Kit Harington reveals why he nearly quit acting after Game of Thrones

Theo Salaun
kit harington game of thrones quit acting jon snow
HBO | Wikimedia Commons

Superstar actor Kit Harington is beloved for his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, but he has recently opened up and explained that the duress of the show nearly caused him to retire from the trade altogether. 

Game of Thrones first aired on HBO in April 2011 and ended in May 2019, lasting for a full 73 nearly one-hour-long episodes and proving a true test of its actors’ physical and mental endurance. For Harington, who played a central role as Snow from Season 1 all the way to Season 8, that toll proved nearly too heavy to bear.

Born into a thespian, gender-fluid household, the renowned Game of Thrones star was a perfect fit for the emotionally self-reflective, brooding character that helped propel his career into the limelight. But quarantine has allowed the actor to reflect and he has subsequently opened up about how burdened he began to feel by the end of the series.

As expressed in an interview with Telegraph’s Gavanndra Hodge, the sheer breadth of HBO’s global phenomenon coupled with Harington’s own relationship with gender politics made the 33-year-old actor consider retirement.

jon snow kit harington game of thrones
Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, whose relationship plays a pivotal role in Game of Thrones’ later seasons.

“It has been interesting — going through lockdown, getting over this TV show, where, by the end of it, I didn’t know if I wanted to be an actor anymore,” he said.

As Harington explains, he and the entire cast loved filming the series for the first few seasons, with him personally reaching a peak of joy in Season 3, in which he met his now-wife, Rose Leslie (known to GoT fans as Ygritte).

But by the later seasons, he was simply reaching his limits: “I cried a lot in the last season, just out of sheer fatigue.”

jon snow ygritte game of thrones
Ygritte and Snow, whose on-screen romance segued into a real-world marriage.

That openness toward emotion plays a legitimate role in the fatigue he felt, as the actor continues on to relate his experience playing a heroic masculine archetype to his upbringing and current perspective. His mother was a playwright and introduced her sons to both theater and the immaterial lines between male and female.

Citing his experiences receiving dolls and Polly Pockets instead of their boy-focused counterparts, Harington reveals that his upbringing “was very gender fluid from the word go.”

And, understandably, all this factors heavily into his current perspectives as he is deeply conscious of inherited male trauma and the problematic natures inherent to hyper-masculinity.

jon snow young game of thrones
A young Snow, as he and much of the GoT cast grew up acting in the global hit series.

Despite seeking to bring added elements of self-reflection and emotional openness to Snow, the actor remained fatigued by spending the majority of his 20’s playing a role so deeply embedded in masculine archetypes. But, upon reflection, he does not want to quit acting, simply to retire from playing such roles.

“Having portrayed a man who was silent, who was heroic, I feel going forward that is a role I don’t want to play anymore. It is not a masculine role that the world needs to see much more of.”