When HBO premieres its highly anticipated fantasy series “Game of Thrones” this Sunday, the epic drama won’t just be filled with a host of complex characters, but a cast of fresh new faces to play them. And one of the most intriguing is AccessHollywood.com’s newest Rising Star, British actor Kit Harington.
Raven-haired, and with deep, soulful brown eyes, Kit joins the series as Jon Snow, the conflicted and ambitious illegitimate son of Sean Bean’s character, Ned Stark, a young man who early in the drama seizes a dangerous opportunity that leads him down a dark and haunting path.
It’s a hefty role, fraught with contradiction stemming from Jon’s unusual pedigree. While he’s a son of Ned — the King of the North, he lacks the full-blooded title granted to his half-brothers and sisters, and no one is about to let him forget it.
“I did spend a long time thinking about it,” Kit told Access of figuring out where Jon — who is commonly referred to as “the bastard” — is coming from. “With him, it was kind of like a complex emotional turmoil that he’s got going on, but you’ve got an instant sort of key into the character there – he doesn’t know who his mother is; his stepmother hates him; he gets on with his brothers and sisters. He’s loyal to the family, but he doesn’t know how to go about dealing with this huge ambition that he has.”
While he spent a great deal of time thinking about Jon Snow, Kit spent far less time auditioning to earn the coveted role, securing it after just three auditions. It’s a surprisingly small number considering how weighty the part is, and most especially because, prior to “Game of Thrones,” Kit hadn’t been on television or in film. His one major credit — the Royal National Theatre play, “War Horse.”
“What I do remember from getting the audition is just going, ‘Right! I really want this one,’ and luckily for me it was three auditions and I got it and I was over the moon,” he said.
Over the moon and quickly to the bookstore, where Kit picked up George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books, which the series is based on.
“When I got it, I read the books and then I went, ‘Oh, OK… This is a really cool story line. He’s got his own thing. He goes off and it’s pretty epic, and he’s a great character,’” Kit said. “That’s more what struck me when I got the part. Not really the size element of it, more the amount of stuff he’s got riding on him.”
Kit’s love of complex characters stems from his childhood. After spending his first 11 years in London, the family moved up to Worcester, in the English Midlands, where his mother Deborah, a playwright, would often take the family to Royal Shakespeare Company productions put on in nearby Stratford-Upon-Avon.
“That’s probably where it started for me I guess, just getting to see lots of theater,” he said.
“They’re great parents,” he added of his folks. “When I got into acting, [and I] said, ‘Right! I want to go to drama school,’ both parents were very supportive. [They] said, ‘OK… it’s a hard profession, but we’ll support you.’”
Another place Kit is feeling gratitude toward is the built-in “Game of Thrones” fan base that has been following with glee the leap from page to the small screen, all the while quickly becoming fans of the actors involved.
“I suppose it has, yeah,” Kit said when asked whether his life has changed thanks to the fan community. “I think it has, I’d be lying to say it hasn’t… Going on the Internet, you suddenly find these books do have a huge fan base and they do wanna know all about you. It’s nice actually, it’s a really great feeling.”
Also a nice feeling is trying something new. Since he wrapped up Season 1 of “Game of Thrones,” Kit scored his first feature film – “Silent Hill 3-D,” which is currently shooting in Canada and pits him opposite his “Thrones” father, Sean Bean.
“It’s strange, the first few things I’ve done, I’ve done with Sean, but it’s good. I get on with him quite well,” Kit said. “He’s a really nice guy.”
While the young actor can’t reveal much about his character in the horror franchise, he has been enjoying the new experience.
“I’m not sure what I can tell you about that. I’m in it… I’m a good size part in it,” he laughed. “It’s exciting to be doing something different like that again. I’ve done fantasy and now this is horror… But yeah, it’s fun, lots of monsters and scary bits.”
“Game of Thrones” premieres Sunday at 9 PM on HBO.