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BELFAST – When you die on Game of Thrones, sometimes you’ve got to become a ghost.
Nobody knows that better than Kit Harington, who plays the brooding Jon Snow on HBO’s epic fantasy drama. As fans of the show are keenly aware – and spoilers ahead if you’re not caught up – Jon Snow was killed at the end of Game of Thrones’ fifth season, betrayed and murdered by his brothers in arms.
Shocked and heartbroken fans naturally lamented the loss. What they didn’t know at the time was that Jon Snow would be resurrected through witchy magic early in Season 6, and that Harington was regularly on set in Belfast and other shooting locations in Northern Ireland, filming episodes for the season ahead.
But the return of Jon Snow was a top secret plot development that had to be concealed from prying eyes, meaning the normally out-and-about Harington became something of a phantom.
“Last year suffered a little bit on the social side for me,” the 30-year-old Harington said in an interview on the set of Game of Thrones Season 7, taking a break from shooting a scene set in the Stark ancestral home of Winterfell. The show’s much-anticipated new season premieres July 16 on HBO Canada.
Indoor sound stage shoots didn’t pose much of a problem, but the massive, week-long shoot for the epic Battle of the Bastards scene near the end of last season saw crafty fans going all-out to prove that Jon Snow was indeed back in action.
“There were drones on set during the Battle of the Bastards,” Harington said. “We’d have this kind of ‘Drone, drone, drone!’ (warning) and I’d have to run under an umbrella and get taken to a tent. That felt quite exciting.”
After a while, though, the novelty of this secrecy started wear thin. And any time he did show his face in public, questions would be inevitable. “Eventually there’s only so much you can hide it. You just end up saying, ‘I’m here filming a death scene,’” Harington said. Once Jon Snow’s resurrection episode finally aired, Harington relished “the relief of being able to walk around in Belfast… without making up some excuse, or trying to hide.”
As Season 7 gets under way, things are relatively stable for Jon Snow and the rest of House Stark. The despicable Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) is dead, Jon Snow and his sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) have recaptured Winterfell, and a strong alliance of Northerners are trying to come up with a plan to counter the growing threat of the zombie-like White Walkers.
“I think there’s an optimism (in Season 7), definitely at the start,” Harington said. Now that Jon Snow has been named the King in the North, “he can start trying to get stuff done, and start trying to save people and protect people and do what he’s been trying to do for ages.”
But while Harington was confident that Jon Snow would survive unscathed through Season 6 – fans likely wouldn’t put up with him being brought back to life only to be immediately killed off again – from here on there’s no guarantee of safety.
“It’s back to business,” Harington said. “He’s in mortal danger, like everyone else.”
While Jon Snow’s ultimate fate is uncertain, Harington knows his time with Game of Thrones is coming to an end. This season will consist of just seven episodes, to be followed next year by an equally short eighth – and final – season.
Game of Thrones made Harington an international star, and the impending end of this long, amazing journey is weighing on his mind lately. He plans to take some time off and think about his next step, and hopes to do more theatre and eventually produce something of his own. He’s not likely to be wielding a sword and shield again anytime soon, though.
“I’d step away from this (fantasy) genre, but I wouldn’t step away from TV,” he said. “TV, I think, will continue to become one of the most interesting, exciting mediums for an actor, and I think I would definitely go back into some kind of TV.”
But when he moves on, Harington said he’ll miss coming back each season to the cast and crew that have become like family, he’ll miss the work, and he’ll miss heroic, conflicted Jon Snow himself. “The costumes are so incredible, and the fights I get to do…” he said. “I’ll miss his northern grumpiness.”
WORST MOVES IN THE GAME
We love Jon Snow, we really do. He’s loyal, he’s noble, he’s kind and fair. But part of the Game of Thrones character’s charm, as played by the annoyingly handsome Kit Harington, has also been how brooding and awkward and sometimes plain dumb he can be. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” was his dearly deceased lover Ygritte’s common refrain, and while we’re not sure that’s 100% fair, she wasn’t always wrong.
With our fingers crossed that Jon Snow makes it to the end of the series – or at least to end of Season 7, which debuts July 16 on HBO Canada – here’s a fond look back at some of the King in the North’s less-than-finest moments.
During the very first episode of Season 1, the Starks found a brood of five direwolf puppies huddled by their recently killed mother. After the five trueborn Stark kiddos each adopted one of the pups – at their bastard (in the literal sense of the word) half-brother Jon Snow’s suggestion – Jon found another direwolf puppy nearby, this one a wee albino.
Theon Greyjoy gleefully pointed out that the unwanted runt of the litter should naturally go to Jon. Ouch. (The karmic balance was ultimately restored, though – Ghost is the only direwolf still with its owner, and Theon got his junk lopped off.)
Jon Snow is noble – and sometimes naive – almost to a fault, something never more evident than when he expected his Night’s Watch pals to be OK with him recruiting an army of Wildlings to fight by their side.
The Night’s Watch rangers were, in fact, very much not down with the idea, and it ultimately led to them betraying Jon Snow and going full Julius Caesar on him. Luckily the priestess Melisandre happened to hanging around Castle Black at the time and was able to bring Jon back from the dead.
For a guy who’s now the de facto ruler of the North, Jon Snow could probably use some tips on military strategy.
After vastly underestimating what a savvy psychopath Ramsay Bolton is, Jon almost got himself and his whole army killed in the Battle of the Bastards, until Sansa Stark saved the day by arriving with backup.
The “you’re damn lucky your sister was here to cover your butt” look on her face kind of says it all. Why the heck isn’t she the one in charge?
Jon Snow always plays by the rules, and that included remaining celibate while serving with the Night’s Watch, even though many of his brother’s regularly ignored that commandment and availed themselves of prostitutes.
But as Jon Snow’s romance with Ygritte (Rose Leslie) came to a head – no pun intended – the virgin Snow finally caved. Afterwards, Ygritte wondered if “that thing you did with your mouth” is some technique common to southern nobles, but Jon Snow explained that “I just wanted to kiss you there is all.”
It was awkward and cringey but also completely adorable. Not unlike Jon Snow himself.
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