The first thing I see when I walk into the penthouse suite at downtown Manhattan's Beekman Hotel, where Kit Harington reportedly awaits me, is a cloud of smoke. Not cigarette smoke, or smoke from a fire, or any other kind of smoke that signals imminent danger, for that matter — more like an apparition, a light fog, like something that might roll slowly over Winterfell after dusk and settle there, concealing its high turrets and spires. Then the smoke clears, and the Game of Thrones actor is standing there, sliding a slim rectangular object into the pocket of his Dolce & Gabbana suit. "Sorry," he tells me. "I was just having a vape."
Many celebratory vapes are in order for Harington, who, along with the rest of the show's cast, was honored with the award for Outstanding Drama Series (their third in this category) at Monday night's Emmys. Game of Thrones is, indeed, both outstanding and dramatic, with a particular emphasis on the latter where Harington's on-screen persona is concerned. It feels incongruous to see him like this, in non-Jon Snow form, wearing civilian clothes as opposed to dense swaths of fur and, occasionally, smiling, free of the residual existential trauma associated with having been stabbed to death (fucking Olly!) and then brought back to life by way of some extremely dark magic.
Emotional baggage isn't the only one of Jon Snow's signature traits that Harington is without right now: He also does not wear his hair in a bun, which has become the Warden of the North's go-to look post-resurrection. "They wanted me to look more like Ned Stark," Harington tells me, when I ask him about Snow's sudden preference for the updo. And with that, the actor confirms that prevailing theory about this hair switch-up: The Jon who wrenches Winterfell from the hands of House Bolton in the bloodiest battle the North has ever seen is just not the same Lord Commander who brooded it up as top bastard in the Night's Watch. Now, he's renewed his Stark card, just in time for audiences to find out that, um, he actually isn't the tragic patriarch's bastard son after all. "There's a real reason behind [my hairstyle]," he says, "to show how the story was evolving."
Like many of the show's other styling choices, Jon Snow's hair is an important key to the character's progression. For that reason, Kit Harington's hair is strictly off-limits; he’s been forbidden from changing it in any way that would prevent an easy return to a Snow-like state. That remains the case, even after filming for the show's final season wrapped in July. "I haven't been allowed to touch it for years," he says. "It's going to be weird, because it becomes part of your look as an actor. It's strange to think now that I can change it. Do I want to change it? Am I going to change it? I don't know." I ask him if he's backtracking, after he said in a previous interview that he'd like to do something dramatic, to make himself unrecognizable. He says yes, he is. "That's what I've learned from this," he tells me. "Just make a statement, then backtrack. Keep everyone confused."
For someone who regularly considers — and even more often answers questions about — the role his hair plays in his career, Harington is not big on a grooming routine. He tells me that his medicine cabinet is largely empty, except for maybe a few bottles of old antibiotics he never finished the course of. (He knows that this is not advisable.) His pre-red carpet routine involves taking a shower, putting on a suit, and trying not to move ("like a mannequin," he says), so as not to wrinkle the suit.
The one thing Harington might do that Jon Snow wouldn't is apply some of Dolce & Gabbana's new men's fragrance, The One Grey, of which he is the face. "He probably wouldn't wear any scent," Harington admits, a reasonable thing to say about a character who is frequently seen wearing the entire pelts of large mammals and covered in soot and blood. "But if he was going to, you know, I'd have to say he'd wear this one. The name is pretty good for Jon."
In an alternate universe, one where the Italian brand opens a pop-up just south of the Wall, Jon Snow might smell like bright grapefruit and earthy vetiver, a hit of aromatic cardamom and a base of tobacco warm enough to melt a wall of ice. And, at the very end there, a whiff of wood smoke — which is apropos for Harington, who tells me that wood smoke is his favorite scent of all. "It reminds me of home," the British native says, suddenly wistful. I guess the ghost of vape smoke, in an expansive hotel duplex high up on the rooftop overlooking a strange city, just isn't quite the same.