10 Facts About Kit Harington

John Phillips, Getty Images for Jameson
John Phillips, Getty Images for Jameson

by Lindsey Young

Everyone knows Kit Harington for his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. But there's probably a lot you don't know about the London-born actor, who was born on December 26, 1986 (including the fact that he hates celebrating his birthday).

1. His real name is Christopher—but even he didn't know that until his pre-teens.

Actor Kit Harington arrives at Entertainment Weekly's 5th Annual Comic-Con Celebration sponsored by Batman: Arkham City held at Float, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego on July 23, 2011 in San Diego, California
Michael Buckner, Getty Images For Entertainment Weekly

Christopher Catesby Harington was born in west London on December 26, 1986. But as he has always gone by Kit, it wasn't until Harington was 11 years old that he found out his real name was "Christopher."

2. He was named after Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe.

Harington is named after famed playwright Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, who was an inspiration to William Shakespeare as well as Harington's mother, Deborah Jane Catesby, who is also a playwright. Harington himself dabbles in poetry-writing, though he told The Huffington Post that, "It’s terrible poetry. I would never ever ever read it to anybody. But I do write, I do write poems."

3. He began his career on the stage, in the original production of War Horse.

While still attending the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (he graduated in 2008), Harington landed the lead role in the National Theatre's original production of War Horse. In 2009, when the show transferred to the West End's New London Theatre, Harington continued playing the role of Albert, which brought him much acclaim. It was also the role that led him to the part of Jon Snow: one of the producers for Game of Thrones saw Harington in War Horse and asked him to come in for an audition.

4. He is only 5’8".

Though Harington is a force to be reckoned with on Game of Thrones, the actor is actually only 5’8". 
He once recalled a story about how a woman "came up to me at a bar and said 'OMG OMG you look just like Jon Snow.' and I said 'Well, I am.' And she was like, 'Nah, he’s much taller than you.'" (Ouch.)

5. He showed up to his Game of Thrones audition with a black eye.

The night before his Game of Thrones audition, Harington ended up in a McDonald's late at night with a woman he was dating. Because it was crowded, they grabbed a seat at a table with another couple, whom they didn't know. Shortly thereafter, the man across from them began making rude comments to Harington's date. Unfortunately, it was only after Harington stood up and challenged the stranger that realized just how tall his would-be opponent was. "I got battered," Harington admitted, and ended up with a fresh shiner. On the bright side, he thinks that his damaged face is part of what landed him the role. "I think that man who punched me in the face may have helped me get the job," he said. "So if you're watching, thank you."

6. He wore a wig for the original Game of Thrones pilot.

No, Harington's dark curly locks were not always his signature trademark. Although he later became contractually obligated to keep his hair long for the role of Jon Snow, that wasn't the case when they shot the original pilot for Game of Thrones—the one that never aired, not the one you remember. Harington, for one, is happy that it never saw the light of day. "I had a horrible wig on," he told BBC Breakfast in 2016.

Though that's not the sole reason he's glad they reshot it, though. "The pilot really didn’t work," Harington said. “No one’s ever seen it, it’s in some back room somewhere, and I’d like it to stay there!”

7. He's extremely claustrophobic, which posed an issue while shooting an iconic game of thrones scene.

While filming Game of Thrones's season six episode, "Battle of the Bastards," Harington had to come to terms with his extreme claustrophobia. "I've got a few fears, spiders being one of them," he told the Belfast Telegraph in 2017. "But the worst is my claustrophobia—I'm mortally afraid of crowds. I panic." He went on to describe the climactic scene in the episode as "one of the most terrifying ... and most uncomfortable" things he has ever done.

8. He's related to the guy who invented the flushable toilet.

When asked by Elle about the rumors that he is distantly related to John Harington, the man who invented the first flushable toilet (which was created for Queen Elizabeth I), Harington confirmed that, "That's 100 percent true. It's called 'the John Harington.'" Which is reportedly where the slang term "the john" originated. As for Kit, he's just people don't refer to the toilet as "the Harington."

9. He was forced to reveal Jon Snow's fate to get out of a speeding ticket.

Kit Harington of 'The Death and Life of John F. Donovan' attends The IMDb Studio presented By Land Rover At The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival
Rich Polk, Getty Images for IMDb

After being sworn to secrecy about his fate in the sixth season, Harington was forced to give up the answer after being pulled over for speeding. The officer, a fan of the show, gave him two options: either deal with the punishment for speeding or tell him whether Jon Snow would live or die in the next season. Harington initially thought the man was joking, but after a second look he told him: “I am alive next season.” To which the officer responded, “On your way, Lord Commander."

10. He gets grumpy on his birthday.

December babies have long complained about the challenges of being able to truly celebrate the occasion. (The "dual" birthday-Christmas gift is a particularly annoying tradition.) But being born the day after Christmas—which is its own holiday, Boxing Day, in England—has always been a bummer for Harington. "I always end up getting really grumpy and selfish on my birthday," he told W Magazine, explaining that "I never get enough attention."

When Mississippi Once Banned Sesame Street

Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images
Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images

Since it began airing in the fall of 1969, Sesame Street has become an indelible part of millions of children's formative years. Using a cast of colorful characters like Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch, along with a curriculum vetted by Sesame Workshop's child psychologists and other experts, the series is able to impart life lessons and illustrate educational tools that a viewer can use throughout their adolescence. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone—even Oscar—who would take issue with the show’s approach or its mission statement.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in early 1970, when a board of educational consultants in Mississippi gathered, polled one another, and decided that Sesame Street was too controversial for television.

The series had only been on the air for a few months when the newly formed Mississippi Authority for Educational Television (also known as the State Commission for Educational Television) held a regularly scheduled meeting in January 1970. The board had been created by the state legislature with appointees named by Governor John Bell Williams to evaluate shows that were set to air on the state’s Educational Television, or ETV, station. The five-member panel consisted of educators and private citizens, including a teacher and a principal, and was headed up by James McKay, a banker in Jackson, Mississippi.

McKay’s presence was notable for the fact that his father-in-law, Allen Thompson, had just retired after spending 20 years as mayor of Jackson. Highly resistant to integration in the city during his tenure in office, Thompson was also the founder of Freedom of Choice in the United States, or FOCUS, an activist group that promoted what they dubbed “freedom of choice” in public schools—a thinly veiled reference to segregation. Mississippi, long the most incendiary state in the nation when it came to civil rights, was still struggling with the racial tension of the 1960s. Systemic racism was an issue.

Entering this climate was Sesame Street, the show pioneered by Joan Ganz Cooney, a former journalist and television producer who became the executive director of the Children’s Television Workshop. On the series, the human cast was integrated, with black performers Matt Robinson and Loretta Long as Gordon and Susan, respectively, appearing alongside white actors Jada Rowland and Bob McGrath. The children of Sesame Street were also ethnically diverse.

Zoe (L) and Cookie Monster (R) are pictured in New York City in November 2009
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images

This appeared to be too much for the Authority, which discussed how lawmakers with control over ETV’s budget—which had just been set at $5,367,441—might find the mixed-race assembly offensive. The panel's participants were all white.

The board pushed the discussion aside until April 17, 1970, when they took an informal poll and decided, by a margin of three votes against two, to prohibit ETV from airing Sesame Street—a show that came free of charge to all public television stations. (The decision affected mainly viewers in and around Jackson, as the station had not yet expanded across the state and was not expected to do so until the fall of 1970.)

The members who were outvoted were plainly unhappy with the outcome and leaked the decision to The New York Times, which published a notice of the prohibition days later along with a quote from one of the board members.

“Some of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” the person, who did not wish to be named, said. “Mainly the commission members felt that Mississippi was not yet ready for it.”

The reaction to such a transparent concession to racism was swift and predictably negative, both in and out of Mississippi. Board members who spoke with press, usually anonymously, claimed the decision was a simple “postponing” of the show, not an outright ban. The fear, they said, was that legislators who viewed ETV as having progressive values might shut down the project before it had a chance to get off the ground. It was still possible for opponents to suffocate it before it became part of the fabric of the state’s television offerings.

The concern was not entirely without merit. State representative Tullius Brady of Brookhaven said that ETV exerted “a subtle influence” on the minds of children and that the Ford Foundation, which funded educational programming, could use its influence for “evil purposes.” Other lawmakers had previously argued against shows that promoted integration.

Grover is pictured at AOL Studios in New York City in May 2015
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Regardless of how the decision was justified, many took issue with it. In an anonymous editorial for the Delta Democrat-Times, a critic wrote:

“But Mississippi’s ETV commission won’t be showing it for the time being because of one fatal defect, as measured by Mississippi’s political leadership. Sesame Street is integrated. Some of its leading cast members are black, including the man who does much of the overt ‘teaching.’ The neighborhood of the ‘street’ is a mixed one. And all that, of course, goes against the Mississippi grain.”

Joan Ganz Cooney called the decision a “tragedy” for young people.

Fortunately, it was a tragedy with a short shelf life. The following month, the board reconvened and reversed its own informal poll result, approving of Sesame Street and agreeing that ETV could air it as soon as they received tapes of the program. Thanks to feeds from Memphis, New Orleans, and Alabama, Sesame Street could already be seen in parts of Mississippi. And thanks to the deluge of negative responses, it seemed pointless to try to placate politicians who still favored segregation.

In the fall of 1970, the Sesame Street cast appeared in person in Jackson and was met by representatives from the board, which helped to sponsor the live performance, though it’s not clear any apology was forthcoming.

Sesame Street would go on to win numerous awards and accolades over the proceeding 50 years, though it would not be the only children’s show to experience censorship on public television. In May 2019, ETV networks in Alabama and Arkansas refused to air an episode of the PBS animated series Arthur in which a rat and aardvark are depicted as a same-sex couple getting married.

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can get your copy from Amazon now for $20.

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