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Kit Harington poses at the premiere for the film 'Eternals' in Los Angeles, California, on October 18, 2021. Image Credit: REUTERS

In one of the most epic films coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe slate, English actor Kit Harington plays someone ‘almost’ ordinary. Among the ancient, superpowered beings of ‘Eternals’, Harington’s Dane Whitman is an anomaly in that he’s only human, but the actor — most famous for playing Jon Snow in HBO’s path breaking ‘Game of Thrones’ series — wears ordinary with an assured ease.

“Dane Whitman in this movie is a human. Whereas most of the characters are eternal beings who’ve been on Earth since the dawn of humanity, he’s only been around for about 34 years. He is Sersi’s [an Eternal played by Gemma Chan] boyfriend, he has a special connection with her. And all in all, he’s a quite a good guy. I think he’s got a sense of humour. He takes everything in his stride. He’s, you know, a standup guy,” says Harington in a Zoom conversation, ahead of the film’s November 11 release in the UAE.

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Dane Whitman (Kit Harington) and Sersi (Gemma Chan) in 'Eternals'. Image Credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios

But beneath this veneer of ordinariness is a complicated and long comic book history, revealing Dane Whitman to in fact be an Avenger, and a prominent one at that. While you won’t get to see his superhero avatar in this current movie, helmed by Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao, you don’t cast Jon Snow himself for a blink-and-you-miss-it role in the MCU, and it’s probably only a matter of time before we’ll see the actor suit up as the sword-wielding hero Black Knight in a future project.

Setting Harington aside for a moment, ‘Eternals’ — the 25th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — introduces 10 never-before-seen superheroes. Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie make up the superhero group who come from a race of immortal aliens arriving on Earth thousands of years ago to protect humanity from a race of alien predators called the Deviants.

Joining the MCU and taking the helm of a huge movie on the scale of ‘Eternals’ was a welcomed challenge for Zhao, who has always been a Marvel fan. “The MCU is full of heart — a world filled with great characters and epic adventures,” she says, according to production notes shared by Disney. “It’s made by people who truly love storytelling and have immense respect for their fans. I came into the process as a filmmaker and also as a fan. To be able to make a stand-alone movie, but also to celebrate what came before us, to expand the mythology and to shape the future of the MCU, was an exciting challenge and an honour to be a part of.”

The story of ‘Eternals’ takes place across two time periods. One storyline is set in the past when they operated as a formidable team and a close family unit. The second storyline is in the present, when the group has fractured and split apart, hiding in plain sight. And it’s in the present timeline where we meet Harington’s Dane, dating Chan’s Sersi, unawares of her real identity.

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Richard Madden, from left, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani and Barry Keoghan pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Eternals' on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, in London. Image Credit: AP

Following are edited excerpts from Gulf News’ conversation with Harington as we talk ‘Eternals’, reuniting with ‘Game of Thrones’ cast mate Madden and working with Zhao.

Once you were offered the role of Dane Whitman, did you go back to the comic books at all?

You know what, when I got offered the character, I said, ‘Give me a sec, let me do my Googling’. And I did a bit of research. And then I had a chat. And then I forgot about all the research and looked at what we’ll be doing in this movie. And then I said yes. And I’ve still tried to forget all that research I did. Because it’s just a possible future, which may never happen.

What was it like working with Chloe Zhao on the film?

She’s a really special director and a really special woman. And I think she shoots in a very freeing way for actors. She’s unconstructed is what I’d say. She wants you to feel very free in front of the camera. She also wanted us to be quite like ourselves, which you’d actually think that that’d be a comforting thing for an actor, but it’s very daunting. To be closer to yourself is not what we’re used to doing, and not what we want to do. We want to get as far away from ourselves as possible. So being close to ourselves is uncomfortable sometimes. But that was our vision for this. And so Dane is a version of myself that’s quite close to me.

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Director Chloe Zhao, winner of the award for best picture for 'Nomadland', poses at the press room of the Oscars, in the 93rd Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California, on April 25, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

I also read in an interview that you shot quite close to where you live in the UK. What was that like?

I literally rolled out of bed and onto a Marvel movie. It was brilliant.

Did that sort of help you stay in your skin?

I haven’t been asked that. Yeah, I think it did. I think there was something about shooting on Camden High Street. I turned up to Camden. Twenty minutes from my house. I got out of my clothes, I got into something that looked very much like my clothes. And, you know, had my voice and was actually around two of my friends. So that did kind of help, you’re right.

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Kit Harington, Angelina Jolie, Chloé Zhao, Gemma Chan, and Richard Madden pose on the red carpet for the movie 'Eternals' at the 16th edition of the Rome Film Fest in Rome, Sunday, October 24, 2021. Image Credit: AP

You’re also reuniting with your ‘Game of Thrones’ cast mate Richard Madden in ‘Eternals’. Did you guys just pick up from where you left off?

I wish we had more [scenes]. But we had just a moment together. And that can be surreal, because you know the person so well. But actually, it was quite fun. Nice. Just nice to connect again, and in a Marvel movie of all places.

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Kit Harington and Richard Madden in 'Game of Thrones'. Image Credit: Supplied

Did you get any time to reminisce about your ‘GoT’ days?

I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on set, but I did. There’s a lot of time to reminisce. There’s too much time to reminisce. Hours reminiscing. [Laughs.]

After your stint with ‘Game of Thrones’, you had a bit of a break. And this is probably your first major role after ‘GoT’. What was it like going from one big franchise to another?

It didn’t feel like actually going from one big franchise to another, really? Weirdly, I mean, I guess I don’t know any different, but I certainly feel prepared for this world because I spent a lot of time on big sets, in a big scope of a project, with a big fandom. So I sort of feel prepped to be in a Marvel movie in that respect. But to me, it’s another job. I know it sounds bizarre, but it’s another character and another job. It’s not really one franchise to the next.

Karun (Harish Patel), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Gilgamesh (Don Lee) in Marvel Studios' 'Eternals'. Image Credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios

And to wrap up, what was your biggest challenge of working on a Marvel movie? And in addition to that, what was the most surprising thing about working on a Marvel movie?

The biggest challenge was my size of role in this one because it was quite a small role. And I had to get quite a lot across in the limited time I had and all of my stuff filmed at the end of filming. So everyone’s relationships had already formed. And I felt like I was coming in as a kind of visitor. So yeah… The biggest surprise working on a Marvel set is that they could shut down a whole section of London to film a scene!

Don’t miss it!

‘Eternals’ releases in UAE cinemas on November 11.