When HBO announced they would be doing a series based on author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic “A Song of Ice and Fire”, fans of the books couldn’t be happier. The news spread like wildfire - both fans of the books and newcomers to the series began discussing the possibilities of such a complex and unforgiving world. Martin had already laid down the groundwork creating a captivating story line, extravagant kingdoms, and of course a long lineup of riveting characters – which brings us to the topic at hand: which actors would be playing these beloved characters? This question surely became an avid conversation starter among fans of the books. Yet the show has been running for five seasons now and all or most of Martin's characters have been brought to life by the highly talented Game of Thrones cast.
With that being said, have you ever wondered about the runners up? We’re talking about those unlucky actors and actresses who almost made it on the show. Could you imagine any other actress than Maisie Williams portraying the feisty and zealous character that is Aria? Or what about the beautiful and determined Daenerys Targaryen: could you picture any other actress than Emilia Clarke as the Mother of Dragons? Whether the answer is a yes or a no, you would probably like to see what could have been. So we’ve put a list together containing ten actors and actresses who almost made it on to the set of Game of Thrones. Scroll down to find out if you would be disappointed or pleasantly surprised by the runner-ups.
10 Dominic West – Mance Rayder
The King beyond the Wall would have been a couple of years younger if it hadn’t been for the harsh Icelandic weather. Actor Dominic West – best known for his role as Detective Jimmy McNulty on The Wire – turned down a shot at being on GoT because he would have to spend six months filming in Iceland, away from his family. West may have turned down an amazing opportunity, but surley no one was disappointed with Ciaran Hinds performance as Mance Rayder, as he did a phenomenal job depicting Martin's character. However, West is also a great actor and could have surprised everybody with his version of the leader of the Free Folk.
9 Perdita Weeks – Roslin Frey
This British born actress is best known for her role as Mary Boleyn, Henry the VIII’s sister on Showtime’s The Tudors. Having experience in a series involving royalty and betrayal, Weeks decided to audition for a part in HBO’s hit series. She ended up landing the role of Edmure Tully’s bride, Roslin Frey – sure, it’s not a big part, but she would have appeared in the infamous Red Wedding episode. Unfortunately, her busy schedule got in the way, and she was forced to turn down the part. To make things worse, the project that led her to turn down the role was postponed. She then called back Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss but it was too late; clearly luck was not on her side.
8 Jennifer Ehle – Catelyn Stark
Jennifer Ehle is one of those unlucky few who acted in the original pilot for Game of Thrones. She had already been chosen to play the part of the strong-willed mother Catelyn Stark. However, due to the confusion and unsatisfactory effort by showrunners David Benioff's and D.B. Weiss' initial attempt at Martin's masterpiece, the entire first episode had to be re-filmed. This led to the recasting of Catelyn Stark, which left Ehle packing. Nonetheless, this actress has starred in many big movies including Zero Dark Thirty, The King's Speech and Fifty Shades of Grey. It would have been very interesting to see her version of Catelyn Stark, but in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.
7 Jamie Campbell Bower – Ser Waymar Royce
If you don’t remember who Ser Royce is, don’t feel bad; his time on the show was rather brief. He was the cocksure lord who led a ranging beyond the Wall in the first episode of season one, which is the prologue scene for the show. Actor Jamie Campbell Bower – known for his roles as Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and Caius in Twilight – almost landed this role, but was unavailable for a reshoot after filming the original pilot. Although it was just a small part, it would have been nice to make an appearance on one of the most successful series of all time. In the end, the part was recast and given to actor Rob Ostelere.
6 Sam Claflin - Jon Snow, Viserys Targaryen
Yes, yet another British actor. Sam Claflin has become quite popular over the last five years, starring in a handful of movies including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hunger Games series and Snow White and the Huntsman. Thankfully he didn’t land the part for Jon Snow, as he really doesn’t look the part. Viserys would have been very interesting, considering Claflin has that long faced villainous look to him and could have benefited from playing such a malevolent character. Sure, fans of the show would hate him, but Viserys’ character is not easily forgotten - it’s like they say: no publicity is bad publicity.
5 Gillian Anderson - ???
Can you picture special agent Dana Skully entering the fantasy world of Westeros? Actress Gillian Anderson surprisingly turned down a shot at starring in a major role on GOT. Anderson revealed this questionable decision during an interview with The Daily Mail in 2013, saying: "My 18-year-old cannot believe that I would turn down Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey – things she loves to watch." Anderson didn’t reveal what character she could have been and it still remains a mystery, although two characters come to mind right away. First being the Red Priestess Melisandre, as Anderson can pull off the red head look. With that being said, she can also pull off a blond, which would be perfect for the role of Cersei Lannister.
4 Izzy Meikle-Small – Sansa Stark
Meikle-Small was the runner up to play Sansa Stark. During and interview in 2013, she told Huffington Post: "I got to the final two to play Lady Sansa Sark. I was a bit sad, because the show’s massive, but I’m not that unhappy, because they all show a lot of flesh, don’t they? I don’t think my parents would be happy." Since then, she has gone on to star in Never Let Me Go and Snow White and the Huntsman. As most people know, the role of Sansa Stark went to actress Sophie Turner; both actresses are 19 years old, although Meikle-Small's younger look may have been beneficial due to the fact that Sansa is only meant to be 11 years old in the first book.
3 Sam Heughan – Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell
This Scottish actor is best known for his role as Jamie Fraser in the Starz series Outlander. However, at one time he wanted nothing more than to land a role on GoT. He actually read for a total of seven different parts, which included both King Renly and Ser Loras Tyrell. He didn’t seem to care which royal family he would be siding with as long as he got the part. "I'd always get so close!" the actor told Vulture in a 2014 interview. "Everyone was going in for those parts.” Regrettably, he didn’t make the cut; but you can’t say he didn’t try.
2 Danny Dyer – Pyp
Dyer may not be a familiar face for everyone, but he’s done pretty well for himself in the UK, landing a role in the long running a British soap opera EastEnders, which has a staggering 5,120 episodes! This role led to him winning Most Popular Serial Drama Performance award at this year's National Television Awards. Dyer is also known for his work as a stage actor and has even done the voice of Kent Paul in the video games Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. With such diversity, you would think him to be a shoe in for HBO’s Game of Thrones; however Dyer told BBC that he had auditioned for GoT three times and had been turned down each time. Dyer was aiming for the role of Pyp, a brother of the Night’s Watch who took an arrow to the neck last season.
1 Tamzin Merchant – Daenerys Targaryen
Much like Jennifer Ehle (the original Catelyn Stark), Merchant was another victim of the unaired first pilot. She was originally cast to play Daenerys Targaryen and she did, but only for one episode that no one will ever see. It’s unclear if Merchant left on her own terms, or if she was let go. It seems strange to think someone would walk away from being on GoT, but you have to remember this was the original pilot and it didn’t do well the first time around. You may recognize Merchant from her role as Henry VIII's fifth wife Catherine Howard on Showtime's The Tudors, as well as in Pride and Prejudice. Although she may have pulled off the part, it’s hard to picture anyone other than Emilia Clark as the determined Mother of Dragons.