Game of Thrones has absolutely become one of the most popular and talked about shows on television for several years now, with a fanbase that waits with baited breath for each new episode to air. While a great deal of the love the show receives has to do with the locales and stories violence, there is also no question that the strong skills of the cast are imperative as well. GoT has taken actors that the masses had never heard of before and turned them into stars overnight, and the realism these actors bring to their characters has earned them legions of fans.
An interesting side-effect of the acclaim and fame that the stars, and in some cases even the guests of this show have received, is that it seems as though people have forgotten their previous work. Peter Dinklage, for instance, will forever be associated with bringing Tyrion to life but before joining the show he’d already had an amazing career including a glorious performance in The Station Agent. However, that didn’t mean that even he was close enough to a household name at the time that many would have called him famous. More than that, there are also many photos of the cast before the show that would surprise many viewers. Those two facts are what inspired us to put together this list of our favorite photos of the Game of Thrones cast before they became known properties.
In order for a photo to be considered, it first and foremost needs to have a member of the Game of Thrones cast included in it. We opted to exclude people who were on the show in minor roles, but anyone who fans would agree were impactful in multiple episodes and as such were memorable could have found their older photos here. Additionally, screengrabs of earlier performances were considered as long as the performer we were focused on was not seen by most as famous at the time. Keep in mind that we will be discussing their earlier projects and their characters on Game of Thrones so there will be some mild spoilers after this point.
15. Jack Gleeson
One of the most acutely hateable characters we can think of, Joffrey was a vicious bastard who took delight in his ability to torture and kill at will. Someone that seemed to seethe nearly every second, any semblance of culture or kindness he was ever able to muster were obvious deceptions meant to hide his true nature. That is why it is so shocking to see the actor who brought him to life, Jack Gleeson, in one of his most memorable earlier roles, in Batman Begins. An innocent youngster who has an unwavering belief in the caped crusader, the role we see him in here could not be any more different than the one he is now known for.
14. Iwan Rheon
A screengrab from a British television series called Misfits, Iwan was one of the stars of its first three seasons before finding international fame on Game of Thrones. Known now for bringing to life one of the most universally despised characters in recent pop culture, the much reviled Ramsay Bolton, in this earlier show he played a very different character. Given the ability to make himself invisible when he was, “caught outside during a supernatural thunderstorm,” Simon, his character, may not have been an all-out good guy but he paled in comparison to Ramsay. Shown here, dripping wet after taking a shower, the look on his face communicates a kind of malevolence that his latter-day viewers would come to recognize him for.
13. Iain Glen
Known best today for playing Ser Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones, his character is among the most tragic ones on the show. While he hasn’t suffered a brutal death like so many others, at least not yet at the time of this writing, his clear love for someone who will never return his feelings is heartbreaking at times. No matter where he ends up at the end of the show, we can attest that Jorah will always have a place in our hearts. The oldest actor to appear on this list, it, therefore, shouldn’t come as a surprise that this image of him looks so aged. Showing him (left) while he was working on his first film role, a movie called Paris by Night, he played alongside one of the most respected actors of any generation or gender, Charlotte Rampling. While the movie in question was not well received and the Wikipedia article about it even states “it is considered to be of inferior quality,” we would argue that it was a pivotal point in a budding career that has remained consistent ever since.
12. Kit Harington
A show that is known for its bevy of sex scenes that in most cases feature lovely ladies in the buff, it is clear that the source material was written by a man. That said, there is no question that the producers of the show were happy to give the straight female audience of the show someone to lust over as best evidenced by Kit Harington. While his performance in the role has been stellar, which is evidence of the fact that he was likely also given the role due to his acting skills, he also adds some beefcake to the presentation. Shown here long before he became a known name, you’re looking at him while he was on stage playing the lead in a play called War Horse. The original person cast in the role that would go on to be adapted as part of a Steven Spielberg film, he played the part for years.
11. Sophie Turner
Arguably one of the biggest stars of Game of Thrones, Sophie has managed to turn her part as Sansa Stark into a budding career that might just make her one of the biggest celebrities on the show. She was even cast in X-Men: Apocalypse, one of the biggest releases of 2016’s summer schedule, as Jean Grey, one of the most beloved members of the superhero team. While that film may have disappointed critics and some fans, it was a success at the box office, considering it more than tripled its production budget, and will still be seen by many more in their homes. Shown here in what looks like a school picture from when she was a child, she looks like an adorable kid. A far-cry from the spoiled brat who has become a steel-hearted leader on the show that made her a star, this photo helps to illustrate her acting chops.
10. Aidan Gillen
An actor that is associated with two of the most respected and watched television shows of all time, Game of Thrones and The Wire, Aidan has become a well-known entity. Perhaps one of the hardest to decipher characters on the show, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish is a power broker wherever he goes and while it is clear that you can’t trust him, he can be surprisingly earnest at times. Seemingly loyal to his one true love, Catelyn Stark, that appears to be the one part of him that is actually dependable, at least so far. Shown here in a screengrab from the UK version of Queer as Folk, he played Stuart Alan Jones in ten episodes of the ground-breaking series years before his major successes in American television.
9. Natalie Dormer
One of the most beautiful women ever on Game of Thrones, and maybe even television itself, when Natalie debuted as Margaery Tyrell the world took notice, even though the role seemed minor then. Introduced as the very understanding and power hungry wife of Renly Baratheon, she disrobed in front of him and when that didn’t work was willing to invite a man, her own brother, into the bedroom. However, it wasn’t until she was introduced into Joffrey and then his brother’s lives that she became a fascinating figure. Shown in her first film role here, that of Victoria in Casanova, she looks much more fair than we are used to her appearing these days.
8. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
You may not know his name in real life or how to pronounce it but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has created one of the most nuanced characters in modern television. Introduced as a child-crippling, sister loving killer, through superior writing and his marvelous acting, he turned Jaime Lannister into a character that many empathize with. Seriously, the fact that he threw a child to his potential death in the pilot but is now a popular figure that fans root for, has to be one of the biggest turnarounds in TV history. An actor who also played the lead in a movie called Nightwatch that was creative enough and so well-received that it was remade in America, it is shame this film is so unheralded in North America.
7. Alfie Allen
The character Alfie plays on Game of Thrones, Theon Greyjoy, has done some reprehensible things in his lust for power which made him incredibly unlikeable in the early seasons. Remade as the series went on and rechristened Reek by his tormentor, his earlier misdeeds have been mostly forgotten and we see him as a lovable loser in his current role. The one-time ward and hostage of the Stark Family, he was taken from his father at an early age and has been struggling to find a place he truly belongs in and deserves ever since. Alfie in real life seems to have fortunately never known a similar problem judging by this sweet photo of him embracing his sister. Famous in her own right, his sibling Lily Allen looks overjoyed to be in his presence while he has an intriguing look on his face.
6. Rory McCann
The Hound is one of our favorite Game of Thrones characters and since you’re reading this list you’re probably a fan of the series and feel the same way. One of the most fearsome and talented killers in the story of the show, we’ve seen that his reputation is well earned but that he also possesses some kind of internal moral guide. Far less vicious than his monstrous brother, he manages to make you feel scared for any character that raises his ire while feeling pity for his life that was forever scarred by his sibling. Played by Rory McCann, the actor was far from a celebrity, at least as far as North America goes, but his career was already accomplished before the show. Shown here as his character on the show The Book Group, Kenny McLeod, his performance managed to net him a Scottish BAFTA for Best Television Performance in 2002.
5. Isaac Hempstead Wright
One of the youngest actors to be given a major role in Game of Thrones, Isaac started the show as a cutie who wrenched out our hearts when he was horribly harmed in the pilot. Pushed from the top of a tower by Jaime Lannister in the closing seconds of the series’ premiere, this turn of events resulted in millions of folks gasping in shock around the world. Carted around the countryside by a band of supporters in recent seasons, Bran seems poised to have a major part to play in the battles to come. Shown here in a screengrab from the 2011 film, The Awakening, the movie was barely released before GoT debuted. A horror film, one thing we can say for sure is that we would want to keep that youngster safe, too bad he didn’t have Hodor around back then.
4. Maisie Williams
While her on-screen big sister may be one of the biggest stars coming out of Game of Thrones, it is Maisie’s character, Arya Stark, that was among its most popular from the get-go. A tomboy who had little interest in the pomp and circumstance her higher birth allowed in her younger years, Arya was always much happier learning how to wield a weapon than curtsying. Turning into a lovable but fearsome killer who is bent on taking out those that have wronged her and the code she holds dear, she is also a just figure as she is unwilling to kill indiscriminately. Showing off this photo of herself as a toddler while making an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, if the self-awareness she showed in bringing this photo is any indication she’ll continue to succeed. Revealing a picture of herself at an even younger age than when she first began acting on the show that made her a star, the look on her face may not look pleased but it is no less cute because of it.
3. Lena Headey
Lena Headey may have been the most famous actor who was part of Game of Thrones cast when it debuted. Known for her role as Gorgo, the Queen of Sparta, in 300 and as Sarah Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, we had to go way back in her career to make sure she wasn’t a known entity at the time. A shot from the very first film or television role she was able to get, Young Mary in Waterland, it was released in 1992, the year she turned nineteen. A gorgeous woman today who is amazing at playing indomitable women, it is surprising just how much of a baby face she had at the time.
2. Emilia Clarke
Someone who seems to be on the precipice of major film stardom as well as dominating the television scene, Emilia has clearly proven that one hot role can remake an actor’s career. An unknown actor before being cast as Daenerys Targaryen, she has become one of the most respected, beloved, and lusted after characters on Game of Thrones and by the audience. Seen in Terminator Genisys in 2016, her earlier film work provided this image of her. Seen in the television movie Triassic Attack (left) her character has to contend with animated dinosaur skeletons. Looking like a hippie of some sort in this photo, we wonder how her character deals with the film’s events but aren’t curious enough to actually watch it.
1. Peter Dinklage
Peter is the other actor we would argue may have had the biggest name prior to Game of Thrones, due to his acclaimed performance in The Station Agent and hilarious turns in movies like Death at a Funeral. While that is up for debate, we can’t even fathom someone who would try to argue that his turn as Tyrion was a sensation right from the start of the show. Featured here in a screengrab from his first film, Living in Oblivion, right from the start the roles he took broke the mold for little people actors. A movie that featured someone shooting a low-budget film, in it there was a dream sequence and Peter’s character was meant to take part in it. Offended by the unoriginal idea that the appearance of a little person in colorful garb would seem fantastical, his character walked off the film and mocked the writer-director.