Kit Harington Life After Game Of Thrones
Man's World|September 2021
Since laying down his sword in game of thrones, the english actor has been fighting other battles, including alcohol addiction and depression — and the first fatiguing months of fatherhood
Charlotte Edwardes

Every morning, shortly before he wakes up his six-month-old baby, Kit Harington rings his mother to express thanks; such is the revelatory insight he now has into parenthood. And, yes, it’s also for help when he gets the baby out of his crib, but, mostly, “I can’t believe I took them for granted like that. I look at our boy, and I’m like, ‘I’m never going to get the thanks that I deserve for changing all these nappies and looking after you’”.

The baby — Harington and his wife, the actress Rose Leslie, do not wish to make his name public — was born at University College Hospital in London in January. Harington has a phobia of needles and fainted at one antenatal, so no, he did not cut the cord. “I’m a real wimp when it comes to blood and pain.” His impression of the event is still his profound shock: “I remember saying over and again, ‘It’s a baby. It’s a baby. It’s a baby.’ ”

Fatherhood and marriage are central to Harington’s new life. Sober for two-and-a-half years following a stint in rehab, it’s a life for which he is very grateful — although cautiously so, because sobriety is a fragile thing. He feels settled now; retreating on the horizon is a period so dark he thought about taking his own life. It’s a period that overlapped with the last days of Jon Snow, the Game of Thrones character he played for a decade to an audience so fanatical that 19.3 million watched the finale. Life is “wonderful”, he says. “I have a child and my relationship is brilliant. I’m a very, very happy, content, sober man.”

But his expression throughout the first chat we have for this interview remains disconcertingly one of a very solemn, tortured, sober man. He struggles to get comfortable in his “too-short shorts”, and then he struggles with the light being too bright outside the window of his hotel room in humid upstate New York, but most of all he struggles with my questions, deciding at one point, “Yeah, I am talking shit.” Perhaps it’s the four publicists sitting in on our Zoom conversation, which seems extra even in this Britney Spears era. They insist they won’t interfere (they do). They have prepped me that he’ll talk about rehab, family, and work. But Harington gives short, closed answers until I feel as agonised in his company as he apparently does.

For the uninitiated: Game of Thrones, which ran for eight series from 2011 to 2019, is a sprawling ensemble piece with a cult following based on fantasy novels by George RR Martin. The England captain Harry Kane watched episodes to help him decompress between games in the Euros. The Conservative ministers Michael Gove and Dominic Raab are enthusiasts. For fans, Jon Snow became the ultimate hero: a soot-streaked epic fighter-lover who broods against landscapes of scattered dead bodies or drifting snow or drifting smoke.

As his character became increasingly central to the show, Harington, 34, felt increasingly visible in real life. He couldn’t go to Sainsbury’s without whispers following him down the aisles. Women screamed when they saw him. Sometimes they cried. So intense was the attention that when he appeared, between series, in a West End theatre production, the venue was mobbed. One fan bought a front row seat every night for 40 shows.

When I reference the adulation and mention how he’s often labelled one of the world’s sexiest men, he bridles. “I have a problem with being referred to as incredibly sexy, or a hunk or anything, because it’s incredibly demeaning,” he says. “It’s demeaning for both women and men. It’s demeaning for anyone to be categorised by their appearance, no matter how that might sound when some people might say it’s what gets me work. Well, I disagree with that.”

As he’s saying this, the screen freezes and his face is inanimate mid-complaint, like an insect impacting a windscreen. When he reconnects, I ask what does get him work. “My acting. I would hope it would be something that I bring to screen that’s not just f***ing how I appear.”

After a weekend tormenting himself that this was an awkward first chat (it was), he calls back without the nannying publicists, apologises, and wonders if he had been suffering from a bout of laryngitis. (Was there ever a louder metaphor for not wanting to talk than “I lost my voice”?). He says that not only had he been stumped on what to say about rehab, but he also felt “scared” talking about matters close to his heart. “I do have a genuine fear of being the subject of outrage if I say something that I do believe in, but that might, somehow, offend people generally, or a certain group of people.”

More on all this later. First, fatherhood. The initial three months were “slightly torture,” he admits. “A kind of hell.” But he’s getting the hang of it now, changing nappies and “being Dad” while Leslie, who also starred in Thrones, as well as Downton Abbey and The Good Fight, is out shooting a job for HBO that has taken them both to New York for the next few months.

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