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7 Questions with… Kit Harington: ‘For 10 years, I was the least comic character on TV… Modern Love felt very refreshing’
The Game of Thrones star talks about how playing Jon Snow has affected his career, what love advice he’d give to his younger self, and why he doesn’t use social media.
Kit Harington was the object of many Game of Thrones fans' affections when he played Jon Snow – and now he’s set for more romance in the new series of Amazon Prime Video’s Modern Love.
In the episode, Strangers On A Train, his character Michael connects with a stranger – but will the coronavirus pandemic scupper their plans to meet again?
Kit spoke to BT.com and other press about the new series, why the pregnancy of his wife (his Game of Thrones co-star Rose Leslie) helped him decide to take the role, and whether ‘the one’ really exists.
1. After the success of Game of Thrones, has it changed your career path?
I never really, in honesty, have got much of a plan. I just go where the writing looks good and the thing works with my life and and I try and pick the parts that I find interesting.
For 10 years I did possibly the least comic character on TV - literally could not crack a joke. And when they did give me a joke, it just didn't work.
So doing something like Modern Love where there's a bit of humour and a bit of lightness just felt very refreshing thing to do.
I love anthology stuff. I did Criminal, which I loved, and I'm doing another piece after this which is similar. It kind of gives me the opportunity. Modern Love is great - you get to jump in, tell this little story, and get out. And then that little tiny chamber piece exists and hopefully speaks to people. But it's very manageable.
Right now, I think there's a reason I'm doing those single pieces because I spent eight years doing one character. I want to vary up what I'm doing and do as many things as I can. I don't want to get tied to this same character for a long period of time - I've done that for a while.
2. How does the romance compare between the two shows? Could Jon Snow and Ygritte star in an episode of Modern Love?
Probably not. It'd be a depressing episode, wouldn't it? It would definitely end badly - probably with death. And that's not the Amazon Modern Love template. So very different stories, very different shows.
I described the experience of Modern Love to someone earlier as sort of like a high-budget indie movie, in a weird sort of way. It feels very opposite to Thrones. Thrones felt like a big budget movie. This was a small crew, an intimate way of shooting - but with a with a healthy budget that can make it look amazing. And that's a really satisfying way of working.
It's like doing a little short film. It was half an hour, 40 minutes, which is about a week's worth of work and meant it was very condensed. And I can really concentrate on that story. I don't think there's going to be a Modern Love/Game of Thrones sort of mash-up anytime soon.
3. Do people ever think Game of Thrones is based on history?
Yeah, I've met people who have said, "I don't know about that Game of Thrones stuff - I've never been much of a history buff". And you're like, "Really? I'm not sure you have to be!"
4. Why don’t you use social media, and what do you think Modern Love tells us about love in the 21st century?
I just don't entirely trust it [social media]. And with that, I mean I don't trust myself on it. I don't think it's going to be very good for my mental health. So I just avoid it and I find that an easier way of living my life.
Plus, I think my wife would take the p**s out of me every day I'm alive if I went on social media, so I'm just not going to suffer that.
I think it [Modern Love] tells us all the different varieties of love in the 21st century. Love is varied and can happen anywhere with anyone. That's a wonderful thing and the show expresses that.
It's within living memory, amazingly, that that was not the case - it's well within living memory that you would never show a gay couple on on TV, or a couple from mixed race backgrounds. Things like this, we take for granted now in a way. Modern Love is actually very revolutionary in that way and that's amazing to me. That's the most fantastic thing about it, that we get we get that on our screens.
What I liked about [this episode] was that these two people decide not to do the usual thing of swapping numbers even, or Instagram or Facebook or anything. They go, ‘do you know what, we're going to do this in a way that is more romantic without all of this modern technology that dominates our life now. We're going to do that’. And of course it backfires, but there is romance to that.
Why Modern Love is interesting, it's dealing with romance in the modern world. And these two, actually, it's a kind of antithesis of the 'modern love' term. They've gone, "No, we don't want to do modern love in the modern ways - we want to do it the old way".
That's why you have this motif of strangers on a train and and them on a platform of the 1940s, people coming through. It's this rejection of dating apps or text messaging, and I think it creates a really romantic story, actually, once you take those things away.
5. Was it important to be part of a more lighthearted take on the start of the pandemic?
Yes. From the few people I know around me who have watched my episode or being given an early view of it, the overriding feeling is, "I needed that, I just needed to watch something lighter".
We live in a very complicated world for many reasons at the moment and I think our music, our art, our drama reflects that. But there's a need for relief from our anxiety. There is a real need for it. And I believe Modern Love is a really intelligent way of giving people that relief. My episode deals with the pandemic directly, but it does so in a way that you go: People can still fall in love. Human connection can still happen. There is hope.
And it's one of the reasons I did this piece. I wasn't in a place where I wanted to do something particularly dark. I said yes just when my wife had become pregnant, I was feeling very weirdly upbeat and at the same time terrified about the world. This felt like something I needed to do.
I think my episode of Modern Love is the only one that deals with it [the pandemic] directly. That's one of the things I really liked about the episode, that it was the first piece I'd read or seen that was dealing directly with consequences of the pandemic. I don't think we're going to live in a world now where we see people with masks on screen. I think we're going to move past it. We'll move to a place that we were at before unless it's directly dealing with what happened to us over these last two years. I think that's that's the only way we can. It exists.
6. Do you believe in love the way that your character Michael does - that there is 'the one'?
I have to be careful what I say here - my wife might take umbrage to whatever my answer is - but I don't. I think there are many people that you might be right for out there.
I don't believe in this romantic ideal of 'the one'. I think relationships are far more complicated than than that. I think they take a lot of work on the most part.
Commitments for life about relationships are important because they make you commit to that work. Getting married as a commitment to working towards a relationship as hard as you possibly can. It doesn't mean it will always work out, and sometimes it shouldn't.
But I think that Michael in this, he is an absolute searing romantic, no doubt about it. The interesting question this poses is what's your moral duty to society compared to your selfish duty as a person? And how important is it not to let something beautiful go for the sake of other people's safety? That's just a really interesting question in this. He proves himself to be quite a selfish person I think, by the end. But do we blame him for it? I don't know. I don't really. I think we all made selfish choices during the pandemic to a greater or lesser extent, and we all had to make those choices. I think we can understand him on that level.
It's nice transporting yourself back to a place where you might be on a train and you might meet another person, and you might have that flutters of 'God, this could be love'. I'm well past that now, I'm in a marriage, so it was nice to live that kind of dream in my head somewhere. That's what I related to with with Michael.
I think they make the right moral choice at the start of this story. "I feel like I want to kiss you now". They don't, they shouldn't - they touch elbows. And then they live in this kind of cocoon state where you can build anything up in your imagination. They might see each other. He might wait for her at the end of the road there for up for ages. They see each other and they go, "Na". Who knows?
7. If you could give love advice to your younger self, what would it be?
That's a lovely question. If I was to meet my 23-year-old, 24-year-old self, I'd say, ‘don't sweat it. Stop thinking about where this is going and what might happen. Enjoy whatever it is in the day, and take that a day at a time’.
We tend to, when we're young, catastrophise everything - "This is the end of the world! What am I going to do?!" It's not and it doesn't have to be. And if things are meant to be, they're meant to be.
I think I would say to my 23-year-old self, "It's going to be OK. You don't need to worry. Stop thinking about the future. Do you like this person? OK. Do you like them today? OK, well tell them". That's that's what my advice would be.
Modern Love season 2 is available on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 13. Season 1 is streaming now.