English actor Christopher “Kit” Harington, 25, has gone from a virtual unknown to international heartthrob in the course of a year, due to his role as Jon Snow on the HBO hit show “Game of Thrones.” In this Q&A, he talks about power, the rain in Northern Ireland, and how he dislikes the show being called “The Sopranos of Middle Earth.”
Had you read the books before you were cast in the show?
I hadn’t read the books. I got this pilot, though, and I read it. I knew it was HBO, so I knew it would be of a certain quality. To an outsider, at first it’s very confusing actually. Where am I? What world am I in? But it ended up that I loved the whole story. I loved the characters.
The show has been described as “’The Sopranos’ of Middle Earth.” What’s your opinion of that phrase?
I think we’ve all regretted that becoming the tagline for it. It’s not ‘The Sopranos’ of Middle Earth. It’s very different in a lot of ways. I was never a fan of the fantasy genre. But it breaks out of that box. As I read the books, I started to think it could be very popular. If it can turn me in that way, it could turn other people. The characters are so rich; the story is so deep on so many levels people can really lose themselves in the show.
Have you read the whole series thus far? And how do you feel about your character’s progress in comparison with his brothers?
I’ve read four of them. I’ve not read the latest one. I won’t give any spoilers away. But I’ll say he’s a very loyal guy to his family.
Would you recommend people read the books before watching the show?
There’s no wrong or right way. If you read the books, hopefully you’ll see we did the books justice.
Have you met George R.R. Martin?
We’ve all met George. He’s very much part of the series. I have nothing but respect for the man. I think he’s a genius. It’s amazing to watch him come on set. He’s got this whole world plotted out in his head. For the most part it’s very close to what he imagined.
Jon Snow’s relationship with his direwolf, Ghost, is instrumental to understanding his character. Which do you prefer: working with the husky dogs, playing wolves, in Season 1 or the larger, CGI direwolves for Season 2?
I much prefer the CGI version personally. This wolf is a big part of who he is. When I first got the part, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with the wolf, or the dog. But it just doesn’t work like that. The dog has to spend as much time as possible with the trainer. It was my first experience at film and I was learning along with a wolf a lot of time.
Wait. Your first time being in any sort of TV show or movie was with ‘Game of Thrones’? That’s a pretty big-time first gig.
I got really lucky. I came out of drama school and I did a play for ‘War Horse’ and auditions came through the door. One of the first ones was Jon Snow. I’m learning as I go still.
I spoke with Richard Madden [who plays Robb Stark] the other day and he mentioned that you guys have become good friends on the show. What’s it like working with Richard?
There’s really three of us. Richard and Alfie [Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy and, incidentally, is singer Lily Allen’s brother] and I met on the pilot. We bonded very quickly and spent the days together. We were excited about being part of this show. Both of them are really intelligent, lovely men. We’ve actually become very, very close friends off set. It’s kind of upsetting we don’t get to spend more time together on screen.
Richard told me he’s been stuck in Ireland, while you get to travel around the world with the show.
[Laughs] He’s always complaining about always being in Ireland. I got to go to Iceland, which is incredible. Poor old Madden gets all the rain in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is beautiful and we’ve got some really stunning locations. But I understand you want to break out of one place and go to different areas.
If there’s one lesson someone can learn by watching the show what is it?
Power corrupts. That’s been said a lot but it’s true. The show is all about power, essentially. It’s relevant on a political level today. It’s about what power does to people and what politics is. The best people to have power are the ones who don’t want it.
Are there situations in modern politics you think are analogous to events on the show?
I think so. Politics is a game and a profession. It doesn’t really serve the people the politicians are supposed to serve. The show sort of deals with that: The backstabbing. The behind the scenes stuff.
Which actors on the set are the funniest?
We lost a few of the funniest people last season. Jason [Momoa, who played Khal Drogo], Mark Addy [who played Robert Baratheon] and Sean Bean [who played Ned Stark]. The people who died off were a lot of fun on set. I love John Bradley, who plays Samwell [Tarly].
Why do you think so many women are gaga over Jon Snow?
I think Jon is kind of an adorable guy. You want to mother him maybe. Maybe that’s part of it. You kind of want to make sure he’s OK. I hope people root for him. He’s in this very cruel world and he’s one of the good people in it. Maybe people relate to him.
What should viewers be most excited for as the season progresses?
Episode 9 is a big episode. It’s where a lot of the budget was used. It’s one huge battle essentially. Like last season, Episode 9 is the climax. It’s got the great, slow build we had in the first season. You’ve got that arch. The whole world we’re in sort of breaks apart. It’s exciting to watch what happens to the characters.
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