He's the star of Jimmy Choo's new fashion and fragrance campaign, but what does the British actor know about the future of Jon Snow?
"Get it out of the way!”
Kit Harington seems to be in no mood to talk about his hair. God knows how many times he’s had to do it in the last 24 hours. Maybe he's lost his sense of humour over it.
The day before our meeting, Harington spent all evening being drilled by French and British reporters about his role as the face of Jimmy Choo Man fragrance, his part as Jon Snow in Game Of Thrones, and possibly his film foray in Pompeii (although journalists had been cautioned to steer clear of that volcanic topic).
And then a fire broke out – literally, a kitchen in the hotel was on fire – forcing everyone out into the streets, while Harington was rushed to a more secure part of the building, along with a French fashion writer who spent an hour waiting with him as they chatted about ... stuff.
“He didn’t say very much,” she reported back later. “He seemed distracted and a bit distressed.” Visions of Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial accident flashed before my eyes. You know – "Tito, my hair!"
So, here we are on a Tuesday afternoon, at the Jimmy Choo office in central London, where they’ve somehow managed to get Harington in for one hour for a round of interviews with the foreign press who are still here for Fashion Week. Ten minutes is not a lot of time to get into a person’s head, let alone a celebrity’s mind.
But Harington is clear: Ask the bloody question about the hair, and let’s move on.
It’s meant to be cheeky: when you do cut your hair, will you: A) film it? B) give it to charity C) have a party?
He laughs. He’s not un-amused.
“I’ll probably do it for a role, whenever the role is after Thrones. I’ll probably film it, but I’ll keep it to myself. It would freak me out selling it off. I‘ll do hopefully lots of things for charity, but selling my hair is not going to be one of them.”
The face of Jimmy Choo Man
British actor Kit Harington, as he's often referred to by the American media (and sometimes even by the British press), has the kind of brooding “I’m an artist” type of backstory that serious actors kill for. He has family connections with English aristocracy, his mother was a playwright, and he was named after Elizabethan tragedian Christopher Marlowe, for heaven's sake.
He explored theatre whilst in college, landed a couple of plays on the London stage, and then television discovered him. Then an unknown, he was cast in HBO’s TV adaptation of George RR Martin’s fantasy novels A Song Of Ice And Fire. And it was goodbye obscurity, hello celebrity status – all at the age of 25 back in 2011.
“I haven’t wrapped my head around that,” Harington says. “I still deny that anyone would like to be me, or look like me, or smell like me – which is why Jimmy Choo Man is such a good thing for me ... because I smell so bad!”
He laughs again. “That was a good save! No, it always astounds me that people are recognising my work. It’s wonderful, and if all those things (you just said) are covered in that category, then I’m very happy.”
An actor landing a fashion and fragrance campaign is massive. It's like an athlete signing an Adidas contract, or a singer signing a Pepsi deal. For the self-professed London lad who doesn’t spend much time in Hollywood – apart from when he has to – managing a celebrity life must be daunting.
“That’s a valid question,” he says and pauses. “I always try and do things, not because of my celebrity status but for my career, and because I want to do them. The minute you start turning up at events, selling yourself as a celebrity, you lose the plot of why you became an actor."
“I wouldn’t say I’m not fond of Hollywood,” he adds. “I love going over there. I have loads of friends in LA. But I will only go for something to do. I won’t live there. It’s just not me. By going to LA five times year, you continue to be a novelty. And I want to continue to be so to Hollywood. I don’t want to outstay my welcome by living there.”
Harington admits that he’s thought about campaigns for a while, and even turned down a few. But when Jimmy Choo came to him, because he knew the brand and the reputation they had, he marched right into the fashion kingdom.
“Frankly, I like their products, I like their shoes and I see it as helping my career,” he says. “So as far as how I’m handling celebrity life, I hope I never have to handle it other than the obvious.”
The character that’s Jon Snow
And so we come to Game Of Thrones, a TV phenomenon with so much already written and spoken about it. Harington is aware of how intensely personal fandom feelings are about the series and its characters. As a boy, he also loved fantasy fiction – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Harry Potter, and Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
“I’m a fanboy of Thrones now. I know it as well as anyone does as I’ve lived it,” he says and proceeds to champion the fans. “Thrones proved that being geeky can be quite acceptable and cool. We have some of the most intelligent fans in the world. People into fantasy fiction can be some of the most creative minds out there.”
He’s right. A Google search of Thrones fan fiction work brings up hundreds of outlandish and shockingly insane stories – most of them closer to the explicitly sexual TV adaptation than the original books. There are Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen stories that put the series writers to shame. And there are shameless Jon Snow and Robb Stark hook-ups that would make Cersei Lannister blush.
On that matter, however, Harington knows nothing.
“I’ll leave that one,” he says. “I honestly didn’t even know that existed.”
Harington, apparently, doesn’t read anything on the Internet.
“Because that’s where madness lies,” he says. “I did that at the start and all you end up doing is trolling through for negative comments about yourself. You’re affirming negative things about yourself, not looking at the positive. It’s egotistical. I don’t want to do that. It’s not helpful.”
Meanwhile, the fifth season of Thrones is scheduled to premiere in 2015, adapting material from A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons, the fourth and fifth volumes in Martin’s novels.
With the show catching up to the books – season six of Thrones is planned for 2016 – and Martin still working on the manuscripts for The Winds Of Winter and A Dream Of Spring, it’s not unreasonable that Harington’s extremely popular portrayal of Snow might influence the outcome of the character.
“It’s a valid question. It’s one I’ve thought about,” he admits, “but I don’t think it will. George has a very, very clear carved out process for all those characters. Also, Jon Snow is so established as having a certain personality ... I portrayed him the best I could as far as how I wanted to, and as far as how he was in the books.”
Despite Thrones’ merchandising using Harington’s features more than the book’s original illustrations, he’s careful to point out that there is Jon Snow the book character and Jon Snow the TV personality, and they are two separate entities. Martin may have created the character, but HBO has taken huge creative licences for great TV entertainment.
“In the book he’s 14! It’s a very different character now that we’ve aged him. That’s the thing I’ve always struggled with – matching his personality in the book with someone my age, and to find that meeting point.”
Harington says he’s not bothered that he and Jon Snow will be inexplicably linked for the rest of their lives – much in the same way Daniel Radcliffe is forever Harry Potter and Elijah Woods is Frodo Baggins – because it means he’ll always work.
“I will forever be Jon Snow," he insists. "The show is so big that I will always be attached to that. But if you look at what Daniel’s doing now – he’s using everything he’s done to go off and do other things – theatre, exploring acting in another way. Down the line somewhere, hopefully there’ll be something as successful (as Thrones), and then I’ll be Jon Snow and so-and-so. But I can’t complain about playing a single character.”
As we wrap up our interview, Harington gamely fields a few parting shots about Thrones.
Do you think George will kill you?
“I don’t know.”
But if you had a choice, how would you want Jon Snow to live or die?
“I don’t know. I don’t want to predict anything in the book.”
Maybe Ygritte was right after all.