"Game of Thrones" already has one of the most expansive and impressive casts in the history of television. Essentially picking up the slack that "Harry Potter" left in terms of propping up the British acting industry, the show hasn't just made stars (with names like Richard Madden, Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke coming to serious Hollywood attention), but also given great showcases to veteran character actors — people like Donald Sumpter, Stephen Dillane and Liam Cunningham have given show-stealing turns over the last two seasons.
One wondered after season one how new additions would fit in, but the first-timers blended seamlessly into the ensemble, and the show has continued to become bigger and better. And with the "Game of Thrones" Comic-Con panel taking place yesterday, the new arrivals for season three have been announced. And while there are a few familiar faces there (notably Diana Rigg, who we discussed on Friday), most aren't exactly household names. As such, we've run down the histories of both the actors and the characters (with as few spoilers as possible) of the new arrivals. Read on for more below, and you can watch a video with some of the cast introducing themselves too. As announced yesterday, season three kicks off on March 31, 2013. It's going to be a long eight months…
Dame Diana Rigg – Olenna Redwyne, The Queen of Thorns
The Actor: As detailed last week, Diana Rigg is a true geek icon, thanks to playing the cat-suited secret agent Emma Peel in the British TV series "The Avengers" (a role later taken by Uma Thurman in the disastrous 1998 film version). From that, she also played the only woman James Bond ever loved, killed just after their wedding, in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." Since then, she's been a staple in film, TV and theater, with her most recent movie appearance being in 2006's "The Painted Veil."
The Character: Olenna Tyrell (née Redwyne), is the grandmother of season two addition Margaery Tyrell, described as a cunning, manipulative matriarch who comes to King's Landing to oversee her granddaughter's wedding to King Joffrey.
Clive Russell – Brynden Tully, The Blackfish
The Actor: The 67-year-old Scottish actor Clive Russell certainly has his geek bona fides: he starred in Neil Gaiman's TV series "Neverwhere" as villain Mr. Vandemaar and also had a recurring role as sinister comics boss Damien Knox in Edgar Wright's "Spaced" back in the day. He's got over a hundred credits to his name, but the most recognizable one of late is as Captain Tanner in both Guy Ritchie "Sherlock Holmes" films.
The Character: Brynden is the uncle of Catelyn Stark (née Tully), a famous knight who now fights alongside Robb, becoming one of his most trusted advisers and comrades.
Tobias Menzies – Edmure Tully
The Actor: Another familiar face, Tobias Menzies is a RADA grad best known at first for playing Brutus in another HBO epic, "Rome," before being M's right-hand man (before Rory Kinnear took the part) in "Casino Royale." Most recently, he starred in "The Recruiting Officer" at the Donmar Warehouse in London.
The Character: Catelyn's younger brother, Edmure, is a whoring, hot-headed figure, but good at heart. **Spoiler** He becomes the lord of Riverrun after his father, Hoster Tully, dies.
Mackenzie Crook – Orell
The Actor: Arguably the most recognizable face of the new additions, Crook came to fame as Gareth on the original BBC version of "The Office," before going on to be comic relief across the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy. More recently, he's had some serious plaudits for his theater roles: first in "The Seagull" with Kristin Scott Thomas, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Carey Mulligan, then the award-winning "Jerusalem," and most recently "The Recruiting Officer" alongside Menzies.
The Character: Orell is one of the lieutenants of Mance Rayder (the biggest part yet to be cast), the so-called King of the North. He's a skinchanger, which means he's able to shift his consciousness inside an animal, in his case an eagle.
Richard Dormer – Beric Dondarrion
The Actor: The Northern Irish actor, another RADA grad, has long been thought to be one of British acting's best kept secrets, particularly after starring as troubled snooker player Alex Higgins in stage hit "Hurricane," which he also wrote. Dormer's also appeared in films like "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and "Five Minutes Of Heaven" and TV series like "My Boy Jack" and "Hidden," but recently got a lead role — later in the year, he'll star as Belfast punk legend Terri Hooley in "Good Vibrations" from the producers of "24 Hour Party People."
The Character: Beric Of Dondarrion is a former soldier for Ned Stark, who is now the leader of the outlaw group the Brotherhood Without Banners, and may or may not be unkillable.
Nathalie Emmannuel – Missandei
The Actor: Emmanuel is a veteran of low-rent British teen soap "Hollyoaks," in which she played Sasha Valentine, who became a prostitute and a heroin addict. Since leaving the show in 2010, she's starred as Nala in "The Lion King" on stage and appeared in the most recent season of cult superhero drama "Misfits."
The Character: Daenerys is a little lacking in followers after the events in Qarth, but Missandei, an interpreter in the slave city of Astapor, looks to fill the gap. Eleven in the books, clearly a little older here.
Kerry Ingram – Shireen Baratheon
The Actor: Thirteen-year-old Kerry Ingram has aleady had her fair share of success, sharing the Olivier Award (the British equivalent of the Tonys) for Best Actress in a Musical for playing the title character in smash-hit musical "Matilda" (alternating with three other young actresses).
The Character: Shireen Baratheon is the young daughter of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), who nearly died of a disease called 'greyscale' as a child, and is left with flaky, grey dead skin on her left cheek and neck as a result.
Tara Fitzgerald – Selyse Baratheon
The Actor: Tara Fitzgerald was a major rising star in Britain after graduating from Drama Centre in 1990: she played Ophelia to Ralph Fiennes' Hamlet in 1995, winning a Drama Desk Award for her trouble, and starred in films like "Sirens," "The Englishmen Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain" and "Brassed Off." More recently, she's been a regular on long-running BBC procedural "Waking The Dead," and its spin off, "The Body Farm."
The Character: Selyse Baratheon (née Florent) is Stannis' wife, and the mariage has never been a happy one. And yet Selyse is a fervent supporter of his priestess Melisandre and her new religion.
Paul Kaye – Thoros Of Myr
The Actor: The second "Spaced" grad of the new batch (he had a cameo in an early episode), Kaye came to fame playing obnoxious red-carpet interviewer Dennis Pennis on a BBC comedy show. After the character was killed off, he starred in British films like "Blackball" and "It's All Gone Pete Tong," and has become a familiar and flexible character actor, with particularly memorable role on TV show "Pulling," and as Ingram's stage father in "Matilda."
The Character: Thoros is a red priest, affiliated to the same religion as Melisandre. He's also a formidable warrior, and co-founds the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster – Jojen Reed
The Actor: The boy-who-would-have-been-Tintin, Sangster came to attention as Liam Neeson's son in "Love Actually" before going on to star in films like "Nanny McPhee," "The Last Legion," "Bright Star" and as Paul McCartney in "Nowhere Boy." TV roles have included a classic two-part "Doctor Who" and the voice of Ferb in long-running Disney Channel animation "Phineas and Ferb." He was originally cast in the title character in Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" before scheduling conflicts saw Jamie Bell step in instead.
The Character: Jojeen Reed is the son of another aristocratic family who has "greensight," the power of prophetic dreams. He accompanies Bran, Osha and Hodor as they flee from Winterfell.
Ellie Kendrick – Meera Reed
The Actor: A fast-rising young actress who played Juliet at the Globe Theater at 19, Kendrick is probably best known as Carey Mulligan's best friend in "An Education." She also played the title role in a BBC version of "The Diary Of Anne Frank," and has more recently appeared in TV series "Upstairs Downstairs" and "Being Human."
The Character: The older sister of Jojen, Meera is a skilled huntress who, with her brother, assists and accompanies Bran on his flight from Winterfell.
Kristofer Hivju – Tormund Giantsbane
The Actor: A mightily bearded Norwegian actor, Hivju played Jonas, a nervous scientist, in last year's remake/prequel of "The Thing." Since then, he's been shooting a role in M. Night Shyamalan's "After Earth" alongside Will Smith.
The Character: Tormund is a giant-slaying wildling raider, one of Mance Rayder's most trusted men, with the impressive title "Tall-talker, Horn-blower and Breaker of Ice, Husband to Bears, the Mead-king of Ruddy Hall, Speaker to Gods and Father of Hosts." Um, husband to bears?
Philip McGinley – Anguy
The Actor: Liverpool-born McGinley has had all kinds of TV and theater roles in his ten years as an actor, but is best known for playing Tom Kerrigan on long-running soap "Coronation Street" between 2008 and 2009. More recently, he had a tiny role in "Prometheus."
The Character: A talented archer, Anguy is another member of the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Anton Lesser – Qyburn
The Actor: A veteran Shakespearean actor, 60-year-old Lesser has long been associated with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been a prolific, if somewhat unsung, TV actor in Britain. Most recently, he cropped up in the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" and stole the show in excellent BBC program "The Hour."
The Character: A former maester and skilled physician, Qyburn was stripped of his position after performing experiments on living people. Since then, he's joined the mercenary band The Brave Companions.