There's something to be said for falling in love under extreme circumstances, such as while trekking through a blizzard to evade enemies both human and undead, bundled up under layers of fur pelts, arrows and swords at the ready for a battle that could begin at any moment. Perhaps even with each other.
"Because the country is beautiful, because the Northern Lights are magical, and because it was there that I fell in love," Harington told Vogue Italia in 2016. "If you're already attracted to someone, and then they play your love interest in the show, it's becomes very easy to fall in love."
So we've heard a few times. The hard part, of course, is staying in love and making a real go of it once the cameras have stopped rolling—especially when they stop rolling for one co-star after three seasons and the other is contracted to ride that runaway train till the controversial end.
But at least Leslie and Harington's story arc has proved much more collectively satisfying. (Oh, and in case you're a bit behind...SPOILERS AHEAD.)
Almost a decade after the actors first met in 2011, Leslie joining the cast of the HBO juggernaut in its second season and lasting till an arrow felled Ygritte in season four, the now married couple just welcomed their first child together. So Harington at least emerged from his life-changing run as the brooding Jon Snow as the king of his real-life beloved's heart.
"She has this energy on camera, she really gives everything of herself," he reflected to the Telegraph in September 2020 on getting to know his future wife. "I mean, look, I fancied the hell out of her and I was falling in love with her, so she could have been the worst actor in the world and I wouldn't have seen it... But obviously she is a brilliant actor and very easy to work with."
When Leslie was cast as Ygritte, the Wildling warrior known for her fiery red hair, in 2011, the Scottish actress wasn't yet a household name, but she had been working steadily in the U.K. and had just come off a run playing maid Gwen on Downton Abbey. Harington's first TV series, let alone his big break, was Game of Thrones, the native Londoner having primarily done theater beforehand.
"I remember that he was quite tired, because he'd been doing eight shows a week in War Horse for a year," casting director Nina Gold, a five-time Emmy winner (including three for casting GOT), told Insider.com in 2017. "Then he started doing the audition and playing Jon Snow and he was completely brilliant. I do recall the emotional impact of his audition and being blown away. Kit is a phenomenal actor."
He began filming his literally snowy scenes in November 2011 in Iceland, Jon capturing Ygritte when she's separated from her roving troupe. She gives him hell and escapes, and he takes off after her, fatefully ending up ensnared by the Wildlings when she leads him into a trap.
"What really struck a chord with me, what I loved about her, was her independence and her ruthlessness. She is tough," Leslie explained of her character to Access Online ahead of the season two premiere in May 2012. "She has lived in this difficult terrain all her life and you know, she's very kind of strong-willed and I suppose I love that about her. And she bites back."
"In the scenes Jon Snow and I have, she doesn't let him kind of have one up on her, she bites back and she fights, which is great."
Dating rumors about her and Harington would emerge that very year, but, you know, promotional tours, red carpets... they were bound to be thrown together, especially to play up the increasingly explosive chemistry between Ygritte and Jon.
As it turned out, they were more than friends for awhile, but their first round of dating reportedly fizzled in 2013. The following summer, however, they were spotted arriving at Los Angeles International Airport together in July ahead of the GOT cast's appearance at Comic-Con, and they haven't been apart since. In spirit, anyway. Geographically, it was a slog, as Leslie's watch had ended and Harington's plot only thickened.
"It was an incredible experience, and for me—as an actor—it definitely opened a lot of doors with casting directors, and producers," Leslie told the U.K.'s Make Magazine in a recent interview, recalling her three-season run on the show.
She went on to the British miniseries The Great Fire, about the titular conflagration that tore through London in 1666, popped up on Luther and then returned to American television on The Good Fight in 2017. Next she'll be seen in Kenneth Branagh's star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile (another maid role, but far more pivotal) and, once they had pandemic protocol sorted out, this summer she started shooting the BBC One miniseries Vigil in Glasgow. Leslie acknowledged she felt very fortunate to be able to work on it, "given the current situation when so many people in our industry can't work," she told Make.
Having to be apart for work had its downside, but it also allowed her and Harington to deepen their connection without anyone being the wiser, and it wasn't until they were spotted shopping hand-in-hand out in L.A. in January 2016 that anyone was sure that they were even still a couple.
But with neither spilling any details outside their inner circle, the intimate moment they shared on the red carpet at the Olivier Awards in London that April was the real confirmation.
And, aside from that time she discovered a model of Harington's head that he'd stuck in the refrigerator one April 1 ("My family does April Fools. Her family doesn't do April Fools. She didn't know the date and after that she was in tears"), Leslie's connection to GOT continued to have its perks.
Once Jon Snow was resurrected in the second episode of season six, after his own compadres had taken turns stabbing him to death at the end of season five, Harington could finally start talking about what it was like to keep that secret for months. And he admitted that, aside from his mum and dad, he had filled his girlfriend in on his character's fate.
"They're all very trusted people," he assured Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that May.
In fact, Harington also revealed to Entertainment Weekly, "I told her from early on. In fact, Dan [co-creator D.B. Weiss] said to David [Benioff], 'He's going to tell Rose, isn't he?' She was allowed to know."
After Harington had admitted to falling in love during filming, Leslie agreed about the singular setting.
"It was the winter months," she recalled to the Telegraph in June 2016, "so we only had from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to film before we'd lose light. We were in the middle of a glacier. It's a really, really stunning place and we saw the Northern Lights, which was extraordinary. I've never before been somewhere so vast and magic. And I'm Scottish, so I have an affinity with cold, crisp days."
As for her relationship specifically, the actress acknowledged that she was "very happy" and called her boyfriend "a great man." Leslie said of Harington, "I'm very proud of him. There's an understanding that comes with the job. An understanding of being busy and when you have to say, 'Sorry, I'm just going to bugger off for two months to film.'"
So Harington knew something of how to maintain a long-distance relationship.
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor, who was still spending months at a time filming in Northern Ireland, hung onto the flat he'd been sharing for years with his friend and writing partner Dan West until early 2017, when he told Esquire that he and Leslie were finally house-hunting together in Manhattan (where she lived while shooting The Good Fight) and England.
Not that a flood of information was forthcoming.
Other than that bit about real estate, "it's as much her relationship as it is mine and I can't speak for both of us," Harrington said. "But yeah, we are very, very happy. So that's what I'll say about that."
London was the winning city, eventually, but it was while on holiday in the English countryside that Harington decided to propose that summer.
"I was going to string up some lights in some trees and do all the romantic stuff, but we were in the country and we were under this beautiful night sky and had a log fire burning and red wine, and I blew my load early," he shared on The Jonathan Ross show after their engagement announcement was published in The Times in London. "Sorry, that's a really bad expression."
Mopping up after himself, he added, "What I meant to say was, I popped my question a bit early. Not blew my load."
After securing Leslie's "yes," Harington's next step was to make sure they set a date that was convenient for the Game of Thrones cast because he wanted them all at their wedding.
He rang up one of the producers, he told Ross, "and I said, 'I'm getting married and it's your fault actually.' I was like, 'You need to factor in a Game Of Thrones wedding by the way. They have all got to be there so the whole thing has got to shut down!'"
In any case, they picked a time when winter wouldn't be coming.
On June 23, 2018, Leslie and Harrington got married in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in true medieval-chic fashion at Wardhill Castle, a popular venue in town for weddings that dates back to the 12th century.
"The wedding was perfect," a source told E! News after the nuptials. "Family and friends were elated for Rose and Kit. It was a day of love and celebration and you could see it on everyone's faces."
The bride's father and Aberdeenshire councilor Sebastian Leslie told reporters before the ceremony, "We are absolutely thrilled for Kit and Rose to be marrying today. It's an absolutely lovely day for us."
The groom promised to love, honor, obey and never again prank her with a fake head in the fridge. ("She pretty much told me if I did it ever again that would be it," Harington had told Ross. "And I think that's marriage included.")
And so the honeymoon period began, with the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones in post-production and not scheduled to premiere until April 2019.
Among the few bread crumbs she'd dropped about the inner workings of their relationship, Leslie told the Telegraph back in 2016 that they weren't ones for drama, that Harington was "not a confrontational person so we don't ever blow off steam." (And of course she never quoted Ygritte's famous "You know nothing, Jon Snow" line in the heat of the moment. "God no! We don't do that," she assured. "It would be a fairly douchebag-y thing to do.")
So maybe it wasn't entirely out of the blue when, in April 2019, ahead of what was going to be the most talked-about season of any show ever in recent memory, Harington hosted Saturday Night Live and then went to Connecticut, where, according to his rep, he checked into a "wellness retreat to work on some personal issues."
Page Six reported that the actor was "undergoing psychological coaching, practicing mindful meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy to combat stress and deal with negative emotions." Moreover, a source told the outlet, "His wife Rose is being extremely supportive. Everyone close to him really wanted him to get some rest. Right now, he just needs peace and quiet."
The emotions that went with Game of Thrones winding down after eight seasons and a decade of production were real.
"It's like when you finish a book, you're not happy it's over are you? You don't finish a good book and say, 'I'm happy I finished that,'" Harington, who will be seen in Marvel's The Eternals whenever that gets to open in theaters, had said on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show in January 2019. "But you have this grief that it's over, and it's exactly same with nine years doing this show. No matter how it ended, or how it does end, there's always this bit of you that's like, 'Oh.' There's this loss around it."
(Ironically, Leslie did not appreciate finding out what ultimately happened to Jon, though she thought she wanted to know. "I told my wife last year how it ended, and she wouldn't talk to me for about three days," the actor shared with KISS Breakfast hosts Tom Green and Daisy Maskell in February 2019. "And she'd asked!")
But the future is certainly looking bright now.
Leslie also revealed to Make that she and Harington were expecting their first child, with their bundle of joy arriving in February.
And after spending so much time in New York for The Good Fight, the actress is happy to be living in London, though she and Harington like to escape on weekends to their Tudor-style home in East Anglia that was originally built in the 15th century.
"It's incredibly old," Leslie said of their Suffolk abode. "We have a thatched roof, which currently has an enormous hornet's nest in it. I do love to think about the house and all the people who have lived there. Were they happy, how did they live? All the families passing under those ancient beams."
She added, "What a glorious thing to be able to run to the countryside and recoup. It's a great privilege to be surrounded by greenery, birdsong and hedgerows, and our delightful neighbors. It's so peaceful."
And it's not as if she talked about being pregnant. She let her baby bump and her glow say it all.
About a week before the news broke on the couple's terms, Harington had chatted with the Telegraph about what he got up to in quarantine, saying, "I did not set myself the task of writing the next big novel or learning an instrument, and failing. I gave myself a break from the get-go. I took the opportunity to reflect, to sit with myself, and for the most part that was what I achieved."
He did a lot of exercising and gardening, he added, and sometimes he and Leslie would get all dressed up for dinner, just for kicks. They also did a little role playing, theatrically speaking.
"We would be walking around the house playing scenes and doing accents," he shared. "Two actors locked up together will end up performing for no one."
Yet for him and Leslie, that tends to be when the real magic happens.
This story was originally published on Monday, October 5, 2020 at 7:20 p.m.