in studio somewhere and have it be a little bit warmer?
KH: Strangely with this, a lot of the King’s Landings scenes, a lot of the scenes down south, they obviously go to Croatia and Morocco for those bits. A lot of the interiors are shot in Belfast in the Paint Hall. Whereas I found most of my stuff, I think I’ve been lucky, in that we’re always on location. It’s always some beautiful landscape somewhere. And personally I much prefer that because you are out in the open, out in an environment which is not a sterile studio. Even though the studios look incredible, the sets look amazing. Again this year I did very little which is studio based and I personally love that. I think as an actor, being in those kind of wild environments can only sort of help the scene, as it were.
WiC: Yeah, I can imagine. Did you get to revisit the Castle Black set this year?
KH: Without giving anything away…
WiC: Ah, you’re good, you’re good.
KH: No, with this series, you grow up learning how not to give anything away. But I’m still shit at it. (laughs)
KH: I don’t know whether I should say really.
WiC: Alright, fair enough.
KH: I think that would be a spoiler for everyone if I said if I did or didn’t.
WiC: When we last left Jon Snow, you were about to meet up with Mance Rayder. How was it working with Ciarán Hinds as Mance?
KH: Brilliant. This show, as a British actor, a British young actor who has not done a hell of a lot before it, it’s always incredible the quality of the cast they get for these older parts. You always know they are gonna get someone good for Mance. I remember [Thrones showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] emailed me saying that they had got Ciaran, I was sort of like a little schoolboy. It was brilliant. I had seen him in a play in the National Theather just two days before and was blown away by him. Obviously knew of his work, his huge back catalogue of work. He’s perfect. Because he’s originally from Northern Ireland, so he knows Belfast very well. He’s very magnetic when it comes to Mance, he’s got an aura about him which is very Mance Rayder. I was very privileged to share a few scenes with him. Honestly, he’s very good. And one of the nicest people I’ve worked with in Thrones, one of the most giving and sharing. Very good actor in that way.
WiC: What about some of the other new cast members. You worked with Kristofer Hivju? How was it working with him? He seems like he’s quite a character.
KH: He’s perfect for Tormund.
WiC: Yeah, he really does seem like he fits.
KH: He had this massive beard. And he’s this huge guy. Very physically right for Tormund. And he brings a real sort of wonderful excentricity to the part. I think he’s a really likable character this season, I know Tormund is in the books, and that’s what he really latched on to is that of this wildling group of people there needs to be people you dislike and people you like, so that you know they are just another group of humans in this whole world. They’re not the enemy, they’re not terrible “rape and pillaging” people. Jon has to see that they are nice, and that he has to like them, which makes his decisions harder in this season coming up. And Kristofer did his job perfectly, there’s a real bond that happens between Jon and Tormund this season, I hope it will be interesting to watch. And then there is Mackenzie!
WiC: Yeah, he was next on my list. How was he to work with? He plays Orell the skinchanger, right?
KH: Yes, the warg. Brilliant. I’ve obviously grown up watching his work within The Office or Pirates of the Caribbean. He was in a play called Jerusalem which if you ever got to see it was fantastic. And so I was very aware of his work and his body of work and who he was. And I get bored of saying this with people in this show, I think this show is cast in a way which is really good, they don’t just cast well with the characters and he’s perfect for Orell, but they cast genuinely lovely people. In this series coming up, we hate each other but we got on very, very well off screen. There’s a lot of hanging around off screen and he’d do some great general knowledge quiz questions for us all. And he’s great in this as well, wonderfully dislikable but also a colorful character.
WiC: You’ve kind of alluded to it already, but what can you tell us about Jon’s journey this season? The past couple seasons he’s gotten a lesson in learning how to follow, whether he’s following Mormont or he’s following Qhorin, just trying to be a good solider. But this season Jon goes on his own, kind of goes rogue a little bit. So, without getting too spoilery, what can you tell us about the lessons he learns this season and what his journey is like?
KH: I think from the word go in the series, in the books and in the show, he has all of these paternal figures looking over him. He starts with his own father, Ned. And then you have people like Maester Aemon or the Commander or Benjen and then you get to Qhorin Halfhand in the second season. So he’s always got these male older figures telling him what to do and where he’s going wrong. This season he meets Mance Rayder but obviously there’s a bit of a difference there in that he’s undercover, he’s a spy within Mance Rayder’s camp. And that was kind of interesting to play because again he’s got another older figure telling him what he can be, what he should be, where he’s going wrong. And I liked playing with the idea that finally he’s got someone he doesn’t actually have to listen to. He’s got to pretend to be listening to, but he doesn’t actually have to listen to.
There’s moments where he’s being lectured to again, and it’s a bit like right, here is what we’ve established – Jon’s lecture from an older male. And I think what’s interesting this season, he’s got an incredible story arc this season because he’s undercover within Mance Rayder’s camp and all of his vows are tested, the very basics of who he is and who he wants to be are put to the test. And it really, without giving too much away, he really gets tested about whether he should be part of the Night’s Watch or not. And it’s fascinating. This is my favorite season, I think, as far as storyline goes. They’ve only got better. I love the first season, I love the second season more. And then the third season has been… I’m really excited about it.
WiC: You called it an iconic season in another interview. What way do you think it’s going to be iconic?
KH: I think they’ve just upped the stakes again this season. Money-wise, although that’s not everything, but it helps in a show like this, that they’ve pumped more money in. The special effects which will happen which are quite incredible. And again there’s another deluge of new actors coming in, even in my part we’ve got Kristofer, Mackenzie and Ciarán, amongst others. And that’s the same in every other part, you’ve got a whole new batch of characters coming in. I can’t speak for everyone else’s bits, since I’m obviously so separated, but from what I’ve heard on set there’s been some really amazing performances. And yeah, RW looks to be incredible as well.
WiC: We’ve heard some good things about it so far. Excited to see it, but dreading it at the same time.
KH: Yes, it’s one of those, isn’t it? It’s the scene I’ve always been looking forward to seeing and I can’t wait to see it. It was quite an emotional few days on set for everybody, because of the nature of the scene. Obviously this is spoiler territory, but the nature of what happens, I think it was quite hard for everybody. It was directed by a guy called David Nutter who is just a fantastic director and who works at such a rapid pace that they got so much done on that scene. So I can’t wait to see it.
WiC: Excellent. Well I think that was it for season 3. But, since I said we’ve been trying to get you for a long time, I wanted to go back in time, go back to the early days, when you first got cast. Tell us about the audition process and what your first thoughts were when you got the part.
KH: Yeah, I remember getting the script through the door and I was still doing a play called War Horse at the time. And I got the script through the door and I read this pilot and I hadn’t read the books. And what jumped out straight away, going back that far just getting the script, is how bizarre this thing was. We’ve got a famous newsreader in England called Jon Snow and I was like ‘this is very, very strange’. But it was amazing. It was totally original, totally absorbing.
There were two reasons why I was interested in it, A) because it was HBO and getting an HBO pilot through the door you’re gonna take it seriously; B) it was like ‘what are they doing now? This is completely crazy. I don’t know who any of these characters are’. But I’ve never been so absorbed by a script, I read it from start to finish twice, I think, before I even started learning the lines.
But anyway, then the audition process, I first taped in front of Nina Gold. And then met David and Dan the second time, and then I met David and Dan and Frank Doelger the third time. And yeah, it all seemed to be going well. You get a feeling for auditions when you’re doing them, if you’ve got further than the first stage something’s going right or that they like you in some way, and they seemed to. It’s interesting, my third audition had a scene which they had written which was between me and Ygritte in the third season.
KH: So it was strange, me and Rose got to a point this season where we’d both done an audition scene from the third season, which we were never sure we were ever gonna get to. I definitely didn’t know we were when we were doing the pilot, but we finally got to that scene which we’d both done for our audition pieces. So it was a really nice thing to be able to do, to do our audition pieces in the third season and realize we’d got this far.
WiC: Yeah, yeah. At what point did you realize the show was going to become a big deal?
KH: I didn’t realize it was gonna be anything until, I remember I was in Canada, I was in Toronto filming a film straight after the first season. And I was very naive to what it would mean and what it would be like having this show come out. And it came out, and I try not to read reviews and things, but I’m sometimes weak and I do. Obviously this is a big thing for me, so it started coming out when I was in Canada and I kinda went the Internet and I was like ‘right, what are people thinking of it?’ And it was all positive! And everyone was very, very excited by it and I could see there was a real surge of people coming to the show and enjoying it. And I’d seen your website prior to the show even coming out and the fans of the books who were really excited about the show, but it was incredible watching a whole new influx of people go ‘pfffft’ (snaps head around) ‘Game of Thrones’. But then you start realizing it in a very real way when people start recognizing you on the street and saying that they enjoy the show and things and that happened quite quickly. Yeah, I experienced it in a very strange way. I didn’t think it was going to do anything. I thought people would go ‘oh, that’s an interesting show, great.’ But the fandom it got quite quickly was very exciting.
WiC: Do you get recognized a lot? Do you get recognized more here in the States? Or do you also get it over there in London walking around?
KH: You know, less so in England. If I’m abroad anywhere, and that shows the global nature of the show, if I’m abroad anywhere, be it South America, or Europe, Spain, America, then you get recognized quite quickly and quite a lot. In England and London, I don’t know whether it’s a cultural thing, we don’t stop people in the street.
WiC: They just whisper from behind their hands “Hey, that’s Jon Snow!”
KH: (laughs) Yeah. But obviously, at the moment, I have to keep all of this on (gestures to beard). Because I’m going to do a photo shoot for Thrones, a promotional photo shoot. So I’ve got to look like him. But the minute I don’t have to, I shave this off.
WiC: It helps?
KH: (chuckles) It helps, yeah.
WiC: That’s funny. So kind of about that, how does it feel going from being anonymous and now everyone recognizes you, walking out in front of thousands of people at Comic-Con and they are going crazy. What’s that like? To go to that in just a couple of years really?
KH: Very, very odd. And it creeps up actually, people think that it’s like, (snaps fingers) and you’re famous. But it creeps up with this show, when it first came out you get stopped every now and again or you’d have a photo with someone every now and again. And by now we’re on the third season it’s quite a lot actually that people will recognize you or ask you for a photograph. I’ve only ever found it, and this is completely honestly and I hope it doesn’t change, but I’ve only ever found it complementary and flattering and people are really, genuinely lovely when they come up to you. They are very polite and they say “I’m really sorry, but I’m really a big fan of the show and I love your story” or “I love the show.” And “Can I have a photo?” And it’s absolutely fine, you know? It’s not in any way bothering, that’s what I love, it’s not been a problem at all.
But yeah, it is strange. Like going to Comic-Con the first time, I kind of rocked out. I hired a Mustang in LA and I drove down, like such an English tourist I hired a droptop. (laughs) And I had like a vest on and I drove from LA to San Diego. I had no idea what Comic-Con was and I sort of drove through the town going “This is crazy!”, with the top down. And I pulled up at the hotel and there was just like this surge of photographers and people wanting autographs and things and I’ve got my hair up and I’m in a vest and I look ridiculous, sunburnt. Yeah, that was a big thing. There at Comic-Con you literally have to walk around in disguise or you’d get stopped too often.
WiC: That’s a good story. So tell us a little about yourself. We like to get a little personal in our interviews at Winter Is Coming, like what kind of hobbies do you have? What do you do for fun when you are away from the set?
KH: I write a lot. I try to write as much as I can. I think when you are growing up as an actor, acting is your hobby. Then you realize it’s your profession and it’s no longer your hobby. In a weird sort of way, I find it very difficult to watch films and TV anymore because you know so much of what goes into it that you find it very hard to watch objectively or lose yourself in it. That is one of the downsides of the industry. But anyway, before I broke my ankle, I loved playing sport and I loved rock climbing. But I’ve had to put that on hold for a little while. At the moment, I’m so busy that I sort of read. I read and that’s it. If I’m off set I read. Very boring.
WiC: Speaking of reading, I know you read the first four books. Did you ever get around to reading the fifth, A Dance with Dragons? Or are you staying away from it for now?
KH: I’m staying away from A Dance with Dragons for now. I remember reading, guzzling them up, when I got the part I just read all of them. And A Dance with Dragons came out once we’d already started and I thought I’d leave that for a while, actually. I know enough of what is happening for the next few seasons that I didn’t want to get too far ahead. But I’m now starting to think should I read it, because I kind of like knowing what’s coming. But no, I haven’t read it, no.
WiC: Ok, yeah. Well the way David & Dan are setting it up now, it seems like they are gonna mix and match with different books. It’s not gonna be a set book. It’s possible you might get some Dance with Dragons stuff coming up next, at the very end of next season. We’ll see how they work it out. Have David & Dan given you any inside information on Jon that hasn’t come out in the books yet? Because I know George has told them some stuff, or has George himself given you any inside information?
WiC: They are keeping you in the dark just like your character?
KH: Yeah, honestly no. I wish they had, but they really haven’t. I think there are three people in this world that know about Jon’s mother or what happens to Jon or, generally in the books, what’s going to happen at the end. That’s David, Dan and George and they keep it very, very close to their chest. So yeah, no one knows apart from them. I’d love to pick their brains about it but I never have, I’ve never even tried. I don’t want to test them.
WiC: You gotta go to the pub with them one night and get them a little…
KH: Yeah, get Benioff and Weiss really pissed!
WiC: And then just be like “So, Jon’s parents. Who are they?”
KH: Just spring it on them, yeah.
WiC: Yeah, it could work, it could work. Ok, here’s a random question. One of my writers, he’s done a lot of interviews for me, he’s interviewed Emilia, he’s interviewed Lena, John Bradley. [Ed. note: I'm talking about FaB, of course.] For some reason he’s on a campaign to eliminate indigo from the color spectrum.
KH: Right. That’s interesting. That’s an interesting campaign to have.
WiC: Because he says it is the same thing as violet. We don’t need indigo and violet. So he always asks everyone he interviews whether they are “Team Indigo” or whether they want it out of the color spectrum. He’s against it and so far the only person who’s joined him is John Bradley.
KH: (laughs) Of course it was John Bradley! Of course he fucking jumped in.
WiC: So we have to ask you, no pressure or anything, John says he’s on board with getting rid of it, everyone else wants to keep it. What are your thoughts?
KH: I love the name indigo. I think it’s a beautiful name for a color. So I’m going to have to go against John and say that I keep indigo in, sorry, I have to keep it. Ok, how about this, I would prefer indigo to be in, rather than violet.
WiC: Oh ok. That’s a new one. I like that, that’s a good answer.
KH: Campaign to get rid of violet, is what I’d say.
WiC: Ok, another question I have to ask, because one of my writers wants to know and all of the ladies want to know, Alfie took it off for season one, Richard took it off for season two, are we gonna see Jon Snow…
KH: (laughs) Maybe. Maybe. I don’t know how spoilerish to be, but if you’ve read the books, you’ll know that he does. And there’s a really, really beautiful scene, spoilers aware, there’s a beautiful scene this season between Ygritte and Jon. Which I personally think is really nice. We had a chat about it, me and Rose and the director, and it’s one of the very few times in this show that you have a truly happy moment between two people. And it’s a rare thing. I think we were very blessed to be able to have that scene and I hope it works and people like it. I really enjoyed doing it. But it’s a really special moment on the show, because it’s very rare you get a really, purely happy scene like that one is. Where they are shut off from the rest of this horrible world and they have a moment to themselves where they’re just happy. Especially for Jon who never gets anything fucking happy.
WiC: Poor Jon.
KH: Poor Jon, yeah.
WiC: Just one screw up to the next, it seems. Let me ask you what is it like working with Rose Leslie? Especially this season, I’m sure you spent a lot of time working together. Just in season two, the little bit that we saw, it seemed like you guys had great chemistry. Has that carried over to season three and what is it like working with her as your main co-star now?
KH: We’re very, very close, me and Rose. We’re very good friends. We instantly got on. We’re very, very lucky in that way, because obviously we’ve got a lot to do in seasons two and three. We share a very similar sense of humor, which is always good. You know you are going to get on with someone when you share their same sense of humor. So we just laughed as much as we could and actually had a great time. It’s great when you find someone like that, I found that with John Bradley. We had the same sense of humor and you can have fun on set and nothing’s ever boring. She’s wonderful to work with and she’s fantastic this season. Just mesmerizing. I think it’s going to be really interesting to watch people’s reactions to her performance because she plays Ygritte very beautifully, very perfectly.
WiC: Awesome. Great, I think that’s about it. Unless you have any questions for me?
KH: (laughs) No. All I’ll say is I love your website. It keeps me up to date. I learn more from your website than I do from the show sometimes.
WiC: Well we try to keep everyone informed as much as we can. We get a lot of inside info that I don’t know if HBO is always thrilled with us putting out there, but hey, the fans wanna know!
KH: The actors do too!
WiC: Alright, well we’ll keep it coming so that way you guys are informed, as well as the fans. Ok, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.
KH: Not at all, anytime.
WiC: Alright, take care and we’ll look forward to seeing you on season three!
KH: It’s gonna be a good one, I think. I hope!