HBO’s huge television series, Game of Thrones, has become hugely successful, ever since the first season aired in 2011. While the George R. R. Martin book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, already had millions of fans, the television series based off of the books introduced the story to a much larger audience. People were enthralled with the relationships, struggle for power, and all the fantasy aspects to the story.
Yet, it was the characters that truly brought the story to life. While the incredible plot twists and infamous death scenes sparked viewers to post their own reaction videos online while watching particular episodes, it was the actors’ ability to convey the story that truly drew in fans of the series. Since starring on the show, many of its actors have gone on to bigger and better things. From Kit Harington starring in Pompeii to Emilia Clarke starring in Me Before You, many of the actors seem ready to transition into full-blown film stars since their time on Game of Thrones.
While it’s exciting to see where these actors will go next, it’s also interesting to see where they have been. Many of the actors featured on the show are actually pretty accomplished in their own right, but it can be hard to recognize them in their new Game of Thrones setting. Whether you’re wondering why a certain character looks so familiar or you’re just looking for some little-known facts about the show, check out our list of 15 casting secrets and connections in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
15. Richard Brake
One of the most appealing aspects of Game of Thrones is the fact that it is so much more than just a period drama. By including fantasy aspects like White Walkers and giants, fans of the show get a dose of mystical flair to go with their swordplay and drama over who will sit on the Iron Throne. Yet the actors playing the mythical creatures aren’t exactly as recognizable as some of the other more significant characters. Richard Brake, the actor that plays the Night King, can be seen in the fourth and fifth seasons of the show, but it might be a little tricky to pick him out of a lineup. In an interview with MTV News, Brake and prosthetics designer, Barrie Gower, gave further insight into the character, “who doesn’t say a damn word yet makes his presence known.” The show’s production spent quite a bit of time creating a mold of Brake’s face with prosthetics that are worn on his face, arms, and chest. For those that are curious about what he looks like underneath it all, Brake was the actor that played Joe Chill, the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents in the first Batman film.
14. Keep An Eye On The Extras
In order to make a series on such a large scale as Game of Thrones, there needs to be an immense number of crew members and extras. Yet it’s interesting to see which scenes require the most help from these seemingly anonymous faces. Season five of the show features quite a lot of time spent in the Hall of Faces, but it’s not computer generated graphics that the viewer is seeing. There are actually over 600 prosthetic faces mounted in the columns, comprised of over 30 extras and crew members as models. Also, many of the extras are reused in the scenes that require a large amount of people. Many of the extras that played members of The Night’s Watch have been reused to portray members of the Unsullied army. Yet perhaps the best story involving extras on the show involves an Irish pig farmer named Kenny Gracey, who provides authentic props and livestock to be featured in the series. Gracey occasionally gets into costume, and can be seen on the show when any of his animals need tending to during filming.
13. Game Of Thrones’ Connection To The Adult Film Industry
Anyone that has seen an episode of Game of Thrones knows that there is an obscene amount of sexual content. Blogger and television critic, Myles McNutt, even coined the phrase “sexposition” to describe the way the series reveals important information regarding the plot while a violent or sexual act is happening in the background. From Littlefinger revealing his origin in connection to Catelyn Stark while instructing women in the brothel house to Daenerys finding strength in her dragon’s eggs while enduring a painful sexual act with Khal Drogo, it’s interesting to see how the series uses sex to help emphasize the storyline. Understanding that sex is a major part of the series, showrunners didn’t hesitate to reach out to professionals in the sex industry when in search of certain characters. Six real-life adult film stars acted in Game of Thrones over the years, including Tyrion’s dead mistress, Shae. Actress Sibel Kekilli started her career in the adult entertainment industry, under the name Dilara, and made 12 films in 2002 alone. There is also a total of three parodies based on the series: Game of Bones: Winter is Cumming, Sex and Thrones, and This Ain’t Game of Thrones XXX.
12. Actor Played Four Different Characters On The Show
Oftentimes, replacing a character onscreen can be met with more than a few disgruntled viewers. From George Clooney’s highly criticized portrayal of Batman on the silver screen to Game of Thrones replacing the Daario Naharis character in Season four of the series, viewers definitely sit up and take notice if one of their favorite characters is messed with. Yet not all of the characters on Game of Thrones are ultra-memorable. Ian Whyte is an actor that has played four different characters on the show, and has made appearances in all six seasons of the series. Whyte played a White Walker in Seasons one and two, Gregor Clegane in Season two, Dongo the Giant in Seasons three and four, and Wun Wun in Seasons five and six. Because so many of the roles he played allowed him to obscure his facial features, viewers never knew that they were all played by the same actor. With the death of Wun Wun in Season six, Whyte’s time on the show has supposedly come to an end. Yet, his versatility in his character portrayals will no doubt allow for at least one more appearance from Whyte on the series.
11. Hodor Is More Talented Than You Would Know
Kristian Nairn, the actor that played Hodor in Game of Thrones, started as an actor and DJ prior to appearing on the series. While residing in Northern Ireland, Nairn was actually the resident DJ at a club in Belfast called Kremlin. This was a homosexual club, which seems appropriate considering Nairn publicly came out as a gay man in 2014. During his time on the show, viewers became quite attached to his Hodor character, even though he only spoke one word throughout his years on the series (unless you count the “hold the door” sequence from the flashback scene). Regardless of his one-word dialogue, Nairn has claimed that there are 70 different ways to say “Hodor.” From questioning “Hodor” to reluctant “Hodor,” the list goes on and on. Yet, while his time on the show has come to an end, Nairn has gone back to his previous career as a DJ. He mounted a U.S. tour entitled, Rave Of Thrones, and garnished quite a large fan base as a progressive house DJ.
10. Jojen Reed Used To Be One Of The Cutest Child Actors
When Jojen Reed was introduced to the Game of Thrones series, many people couldn’t help but wonder why he looked so familiar. Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster perfectly portrayed Bran’s ally on the show, as a member of House Reed with the power of prophetic green dreams. The greensight ability was only hinted at with Bran Stark, but it truly came into fruition once the Jojen Reed character was added. Yet it shouldn’t have surprised viewers that Sangster had such talent as an actor, since he had already starred in a number of hugely successful films as a child actor. He voiced the role of Ferb Fletcher in Phineas and Ferb, the child love-hopeful in Love Actually, and Simon Brown in Nanny McPhee. Once he appeared in Game of Thrones in 2013, it seemed to have opened even more doors for him as he transitioned out of being considered just a child actor. He starred in the Maze Runner film series in 2014 and 2015, and even held a role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
9. King Robert Baratheon Wasn’t Always So Serious
When Mark Addy was seen on Game of Thrones, portraying the character King Robert Baratheon, he seemed like the perfect fit to play the gruff and bearded king of the seven kingdoms. While he was seen drinking and womanizing his way through King’s Landing, most of his dialogue on the series showed him as ultra-serious and stressed. Yet, that isn’t the only type of character Addy can play. Portraying the Dave character from the hit film, The Full Monty, he didn’t exactly have royal status during this screen time. He also played Fred Flintstone in The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas, but somehow his The Full Monty character trumps even his big orange caveman shirt. Although you may not have recognized Addy in any of these screen characters, there’s no way to take back what you now know. Picturing Robert Baratheon dressed as a police officer while stripping it off onstage isn’t something you’ll soon forget!
8. The Hound Used To Sell Cereal
Not many brands can boast being around since the 1800’s, so Scott’s Porage Oats is definitely in a league of their own. As a staple breakfast item for Scottish homes, the brand has gained the status of being part of a traditional breakfast in Scotland. In 1924 an image was added to the packaging to include a cartoon depiction of a “figure of strength, health and vitality” (wearing a kilt). When the brand was in search of an actor to fulfill this cartoon depiction in advertisements, they turned to Rory McCann, the actor that plays the Hound character on Game of Thrones. While it is pretty uncanny how closely he resembled the cartoon version of the fit as a fiddle Scottish man, it’s almost comical to see him in such a different onscreen portrayal than his warrior character on Game of Thrones. It is refreshing to see that the burn scars on his face are just part of The Hound’s character, but it’s also a little jolting to see the commercial with McCann practically nude and dripping wet on his way to put on a kilt.
7. Bronn Was Once A Singing Sensation
Game of Thrones has always had a storyline that has included some seriously strong male relationships. From Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon’s chummy ways to Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon getting it on, the friendships in the show are just as important as the romantic relationships. This has never been more evident than when Bronn was first introduced as Tyrion Lannister’s Champion during the Season four Trial by Combat. Actor Jerome Flynn perfectly portrayed the sellsword new “Bestie” to Tyrion Lannister, but some may know him from a totally different capacity. Back in the ’90s, Flynn paired up with fellow actor Robson Green to form the duo Robson & Jerome. Specializing as crooner-style singers, their big claim to fame was a version of the Righteous Brothers’ infamous hit, “Unchained Melody.” They had a number of singles that reached number one on the UK Chart, and garnished a sizable female fan base across the pond.
6. Maester Pycelle Is Actually A Well-Known Actor
In the episode where Maester Pycelle revealed his true nature as a more than capable and strong man, it was amusing to see that his slow movements and hunched stance were all just a show to make him appear less threatening. While it proved his acting skills on the show, it should have also proven something to viewers that he wasn’t just an actor plucked from the masses to play this elderly character. Julian Wyatt Glover has actually starred in a number of hit films throughout his professional career, with his portrayal as Grand Maester Pycelle being just one of many. Glover played General Maximilian Veers in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and even voiced the Aragog character in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. His aged look worked perfectly for the Grand Maester Pycelle character on the series, and proved that actors can still get significant roles during their later years.
5. Will The Real Mountain Please Stand Up!
Game of Thrones is notorious for swapping out actors on the series, and no one seems to be off-limits, regardless of how well-known their character is to viewers. Both Tommen and Myrcella Baratheon were replaced on the series, but audiences seemed to forgive this new casting since it allowed for older actors to take their place. However, The Mountain’s character seems to belong to an ever-changing roster of different actors. Three separate actors have played the role of Gregor Clegane, with each having the larger than life stance that George R. R. Martin intended for the character. Conan Stevens played the character in Season one, Ian Whyte played him in Season two, and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson has portrayed him most recently. Björnsson is commonly referred to as “Thor” in certain circles, since he is a professional Icelandic strongman that holds the title of the 3rd strongest man in the world. Björnsson has placed in the top three in the World’s Strongest Man Competition every single year from 2012 to 2015.
4. Tormund Actor Doesn’t Mind Commercial Work
Once an actor becomes known from a hit film or television series, the media often dig into their past to see if there are any embarrassing commercials or roles from early on in their careers. Yet, in the case of Kristofer Hivju, the actor that plays Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones, the media didn’t really have to dig at all. Shortly after his character on the HBO series started gaining more screen time and a more drawn out storyline, Hivju could be seen in a series of highly marketed advertisements for Wyndham Rewards. While it isn’t unheard of for a television star to endorse a brand for a television commercial, it is a little strange that the ultra fierce Tormund from Game of Thrones is now playing a crystal ball-producing “Wyndham Reward Wyzard” with cartoon-like clothing and facial expressions. Whether it was a decision based on trying to diversify his public persona or just an endorsement deal too lucrative to pass up, Hivju definitely lost some cool points for his new “Wyzard” commercials.
3. Jack Gleeson
Jack Gleeson is best known for his role as Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones, but he’s actually been acting since the age of seven. While his Game of Thrones character was far from likable, those that recognize him from the small part he played in Batman Begins knows what an adorable kid he once was. Playing the child that escaped to the balcony to get away from his fighting parents, audiences felt heartfelt sorrow for his character. With such a huge turnaround for his character on Game of Thrones, he definitely proved his acting skills as a young actor. Writer George R. R. Martin, who created the book series Game of Thrones is based on, reportedly sent a letter to Gleeson. Meant as a congratulatory letter to let him know what a great job he was doing in bringing his character to life onscreen, the letter read “Congratulations on your marvelous performance, everyone hates you.” After his time on the show had run its course, reports came out that Gleeson had decided to retire from acting. Yet, an interview with theMusic.com.au in March 2016 revealed that he had just decided to take a break to pursue other endeavors.
2. Jon Snow And Ygritte Are Related To Royalty (And Each Other)
Kit Harington, the actor that plays Jon Snow, has an actual relation to royalty through his grandmother, Lavender Cecilia Denny. This relation to King Charles II occurred because she was married to Richard Harington, the 12th Baronet Harington, which is a title that has been in existence since the 1400s. Coincidentally, the actress that played Ygritte (Jon Snow’s love interest on the show), Rose Leslie, also has a relation to King Charles II. Her mother is a direct descendant of King Charles II, and Leslie was actually born and raised in a castle. Prior to selling Lickleyhead Castle, it had been in their family since the 15th century. Her family has since moved to Warthill Castle, which is only a few miles down the way from the castle she was born in. To make things even more interesting, Harington and Rose have recently taken their personal relationship public. While they were known to have an on-again/off-again relationship, they made it official at the 2016 Olivier Awards when they walked the red carpet arm-in-arm. Perhaps this proves that it isn’t just the fictional characters on the show that disregard common blood lines when choosing their mate.
1. Some Characters Could Have Been Played By Completely Different Actors
When Game of Thrones was in the early stages of production, there was a pilot that failed horribly. At the end of the viewing session, some of the audience members didn’t even know that Cersei and Jaime Lannister were brother and sister. The entire thing had to be reshot, and even some of the actors were swapped out. When showrunners were thinking about the actors that would be able to bring George R. R. Martin’s characters to life onscreen, there were a number of different options to consider. Knowing how well the actors have done in their current roles, it’s scary to think about what could have been. Carice van Houten, the actress that plays Melisandre, was actually considered for the Cersei role but declined because she was already filming a Dutch comedy. Tamzin Merchant was originally cast as Daenerys Targaryen, but was replaced after the failed pilot. Iwan Rheon, the actor that played Ramsay Bolton, was actually considered for the role of Jon Snow, but it was ultimately given to Kit Harington. Little tidbits like these beg the question of whether or not the series would have been as popular with such a mismatch of different actor portrayals.