Eternals Star Kit Harington Might Know Something About Dane Whitman's Future In The MCU [Interview]

In a world filled with superheroes, sorcerers, aliens, and as we will soon discover, immortal god-like beings, Kit Harington's Dane Whitman is just a normal human guy. For now. Anyone who's picked up a comic or read a Marvel Wikipedia page knows that the fate of Harington's "Eternals" character is much more super than that, but for the time being, all you need to know about Dane Whitman is that he's just a guy who works at London's Natural History Museum and loves his oddly secretive girlfriend, Sersi (Gemma Chan). But when Sersi reveals that she's actually a being known as an Eternal who was sent to Earth thousands of years ago to protect humanity from the Deviants, Dane takes everything surprisingly in stride.

"He's pretty unfazed by those things," Harington told me over a Zoom call ahead of the release of Marvel's "Eternals." But that doesn't make him extraordinary in any way, Harington believes. It's just part and parcel of living in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that's what makes Dane Whitman so refreshing a character to play for Harington, after 8 seasons brooding in the snow and mud in HBO's wildly successful fantasy show "Game of Thrones." Harington knows that Jon Snow is what people expect of him, but "I think I played a lot of overly serious people in my career and I wanted him not to be that."

Dane Whitman is, Harington described, the human in a very inhuman story. He's the audience surrogate to whom Sersi explains the lore of the Eternals, sure, but he's also the anchor to humanity for Sersi as things get more and more cosmic.

"I was aware that there was that role for me in being an audience guide. I think you have to make it your own," Harington said.

I chatted with Harington about navigating the role of exposition device, how to make the most of brief screen time, and whether he does in fact know nothing (about any future appearances in the MCU).

"I think I played a lot of overly serious people in my career and I wanted him not to be that."

So, you show up at the beginning of Eternals as Sersi's boyfriend, and are major part of introducing the audience to the Eternals and getting to know Sersi. Is it difficult playing that audience surrogate without being too much of a device for exposition? How do you balance that?

Yeah, it's a good question. I was aware that there was that role for me in being an audience guide. I think you have to make it your own. I had clear conversations with ChloƩ [Zhao] about his purpose, but who also who he was in his tone and who he was as a person. And I think that I'm happy with how we balance that out.

You have a short amount of time to convince the audience that you are in a relationship with this person. And that was the key thing, because she has to have an affinity with humanity through this person, through Dane. If I've done that, then I've done my job. And that's my role in the movie, and I'm happy.

So who is Dane Whitman, as you and ChloƩ Zhao workshopped together?

For me, it was just important that he wasn't overly serious, that he wasn't naval-gazing, that he was a warm, confident character, that was just as cool with [Sersi] going off as anything. And that way the audience hopefully warmed to him. And I think I played a lot of overly serious people in my career and I wanted him not to be that. So that was important for me.

The other interesting thing about him is that he's not that phased by the fact that she's this Eternal being and that various things happen at the start of the movie, which are pretty shocking. He's pretty unfazed by those things, and that I had to wrap my head around. But actually if you place him in the MCU, and know that he's seen everything that we've all seen on screen over the past few years, it's not that wild that something like this would happen. And if he's quite a cool customer anyway, he could sort of process that.

"I do think that this is the intro to the character."

Yeah. Dane is pretty nonplussed at all the revelations that Sersi gives to him. Did you have to imagine a backstory for Dane through the years of the MCU to get him to that place that he is, to just accept everything that Sersi throws at him?

No... Sometimes I love it when actors create huge back stories for a character who's in the movie for all of 10 minutes. Just do your job, what's on the page. I didn't need a big backstory for him. If there's a future for him, maybe that'll come out then. But I think in this movie, my role was to be a guide for the audience to support Gemma's journey, and to try and be interesting in the time that I had.

So "Eternals" deals with big ideas and big questions, like is humanity worth saving? You get to play the character who represents humanity to the Eternals, or at least to Sersi. What was it like taking on that pressure, or was that something that you didn't even think of when playing the character?

No, I think I did think about it. It's one of the things I did think about, was that I'm one of the few humans you interact with in this story. And therefore, especially with Sersi, it needs to be apparent that he represents humanity. Otherwise, it's a bunch of Eternal beings. He's the face of humanity in this in many ways, along with Phastos' husband. So yeah, for me, I did think about those things and it was an important part of shaping him as a character.

So of course I need to ask about Dane's other alter ego, the Black Knight. There are a lot of hints that Dane will take up the sword throughout Eternals. What can you tell us about the future of Dane Whitman in the MCU?

I can't tell you a lot. I can tell you honestly, don't know. I don't know where, or if it's going anywhere. I know what's on the internet about him. I know who he's meant to be, and the person that you reference, but really in this, he is, like we've discussed, he's the human side of the story and anything beyond this is hopefully coming. I do think that this is the intro to the character. This is why I took the role, because it's an introduction to a larger story, hopefully. But right now I'm in this movie, it may go nowhere.

"If he's anything else, he'll discover it in time."

Well, knowing what his fate might hold, does that affect your performance in any way, in the brief moments that we do see you?

Not really. I remember very much when... I got this from being in a long running TV show. If you start living in future seasons, you're not really doing your job in the current one. And that's how I approach this now, because that's how I've learned to do it, don't live in any kind of future. This is the person he is now. If he's anything else, he'll discover it in time.

So can you tell us if you are going to be in Eternals 2?

No. But I like the boldness of the question.

So you might say that you know nothing then?

Yeah. Yeah. I set a nice intro to that. Yeah. Yeah. I know nothing!

I was waiting for that. Well, speaking of the "you know nothing of it" all, you and Richard Madden reuniting on set for a very brief scene in "Eternals," was there any excitement on set for that onscreen reunion, however brief it was?

None at all. I hate the guy. Always boring to see Richard Madden, is the way I think about it. He's a good friend and it was just surreal being in this now with him, and briefly as well. Just briefly, again, like our time on "Game of Thrones" was so brief. The time on this was so brief, I feel like we're always like ships in the night passing each other. Maybe we'll get something a bit more lengthy next time.

"Eternals" opens in theaters on November 5, 2021.