With last night’s season two premiere of Game of Thrones, Conde Nast Traveler talked to Kit Harington, the London-based actor who plays the courageous (and swoon-worthy) watcher of the Wall. Here are some excerpts from his interview:
So you’ve spent a lot of time in Iceland filming for Thrones?
I’ve just been to Iceland, which I’ve actually been to before when I was 15, and I swore I’d go back. It’s one of those places that I went to as a teenager and all I really wanted to do was chase skirt, but it shocked us how beautiful it was. We spent the whole time gawking at the landscapes
What was your first impression of the place?
It’s like landing on the moon. It’s like landing on an alien landscape. There’s no trees, it’s very barren. That’s the first thing you reckon with—it feels very moon-like. It’s strange. It’s a country of extremes. It’s got these huge glaciers sticking out of very flat lands. It’s stunning to behold, definitely.
Is it as cold as it looks?
It can be. When I went when I was 15 it was summer, it was warm and pleasant and balmy. But when I was there filming Thrones in winter—when you have four or five hours of daylight—it can get as cold as -30 Celsius. It’s pretty extreme at times. People’s beards are frozen. So it’s kind of guerilla filmmaking, but it was so beautiful it made up for it.
How much do you get to explore the towns while you’re filming?
We were filming in locations that were sort of two-horse towns down on the south coast, and they had populations of like 20 people. So we were really in the middle of nowhere. Reykjavik is the only large city in Iceland and it’s only got a population of 150,000. The whole country has a population of 300,000 and in a country the size of Ireland—so that’ll give you a sense of how sparse it is.
I did get a couple of days off, and I used those to have a party in Reykjavik. It was absolutely amazing. The people in Iceland are very welcoming, and of course being such a small population, they know all the visitors that come in. They showed us all around. I also wanted to go spelunking, but they thought I’d kill myself so they vetoed that option.
If someone was visiting Iceland what are some of the spots they’d have to see?
You have to go and see the glaciers down on the south coast, that’s where we were filming. And they’re astonishing. We try to escape using CGI in the series and what we found is a lot of what we shot looks CGI because it was so otherworldly. You also have to see the Blue Lagoon, which is a natural hot spa.
Of all the cities that you’ve lived in, worked in, filmed in, is there one that’s a favorite?
It has to be Iceland. It really does. Not to get too dramatic, but it was quite a life-changing experience going there. I also love Belfast in Northern Ireland. It’s a very exciting city right now. I also spend a lot of time in L.A. and New York and I’m starting to find a base over there. Those four places are where I spend most of my time.
Read the full interview with Kit Harington here.