Kit Harington takes a break from playing the maybe alive, maybe dead Jon Snow on “Game of Thrones” to suit up as a hard-charging, gun-toting British spy. But no, not that British spy. Harington stars in the film extension of the British TV drama “MI:5,” and to hear him tell it it’s a far cry from the world of James Bond.
Were you a fan of the series before signing on?
Do you know what? I grew up with it very much in my consciousness. I think it was on all through my teens, really — late teens, early 20s — and I think it existed as this great British TV show which I knew something about and knew various episodes, one that stuck with me about a terrorist bomber going into a schoolyard and blowing himself up. I found that quite profound and brave, really, for TV viewing. And of course it created the careers of many great English and British actors. So I knew it in that way, but I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan. I didn’t watch every episode. But I knew it to be good, political, exciting viewing. My brother was a big fan, so I went to him when I got offered this role and said, “Is this something that you think would be a good thing to do?” And he loved it, he loved the idea.
This sort of big spy thriller seems like an important entry on an actor’s bucket list. How does it feel taking on a role like this?
I found it really exciting. I like quite physical roles and action-based roles, and I felt I hadn’t quite filled my quota of them as a young man just yet. I also wanted to step into a more modern movie, something set now. I’m seriously anti-gun, actually, but there’s something quite exciting to get to do it as an actor — run around as a spy with a gun and do these quite extreme things. But I think I wanted to do it because he felt like a bit of a different spy to me, really. He wasn’t really Bourne and he wasn’t Bond. It felt to me like something slightly knew, which is a thuggish young man who’d been roped into these things as almost a bit of muscle, and he was emotionally inept at it. I liked that combination of things to get to play a spy. I kind of like working my way through genres or roles, and spy was definitely on my bucket list to play.
Would you be up for doing more, even though you’ve crossed that one out?
I think so, sometime in the future with the right role. I felt this one was exciting because it felt very British. I’m a London boy and it was shot in my hometown. And really I got the feeling from the director from an early point onwards that it was going to tell a story of a real London, not a kind of Hollywood-ized version of London where you see a red bus and the Houses of Parliament. It felt more real than that. There was a lot of brutalist architecture and the South Bank, and that’s the London I know.
And you actually filmed at Heathrow, which is impressive.
It was slightly hairy, though. I had to run through Heathrow when it wasn’t locked down with a handgun, which is kind of a bit worrying, seeing as you’ve got armed guards there. You sort of have that worry that there might be one policeman who wasn’t at the briefing that morning, just turned up late or something and sees a young man running toward the departure gate with a handgun. It’s probably a shoot-to-kill policy, I would’ve thought.
Since you’re playing a British spy here, how many obnoxious questions about playing James Bond have you had to weather?
(laughs) Yeah, it’s funny that, isn’t it? The fact that it’s an English spy movie and I’m a Brit really sort of opens the door for a question of “would you like to play James Bond?” And I don’t think I’ll ever get to play Bond, quite seriously, and it’s such a ridiculous question to be asked. But it’s understandable, that’s the go-to franchise, big spy movie of maybe ever, and I love Bond. But this is definitely not Bond. That’s what I liked about it. This is far from Bond, this is more based in reality than Bond is.
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