There’s a UK actor fraternity that rears its head every time a British film or a TV show pops up in North America. Harry Potter fans, or fans of shows that frequently take place in the UK or in the past, like The Tudors, Downton Abbey or even Doctor Who, always recognize some familiar faces in new shows of their kind. There is a collection of them that has appeared in almost everything. The people on this list aren’t exactly in that elite group, but they aren’t slouches either.
When Game of Thrones first came out, there were a few of the actors that already had established careers in North America. We recognized Lena Headey (Cersei) from 300 and her other films. We had heard about how Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) was the little kid in Batman Begins, and of course, we all knew Sean Bean from his many roles and many deaths, such as in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where he played Boromir. But what about the rest? We recognize so many more actors in the show, but we’ve never really known their names. Maybe they’re older now from when they were popular or maybe they’ve grown a beard, but they still look familiar to us.
We’re going to go through some of the actors in the show and look at the roles that we’ve seen them in before. Some might be obvious to you, and others could bring you an “aha!” moment. Some of these actors are legends in their own right, while many have only been in a few major features or TV shows. We’ll avoid the really obscure films and actors because there’s no fun in that. Here are 15 Game of Thrones actors you forgot you already knew.
15. Thomas Brodie-Sangster – Love Actually & Nanny McPhee
This guy isn’t too tough to identify because, at 26-years old, he still looks the exact same as he did at 12, the same as he did in Love Actually when he played Liam Neeson’s son, a boy aspiring to be a drummer to win the love of a girl in his class. Around the same time, he was also in Nanny McPhee playing Simon. One of the cooler realizations for all the casual Phineas and Ferb fans is that Brodie-Sangster is also the voice of Ferb. This young actor has been on the up and up ever since he played Jojen Reed in Game of Thrones, landing parts in the popular The Maze Runner film franchise and, most recently, getting a part in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Expect to see this young man continue to impress and expand his already impressive resume.
14. Charles Dance – Ali G Indahouse
Charles Dance has been around a long time and done a ton of work in pretty much every type of production you can think of, but there are a few films you would recognize him best from. The most recognizable and the most ridiculous would be his part in Ali G Indahouse, in which he played the baddie David Carlton, the guy that Ali G makes dance in women’s clothing. Outside of that role, Dance was also in the well-known films Your Highness, Alien 3 and Last Action Hero. He tends to play a bad guy in most films because of his stoic looks and stern voice. He commands respect whenever he speaks no matter where he is, which is exactly why he was cast to play the unflinchingly callous Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones.
13. Alexander Siddig – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Before Alexander Siddig played Doran Martell in Game of Thrones, he was best known for playing Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But really, this guy has done a lot of quality work. He’s been in Reign of Fire, Kingdom of Heaven, Syriana, Clash of Titans and the TV series 24. He plays all types of foreign characters. He’s got one of those faces where you just know you’ve seen him before, but he would be tough to really nail down unless you were a big Trekkie. Throughout his career, Siddig has been asked to use various accents to which he’s been able to do thanks to his rich heritage, accents from cockney to Arabic which he has proven to be convincing.
Here’s a fun fact that has nothing to do with anything: Siddig’s uncle is Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange.
12. Rory McCann – Hot Fuzz
While he is best known for playing the dimwitted simpleton Michael Armstrong in Hot Fuzz, Rory McCann (The Hound in Game of Thrones) was also in Alexander, Clash of Titans (alongside Alexander Siddiq) and Season of the Witch. It is his part in Hot Fuzz that fans know and love best though. Maybe it’s because of his buck toothed smile or the fact that he channels his inner Hodor by only saying “Yarp” throughout the film, but he is a great character. It’s no secret that McCann’s size limits the roles he will be cast in, but there’s no doubt we will continue to see him post-Game of Thrones whenever a movie or TV show needs a giant of a man.
11. Stephen Dillane – The Hours & King Arthur
Known mostly for his work in theater, Stephen Dillane gained quite a lot of fans for his performance as Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones. If you ever wondered why he was so good at paying the grouchy and always unsatisfied Stannis, the answer is simple. Dillane is grouchy and unsatisfied in real life. At least, that’s how he comes across in interviews. In fact, he’s really been the only actor on Game of Thrones who doesn’t like the show. He says it’s because he doesn’t understand it or the popularity, but that’s confusing. The books were popular. Film and TV fans have shown that fantasy stories are some of the most popular, so why wouldn’t it work? Oh well, this crotchety old man was in Spy Game, The Hours (Leonard Woolf), King Arthur (Merlin) and Zero Dark Thirty.
10. Aidan Gillen – The Wire
Aidan Gillen, the slimy Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish from Game of Thrones, might have reminded you of someone when you first saw him. Chances are, if you’re a big TV watcher, you’ve seen him play characters that are similar to Littlefinger, conniving and squid-like. Gillen rose to fame by playing Stuart Jones in Queer as Folk, but most would remember him as Tommy Carcetti in The Wire. Gillen is pretty much Irish royalty. They love him over there in Ireland, which is strange to us because his character on Game of Thrones is just the worst. Littlefinger is by far the greasiest of the entire bunch in that show. Even though it came out after we had already seen Gillen in the first season of Game of Thrones, his little role in The Dark Knight Rises probably caught a few people’s attention as well.
9. Iain Glen – Downton Abbey & Resident Evil
Iain Glen might be best known to us as Ser Jorah Mormont now, but he’s had a stellar career leading up to this point. He played Hamlet in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, he was in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Harry Brown, Kingdom of Heaven with a few other members on this list and Doctor Who. Before Game of Thrones, he was probably best known for playing Dr. Isaacs in the Resident Evil film franchise. In the years since striking it rich on GoT, Glen has appeared in the big Hollywood films Kick-Ass 2 and Eye in the Sky. He also did some good work on Downton Abbey as well. While he may not be a household name just yet, he’s slowly working his way to that point. Just give him time.
8. Roger Ashton-Griffiths – A Knight’s Tale & Gangs of New York
It’s unlikely you know the name Roger Ashton-Griffiths, even after you watched him in Game of Thrones as Mace Tyrell, but this is an actor who’s had a marvellous career and has been in a handful of movies almost everyone has seen. Ashton-Griffiths has a very unique look, so even in his tiny roles, he makes a lasting impression. Here are some of his biggest films, beginning with his first ever feature film: Brazil, Young Sherlock Holmes (Det. Sgt. Lestrade), A Knight’s Tale, Gangs of New York (P.T. Barnum), What a Girl Wants, The Brothers Grimm, Torchwood, The Tudors, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Doctor Who. Come to think of it, doesn’t Ashton-Griffiths look like Toby Jones, the guy who played Dr. Arnim Zola in the Captain America movies?
7. Julian Glover – Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
All frail and old looking, it might be tough to identify where you know Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones) from, but you’ve seen him, oh, you’ve seen him so good. Glover’s been in Doctor Who, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, For Your Eyes Only and Troy; not a bad list. He even did some voice work in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Aragog). Most recognizable as General Veers in Star Wars, Glover has done a ton of stage work and television work as well, appearing in a number of big British shows like the aforementioned Doctor Who and The Avengers. He may not be a common name, but he definitely has a wildly impressive resume and his work on everything he’s been in has been top notch.
6. Diana Rigg – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Since 2013, Diana Rigg has been playing Olenna Tyrell in The Game of Thrones, but, like Julian Glover, she’s been around for just about ever. Starting on stage, moving to The Royal Shakespeare Company and then Broadway, Rigg was first on television in a number of British shows, including The Avengers with Glover. After that it was James Bond, also like Glover, where she would play Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And who could forget her alongside Tim Curry in The Worst Witch or in the Doctor Who episode “The Crimson Horror” as Mrs. Gillyflower. We wonder if any of these stars with age-old connections, like Glover and Rigg, are old friends. We’re going to go ahead and assume they are.
5. Johnathan Pryce – Pirates of the Caribbean
The High Sparrow in Game of Thrones looks and sounds familiar to you, doesn’t he? Did you know his name? Maybe not, unless your Welsh and you keep track of all your Welsh homies. Way back when, Pryce played Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes. A couple of years later, he hit it big playing Sam Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, alongside fellow Game of Thrones actor Roger Ashton-Griffiths, if you’re keeping track. After that it was on to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies (keeping the James Bond theme going), Stigmata, What a Girl Wants (again with Ashton-Griffiths) and The Brothers Grimm (again with his old pal Ashton-Griffiths). But in recent history, Pryce has been best known for his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, playing Governor Weatherby Swann. He also has played the President in the G.I. Joe films if you happen like terrible movies.
4. Essie Davis – The Babadook & The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions
When we first got a glance of Essie Davis playing Lady Crane (the stage actress portraying Cersei in Braavos) in Game of Thrones, we knew we knew her, we just didn’t know where we knew her from. Turns out, outside The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, all her big stuff is relatively new. Her two biggest roles to date have been Phryne Fisher in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Amelia in The Babadook, both which came out before her role in Game of Thrones. Actually, she was also in Australia with fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, but it would be crazy for you to recognize her more from that. It would be a good bet to put money on Davis becoming a very popular actor in Hollywood at some point in the near future.
3. Michelle Fairley – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)
For a while Michelle Fairley, the actress who plays Catelyn Stark on Game of Thrones toiled away on lesser-known TV series and TV movies. Her first major Hollywood film was The Others, in which she played a secondary character. The next big one was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1), where she played Hermione’s mom, the one whose memory Hermione wipes out. Since she raised her stock in Game of Thrones, she’s landed roles in the TV shows Suits and 24: Live Another Day, as well as the film In the Heart of the Sea, so it looks like she’s just hitting her stride.
2. James Cosmo – Braveheart
You know James Cosmo, the big burly Scotsman who played Jeor Mormont, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones, but did you know where you knew him from right away? Well, he’s been in a lot and has played big parts in some big films. Perhaps his best known roles were as Angus McLeod in Highlander and Campbell in Braveheart. He’s the guy that gets the arrow in the chest/shoulder and they have to remove it without any pain medication in Braveheart. In case you knew him from somewhere else, Cosmo was also in Troy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Trainspotting.
1. Mark Addy – The Full Monty & A Knight’s Tale
Of course I know Mark Addy, you may think to yourself, but do you? Do you really know him? Let’s go back to a wonderful time. The year was 1997 and the film was The Full Monty. Ahh, what a time and what a movie. A couple years later it was Jack Frost and there’s Addy playing Mac, Michael Keaton‘s best friend and bandmate. A couple of years more and he’s playing Roland in A Knight’s Tale with another Game of Thrones alum, Roger Ashton-Griffiths. Then he’s in The Time Machine and the TV series Still Standing. Maybe it’s the beard? Is that why we didn’t recognize him? After that was Robin Hood (2010, with Russell Crowe) where he played Friar Tuck. Maybe it’s the accent? Nah that can’t be it. Maybe we did know who he was after all. Yeah, we knew him. We just forgot about him.