Kit Harington, like most of the Game of Thrones cast, has other projects going during the off-season of the world’s most popular TV series — and for his latest he’s taken the leap to working on both sides of the camera, acting in and serving as producer of Gunpowder, a three-part BBC miniseries about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 that was intended to blow up London’s Parliament. And in a fortunate turn for a first-time producer, Harington was able to take some lessons learned from Thrones to his new role.
“I’d been watching for however many years now on ‘Thrones,’ watching the role of the producer and how it all worked,” Harington told Time in a recent interview. “And I’ve worked with some of the best, Chris Newman and Bernie Caulfield and Carolyn Strauss and Frank Doelger and David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] on ‘Thrones.’ I think I really wanted to test that and see what it was really like doing it. And I enjoyed it.”
Gunpowder, which will be distributed in the U.S. next week by HBO, tells the story of Robert Catesby, the leader of a group of rebels (which included Guy Fawkes) in London who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the English throne. Harington has the lead role of Catesby, which is a role close to his heart, literally and figuratively — he’s a direct descendant of him on his mother’s side. He said the story of Catesby within his family is “one of those pieces of family curiosity” that he just “[grew] up with,” but that the more he got to know his infamous ancestor, the more eye-opening the story became.
“As I went along trying to depict Catesby and get into his head, the less I sympathized with him,” Harington said. “He’s persecuted — I see why he does what he does. But the more I looked, the more I realized he’s an incredibly selfish person. … Reading up on him and looking at the real historical person, he thought quite a lot of himself. He basically after a while couldn’t see what he was attempting which was to kill innocent people and become as bad as those people who were persecuting him.”
Harington said that he found the role of producer a “quite natural place to be,” and that the experiences of working on Thrones and with its producers taught him some valuable lessons for his own turn behind the camera.
“One thing that I’ve noticed is that if people are enjoying what they’re doing and the cast and the crew and the producers are melding in the right way and everyone is getting on in the right way, the right kind of energy is flowing through a group of people, then the end product can only benefit from it and can only become better for it,” he said. “Everyone kind of feels like a family. And that was something I wanted to try if I was going to produce something; it comes from the producers.”
Harington also said that the reality of filming the final season of Thrones is finally “sinking in, it’s just quite emotional. I don’t know how I’m going to feel sometime next year when I’ve finished.” And true to what’s been hinted at by other cast members, he promised that Season 8 will be “bigger than it’s ever been.”
We know we have to wait quite awhile to see Harington’s suggestion come to fruition, but in the meantime, Gunpowder — which critics have said is his most successful role since Thrones — promises to be an intriguing way to pass some of that time. The series will air on HBO at 10 p.m. on Dec. 18, 19 and 20.