TIME met up with Game of Thrones star Kit Harington in Belfast on an unexpected break from filming season seven, as inclement weather had prevented his planned shoot. It was a pause in action for an actor who’s been a part of some of Thrones’s most demanding sequences. “It’s a different way of acting where it can get very frustrating, but you have to zone off the background noise a bit,” he notes.
Over coffee before he caught a screening of Manchester by the Sea, the actor described the process of disillusionment — and rediscovery — that he’s experienced. After a tough time with the continued attention that comes with the show’s success, Harington’s found excitement in the role once again: “I deal with a lot better now. I think I deal with it better because I can see the end.”
Harington spoke to TIME in January for our cover story on Game of Thrones, whose seventh season premieres July 16; here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.
In major scenes you’re surrounded by hundreds of extras, practical special effects and spots where they’re going to paint in visual effects. Where do you find the spontaneity you need for a performance?
The challenge with Thrones is that unlike some of the smaller, maybe independent movies, where it’s a single camera and it’s in a room, and it’s very domestic — it’s far more actor- and performance-focused. With this, in the nicest and best possible way, you are one part of the scenery in various shots. You have to sometimes go into a zone with Thrones where you just shut off everything around you, because everything has to be so detailed. The background has to be in exactly the right place, the smoke has to be the right level, the light has to be right — there’s a hundred things that have to be right. At any one moment, the take could not work, because of any of those elements. It’s exactly like shooting Lord of the Rings. Any big, epic movie would be like that. And it’s a different way of acting where it can get very frustrating, but you have to zone out the background noise a bit. And there are times when you don’t, when it’s a less intense scene or something. It’s a certain skill, and one that I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to try and craft, because some actors come into this and it’s way too much going on and they can’t zone out.