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 ThronesHarington Gets a New Kind of Role in Director Rod Blackhurst’s Blood for dust. In the action thriller, Eternals actor plays the film’s antagonist, Ricky, an illegal arms dealer with violent tendencies.
“I play a pretty tough guy,” Harington says The Hollywood Reporter about his character. “It’s not necessarily a part that I would generally be offered, and that’s quite interesting to me.”
Production will start at the end of November Blood for dust follows former friends Cliff (Scoot McNairy) and Ricky, who reconnect one fateful day. In an effort to make a quick buck, Cliff becomes embroiled in one of Ricky’s dangerous business schemes, including interstate drug and weapon deliveries for John (Josh Lucas), a mid-market American cartel boss. When Ricky turns a simple exchange into a bloodbath to take out the competition, Cliff realizes his harsh new reality of having to fight to stay alive.
“Right now, and for the last few years, I’ve been trying — and that’s another reason I wanted to play this part — to play roles that I’m a little scared of,” Harington says. “It’s fun to play a bad guy, I guess. I have played for a long time as the epitome of a good, honest person, trying to do the right thing that everyone strives for. And maybe this is a reaction to the long time I did that.”
After living in the center of the thrones Zeitgeist for the show’s eight seasons, Harington says he’s drawn to the nature of independent films these days.
“It’s a medium that’s increasingly fitting into my life right now,” he says. “Having a young son, after doing a TV show for a long time, the opportunity to play interesting, strange characters here and there for a few months, appeals to me.”
In conversation with THRHarington talks about preparing for an antagonistic role, catching up House of the Dragon and how he sharpens his American accent for the film.
Why did you say yes to this role in Blood for Dust?
I think most of all – aside from the fact that I enjoyed reading the script – I liked my conversation with the director [Rod Blackhurst] and I have his vision for it. One of the big goals for me is that I play the antagonist in it, and I play a pretty feisty dude. It’s not necessarily a part that I would generally be offered, and that’s quite interesting to me.
In the past, you have often played main characters that the audience craves. As an illegal arms dealer, it sounds like Ricky isn’t that type.
That’s about as far from me as you are.
What interested you most in such a character?
It’s a very attractive thing. The interesting thing about this story is that he is the antagonist on the right hand of the main character. He sits on his shoulder, it’s not like he’s separated from him or chasing him. They are linked together throughout the film. Scoot McNairy plays our hero, as it were, and I play his kind 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 play more of a villain role?
Yeah, pretty much. I am a bit nervous. Right now, and for the last couple of years, I’m trying – again, that’s another reason I wanted to play this part – to play roles that I’m a little scared of. That are outside my comfort zone, that I feel ‘Can I do this? Do I have to do this? Am I suitable for this?’ And then just try to trust the director, who came up to me and thought of me, and… [he’s] say, ‘Yes, you can. I think you.” And then take the plunge. It’s fun to play a bad guy, I guess. I’ve played for a long time as the epitome of a good, honest person, trying to do the right thing that everyone is going to And maybe this is a reaction to the long time I did that. But I think sometimes there’s a little more leeway in those characters in the darker, more twisted, antagonistic characters. And if someone wants to try me on that, I jump really into it.
The film is set in America. Does that mean we’ll see you give an American accent again?
It does, yes. I think there’s a certain nervousness in that, you know? I’ve spoken to the director and I know the film will be shot in Montana. We feel that [my character] may be from Missouri, so I’m going to use a specific American accent for it. And that’s a big step, because an Englishman like me has little to do with Missouri. So it takes a little more research to make sure you’re not just influencing something. But I’m deep into that right now, and it definitely feels like the right place for the character to come from.
It is also an action thriller. Are you going to attend a training course to prepare for it?
This is an action piece in many ways and it has some great action scenes. I think it’s important to me that it in no way glorifies the weapons we have in the movie. So in some ways it isn’t. I don’t want to look like I’m an expert with a gun, because I don’t think my character is, I don’t think a lot of people are, and I think the characters in this, who are caught up in this story, would be in any case should not glorify. So it’s not like you go out and do some training to look good at holding a gun. I think that would be the wrong way in a way.
Scoot McNairy and Josh Lucas also star in the film. Have you contacted them about the film yet?
We never met. I haven’t actually spoken [with them] yet. It’s something that’s at stake, for us to chat and talk about character and stuff. That’s coming. But so far we’ve done our own things. So we don’t have a connection yet.
It’s a story that seems to revolve around themes of greed and ambition. Did those kinds of ideas draw you to the project?
I think it’s kind of a dirty American Dream slash redemption story, this one. The American Dream has soured. It is the lie that is based on the American Dream. People who have fallen through the cracks, and how greed within an ultra-capitalist system can lead to this kind of violence down the stairs. Which in some ways I’m fascinated with – and it’s something I talked to someone from Missouri about [about] — they said, it’s kind of a Midwest Bible Belt state. It is the feeling that you are going to heaven or hell. And if you’ve already done something wrong, it’s already been chosen for you, so you might as well continue that way. I’m interested in the idea that there’s no redemption, or that my character doesn’t see redemption for himself, so he might as well keep going in the wrong direction. While the other character, I think, sees there is a way out for him. And I think there is a difference between them. I like an origin story. A character heading for some kind of descent.
Just switch, House of the Dragon recently completed its first season. What have been your thoughts now that all ten episodes have been released?
You know, I’ve lost some weight – not because I don’t enjoy it – but I’ve just been really busy. But I’m going to catch up. I’m about halfway through the season. I have to watch the second half, so I’m going to try to avoid any kind of spoilers. I mean, it’s great. They’ve done a wonderful job with it. I’m really impressed with that show and how they’ve continued it.
There has been a lot of talk about a possible Jon Snow spin-off series. Have there been any developments in that regard?
I don’t know about that. My apologies.
You also entered the Marvel universe after playing Dane Whitman in Eternals. Fans assume you’ll become the Black Knight now that your character has found the Ebony Blade in that post-credits scene. What was it like filming that?
Yes, it was really exciting to film that scene. Those post credits stuff, you come back and fill them after the movie is done. So to see that there could be a sequel is obviously exciting. I don’t know anything else. I know there are plans, I think, at some point, but I don’t know what they are.
Before taking on the role, did you know there was an opportunity to become the Black Knight? Or did you think Dane Whitman might just be Sersi’s (Gemma Chan) boyfriend in the beginning?
No, I knew that could be a possibility. I wasn’t that interested in turning up in a Marvel movie just to play someone’s boyfriend. I knew some future possibilities, so that’s always been part of the conversation. But as with anything, you don’t really know. You do a little research on what character it could be, and you say, “Oh, that looks pretty fun.” But it’s up to them whether they want to include that person in their plans. I don’t know at this stage. I have no idea what their plans are.
So on the horizon you have Blood for dust, an in-development Jon Snow spin-off series, and possible future Marvel projects. Is there anything else you look forward to?
Yes, there are quite a few. I’m really excited about some independent movies, in the kind of size and empire of Blood for dust, which I signed up for next year. With all those movies, you know, you kind of have to see which ones get real and which ones don’t. But it is a medium that is increasingly fitting in with my life at the moment. Having a young son, after doing a TV show for a long time, the opportunity to play interesting, strange characters here and there for a few months, appeals to me. So I’ve signed up for some interesting projects for next year, but I just can’t really get into them because I don’t know if they’re real yet.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the daily issue of The Hollywood Reporter on November 1 on the American Film Market.