It certainly seems like every young actor’s dream to come right out of drama school and land a leading role in what will become one of the most watched television shows in the world. But being on that sort of global stage at the age of 24 isn’t necessarily easy. In a new interview with Variety, Kit Harington recalls adjusting to the fame of Game of Thrones and, like most 20-somethings, he admits he struggled to find himself in the years to come, a process that grew more complex when he became one of the leads on the show.
“It wasn’t a very good time in my life,” he told Variety. “I felt I had to feel that I was the most fortunate person in the world when actually, I felt very vulnerable. I had a shaky time in my life around there — like I think a lot of people do in their 20s.”
Harington’s unease was only magnified by the fact that GoT quickly became HBO’s most-tuned-into series ever. It racked up Emmy awards. Fans began sharing their love for the show on social media. It became the one show we were all endlessly poring over. Even Harington’s character, Jon Snow, became a household name. All the while, he was suffering a period of intense personal upheaval and self-doubt.
“That was a time when I started therapy and started talking to people,” Harington shared. “I had felt very unsafe, and I wasn’t talking to anyone. I had to feel very grateful for what I have, but I felt incredibly concerned about whether I could even fucking act.”
It was this importance of Jon Snow on the show that became a source of serious pain in Harington’s life. When Jon Snow became a lead character and Harington’s popularity rose, a dark period was ushered in.
“My darkest period was when the show seemed to become so much about Jon, when he died and came back. I really didn’t like the focus of the whole show coming onto Jon — even though it was invalidating my problem about being the weak link because things were about Jon,” Harington shared. Becoming focus and cliffhanger of an immensely popular TV show proved “fucking terrifying,” he said. His character had died, leaving fans to wonder whether Snow had really perished or would somehow come back.
Harington soon discovered this meant any semblance of privacy he once had was gone: “You get people shouting at you on the street, ‘Are you dead?’ At the same time, you have to have this appearance. All of your neuroses — and I’m as neurotic as any actor — get heightened with that level of focus.”
Harington points out that GoT‘s fame has been particularly tricky for someone as “awkward and English” as he is, saying, “I am just a bloke, and not one who is particularly good at a lot of attention.”
Still, Harington did learn to adapt as his fame continued to increase over time. Now, at 32, his perspective about his role in the series has shifted. “It’s like when you’re at a party, and the party’s getting better and better,” he told Variety. “Then you reach this point of the party where you’re like, it’s peaked. I don’t know what I could find more from this. You realize, well, there isn’t more. This is it. And the ‘more’ that you can find is actually in the work rather than the enjoyment surrounding it.”
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premieres April 14 at 9/8c on HBO.