It’s a well-known fact of life that, barring lottery winners or trust-fund babies, we all have to struggle through some difficult or embarrassing jobs. While huge movie stars and notorious celebs may seem far from their humble origins, the truth is that most of them had to start out taking awkward roles or even picking up jobs outside of the realm of cinema. Sure, most actors these days are paid to merely emulate a blue-collar persona, but that performance could be so much more authentic coming from an actor or actress with a unique understanding of early-career turmoil.
Though many of our favorite Game of Thrones heroes and villains are portrayed by teens or fresh-faced actors in their early 20s, plenty of those familiar with the show’s set are also familiar with the tenants of menial employment. From jamming in dirty dives along with your punk-rock acts to the land of Westeros is no stranger to gruff up-and-comers unafraid of getting their hands dirty.
The idea of rising from the bottom is particularly poignant with GoT, as much of the show has to do with the gap between and treatment of the ruling class and their underlings. Thoughtful and provocative, it would hardly make sense to cast actors unfamiliar with real-life hardship. While I wouldn’t say any of these men and women endured an undue struggle, longtime fans are bound to enjoy recounting 15 weird and embarrassing jobs Game of Thrones stars did before they were famous.
15 Lena Headey Volunteered With PETA
Despite the fact that she’s only 44 years old, Game of Thrones actress Lena Headey is one of few actors on-set who can claim seniority over her cohorts. Though older than many of her colleagues, she actually started her acting career at a very young age; she was given a role in the 1992 film Waterland at the age of 17. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t gotten her hands dirty.
A vegetarian and environmental activist, she’s made waves through her involvement with PETA.
Beyond that, though, she did have a moment when her working life clashed with her role as an environmentalist when she was asked to skin a real rabbit for the film The Brothers Grimm. She refused to do it, and the special effects team eventually had to come up with a fake replica for her to use instead.
14 Peter Dinklage Had A Ton of Small, Weird Roles
Dinklage will probably always been known for his incredible portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, but, prior to his involvement with the show, he played small parts in tons of other projects. While many fans of the actor will likely site his influential, albeit small, role in the hit holiday comedy Elf, that hardly scratches the surface of his impressive resume.
However, not every project to which he has lent his talents has been good. He’s had roles in ill-remembered comedies like Never Again and Just Again, and who could forget his borderline terrible appearance in Disney’s made-for-TV movie Underdog? The less said about some of these roles, the better, but it’s safe to say that he’s really worked to get where he is now.
13 Michiel Huisman Used To Be A Pop Star
Like I said, everyone has to start somewhere. For some of us, that somewhere just happens to be the Danish pop charts. Before he was Daenery’s hunky bodyguard in Game of Thrones he was famous for fronting the European pop group Fontane. Though his music didn’t exactly make it to U.S. shores in any notable way, he later branched out after the early 2000s and started a solo musical career. Say what you will about his pop star origins, but I think I might prefer him as an actor
Think of him as something akin to a Dutch Justin Timberlake sans the super bowl appearances or sudden interest in becoming a doomsday prepper. Given his muscular, battle-hardened looks in GoT, though, he might be able to make it to the Super Bowl as a player, if not as a musician.
12 Kristian Nairn Shows His Skills Behind The Turntable
Actor Kristian Nairn, famous for his portrayal of the loveable yet simple minded Hodor in Game of Thrones, is far more than a simple stable hand in real life Though audiences won’t easily separate him from the servant of the House of Stark, he’s actually made a bit of a name for himself in the music scene. When it was announced that everyone’s favorite doorman would be absent in the upcoming season of the show,
Nairn used his time off to schedule an Australian tour featuring music themed around the show, and it was actually called Rave of Thrones.
Claiming to be the best spinner in all of the seven kingdoms, Hodor might not seem like he has a musical bone in his body. Yet, he’s managed to more than prove otherwise.
11 Alfie Allen Replaced Daniel Radcliffe
I remember it being major news several years ago when it was announced that Daniel Radcliffe would be in the buff live onstage during a stage production of the show Equus. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, Radcliffe didn’t actually stick around for the full run, and was subsequently replaced by future Game of Thrones icon Alfie Allen.
Though admittedly few GoT actors have suffered through too many dirty jobs, I would like to imagine being on stage like that takes a kind of bravery the likes of which most could never muster. Some of us may sit at a desk for eight hours a day, but we can take solace in knowing that we’ll never have to bare it all live on stage in front of thousands of people.
10 Richard Brake Landed Another Chilling Role
The Night King, the first of the White Walkers, sends a chill down my spine and unfortunately highlights a lot of the fantastical elements that keep me from really becoming engaged with the show — I’m a casual fan, but high fantasy is usually just a yard to far for me. That said, though few would likely have recognized him given his icy appearance in the show, Richard Brake actually had a quirky acting gig in a pretty famous film years before Game of Thrones got going.
In the terrific 2005 Batman Begins, Brake played Joe Chill, the man famous for enacting haphazard destruction on the Wayne family.
He’s hardly in the movie, and, from what I can remember, he’s only given a line or two of dialogue. Still, it’s funny to think that such a fearsome actor would come from such humble beginnings.
9 Richard Madden Was Literally Prince Charming
Alright, this one is sort of cheating, as Richard Madden was already a pretty well known actor by this stage in his career. Yet, considering his role in the ultra-gritty, ultra-popular Game of Thrones, his appearance as Kit in Disney’s Cinderella is more than a little funny to me. Given that GoT is essentially the antithesis of a Disney production, it seems ironic that one of the prime members of the show’s cast would appear in one of their movies.
Still, I suppose his good looks go a long way in terms of portraying a prince charming, and the movie’s producers could certainly have made a worse casting choice. That said, I would rather forget about his stint in a romanticized fantastical realm in favor of his career in the wartorn, scary fantastical realm.
8 Rory McCann Was A Carpenter
Thrones fans seem to be pretty taken by the deserting ex-kings guard Sandor Clegane. What they don’t know, however, is that the actor spent a good part of his early life struggling to make it as an actor. In fact, he spent a while working as a carpenter in Iceland, which seems, in a way, like good practice for his tupcoming experiences in Westeros.
He recounted his time spent as a handyman when he returned to Iceland to film the show, and he stated that he was really struck by the fact that, six years prior, he had yet to make a name for himself.
Though he is now driven everywhere by chauffeurs, it’s nice to know that there was once a time in the not-so-distant past when he would get up everyday and drive himself to work.
7 Jerome Flynn Worked In A Spiritual Commune
Flynn has a pretty wild tale to tell, and not just in his Game of Thrones incarnation. After a few years spent struggling to gain successive acting roles, he landed a spot in the 1991 film Super Soldiers. That role required him to sing a duet with one of his co stars, which later caught the attention of record producer Simon Cowell. The duo, known as Robson & Jerome, went on to gain some notoriety in the music world, though ultimately their careers as musicians wouldn’t last forever. Still, not bad for a lowborn.
After that, Flynn went on something of a spiritual journey which landed him at the spiritual commune EnlightenNext, which he worked with for eight years before returning to his career as an actor.
6 Ian Whyte Played The Predator
The original casting for Game of Thrones’ Gregor Clegane was an Icelandic bodybuilder by the name of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson — a man who had previously been recognized as Iceland’s strongest man. He was later recast in subsequent seasons of the show, and Ian Whyte was brought in to claim the role of The Mountain.
It wasn’t his first acting gig, though. Perhaps embarrassingly, he was first known for his portrayal of Scar the Predator in the 2004 AvP: Alien VS Predator film. It may have been fun at the time, but I’m not sure that the Predator is exactly the kind of role that will carry much weight on a resume. Whyte landed a GoT gig, though, so it was all worth it in the end, maybe.
5 David Bradley Was A Hogwarts Custodian
Like many now-burgeoning adults who grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the subsequent Chris Columbus directed films. That said, I didn’t immediately recognize Bradley’s Game of Thrones character Walder Frey as the conniving, hard-to-trust Hogwarts caretaker Mr. Filch when I first saw him.
It’s a fitting role, however. Just as the audience is driven to dislike the magical custodian (though he didn’t actually have any magical talents), we are similarly predisposed to dislike Walder Frey in the famous fantasy TV show. His betrayal of the House of Stark during the Red Wedding is a notable offence, but otherwise he’s just a pretty unlikeable dude. Perhaps Bradley has a penchant for playing the bad guys. Too bad he was just a little to old to have played Voldemort, Potter’s arch nemesis.
4 Sibel Kekilli Was An Actress
This is probably the most famous scandalous employment situation ever dredged up from the pasts of our favorite Game of Thrones cast members. In fact, I’d say that this makes Peter Dinklage’s punk band or Ian Whyte’s Predator totally pale in comparison.
Her history makes sense though, given how much time she spent hanging out with Tyrion Lannister in the show, that is, until she betrayed him. And, while I am not at liberty to divulge any information regarding her, um, body of work, (there’s a pun in there somewhere) rest assured that such information is readily available somewhere online. Plus, given the gratuitous display of skin prevalent in lots of GoT episodes, she likely didn’t have any issues slipping into some of the nitty-gritty particulars of her role in the show.
3 Peter Dinklage Was In A Punk Band
While far from a teenage jam band confined to their garage, Peter Dinklage actually used to sing in a self-described punk-jazz-rap band called Whizzy. As extroverted and outward as his on-screen persona Tyrion Lannister, you might be surprised by Dinklage’s remarkable vocal talent — he’s even teamed up with world-renowned pop-rock band Coldplay in support of Comic Relief USA’s Red Nose Day charity event.
Though he never exactly played in the streets for pennies — in fact, he managed to land a gig at New York’s famous CBGB’s club — he does still bare a noticeable scar which he accidentally gave himself during a particularly electrifying performance. Honestly, a funk-influenced punk band sounds like a great outlet for someone with the bravado of Lannister, and, as most can attest, music provides an excellent means through which energy may be expelled. It’s actually surprising just how many GoT cast members have musical side projects.
2 Emilia Clarke Was Once A Telemarketer
Beloved series icon Emilia Clarke may now be known for her portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen, but her path to stardom was fraught with terrible office labor. Sure, we’re all familiar with the tiring day-in-and-day-out lifestyle that comes with that kind of work, but we can all agree that Clarke’s talent is better represented on screen.
Before she made her mark on the small screen, Clarke actually served as a telemarketer for a couple of different charities, and she described the experience as being soul-crushing.
Though some may like to believe that statement to be hyperbolic, I’m inclined to agree with her. She stated that she would be tasked with calling donors and asking them to increase their contributions, usually to the chagrin of whoever was on the other line. Today, however, I think most people would love to receive a call from Clarke.
1 Sophie Turner Landed A Role Because Of Her Social Media Presence
To some wanna-be Instagram models, social media can become all encompassing. Even for established actors, successfully managing multiple online accounts can be difficult, especially if you aren’t interested in that sort of thing. That said, Sophie Turner — or Sansa Stark, as you may know her — can attest to the importance of a lively online presence.
We all know Hollywood to be something of a popularity contest. Celebs always seem to be starting feuds or one-upping each other in some way. This kind of mentality is particularly prevalent when it comes to casting and things, we can assume, can get pretty heated between the aspiring actors and actresses auditioning for the role.
Turner has attested to beating out a fellow actress due to the simple fact that she had more followers on social media. While today she could probably land any role she wanted, she’s probably thankful for the work she put in online.