Credit: George Kraychyk

Hey Jon Snow, what’d you do with all your clothes?

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington has talked publicly about the physical transformation he undertook to play Milo, a slave turned gladiator, but little did we know he’d be so … exposed. We’re worlds away from The Wall.

As captivating as Harington’s physique might be, it’s hard to discern what exactly is going on in this exclusive first look at Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mount Vesuvius pic Pompeii. Are those ashes? Where is he going? Is he coolly walking away from an erupting volcano? Did he forget his shirt? Thankfully, Harington took a few minutes to shed some light on why Milo is looking so surly and bare in this photo.

“This is the first scene you see me in. It’s set in London, in fact, and it’s a scene where my character is a gladiator fighting in an arena. That’s his gladiator look,” Harington said. “It’s a great little fight against three masked gladiators and sets up who he is and where he’s going. You see me display my skills quite early on.” Perhaps unfortunately for us, this isn’t his uniform. “It’s a costume I don’t actually wear for the rest of the film, but it’s an establishing one.”

What brought him to be fighting in an arena in London is part of the broader story of this 3-D epic, which climaxes with the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius. “Milo is a Celt who is enslaved when he is a child and his family is killed. There’s a time cut that happens in the movie where you see me go from a child to a man, and you realize he’s been a gladiator for a long time. Eventually he’s taken to Pompeii,” Harington said. Once in the bustling city, he falls for a higher-class beauty named Cassia, played by Sucker Punch‘s Emily Browning. “It follows their story till the volcano erupts,” Harington teased. “There are some beautiful scenes in there.” The ensemble cast includes Jared Harris, who plays Cassia’s father Lucretius, Keifer Sutherland as a visiting Roman Senator, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Paz Vega.

Game of Thrones die-hards will be pleased to know that Milo isn’t all that dissimilar to the bastard son of the North. “He’s a good swordsman and good fighter, and quite brooding, which is all of what Jon Snow is, and he doesn’t really speak a hell of a lot, even though I’ve got a lot of screen time. He kind of keeps himself to himself.”

“The differences, and why I was interested in the role, were that Milo is completely set on vengeance rather than honor and justice,” Harington said. “He’s an angry, angry man who doesn’t care what he does. For a large part of the film, he’s driven by pure rage.” Harington said he met Anderson in Los Angeles this past January to discuss the character and the film. “He’s a very aesthetic director, Paul. He’s very visual. And he showed me pictures of different volcanoes in eruption and pictures from Pompeii. I kind of liked the way he was selling the movie to me as a very beautiful visual story as well as having character arcs.”

But as to why he went full Hugh Jackman to play Milo? That was Harington’s decision. “The first thing I said to [Paul] was, ‘Look, I’m playing a gladiator. I feel there should be a physical transformation, if he’s as strong as you say in the script. Maybe I should sort of tone up for that?'” he said. “So I went into quite a heavy training regime five weeks before filming. I started by bulking up and then when I got out there I had four weeks to shred down and get toned. It’s a full-time job that you have to carry on for the whole of the movie. I was on a very severe diet and training six days a week.” Harington worked with a trainer throughout the film to maintain his gladiator form. “It’s the best shape I’ve been in, and I was hell-bent on getting in a certain way. When you get into that sort of training regime, it becomes addictive.”

Harington admits that in drama school he was always the baby-faced one playing 11-year-olds, and that it’s odd being known now for such action-oriented films. “You go where it takes you. I’m always aware of being stereotyped in a role or typecast. But I enjoy the action stuff. I like doing my own stunts,” he said. “I do a lot of fighting in this film.

“But the next thing I do might not be a period action role. That might be taking it one step too far.”

Pompeii is set to hit theaters on Feb 21, 2014.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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