Game of Thrones has been a wildly successful HBO television series, and it has officially taken off to become one for the record books. Speaking of which, George R.R. Martin was the mastermind behind this iconic series, which is also a group of novels that takes the audience through an intense and in-depth struggle to obtain The Iron Throne. Death, betrayal, and supernatural forces are just some of the elements that we can expect from Game of Thrones, and for the most part, the HBO series does not disappoint. Yet there are some instances in which we may question the casting choices and the producers’ direction, which is why we have compiled a list of 15 Game of Thrones Actors That Don’t Deserve Their Pay Grade.
Just consider that most of the main characters in Game of Thrones are making about $300,000 per episode. (Per episode, people!) With a salary like that, they need to constantly be on top of their game. We get it; this TV series is tough and emotionally draining. If it saps audiences, just imagine what it is like to film these scenes over and over again, day in and day out. Therefore, only the most elite actors should have been cast in the series. Unfortunately, in some cases, that wasn’t what happened, so let’s take a brief look at some of the actors that we think could have done much better, given the bank they were making in this series.
FYI: there are some spoilers in this list, so be warned!
15 Aidan Gillen
A major character like Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish requires an actor with the expert prowess and versatility to make a powerful statement on the small screen. Actor Aidan Gillen was the casting choice for the Game of Thrones producers, but we think they could have done better. To be fair, Gillen was a decent Petyr Baelish. We actually thought that he would be a strong player in the Game of Thrones cast. And there were definitely moments where we thought “yes, this is good stuff!” Yet there were other times when we shook our heads in despair as Gillen came just shy of a really strong performance. Gillen was good at establishing the reputation and personality of Petyr Baelish, but when it came to following through in his actions and behaviors, things fell a little flat. Gillen is definitely not the worst Game of Thrones actor to put on this list, so he is going to be listed as Number 15.
14 Hugo Culverhouse
This is what happens when you cast a young actor who has almost no experience in the industry. Sure, he was just going to play a simple “stable boy,” but inexperienced Hugo Culverhouse was not prepared to be in such a successful TV series as Game of Thrones. Even the stable boys and common folk need to have that something special to maintain continuity and flow in the show and between the characters. With Culverhouse, we just weren’t seeing that. Perhaps the defining moment for the stable boy off the Red Keep was when he was facing off against Arya Stark. This was like a joke! At least try to make this look convincing; at least try to get into character. When partnering up in a scene with such a pivotal character like Arya, Culverhouse needed to be on top of his game. Unfortunately, all we can say is WASTED.
13 Hafpor Julius Bjornsson
An Icelandic man that stands 6-foot, 9-inches and weighs nearly 400 pounds sounds like a great choice for The Mountain. To be fair, Bjornsson did do a nice job as this freakishly strong Game of Thrones character. He was definitely better than Conan Stevens. Yet we just don’t know if Bjornsson did a well enough job to sustain his acting role on the HBO series. The Mountain needs to be more than brute strength and terror, and we just didn’t see much of that from Bjornsson. He is a great Strong Man (he’s won several competitions, after all.) Yet we don’t know if he translates well to the silver screen. Something is off with him, and we just had a hard time taking to his character and feeling the same passion that comes across in the books. We’re not saying that Bjornsson should be booed off to infinity, but with some more instruction, he could be great. Too bad there’s no time for that.
12 Gemma Whelan
Dang, as an Ironborn, Yara Greyjoy is one of the most dynamic female characters in the Game of Thrones series. She ends up playing an important role in the storyline and as such, she needs to be portrayed by an actress that has wit, courage, and a look that says “determination.” Gemma Whelan was the actress the producers ended up casting as Yara Greyjoy, and we found that to be surprising, especially since Whelan’s acting career was pretty dried up around the time she was cast in Game of Thrones. While Whelan does have experience working in film, television, and stage productions, she had been going through a slow time period when she was picked up for the show. It seems that the HBO series may have saved her career and reignited her flame. Even so, we personally think that someone with more backbone and authority would have been a better choice for Yara Greyjoy.
11 Ed Skrein
Still young enough to be spry, yet mature enough to play such a commanding role, Ed Skrein seemed like a decent choice for the role of Game of Thrones’ Daario Naharis. Yet he was bagged from the cast after one season. The reason? Well, for one, Skrein was too lackluster. Daario needs to be a dynamic character, one that pulls us in and slowly but surely gets us wondering what he’ll do next. With Skrein, we felt as though he lacked direction and was always unsure of his next steps. That trepidation and hesitancy led to a boring performance, one that would send Daario’s importance and popularity plummeting. For that reason he had to go. Another thing about Skrein that was a bit weird was that he is an actor and rapper. Maybe it was the juggling act of balancing these two jobs, but we think it ultimately ended up hurting his on-screen skills.
10 Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti-Sellers
The elite Sand Snakes are played by Keisha Castle-Hughes (Obara Sand,) Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand,) and Rosabell Laurenti-Sellers (Tyene Sand.) All three of them are lovely ladies, of course, but they don’t add that ferocity that we need in the Sand Snakes, especially the ones that are highly trained in combat. Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene need to be ready for anything, but we sense mediocrity in the performances of Keisha, Jessica, and Rosabell. Granted, all three actresses have starred in productions that have escaped the mainstream, which may have hindered their success in such a prolific series as Game of Thrones. Furthermore, we feel as though the women were cast as mere sex symbols, rather than female warriors. We blame the producers for this! Moreover, each actress had things that were...off. Obara is supposed to be more stoic than the traditional Dornish person, but she’s too deadpan. Nymeria is too slave-like to Obara, and Tyene gets lost in the shuffle.
9 Ciaran Hinds
Game of Thrones’ Mance Rayder is a badass character, and one that we genuinely enjoyed watching the TV series. Mance Rayder is a Free Folk leader, and he needs to unite peoples of different origin and background to come together for a common cause. Naturally, this character should be sturdy looking and have a whole lot of grit. The producers decided to take a chance on Ciaran Hinds, but we thought he was a tad too old to take on this role. Besides, Hinds is much better suited to doing stage productions, so his performance in Game of Thrones had a tendency to fall flat. There is a different look and feel to working in television, and perhaps the long hours on set got to him and caused his drowsy acting. In this way, Mance Rayder came across as a tired old, worn-down man rather than a Free Folk leader with a mission.
8 Conan Stevens
You’d think that a 7-foot, 1-inch actor would be enough to play the role of one of Game of Thrones’ most terrifying characters. The Mountain (or Gregor Clegane) is one freak of nature, and Conan Stevens was cast to play the hulking giant. Not a bad choice, but is Stevens really worth all the hype and payment that the producers shelled out for him? No, and that’s why he was canned after the first season of the show. The producers then opted for Ian Whyte in Game of Thrones’ second season, and then for the third season and onward, they cast Hafpor Julius Bjornsson. Needless to say, the character of The Mountain is a tough one to get just right. He needs to be downright frightening and intense, but he can’t just be a hulking mass of muscle. He needs an actor that will play up his flaws and backstory as well.
7 Stephen Dillane
Rough and rugged with a huge chip on his shoulder, Stannis Baratheon is one Game of Thrones character that needs to be cast perfectly in order to make things really shine. The producers set their sights on Stephen Dillane, a 50-something-year-old Brit with a reputable acting repertoire. And while he wasn’t the worst Stannis Baratheon ever, he could have been better. The truth is, Dillane has such a sweet-looking face and temperament, that it makes it hard for us to see him as the vying king Stannis, who is trying desperately to claim the Iron Throne. A role like this needs an actor who isn’t afraid to get ugly, be frightening, and pull out all the stops. At times, it felt like Dillane was holding back and not getting completely into character, and that diminished his role as Stannis. Even his character’s death seemed unfitting when it was played by his good-natured soul.
6 Dean-Charles Chapman
Actually, this Essex lad may have been an okay choice to play the character of Tommen Baratheon. After all, Tommen always acted like a little twerp, and a guy from Essex could have been just what the producers needed to bring that role to life. However, Chapman was just a so-so Tommen, and it was actually kind of nice to get a break from him in the third season of Game of Thrones. We get that Tommen is supposed to be a brat and a boy with a one-track mind. Yet Chapman seemed to have a hard time getting this character up off the ground; it was always the same facial expressions and gestures and so on. That made things incredibly boring. Chapman is much better suited to more cheery and happy-go-lucky parts. He is more of a stage actor after all. He’s not exactly the angsty spoiled boy king type who commits suicide.
5 Isaac Hempstead Wright
Bran Stark is perhaps one of the most boring characters in the Game of Thrones series. Viewers and readers alike don’t find anything spectacular about him, but if the show’s producers had chosen a better candidate for the role, perhaps we would have enjoyed watching Bran more. The poor kid ends up being thrown out of a window and put into a coma. What makes it difficult to cast a character like Bran is that he must spend the rest of the series as a cripple. The fall from the window took away Bran’s ability to walk, so this kid needs to have a whole lot of personality to win us over. Unfortunately, Wright just didn’t do it for us. We would have liked to see a bit more sass and dynamism from him, as Bran could still be likeable, but it looks like once he lost his mobility, he lost his potential as well.
4 Lino Faciolli
All right, first of all, with a TV series like Game of Thrones, it is going to be difficult to cast the right child actors. Come on, this is a seriously gruesome and emotionally-scarring show. So when it came to casting the role of Robin Arryn, the producers needed to find a young man who was regal-looking but also rough around the edges. That’s because Robin Arryn has a crappy sob story of a life. We honestly have no idea how the producers landed on Faciolli. The kid had only starred in a D-list comedy movie and some random short film. He isn’t exactly the kind of kid we would think of casting for the role of a character who is swept up in royalty while being left for dead by most of his family. A bad choice all around, but maybe Faciolli just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and that’s why he got hired.
3 Michiel Huisman
Dutch actor Michiel Huisman is certainly a hottie with a body, and his stunning good looks and boyish charm made him a nice physical match for Daario Naharis. In the show, Daario is a rough and tough commander-type character, holding leadership over the Second Sons before killing off his superiors and then joining the lovely Dany Targaryen. Game of Thrones did well in replacing Ed Skrein with Michiel Huisman, but we do think that the directors could have done better. Either that, or not pay Huisman so much, because he wasn’t the perfect Darrio Naharis. We are pretty sure that Huisman snagged the role for his hunky stints on Dutch productions such as GoedeTijden, SlechteTijdan (a soap opera) and the medieval film Floris. Flaunting his hot physique and his cheeky smile helped him get the Daario role, although we think he should have been played by someone more perceptive.
2 Sibel Kekilli
Don’t get us wrong, Sibel Kekilli is a hot woman, and a nice choice for the role of Game of Thrones’ Shae. After all, Kekilli was scouted while shopping at the mall; she’s just that beautiful. Yet when it comes to her playing the role of Shae, Tyrion Lannister’s mistress and kingdom prostitute, Kekilli definitely looks the part. Yet she is so static and we would have liked to see more oomph from the actress, especially as Shae’s role in the TV series began to get more and more pivotal to the plot. This was a chance for the Game of Thrones directors to really let Kekilli shine in her element and show off her innate beauty. Instead, she remained utterly lifeless throughout her time on the show, and we consider that a crying shame. This character could have been so much more than just a pretty face and a source of fan service to the viewers.
1 Robert Pugh
First of all, Robert Pugh hasn’t had the most stellar acting career, and his Game of Thrones character is Craster, who is a not-so-nice-to-look-at wildling that appeared in the show’s second and third seasons. In the HBO TV series, Craster has a number of wildling daughters who contract greyscale, and Craster himself is a character that most viewers were wary of. He ends up “sacrificing” his daughters who died of greyscale and he eventually comes to a sad end himself. As for the real-life Robert Pugh, he did an okay job in the role of Craster, but we would have liked for his character to have more hutzpah, you know? He was too one-dimensional and even as a recurring guest star, Pugh could have put more passion and power into the role. He definitely wasn’t worth the payout. Pugh’s got the facial features, put not the grit to pull off a good Craster.