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Kit Harington on getting dirty for 'Game of Thrones'

By Nicki Gostin, Special to CNN
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Wed March 21, 2012
Kit Harington stars as Jon Snow in HBO's
Kit Harington stars as Jon Snow in HBO's "Game of Thrones."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kit Harington plays Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned, on HBO's "Game of Thrones"
  • Harington: "I don't wash [my hair] anyway when I'm filming."
  • Harington: "There's a huge difference between stage fighting and real sword fighting"

(CNN) -- "Game of Thrones," the wonderfully bloody and lustful series, is back for a second season starting April 1 on HBO.

Kit Harington plays Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned who is also known by the moniker, "the bastard."

Before he had even graduated from drama school, the Worcestershire native won the lead role in the West End production of "War Horse." Calling from London, the 25 year old actor is unfailingly polite, apologizing profusely for having missed a scheduled time to chat.

Harington also admits (jokingly) that he can't really consider himself an English actor because he never appeared in the "Harry Potter" series.

"It's mad isn't it?" he remarks. "I kind of wanted to audition for 'Harry' when it was first being done but I think I was a year too old."

The actor talked to CNN about the new season of his hit series (HBO is owned by CNN's parent company), the dirty business of acting on the show and his swordsmanship.

CNN: What can we expect this season?

Kit Harington: Basically you can expect the world we're in to break apart in a way. Everything we've established in this world, this world disintegrates around us. But it's very much in the vein of where we left it. It gets more brutal I guess, more blood and guts and more sex.

CNN: Don't you love that?

Harington: I do, I think it's important in a way. In our show the sex can be a source of humor. It can also be more serious than that, it sort of tells the story of how women are treated in the world. It kind of strikes a balance in that way I think it's important for shows to show sex.

CNN: Are you encouraged to not wash your hair?

Harington: I don't wash it anyway when I'm filming. It's my choice in a kind of strange little way. I think when we shot the pilot one of the things that was wrong about it was that everybody looked too clean. There wasn't enough dirt on people's faces. Hair was too slicked back. When they saw the pilot they rang and said, "Can you grow your hair? Grow a beard, we want it to look a bit dirtier and grubbier and more visceral." We were in Iceland for about a month and I kind of let it build up. It was very, very nice to wash it by the end.

CNN: Do you also refrain from showering?

Harington: No. I shower.

CNN: So you're not really committed to the role.

Harington: (Laughs) Yeah possibly. I can try that next season, although I think people might have complaints.

CNN: Do you put dirt under your fingernails?

Harington: Yeah we go into hair and makeup and they just shove loads of dirt on you.

CNN: Everyone must have reeked back then.

Harington: The sets reek as well. I remember for season one there was a gutted deer carcass they brought on and this wasn't a fake prosthetic deer carcass and by the end of the day it had started to ferment and the smell coming off it was unreal. On any day on the set you've got horse s***, oh sorry -- pardon -- and it can be quite a disgraceful place to be.

CNN: Your character is called the bastard.

Harington: It's a weird one that because in the world we set it in it means the same thing but it also means something different. It's strange but I quite like it.

CNN: Ever been called it in public?

Harington: There have been a couple of times when I've been called it on the street and I've said, "Hey wait why are you calling me..." Oh that's right, I see.

CNN: Have you become handy with a sword?

Harington: There's a huge difference between stage fighting and real sword fighting. I feel comfortable with a sword now, I quite enjoy wielding one. I wouldn't profess to be good in a real life and death situation. Enough to maybe hopefully impress the ladies.

CNN: You were in the London stage production of "War Horse." Were you upset that you weren't cast in the movie?

Harington: It was kind of a weird win win situation for me in that I was ramping up for "Thrones" when it was being cast, anyway, so I kind of had long hair and a beard and I didn't really look like a young farm boy anymore, but I did go for it and I got a recall. For me it was like I'd done "War Horse" for a year and if I got the film, great, but at the same time I kind of wanted to move on by that stage. So I didn't mind at all when it went no further.

CNN: Is your name really Kit?

Harington: It's my name. It's short for Christopher. I didn't know my name was Christopher until I was 11. I went to school, you do these exams and I put down Kit Harington and the teacher said, "That's not your name," and I said, "Yeah I think I'd know my own name!" They were like, "No no your name is Christopher." I was a bit pissed off with my mum. You didn't tell me my name till I was 11!

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