We’re hooked on Game on Thrones. No news there. The epic blood and guts, the sex and violence, the manipulation and battle for ultimate power has us intoxicated and begging for more. Yup, writer and creator George R.R. Martin knows just what makes us tick and he’s milking it all the way.
It’s not just the complex storyline that keeps us hooked, although it may seem that way. It’s really all about the characters. When it comes to bringing those characters to life the show doesn’t penny-pinch. Their talent is always top notch – which is impressive considering that they have plenty of relatively inexperienced actors in the cast like Kit Harington and Maisie Williams. George R.R. Martin has mastered the art of creating believable characters that we care about so much that we simply must know what happens to them next. And the show has gone to great lengths to find the actors best suited to portray them.
So what will Cersei do now that she’s taken the Iron Throne? And what’s going to happen when Daenerys Targaryen hits Westeros with her massive army and fierce dragons? While we wait in nail-biting anticipation for season seven let’s look at just how far some of the stars of GoT have come…
15. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau AKA Jaime Lannister
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is the 46-year-old Danish actor who portrays Ser Jaime Lannister. He’s not a newcomer to the acting field, his first big break was the movie Nightwatch back in 1994. He made a name for himself in the United States in 2011 when he played Medal of Honor recipient Gary Gordon in Black Hawk Down. A friend helped him make a tape of himself in his apartment in Copenhagen and he sent it to the studio. The producers were so impressed that they cast him in the film.
In 2017, Nikolaj became one of the highest-paid actors on television, commanding a cool $1.1.million dollars per an episode. When asked about his character he said, “What’s not to like about Jaime? As an actor, I couldn’t ask for a better role”. Talk about a dream job!
14. Alfie Allen AKA Theon Greyjoy
Recognize this guy? Hard to believe it’s the same guy that would go on to play Theon Greyjoy right?
Alfie Allen was born to a talented family but it took him a while to find his niche. His mom is Alison Owen, a film producer, and his dad, Keith Allen, is also an actor. His oldest sister singer-songwriter, Lily Allen, is perhaps the most well known artist in their family.
Alfie was actually the subject of one of her earlier songs also called “Alfie”. In the song she’s trying to convince her little brother to stop spending all day in his room watching TV, masturbating, and smoking illegal substances. At the time Alfie was not impressed by his sisters mockery although according to her she made the song out of love. Check out the music video below and decide for yourself.
13. Aidan Gillen AKA Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
Feel like you’ve seen Aidan somewhere before? Well, he also played the role of devious Tommy Carcetti in HBO series The Wire and he appears in the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises as the CIA agent, Bill Wilson who is attempting to track down Bane.
Aidan is another GoT actor who is not new to acting. After being spotted in a stage production in 2004 he was cast in The Wire, a role which would go on to earn him an Irish Film & Television Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role in Television. Since then he’s appeared in the 2009 film 12 Rounds and The Dark Knight Rises as well as numerous other TV roles, including, of course, Game of Thrones. His mixed character, that you don’t know whether to love or hate, has become a firm fan favourite.
12. Rory McCann AKA Sandor “The Hound” Clegane
47-year-old Scottish actor Rory McCann is a bit of a strange guy but in a refreshing way. Although he’s achieved professional success he prefers the quiet life over glitz and glamour. He’s known for living a solitary, transient lifestyle, often on his boat or other places without modern conveniences.
Before he was an actor Rory was a bridge painter, a landscape gardener and a carpenter. His first acting job was as an extra on the Willow in 1988 but he was fired because he laughed during takes. He also appeared in a vest and kilt for an advertisement for Scott’s Oats – which you can see above. Warning: it’s really funny, sit down first.
In 2002 he landed his first major acting role in the TV comedy drama The Book Group which won him the Scottish actor BAFTA for best television appearance of the year. He’s gone on to play in Alexander and Hot Fuzz before being chosen to play The Hound on GoT.
11. Jerome Flynn AKA Bronn
While the character of Bronn, the low born sellsword, is just a minor character in the original A Song of Fire and Ice book series his role is greatly expanded in the TV show.
Jerome Flynn is the English actor who was chosen to play Bronn. He’s been around for quite a while; you might remember him as Paddy Garvey from the ITV series called Soldier, Soldier. It was this series that propelled him to fame in the nineties. In 1995 he and co-star Robson Green were required to sing the song Unchained Melody for one episode and the fans of the show loved their rendition so much that the duo were persuaded by Simon Cowell to produce a single. It went on to top the UK Singles Chart for seven straight weeks and sell more than 1.8 million copies.
10. Jack Gleeson AKA Joffrey Baratheon
Jack Gleeson first started acting at the tender age of seven, appearing in films such as Reign of Fire (2002), Batman Begins (2005), Schrooms (2007), and A Shine of Rainbows (2009).
He gained international recognition when he was cast as the deeply disturbed Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones. The talented young actor, whose character would become one of the most hated on the show, cites Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Commodus in the film Gladiator as a heavy influence on his portrayal as Joffrey.
Jack, who is now 24, is a student at the Trinity College in his native Dublin and is studying philosophy and theology. His character was killed off dramatically in 2014 much to the delight of fans, although it was a little sad to see such an evil character go. Since then Jack has decided to retire from acting. Guess fame is not for everyone.
9. Diana Rigg AKA Olenna Tyrell
Dame Diane Rigg is one of the most prestigious actors on Game on Thrones. She began her acting in 1959 and has enjoyed an extensive and varied acting career in film and on stage. She was made CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1988 and a Dame in 1994.
Diane, who plays the part of Olenna Tyrell in GoT, is best known for her role in the 60’s TV series The Avengers were she played Emma Peel in 51 episodes. She also appeared as Tracy Bond, James Bonds wife, alongside George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She’s also played the leading role in the stage production of Medea in London and New York, a role which won her the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
8. Charles Dance AKA Tywin Lannister
Charles Dance has been acting for almost five decades and has appeared in more than 40 films. He’s a niche actor who is usually cast to play assertive bureaucrats or villains. Apart from playing Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones, he’s also starred in movies such as The Jewel in the Crown, Alien 3, Last Action Hero, Dracula Untold, Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, and more recently The Imitation Game.
But the role that the internet refuses to let him forget is that of Deputy Prime Minister David Carlton in the 2002 film Ali G Indahouse with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Although the film received mixed reviews and currently has a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes the sight of Charles performing a cross-dressing dance number is something you just have to see.
7. Michelle Fairley AKA Catelyn Stark
Michelle Fairley nearly missed out on the opportunity to play Catelyn Stark in GoT. Initially it was announced that Jennifer Ehle (Fifty Shades of Grey) would play the role and she appeared in the pilot episode. But shortly afterwards Ehle decided that it was too soon for her to return to work after the birth of her daughter so Michelle Fairley was cast to replace her.
Michelle has been acting since 1986 and has acted in numerous TV shows including Casualty, The Bill, Misfits, and Silent Witness. She also took over the role of Hermione’s mom Mrs. Granger from Heather Bleasdale (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Seems she’s often taking over roles but it seems to be working out well so far!
6. Sibel Kekilli AKA Shae
Now here’s an actress with a little bit of a chequered past. German actress Sibel Kekilli is best well known for her portrayal of Shae, Tyrion Lannister’s unlikely sidekick and love interest, in GoT.
Before Game of Thrones Sibel acted in the film Head-On (2004) which earned her a prestigious Lola, which is one of the highest accolades in the German film industry. But way before that Sibel was doing something else. Something I’m sure she’d prefer us not to know.
Kekilli started her career in the other film industry acting in explicit movies under the stage name “Dilara”. When this information came to light shortly after Head-On was released a media frenzy ensued and her family broke off all contact with her. She later bit back at the media accusing them of “a dirty smear campaign” and “media rape”.
5. Maisie Williams AKA Arya Stark
It might be hard to believe, because she is such an incredible actress, but Game of Thrones was Maisie’s professional debut. Since 2011 she has played Arya Stark, the noble little tomboy who has slowly but surely become one of the most badass characters on the show. And the fans are crazy about her.
Before GoT shot her into the fame stratosphere Maisie was just your average English 13-year-old girl. She’s the youngest of four children and her mom is a former university course administrator.
In 2012 she won the 2012 Portal Award for Best Supporting Actress – Television, and the Portal Award for Best Young Actor. She was just 15 years old at the time which makes her the youngest actress ever to win in the Best Supporting Actress category. Can’t wait to see what’s next for her!
4. Iwan Rheon AKA Ramsay Bolton
Welsh actor Iwan Rheon started his career on stage, in a rock-musical if you can believe it. He played in the London production of Spring Awakening in 2009 and the role earned him a What’s on Stage Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical and won him the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical at the 2010 Olivier Awards.
Seeing his potential Iwan was quickly snapped up and cast as creepy Simon Bellamy in the series Misfits. After that, he was cast as Ramsay Bolton in GoT, for which he has been widely praised. Iwan actually auditioned for the part of Jon Snow (as did Alfie Allen) but lost out to Kit Harington. He and Kit still maintain a close friendship even though Ramsey was killed off (or rather, eaten off) in season six.
3. Emilia Clarke AKA Daenerys Targaryen
Emilia Clarke didn’t just step into fame, she’s really worked for it. The English actress had her first television role in an episode of the soap opera Doctors and her first film was the SyFy movie Triassic Attack (2010). The movie bombed badly but when you consider that the storyline is beyond ridiculous – three dinosaur fossils are brought to life by a museum owner – it’s not surprising. No wonder she was so desperate for a decent acting job that she did the funky chicken and robot dance during her GoT audition!
Like Michelle Fairley, she was also cast as a replacement when Tazmin Merchant, who had originally signed on to Daenerys Targaryen, unexpectedly dropped out of the series (bet she’s kicking herself for that decision now). Emilia has become one of the most popular characters on the show and has received three Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. In 2015 she was also named Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive and now earns a generous $1.1 million per an episode.
2. Natalie Dormer AKA Margaery Tyrell
We all knew a girl like Natalie Dormer at school. You know the type — gorgeous, head girl, captain of the netball team, that sort of thing. No wonder Natalie complains that she was bullied at school, she must have made her classmates so jealous. And just imagine how they feel now that she is a rising film and TV star.
Natalie initially wanted to study history at Cambridge but she did not do well enough in her A-level exams to secure a place. She then decided to audition for drama schools and ended up training at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Six months after graduation she picked up her first film role alongside Health Ledger in the 2005 film Casanova. Then in 2007 and 2008, she played her first role as a snobbish royal in The Tudors as Anne Boleyn. This role made her an almost obvious choice when it came time to cast Margaery Tyrell in GoT in 2012.
1. Kit Harington AKA Jon Snow
Kit comes from an interesting background. His mom, Deborah Jane, is a former playwright and his father, Sir David Richard Harington, is a prominent businessman. Even more interesting is his eighth great-grandfather who was none other than King Charles II of England!
Before shooting to fame as Jon Snow in GoT, Kit wanted to become a journalist, a cameraman, or a war correspondent. But he became involved with stage acting while he was still at school and decided to study drama at the Central School of Speech and Drama where he graduated in 2008. While he was still studying he was chosen to star in the London stage production of War Horse. The role won him two Olivier awards and gained him recognition as an actor. After War Horse, he decided to try out for the part of Jon Snow and landed the role.