It must have been Survivor that made TV show producers realize that the chance of a character – no matter how popular – leaving a show suddenly resonated with audiences. Programs like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have capitalized on this relatively new trend by having someone on the show die nearly every week. It may not be a star but it is pretty common to see an actor’s tenure on these recent shows ended. From characters who have made but a few appearances such as Rickon Stark to his father Ned who was very nearly the show’s main character during the first season, if you haven’t read the A Song of Ice and Fire books, you really have no idea who’s gonna buy the farm next. Even for those who have read the books, it can still be a surprise since the show has deviated from the text on a number of occasions.
One thing all fans of the show can agree on is that the production value is terrific. From the painstaking use of CGI to the sets to the quality of actors which populate the world of Westeros and beyond, its plain that far less detail has gone into many big budget Hollywood movies than this yearly 10-week trek into fantasy. So, what happens when their GoT journey ends? The popularity of the show has given its stars a springboard into other projects and if the former actors desire work, they have little problem finding it. Here’s what some of the better-known erstwhile stars of HBO’s Game of Thrones have been doing since their departure.
15. Jack Gleeson – Joffrey Baratheon
Very few deaths were as satisfying to audiences as the blue-faced choking scene witnessed at the wedding of Joffrey Baratheon to Margaery Tyrell during season four. His exit from this wildly successful program would have likely allowed him to seek and accept numerous starring roles in movies or television. But the (at the time) 22 year old has turned it all down. He announced even before his time on GoT ended that he’d retire from acting and, thus far, has done just that. Saying he did not enjoy it as much as he did when he was much younger, Gleeson has indicated he wanted to finish his education and then decide what was next. Unlikable as his character was, it takes a secure young man to give up such a tempting and lucrative lifestyle in order to pursue a far more disciplined one. We wish him good fortune in his efforts.
14. Sean Bean – Ned Stark
Sean Bean is probably one of the most recognizable faces – and voices – in the world that most folks would have a hard time putting a name to. He’s literally been in everything. It was his appearance as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring which brought him to the attention of many movie goers over a decade ago. Since then, appearances in big budget flicks like National Treasure and Troy have kept the man with the unmistakable voice in front of folks who like that kind of thing. He was a natural choice to play Ned Stark both for his sophisticated diction and face familiar to the swords-and-sandals crowd. Since leaving his head on the ground in Westeros, Bean has taken very real advantage of his increased popularity. He has appeared in over 20 movies and TV shows including The Martian with Matt Damon and as John Marlott on The Frankenstein Chronicles. Later this year he will star in Drone, a story of the covert CIA drone war being waged during the war on terror.
13. Mark Addy – Robert Baratheon
Thanks to most of us being familiar with stories of jolly but fierce kings such as Henry VIII, Mark Addy’s portrayal of Robert Baratheon seemed just right. He was a carouser and a warrior, loyal to his friends and lethal to his enemies. If only he could’ve laid off the wine. Another GoT actor that never made it past season one, Addy has filled his time most ably with many further TV appearances. Trollied, Jericho, and New Blood all have had Mark in recurring roles but his most perfect fit has to be in Atlantis where he portrays Greek demigod Hercules. Addy is glorious as the arrogant, fun-loving hero who lands in more trouble than he should. Addy is currently filming a TV movie with Tamla Kari called Young Hyacinth and will appear with Gabriel Byrne in next year’s Lies We Tell.
12. Charles Dance – Tywin Lannister
The whole time Tywin Lannister is sitting on the privy and Tyrion is holding the crossbow, viewers couldn’t help but wish he’d just shoot him already. Already an accomplished actor, Dance exited GoT in 2015 and embarked on a renewed movie career in which he has been able to pursue a wide variety of characters – breaking free from the overbearing and abusive patriarch of the Lannister clan. He recently filmed Me Before You with fellow GoT star Emilia Clarke, where he played a very grounded and loving father to a son in a wheelchair. And what could be more fun than to see this guy in a farce like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? He’ll continue his foray into comedy this summer in the new Ghostbusters reboot and stars in three films in 2017 including the next entry in the Underworld franchise with Kate Beckinsale.
11. Jason Momoa – Khal Drogo
Jason Momoa made his acting presence known as a young man by contributing to that boon-to-American-society known as Baywatch. The muscular fellow with the trademark scar over his left eye was a natural choice when GoT was looking for the man to play the Khal who set Daenerys Targaryen on her path to Westeros. Since his death shortly into season 2, Momoa has filled his time playing Phillip Kopus on TV’s The Red Road and appears along with Cary Elwes in the survival movie, Sugar Mountain. But he has likely struck gold and made certain he has plenty of work in the near future by landing one of DC comics title characters in their movie endeavors. Jason played Aquaman in the recent Batman v. Superman flick and will continue that role in the much-anticipated Justice League as well as his own film. Kind of hard to picture Khal Drogo swimming but we’re looking forward to it anyway.
10. Rose Leslie – Ygritte
She won Jon Snow’s heart even after putting three arrows in him and attacking his castle. That time in the cave must have been pretty awesome. Ygritte was the requisite love interest for one of the major characters on the show. Rose Leslie has had her share of those in her career and is now making a bigger name for herself as she works in roles where she’s not covered in animal skins and sack cloth. Playing Gwen Harding on the ever-popular Downton Abbey and a recurring role on Luther has kept he acting skills well honed while she pursues further film work. She appeared in The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel in 2015 and will star alongside Ray Liotta in a love story called Sticky Notes in a few months. Soon, she’ll have a starring role in the eerie sci-fi flick, Morgan with Kate Mara.
9. Stephen Dillane – Stannis Baratheon
Stephen Dillane has a soft spot in our hearts because he was so good playing Thomas Jefferson in the 2008 HBO John Adams mini-series. HBO really makes the best quality stuff, don;t they? Stannis was the would-be king who just couldn’t get it done. Dillane, however, was already getting it done as an accomplished actor before GoT and has manned another starring character on TV’s The Tunnel before and during his GoT tenure. Coming up, we get to see him on the big screen in a very interesting story called A Storm in the Stars about Mary Shelley and the impetus behind her writing of Frankenstein. He’ll even get to co-star with another GoT familiar, Maisie Williams. Going forward he’ll likely do more stage work, which is really the classically-trained actor’s first love.
8. Harry Lloyd – Viserys Targaryen
Harry Lloyd did an incredible job rendering Viserys as a domineering, immature, whiny King-wanna-be during the first season of the show. One of the great aspect of a vehicle like GoT is that there are so many characters and storylines that actors can work on other projects while still filming it. Lloyd appeared in The Iron Lady, Jane Eyre and Great Expectations all in the same year his acting stock was shooting through the roof as a cast member of GoT. Outside of the GoT world, Lloyd got some additional exposure in 2014’s widely acclaimed The Theory of Everything. In 2016, he has been working on ITV’s (Great Britain) Marcella, a detective show which has deep family elements to it, and will appear in the World War II drama, Anthropoid, about an assassination plot on a German SS general and contributor to Hitler’s “final solution.” His voice is unmistakable but he is difficult to recognize without his silvery hair.
7. Michelle Fairley – Catelyn Stark
Michelle Fairley is one of those actresses you didn’t realize you had been watching for years and years. And she’s certainly no stranger to dark and eerie projects. From her subdued–yet creepy–role in The Others to her recurring parts in the Harry Potter films, Michelle has that otherworldly English woman thing down cold. Since she fell on top of the rather large pile of corpses at the Red Wedding, Michelle has been extremely active, mostly in television. She’s appeared in several TV series and mini-series such as Resurrection and the Irish political coming of age drama, Rebellion. Currently, Fairley is a regular in another Brit series, Fortitude and you can look forward to seeing her in an English period drama about the wife of Henry VII, The White Princess.
6. Richard Madden – Robb Stark
Another long-time television character actor, Richard Madden was an understated King of the North for parts of three season on GoT. His gutting at the Red Wedding was part of television history and he most graciously bowed at the bloodied feet of Walder Frey. Madden cut his acting teeth on Barmy Aunt Boomerang (if that isn’t an English title we’re not sure what is) in the early 2000’s before landing his signature part as the eldest Stark boy. Since hid GoT demise Madden has appeared in several other TV projects, most notably as Cosimo de Medici in Medici: Masters of Florence and the Klondike mini-series. This year he released a feature film called Bastille Day. The movie is a rather remarkable coincidence in light of the tragic murders in France during the celebration of that very day and the plot concerning a terrorist attack on that very day. In fact, several theatres pulled the film following the attacks in Nice out of respect for the tragedy.
5. Kate Dickie – Lysa Arryn
She loved watching people “fly” through the moon door and eventually got to try it herself. Cat Stark’s weirder sister sat on the throne in the Eyrie in the stead of her husband, former hand of the King, John Arryn and raised quite a twisted little boy. While Lord Baelish is a mysterious and sometimes sinister character, shoving Lysa to her death was not the most hated thing he did. Kate Dickie played her to a tee, both by resembling Michelle Fairley enough and providing that unhinged, grief-stricken hag role like she was born to it. Since then, she has appeared in numerous TV shorts and series such as Midwinter of the Spirit and The Frankenstein Chronicles. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out another of her post GoT projects called The Witch. Its one of those rare non-formulaic horror films which really puts you in the place where the fear is. Dickie plays a Puritan wife dealing with seclusion and the paranormal in this period piece.
4. Gethin Anthony – Renly Baratheon
Never quite figured out where Renly got his idea that the Iron Throne should somehow be his. You have an older brother, doof. We suppose being assassinated by a shadow conjured by a red witch is punishment enough for that error. Gethin Anthony’s career was made by GoT and he has taken plentiful advantage of it. After roles in films like We Are Monster and Copenhagen, Anthony got another prime role in NBC’s Aquarius, a period drama about the Los Angeles crime scene in the 60s. He stars as the enigmatic Charles Manson, a cult leader who convinced dozens of young, vulnerable kids that society was against them, a race war was going to erupt in the United States and that he (Manson) was their savior. This lead to two famous mass-murders perpetrated by his followers. Anthony is wonderful in the part, convincing in his strangeness and clearly set to show the spiral into the madness which eventually claimed Manson.
3. Pedro Pascal – Oberyn Martell
Pedro Pascal is one of the busier actors in television. He’s been on dozens of television series, both US and English, in recurring roles and as a guest star. Law and order, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Red Widow and The Good Wife have all seen Pascal play important characters. His turn as the omnisexual Red Viper on GoT was a welcome bit of pomp and boisterousness amidst the dark and brooding show. Since The Mountain caved in his skull, Pedro has returned to TV in numerous roles including on Graceland and The Mentalist. Recently, he has received a few movie roles including this year’s The Great Wall and the 2017 sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service along with Channing Tatum and Julianne Moore.
2. Ciaran Hinds – Mance Rayder
The ex-crow who became the King Beyond the Wall was as defiant as he was loyal. He tried to unite the tribes to insure their survival, did so, and then Stannis went all Joan of Arc on him when he wouldn’t bend a knee. Tough area, the North. Ciaran (pronounced KEER-ahn) Hinds has been a successful actor for over 35 years, performing in very diverse roles and lending his trademark intensity to each. He’s also done a good deal of voice-over work including Grandpa in Frozen and the upcoming Aisha Tyler movie Axis. We are most excited, though, about his appearance in a new Liam Neeson vehicle (directed by Martin Scorsese!) called Silence, where he’ll play a seventeenth century Jesuit priest alongside Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and Adam Driver. It wont release until December by initial reviews are terrific.
1. Peter Vaughan – Maester Aemon
Maester Aemon was a character everyone liked. At times both headmaster and friend to the young men of the Nights Watch, his wisdom guided the lads as well as the leadership on The Wall. Peter Vaughan, himself nearly completely blind, was the perfect choice to play him. A man, such as Vaughan, who has already devoted the bulk of his life to acting and theatre, might take it easy when he reached his 90s. No, this WWII veteran signed on to the most popular drama on television and, having left it, is now filling pages with his memories and anecdotes from an incredibly full life. Published recently, “Once A Villain” details Vaughan’s career acting on stage and in film with celebrity giants like Frank Sinatra and Anthony Hopkins. No word right now if he will take future acting roles but it certainly would not be wise to bet against him.