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[This story contains spoilers for Eternals.]
Kit Harington still feels a bit uncertain about joining another franchise so soon after the completion of Game of Thrones, but the chance to play a compelling character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was too tempting to pass up. In Chloé Zhao‘s ambitious blockbuster, Eternals, Harington plays Dane Whitman, a caring museum worker and present-day love interest of Gemma Chan’s Sersi. The latter was once involved with Ikaris, who’s played by Richard Madden, one of Harington’s closest friends since their days as half-brothers on Game of Thrones. While Harington understands the attention surrounding their on-screen reunion, he, along with Madden, remain relatively unaffected by it.
“I’ve said this a few times, but it’s true: we really didn’t have a lot of time on set together on Game of Thrones. So it’s strange,” Harington tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Our closeness is not built in front of camera; it’s built behind camera. For fans of Game of Thrones, to see two major roles from that world in another one feels like a bigger thing than it does to me and Richard.”
While Harington doesn’t yet know the particulars of Whitman’s future, he can’t help but analyze the Eternals post-credit scene that features his character and a family heirloom.
“There is no roadmap that I know of at the moment. If they have ideas about where my character goes, I’m not privy to it,” Harington shares. “All I know is that when I came on board, they said, ‘There’s a really interesting future for this character, and if you read up about him, there are many different ways we could go with him.’ And that intrigues me. I’m fascinated by the idea that any character in any story is driven by some addiction to something. And with [Dane Whitman], it’s very palpable that this sword, this blade, has an addictive pull on him, and I find that really interesting.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Harington also discusses Zhao’s affinity for natural light and how that impacts his performance. Then he addresses the possibility of reuniting with another Thrones co-star and dear friend, Emilia Clarke, in the MCU.
Well, Kit, you did your job quite well because you left me wanting more of Dane Whitman.
That makes me happy that you think that. That was probably my objective in this. I was only in it for a limited period of time, so I kind of needed the audience to warm to him. He was humanity or he represented humanity, really.
I have to admit that I was quite surprised to see you join another massive franchise so soon after Game of Thrones ended, but if you’re going to commit to another franchise, Marvel is certainly the place to be. So what was on your mind as you weighed this decision?
It’s a good question because I guess the phone call for this came about a year and a half or so after the end of Thrones airing. There was — and there is — a hesitancy after you’ve been in something for so long that is a franchise piece, or a recurring story, [and you’re asked] to do that again. But I’ve been a Marvel fan for a long time, and when that call comes, your ears do prick up. Then it really relies on who the character is and whether you’re interested in that character. I’ve turned down a big role in a superhero-style franchise before because the character wasn’t right. But this one felt right for a number of reasons, personally, and it just piqued my interest as an actor. [Writer’s Note: The Game of Thrones series finale aired on May 19, 2019; Harington’s Eternals casting was confirmed at D23 on Aug 24, 2019.]
So did you and Richard Madden recognize each other without 33 pounds of leather and fur?
(Laughs.) We did! I’ve said this a few times, but it’s true: we really didn’t have a lot of time on set together on Game of Thrones. So it’s strange. Our closeness is not built in front of camera; it’s built behind camera. We’ve been very good friends for a long time, so it was nice to spend bit of time — albeit limited time — with a friend on set.
So it wasn’t bizarre to see each other on a more modern-day set?
It sounds like those of us in the media are guilty of overhyping this reunion.
(Laughs.) Yeah, for fans of Game of Thrones or fans of that universe, to see two major roles from that world in another one feels like a bigger thing than it does to me and Richard.
I can even reach for some parallels between the two works as Richard’s characters both lost something that your characters ended up with, namely the “King in the North” role and Sersi (Gemma Chan).
There are parallels. There’s no mistake, in some ways, how Marvel has placed me and Richard in this. It’s interesting to see two actors, who you’ve seen before in a different world, come into a new world, and then how do you play with that in the world? And I think that’s very clever and quite intriguing. But I definitely think — and I know Richard would agree with this — that our characters don’t necessarily feel very linked in this one. We’ve got our own journeys and our own paths.
Since Chloé tends to shoot with natural light, how does that affect your job in terms of your positions or movements?
I found it very freeing. There were a lot of single-camera roving shots. If I compare it to some of the work I’ve done in the past, “Here’s the wide, here’s the medium, here’s the close, everything’s on a track, or here’s your mark.” With Thrones, for example, you’re wrapped up in a big cloak, so it all becomes very restrictive and you’ve got to work within those parameters and those restrictions. With Eternals, I just felt a lot freer. For a start, I was in a modern costume, a contemporary costume. The camera was roving in a very free-flowing way, and Chloé was shooting with a lot of natural light, so there weren’t massively long setups to do with lighting. That made it feel like a very different thing that I was working on and I enjoyed it.
So you don’t have to hit your mark with the exactness or precision of a more traditional lighting setup? Is my understanding correct?
Yeah, it is. We had a very good focus puller who finds you where you are, and we had a very good cameraman and DoP. You have to have those things if you’re working in that way, otherwise, you’re going to lose moments. I think the industry is moving that way, to be honest; I really do. I’m slighting dreading the time where we’re filmed by drones that are floating around our heads, but the way we shoot now — and the way Chloé shoots — is the way things are moving, I think. And it’s great for actors, I have to say.
Have the beautiful locations of Thrones and Eternals ruined soundstages for you?
I much prefer working on location than anything. It’s tough and it’s grueling, and I know, better than most, that it can be a really, really hard graft, being up a mountain somewhere and in the elements. But I think it physically wakes you up as an actor. You have to really keep yourself alert on a soundstage if you’re there for 14-hour days. You can get into this monotonous zone where your acting can suffer from it. I love location work; this provided that. I didn’t do anything on Eternals that was on a soundstage. Literally, not a single scene. That was surprising to me, but it was a real gift of this film, actually. Chloé insisted on that. We wanted to do as much as possible on location, and that’s the way we worked on Thrones. It brings the real world to these pieces.
[Harington’s next answer contains a spoiler for Eternals’ post-credit scene.]
Dane Whitman has a rather rich history in the comic books, and I have to imagine that it factored into your decision to join the MCU. Have you been given a roadmap of where you’re headed? Or are you just going along for the ride, wherever that may lead?
There is no roadmap that I know of at the moment. If they have ideas about where my character goes, I’m not privy to it. All I know is that when I came on board, they said, “There’s a really interesting future for this character, and if you read up about him, there are many different ways we could go with him.” And that intrigues me. If I look at the comics and I look at what I read on the Internet about him, I’m fascinated by the idea that any character in any story is driven by some addiction to something. And with [Dane Whitman], it’s very palpable that this sword, this blade, has an addictive pull on him, and I find that really interesting.
Have you and Emilia [Clarke] prepared for the fact that your paths could cross again someday in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
(Laughs.) No, we haven’t. That would slightly blow my mind, I think, because me and Emilia had a lot together. So if we ended up crossing paths in a different franchise, I think we’d have a good old giggle about that.
Between Marvel security and HBO security, which one scares you the most?
If we’re talking about security as in spoilers, I’m terrified of Marvel. (Laughs.)
Emilia said the same thing!
Eternals is now playing in movie theaters nationwide. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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