Filming on the last ever ‘Game Of Thrones’ season has wrapped, so RSNG caught up with Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow. We found out how he trains his body to play the sword-swinging, horse-riding warrior king, why he’s a laid back pessimist and what’s going to happen if he hears, ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’, in the street again…
RSNG Do you ever tire of playing Jon Snow?
KIT HARINGTON, ACTOR ‘No, never. He is evolving just like I am – he’s deep and getting deeper.’
RSNG How would you describe your own personality?
KT ‘I'm a pretty calm person. I'm like my father in that respect. He's very good in emergencies. Once, when we were kids, my brother and I went sailing with my father and we got caught in a terrible storm. I remember my brother and I were terrified but he stayed completely calm. He didn't even raise his voice or show any fear during the whole ordeal.’
RSNG Are you an optimist or pessimist in life?
KT ‘I take a laissez-faire attitude to stuff and I'm always cynical about everything. So I would say I'm pretty much a pessimist about everything. I'm a Brit. So I take my Dad's opinion of things: “An optimist is just a pessimist without the facts.”’
‘I'm always prepared for the worst. “Well, you know, we'll see what happens.” And if the worst does happen you just go, “Ah, well.” But inside I'm hoping that things go really well.’
RSNG We know Game of Thrones’ links to Iceland and other desolate places. What’s it like to spend time there?
KT ‘I would urge anyone to go to Iceland at some point during their life. I'm not a spiritual person, but it's an incredibly spiritual place. It's very quiet and the people are very calm and Scandinavian. They're also bonkers at the same time.’
‘They have a wonderful saying in Iceland that one of the local people taught me: “Every year we send out a band to the world and then they come back, and if they conquer the world we go, “Hoo-gah! Hoo-gah! Hoo-gah!” And I was just like, “You're all nuts.” I love Icelanders.’
RSNG A lot of your acting work involves combat – is that important to you?
KT ‘It’s just the way things fall, I think. I mean, there is history in my family and I have always looked back on the experiences of some of my family to really help me work a way into a role or a character, and that has been helpful; but I wouldn’t say it’s a conscious decision.’
‘On my mother's side, there are actually some very interesting stories, involving her great uncle I believe. We’ve still got a medal for bravery – he was a doctor during World War One and there is quite a moving letter that has survived for what is 100 years. It says stuff like “under the most trying circumstances,” which sounds so sort of flippant. You know that ‘trying’ in the First World War meant ‘pretty horrific’. On my father’s side, my great great grandfather was a general in the First World War, so two different sides of the coin.
‘If I’ve done four hours in the gym, it’s tough to get back and then get into scripts’
RSNG What sort of time do you put into your fitness and strength training?
KT ‘If it’s day to day I’ll look at about two hours. A lot depends on where we are with filming schedules, where I am geographically, if I’m tired from work the previous day… But I know the importance of sticking to some sort of routine, even on those days when it feels so tough.’
‘If I’m specifically in training for something, I’ll step it up, usually times two. For Pompeii, the training was as hard as anything I have experienced. That was full-on, four times a day – fight training for about half an hour, cardio for an hour and weight training for an hour.’
RSNG Do you find it easy sticking to something that’s full-on?
KT ‘I think a lot of fitness is habit – you switch off from the pain or the monotony; you find a way to silence those elements, and that lets other things take over.’
‘Sometimes the biggest challenge becomes what you do outside of a program. If I’ve done four hours in the gym, it’s tough to get back and then get into scripts, and it’s retaining that energy outside of building strength and power that can feel like the hardest thing. That’s why proper recovery is so important.’
RSNG So, there are no shortcuts?
KT ‘No, I learnt quite early on there are none! For me it’s about being the most efficient I can with the time I’ve got. And I was taught to consider that right down to giving my body the best workout and the most efficient recovery time. For instance, I may be doing a lot of strength, but I know to match it with mobility exercises. That means the muscles are being given extra mass but added flexibility too – it’s like a two in one.’
RSNG What about activities outside the gym?
KT ‘I think playing Jon Snow has been a remarkable life experience for me, not just in terms of Game of Thrones and what it has done for my career, but also in the sense that it has given me the chance to try out things I just wouldn’t have done before, and to actually get quite good at them, whether that’s rock climbing, horse riding, or other outdoor pursuits.’
‘I will now happily match up indoors and outdoors, but am at the stage where I feel I can do a routine in either justice, and I’m not just there pretending to know how to do something.’
RSNG So would you say you have a much better understanding of your body’s potential now?
KT ‘Yes and no. I think I know what I’m capable of, and certainly I know how to get back to that point of supreme fitness. But there is always a factor of time, and first and foremost my job is to be an actor. I think having potential in anything is an interesting concept. It’s exciting but it also represents frustration that you aren’t there yet, and may never get to that point.’
RSNG How does you profile or persona change for movies vs TV work?
KT ‘As far as my profile goes, you always have worries about movies, how it will affect your career, did you make you last choice… Looking back on something like Pompeii, I was on busses and billboards all over London for a month which, whether I like it or not, is not always a pleasant thing. But movies get your name out there and that is a good thing – you can’t have one without the other.’
RSNG Is it a pressure taking on other movies after Thrones?
KT ‘I really try, most of the time, not to feel pressure or else I'll simply crack at the seams, but Thrones very quickly got to the stage where it felt like the only thing, where everyone who's watching it, it snowballs. Everyone who's being told about it, has now watched past seasons and caught up with it so there will be more people for this new one and it just gets bigger and bigger. And there is pressure there, but actually, I don't really feel it.’
‘If I was to think too hard about the size of it, and the amount of people watching it and the importance to the future of me as an actor and what people think of me, it wouldn't do me any good at all. It's powerful when people come up to you. You feel it. Obviously, it has its hazards but I can't say I have felt overwhelmed by it at all.’
‘I’ve spent so much time learning how to dismantle a gun and put it back together, disarm someone, how to fire’
RSNG Even when people say to you, ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’?
KT ‘That does get a little annoying. I don't know why people try to make catchphrases out of things – just enjoy the line on the show!’
RSNG How secret are plans for the new season?
KT ‘Well, very. The books haven’t stayed true to form and it's very secretive at the moment, as you can imagine. It’s so secretive what we're doing, we literally have to sign the scripts and the like – I can't tell my family. And that's also why exactly I don't have Twitter.’
RSNG What feels more natural, sword or gun?
KT ‘A sword, but I have in the past spent so much time learning how to dismantle a gun and put it back together again, disarm someone, how to fire. I got pretty proficient at it.’
RSNG And you must have gone through training for physical combat in the past?
KT ‘Yeah, to a dangerous extent. If I get held up on the street, I hope I won't attempt it, haha! One too many, “You know nothing Jon Snow”, and yeah, we'll see what happens…’
WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer teaser for the new Game Of Thrones Season 8, out in April 2019.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.