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Kit Harington is ready to get out of his comfort zone.
After spending eight years as fan-favorite character Jon Snow on cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones, Harington is taking on a new type of role in director Rod Blackhurst’s Blood for Dust. In the action-thriller, the Eternals actor will play the film’s antagonist Ricky, an illegal weapons dealer with violent tendencies.
“I’m playing a pretty gnarly dude,” Harington tells The Hollywood Reporter about his character. “It’s not necessarily a part that I would generally get offered, and that’s quite interesting to me.”
Set to begin production in late-November, Blood for Dust follows former friends Cliff (Scoot McNairy) and Ricky, who reconnect one fateful day. In an attempt to make some quick cash, Cliff gets wrapped up in one of Ricky’s dangerous business schemes, including cross-state drug and weapons deliveries for John (Josh Lucas), a mid-level American cartel boss. When Ricky turns a simple exchange into a bloodbath to eliminate the competition, Cliff realizes his harsh new reality, in which he must fight just to stay alive.
“At the moment, and for the last couple of years, I’m trying to — and that’s another reason why I wanted to play this role — take roles that I’m a bit scared about doing,” says Harington. “It’s fun playing a baddie, I think. I spent a long time playing the epitome of a good, honest human, trying to do the right thing that everyone’s rooting for. And maybe this is a reaction to the length of time I was doing that.”
After living at the center of the Thrones zeitgeist for the show’s eight season-run, Harington says he’s drawn to the nature of independent films these days.
“It is a medium that more and more fits my life at the moment,” he says. “Having a young son, having done a TV show for a long time, the opportunity to go and play interesting, odd characters for a couple of months, here and there, is appealing to me.”
In a conversation with THR, Harington talks preparing for an antagonist role, catching up on House of the Dragon and how he’s sharpening his American accent for the film.
What made you say yes to taking on this role in Blood for Dust?
I think, primarily — other than the fact that I enjoyed reading the script — I liked my chat with director [Rod Blackhurst] and I kind of got his vision for it. One of the big goals for me is that I’m playing the antagonist in it, and I’m playing a pretty gnarly dude. It’s not necessarily a part that I would generally get offered, and that’s quite interesting to me.
In the past, you’ve often played protagonist-type characters that the audience is rooting for. Being an illegal arms dealer, it sounds like Ricky isn’t that type of guy.
That’s about as far from me as you get.
What interested you most about a character like that?
It’s quite an appealing thing. What’s interesting about this story is that he’s the antagonist on the right hand of the protagonist. He’s on his shoulder, it’s not like he’s separate from him or chasing him. They are paired together throughout the film. Scoot McNairy plays our hero, as it were, and I play his sort of demon in a way. And that makes it quite unique, I think, and quite interesting. For me to drag him back into the ugly world he used to be in. I’m quite interested in that dynamic.
Are you excited to lean into more of a villain role?
Yeah, pretty much so. I’m a bit nervous. At the moment, and for the last couple of years, I’m trying to — again, that’s another reason why I wanted to play this role — take roles that I’m a bit scared about doing. That are out of my comfort zone, that I feel ‘Can I do this? Should I do this? Am I right for this?’ And then just trying to trust in the director, who’s come to me and thought of me for it, and [he’s] saying, ‘Yes, you can. I think you are.” And then taking the leap. It’s fun playing a baddie, I think. I spent a long time playing the epitome of a good, honest human, trying to do the right thing that everyone’s rooting for. And maybe this is a reaction to the length of time I was doing that. But I think that there’s sometimes a bit more room for play in those characters in the dark, more twisted, antagonistic characters. And if someone wants to try me out doing that, I’ll jump at it, really.
The film takes place in America. Does that mean we’ll be seeing you put on an American accent again?
It does, yeah. I think there’s a nervousness about that, you know? I’ve spoken to the director and I know that the film shoots in Montana. We feel that [my character] is possibly from Missouri, so I’m going to be doing a specific American accent for it. And that’s a big step, because an English guy like me has little to do with Missouri. So it requires that bit more research to make sure you’re not just affecting something. But I’m deep in that at the moment, and it certainly feels like the right place for the character to come from.
It’s also an action thriller. Will you be doing any training in preparation for that?
This is an action piece, in many ways, and it’s got some great action sequences. I think it’s important to me that it’s not glorifying, in any way, the guns we have in the movie. So in some ways, it’s not. I don’t want to look like I’m any kind of expert holding a gun because I don’t think my character is, I don’t think many people are, and I think the characters in this, who are caught up in this story, shouldn’t glorify it in anyway. So, it’s not like going off and doing training to look good at holding a gun. I think that would be the wrong way to go, in some ways.
Scoot McNairy and Josh Lucas are also starring in the film. Have you connected with them about the film yet?
We’ve never met. I actually haven’t spoken [with them] yet. It’s something that’s on the cards, for us to chat and kind of talk character and things. That’s coming up. But we’ve been sort of off doing our own things, up until this point. So, we’ve not connected yet.
It’s a story that seems to center on themes of greed and ambition. Did those kinds of ideas draw you to the project?
I think it’s sort of the soiled American Dream slash redemption story, this one. The American Dream gone sour. It’s the lie that’s based around the American Dream. People who’ve fallen through the cracks, and how greed within an ultra-capitalist system can lead to this kind of violence lower down the rung. What I’m fascinated by, in some ways — and it’s something I was talking to someone from Missouri [about] — they said, it’s sort of a Midwest Bible Belt state. It’s this feeling of you’re either going to heaven or hell. And if you’ve already done something wrong, it’s already chosen for you, so you might as well carry on that way. I’m interested in that idea that there’s no redemption, or my character doesn’t see any redemption for himself, so he might as well keep going in the wrong direction. Whereas the other character, I think, sees that there’s a way out for him. And I think there’s a difference between them. I sort of do like a descent story. A character who’s pitching towards some kind of descent.
Switching gears a bit, House of the Dragon recently finished its first season. What have your thoughts been now that all ten episodes have been released?
You know, I’ve fallen off a bit — not because I’m not enjoying it — but just been very busy. But I’m gonna catch up. I’m sort of halfway through the season. I need to watch the second half, so I’m gonna try and avoid any kind of spoilers. I mean, it’s great. They’ve done a brilliant job with it. I’m really impressed with that show and how they’ve continued it.
There’s been a lot of talk about a potential Jon Snow spin-off series. Have there been any developments with that?
I know nothing about that. I’m sorry.
You’ve also entered the Marvel universe, after playing Dane Whitman in Eternals. Fans assume that you will become the Black Knight now that your character has found the Ebony Blade in that post-credit scene. What was it like filming that?
Yeah, it was really exciting shooting that scene. That post credits stuff, you come back and fill them after the film’s finished. So to see that there could be a continuation is obviously exciting. I don’t know anything further. I know that there are plans, I think, at some point, but I don’t know what they are.
Prior to taking on the role, did you know that becoming the Black Knight was a possibility? Or did you think Dane Whitman was perhaps just Sersi’s (Gemma Chan) boyfriend at the start?
No, I kind of knew that that might be a possibility. I wasn’t that interested in rocking up in a Marvel movie just to play someone’s boyfriend. I knew of some future possibilities, so that’s always been part of the conversation. But like with anything, you don’t really know. You sort of do your research on what character it could be, and you go, ‘Oh, that looks quite fun.’ But it’s up to them whether they want to bring that person into their plans. I don’t know at this stage. I have no idea what their plans are.
So on the horizon, you’ve got Blood for Dust, a developing Jon Snow spin-off series, and potential Marvel projects to come. Is there anything else coming up that you’re looking forward to?
Yeah, there’s quite a few. I’m quite excited about a number of independent movies, in the kind of size and realm of Blood for Dust, that I’m signed up to for next year. With all of those movies, you know, you have to sort of see which ones become real and which ones don’t. But it is a medium that more and more fits my life at the moment. Having a young son, having done a TV show for a long time, the opportunity to go and play interesting, odd characters for a couple of months here and there is appealing to me. So I’m signed up to a few interesting projects for next year, but I just can’t really go into them because I don’t know if they’re real yet.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Nov. 1 daily issue at the American Film Market.
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