This is how a hit television show can transform an actor’s life:
A few years before starting his multiyear stint as Jon Snow on HBO’s massively successful fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” Kit Harington was just another 18-year-old Brit, backpacking down the East Coast of the United States, looking for a warm bed but facing dwindling funds on the last stop of his trip, which happened to be Washington. Every cheap room seemed to be booked, and it was getting late when he made finally made his way to a hostel.
“They said, ‘Well, you can stay in the hammock out back,’ ” he said. “So I slept one night in a hammock, and then they put me in a room at the top of the building where there was a lovely but rather raving mad homeless woman that was in the room. And there was a tropical thunderstorm, and I remember being in this hostel on the top bunk with a raving homeless woman, and the lightning was flashing outside, and I thought, where am I?”
And where is he now? The 27-year-old is headlining his first movie, the disaster epic “Pompeii,” where he dons little more than a leather kilt and eye-poppingly chiseled abs. He plays Milo, a gladiator who thinks he’ll face his biggest challenges in the arena, not realizing Mount Vesuvius is about to blow.
Harington came back to Washington this week and admitted he’s enjoyed quite the upgrade in lodging since his last visit.
Television has become a powerful platform for actors. The length of a series gives performers time to explore the nuances of a character, and TV producers tend to take greater risks than film financiers. Becoming a movie star seems the next logical step, and yet it’s hard to imagine a film giving Harington more exposure than “Thrones” has.
“Pompeii” director Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”) knows all about that. He’d missed out on the early “Game of Thrones” mania with a busy filming schedule, but when his wife, actress Milla Jovovich, told him he had to watch the series, he gave the show a try.
“I watched the first episode, and I was so hooked, I watched the first two seasons in 48 hours, like a nonstop ‘Game of Thrones’-a-thon,” he said by phone from London. “And I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful series and a wonderful cast, but for me in the 48 hours of the condensed first two seasons, the person who really jumped out was Kit Harington playing Jon Snow. I thought this guy was just a movie star waiting to explode.”
But how does a movie star differ from a television star and does the distinction even matter? For Harington, the biggest noticeable difference is the amenities.
“I went from ‘Pompeii’ straight back to ‘Thrones,’ and I arrived on set and I’m in my tiny little box trailer, and you have to check yourself, because I said to one of the assistants, ‘Could I get coffee?’ And they were like, ‘Get it yourself,’ “ he said, laughing. “Of course, of course! I used to get coffees myself. What am I doing?”