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Your Dragon 2 or appearing in volcanic
blockbuster Pompeii as a slave-turnedgladiator.
This year, he's shaken things up
further, winning plaudits for his turn as a
shell-shocked soldier returning from the
Somme in the acclaimed adaptation of
World War I memoir Testament of Youth.
Even more intriguing is his leading role
in Spooks: The Greater Good, the big-screen
take on the popular BBC espionage series. It came to an end in
2011, after 10 seasons, yet Harington had never seen an episode. "I
came to it completely fresh," he says. "I said, 'Shall I go and watch
the TV show?' and the director said, 'No, I don't want you to. You're
a new character that's never been in the show. I don't want what it
was as a TV show to taint what we're doing as a lm.'"
With the plot kick-started by the dramatic escape of a terrorist,
Harington plays Will Holloway, a character known to the show's
main man, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the head of the CounterTerrorism
department. It was Harry who recruited Will to Section
D, after Will's father died in the eld. "There's a really interesting
dynamic between the two - a father-son thing that happens -
and a real animosity between them, too," says Harington. "It was
interesting to play that."
Playing Will was a world away from Jon Snow. "This is my rst
ever chance to do something in the 21st century," he smiles. "I have
a suit, hoodies, jeans and jackets - I got to keep all my clothes too."
You can almost sense the relief in his voice. Portraying "emotionally
damaged" young men in Thrones and Pompeii meant fantasy
scripts kept landing on his doormat. "I know that's where the
industry sees me," he says. "But I didn't get into acting to do
one genre or one story or one character."
Harington almost didn't get into acting at all. The son of a
businessman and a playwright (his mother taught creative writing
at the University of Birmingham), his early interest was journalism
- specically, war correspondence. "I was quite an idealistic
young chap, I think, and I liked the idea of going and changing
the world by bringing people's attention to con¥icts," he says.
His father, who ran trade shows for a living, took him to visit
World War I battleelds.
Born in Acton, West London, and
raised in Worcester during his teens,
Harington explains that he could
easily have gone to university to read
English before launching himself into
journalism. However, after staging a
production of Waiting for Godot at
school, he switched his focus to acting.
While most parents might baulk at
their child pursuing a career on the stage, Harington says that
his mother was relieved. "I think she was pushing me towards
acting to get rid of this desire to be involved in one of the most
dangerous jobs in the world," he says.
Still, there's a strong military presence in the Harington family
lineage, with generals - as well as politicians, clergymen, doctors
and baronets - among his ancestors. Most intriguingly, his paternal
grandmother, Lavender Cecilia Denny, was a descendant of King
Charles II, but Harington claims his early life wasn't riches and
wealth. "We were comfortable, but I didn't go to Oxbridge, and
yet every American interviewer I get says to me, 'You're related to
Charles II! Your grandfather's a baronet!"'
Despite his mother's concerns about journalism, Harington
pays tribute to his parents for allowing he and his brother, Jack,
to forge their own paths. "They never pushed us into anything,"
he says. "By the time I was thinking about drama school, it was
apparent I was that way inclined. That came from Mum and Dad,
who are big theatre bu§s, taking us to the theatre when we were
"I WAS QUITE AN IDEALISTIC YOUNG
CHAP, AND LIKED THE IDEA OF
CHANGING THE WORLD BY BRINGING
PEOPLE'S ATTENTION TO CONFLICTS"
Clockwise from left: as
Jon Snow in Game of
Thrones; with Spooks
co-star Peter Firth;
as Milo in Pompeii