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The Best Performances From The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Cast

The Best Performances From The 'Game Of Thrones' Cast

Oh, “Game of Thrones,” we’ve missed you so. But now that, as of Sunday’s season opener, we are back in the warm embrace of a new season of the HBO phenomenon (which has officially been renewed for two further seasons), we’ve also found ourselves plunged back into the midst of one of the biggest ensemble casts on TV, and occasionally snapping our fingers at the screen going “Him! Him! That guy! Wasn’t he in that thing with the other guy from whatjacallit?” It’s one of the great joys of this exquisitely made show that the cast is so rich and deep and full of “that guy” character actors, but it can also be a bit of a pain when their other credits don’t come readily to mind, or when they’re rendered so unrecognisable under prosthetics, accents and/or exotic costumes that you simply can’t place them. In an effort to combat that irritation, we’ve compiled this handy list running through the main credits of the main cast members of “Game of Thrones” so you can commit this all to memory and then concentrate on more important stuff, like theorizing about who Jon Snow’s mother was and marveling at the cut of the Khaleesi’s desert chic dresses.

Of course, the other great thing about this huge cast is just how many actors it has given a start to, so there are quite a few main cast members who simply don’t have enough of a prior career to warrant an entry below, like Richard Madden (Robb Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Kristian Nairn (Hodor), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark-Lannister), Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon) and John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) among others. And so, if when the closing credits roll, you’re dying for a bit more Samwell or desperate to see what Arya did before, you’re fresh out of luck. However in the vast majority of cases, there are other films and TV shows you can check out if you’re a particular fan of one of the performers, and we make our own suggestions for where to start below. Spoilers, for up till the end of Season 3 probably abound, so if you’re not caught up to there yet, come back to us when you are.

Peter Dinklage
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Tyrion Lannister, aka “The Imp,” son of Tywin, brother to Jaime and Cersei, despised and derided due to his dwarfism but a canny operator with a surprisingly wide decent streak (for a Lannister) nonetheless.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Dinklage is probably the breakout star of “Game of Thrones,” as it has provided him with one of the most nuanced and engaging characters he’s ever played, but he’s been around a long time, and been a tremendous asset to almost everything he’s appeared in. Chief among those is “The Station Agent,” Tom McCarthy’s lovely, deeply indie indie about the hesitant friendships that spring up amongst an unlikely trio of misfits. TV-wise, sci-fi show "Threshold" and a recurring role on "Nip/Tuck" followed. But he’s also reliably onscreen every December in newly-minted Christmas classic “Elf” in a terrifically terrifying turn as tyrannical superstar children’s book author Miles Finch. Less illustriously, but more recently, he showed up in Sundance also-ran “Low Down” and the glancingly released “Knights of Badassdom,” while later this month he can be found amid another massive ensemble in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
Fans Should Check Out: Definitely “The Station Agent” has given him his best movie showcase so far, though the ghoulish might want to check out notorious WTF movie “Tiptoes” in which he plays the friend of lead dwarf played by Gary Oldman (perhaps the film would be less distasteful if those roles had been reversed, though perhaps not). Meanwhile, here’s a terrific clip from the very enjoyable inside-baseball pic about an independent film production, “Living in Oblivion,” by Tom di Cillo, in which Dinklage questions his role as a dwarf in a dream.

Sean Bean
Role In "Game of Thrones": Eddard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, and, when the season begins, the newly-appointed Hand of the King. A noble man and good, albeit tough, father, but brash and not great at playing the game.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Bean was pretty much the biggest name in the show when it launched, essentially playing the lead character and fronting much of the ad campaign. A RADA-trained RSC veteran, he first reached stardom in the U.K. thanks to the long-running "Sharpe" series of costume dramas, becoming familiar in the U.S. thanks to villainous roles in "Patriot Games" and "Goldeneye" in particular. Other notable roles include "Ronin," "Anna Karenina," "National Treasure," "North Country," "Troy," "The Island," "Silent Hill," "The Hitcher," "Black Death" and "Percy Jackson," but probably his most widely seen-role is that of the noble but weak Boromir in "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring," whose treachery, and subsequent heroism, provides the emotional climax to the first film in Peter Jackson‘s Tolkien trilogy. Famously, Bean dies in almost everything he appears in.
Fans Should Check Out: It seems a fair assumption that anyone who’s seen "Game of Thrones" saw "Lord of the Rings" long ago, but it’s worth checking out Bean’s performance again: it’s a reminder of what a fine actor he is, and his death is one of the most moving scenes in the trilogy. But if you want to see Bean’s range, we’d recommend the "Red Riding" trilogy, in which he plays an incredibly evil business developer, or recent TV drama "Accused," in which he played, with enormous sensitivity, a cross-dressing English teacher, and picked up a BAFTA nomination for his trouble.

Lena Headey
Role In "Game of Thrones": Cersei Lannister, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, long trapped in a loveless marriage with Robert Baratheon, but secretly having an affair with her brother Jaime. Manipulative and icy, though in part because of the way she’s been treated by those around her since she was small.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? Headey got her start while still in her teens, with a major supporting role alongside Jeremy Irons and Ethan Hawke in "Waterland," followed by an appearance in the acclaimed "The Remains Of The Day," and the female lead in Disney‘s live-action remake of "The Jungle Book." Various costume dramas followed, before a U.S. breakthrough alongside Kate Hudson in "Gossip," and a few years later, the female lead in Terry Gilliam‘s "The Brothers Grimm" (Headey was forced on the director by Harvey Weinstein, who wanted to cast Samantha Morton). A couple of years later, she had her most prominent role to date as Queen Gorgo in "300" (which she recently reprised in the sequel), before playing the title role in "The Terminator" TV spin-off "The Sarah Connor Chronicles." Most recently, she played the villain in comic-book adaptation "Dredd," and reteamed with Hawke on sleeper horror hit "The Purge."
Fans Should Check Out: Again, her role in "300" is probably closest to the one in "Game of Thrones" (though the latter is infinitely richer). She’s also very good in Scandinavian indie "Aberdeen" alongside Stellan Skarsgård, does a pretty good job in "Gossip," and is rather sweet and winning in underrated gay-themed rom-com "Imagine Me & You" opposite Piper Perabo and Matthew Goode.

Aidan Gillen
Role In "Game of Thrones": Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, the Machiavellian Master of Coin, who’s come up from humble beginnings to become a powerful brothel owner and spymaster. Has long been in love with Catelyn Stark, Eddard’s wife.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? "Game of Thrones" marks at least the third seminal TV series to star the Irish actor: after early roles in "Circle of Friends," "Some Mother’s Son" and "Mojo," Gillen came to fame as the lead in Russell T. Davies‘ groundbreaking British series "Queer As Folk." This led to a Hollywood break as the villain in Jackie Chan/Owen Wilson sequel "Shanghai Knights," before a Tony nomination for a Broadway run of Harold Pinter‘s "The Caretaker" brought him to the attention of the producers of "The Wire," with the actor playing ambitious politico Tommy Carcetti from the third season onwards. Since then, he’s returned to villainous duties with John Cena actioner "12 Rounds," Jason Statham film "Blitz" and IRA thriller "Shadow Dancer," as well as a brief appearance at the beginning of "The Dark Knight Rises." He also starred in the first season of cult Irish drama "Love/Hate," and will soon be seen among an all-star Irish cast in "Calvary."
Fans Should Check Out: Gillen proved a rather divisive figure in the Playlist office, with some staffers fans who believe he’s terrible in "Blitz" and others believing he’s terrible in everything but "Blitz." We’d point the doubters towards a trio of excellent, little-seen British indies: 2000’s "The Low Down" (which co-stars future "Attack the Block" director Joe Cornish as himself), and 2010’s "Treacle Jr.," both directed by Radiohead music video veteran Jamie Thraves, and last year’s excellent "Mister John" (trailer below) from Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy, an Antonioni-tinged Thailand-set drama with a titanic performance from Gillen.

Charles Dance
Role in “Game of Thrones”: The devious, tyrannical patriarch Tywin Lannister, now Hand of the King his grandson, who rules his House with a fist of iron and a heart of ice.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Dance, as you might expect, given his chilly gravitas and impeccable Received Pronunciation, is a Royal Shakespeare Company alum and a stage actor of repute, as well as appearing on screen since the 1980s. His first movie role was as an associate bad guy in Moore-era Bond “For Your Eyes Only” (a favorite of Robert Bresson’s, trivia fans), while he became a star in his native U.K. following his lead role in prestige TV miniseries “The Jewel In the Crown.” His innate Britishness made him a suitable villain when Hollywood was convinced that all superbaddies should speak in plummy tones, and so he played a demon in Eddie Murphy vehicle “The Golden Child” and the evil antagonist in John McTiernan’s recently reclaimed flop “The Last Action Hero.” He played expat again in “White Mischief” and took the key role of the doomed Dr. Clemens in “Alien 3,” and prior to decamping to Westeros popped up in movies like “Starter for Ten,” ”Michael Collins,” “Hilary and JackieOzon’s “Swimming Pool” and Altman’s “Gosford Park” and in U.K. TV shows like “Fingersmith,” “Bleak House,” “Trinity” and “Strike Back.” Ever regal, he was also the King in “Your Highness” and ancient vampire royalty in “Underworld: Awakening.”
Fans Should Check Out: Dance has long been a mainstay of U.K. film and TV but probably his defining early moment is with Raj-set TV miniseries “The Jewel in the Crown,” which was a prestige period drama back when those were rare TV events.

Emilia Clarke
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen, now head of her own ever-expanding army and with an eye on crossing the sea to wage a war to reclaim her birthright, the Iron Throne.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? If there’s ever a case of an actor being “made” by a show, with “Game of Thrones,” Clarke is it. In fact, she’s so deeply associated with this, her first major role that we have to say every time we see a pic of her as a brunette (her natural color) we double take. She will, however, undoubtedly go on to a career outside of the beloved character she plays here though, having already laid the groundwork by playing Jude Law‘s daughter in “Dom Hemingway” recently and having netted the role of Sarah Connor in the upcoming “Terminator: Genesis.”
Fans Should Check Out: Slim pickings for pre-’Thrones’ credits, though she does show up in Mat Whitecross’ “Spike Island.” Your best bet for another dose of Clarke is to head out and catch “Dom Hemingway” which is in theaters now, and which we liked quite a bit.

Michelle Fairley
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Original Tiger Mother Catelyn Stark, iron-willed matriarch of the Stark clan whose pride in her family and House is undercut only by a degree of pragmatism borne of her ferocious love for her children.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? Fairley only became Lady of Winterfell after our beloved Jennifer Ehle, who had played her in the pilot, exited the project, but won us over nonetheless, delivering one of the steely female performances that makes ‘Thrones’ gender politics so endlessly fascinating. But her spectacular, bloody exit from the show won’t see her off our screens for long: she is currently filming miniseries “24: Live Another Day” in a recurring role, so she’ll be back when that show airs next month. And prior to all this, the Northern Irish actress had been a regular on U.K. TV for years, and also won small parts in films like the Kate Winslet-starrer “Hideous Kinky,” and the terrific “The Others” before taking over the brief role of Hermione Granger’s mother in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” from original actress Heather Bleasdale. But more recently, she’s turned in eyecatching supporting roles in “Philomena” as Martin Sixsmith’s commissioning editor, in a recurring spot on TV show "Suits" and especially in Ralph Fiennes’ underseen “The Invisible Woman,” in which she plays the “fallen woman” companion of Charles Dickens’ friend Wilkie Collins.
Fans Should Check Out: It’s only a small role, but her scene in “The Invisible Woman” is a fascinating one, and we’d urge you to seek it out (no clip available as yet). In the meantime, here are some of her scenes, opposite John Hannah, from an episode of U.K. mystery series “Rebus.”

Stephen Dillane
Role In "Game of Thrones": Stannis Baratheon, the dour and humorless brother of King Robert, who enters proceedings after the king’s death as he throws his hat into the battle to succeed him. Increasingly falling under the influence of fire priestess Melisandre.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Dillane’s long been one of the most acclaimed stage actors of his generation, appearing in the premiere of "Angels In America," and winning a Tony for a 2000 revival of Tom Stoppard‘s "The Real Thing" opposite Jennifer Ehle. Dillane broke into movies after being cast as Horatio in Zeffirelli‘s Mel Gibson-starring version of "Hamlet" in 1990, and later in the decade starred in Sandra Bullock/Denis Leary rom-com "Two If By Sea," had the lead in Michael Winterbottom‘s "Welcome To Sarajevo," and starred alongside Sophie Marceau in William Nicholson‘s "Firelight." He’s had antagonistic roles in starry films like "Ordinary Decent Criminal," "Spy Game," and "The Parole Officer," played Merlin in "King Arthur," Thomas Jefferson in "John Adams" and Leonard Woolf in "The Hours," and most recently had a small part in "Zero Dark Thirty." He also toplined Canadian drama "Fugitive Pieces," and cropped up in indies "Savage Grace," "Perfect Sense" and "Papadopolous & Sons," while he also took lead roles in "The Tunnel" (the Anglo-French remake of "The Bridge") and cop parody "A Touch Of Cloth".
Fans Should Check Out: Dillane’s an enormously talented actor who’s never quite found the big-screen showcase he deserves, although he’s excellent in "Welcome To Sarajevo" and "Fugitive Pieces." Short of a movie adaptation of his transcendent performance in "The Real Thing," his finest screen performance might be in Channel 4 docudrama "The Shooting Of Thomas Hurndall," about the killing of a young British man by the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip. Dillane played Hurndall’s father, and his wrenching performance won him a BAFTA in 2009.

Iain Glen
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Ser Jorah Mormont, Daenerys Targaryen’s most trusted and loyal advisor, who is probably in love with her (totes understandable), and is seeking to redress the fall from grace that happened back during his shady past. Fluent in Dothraki.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Glen, like Dance, is a noted stage actor, who never quite caught fire as a leading man, despite a strong start playing opposite Sigourney Weaver in “Gorillas in the Mist” and taking co-lead (with Patrick Bergin) in the overlooked but pretty epic Bob Rafelson film “Mountains of the Moon,” about the search for the source of the Nile. After that his film career settled more into a supporting role/British villain-in Hollywood-pic mold. The baddie in “Tomb Raider” is probably his most high-profile outing, but he’s also played evil scientist Dr. Isaacs in two “Resident Evil” sequels (named, apparently, after Jason Isaacs who played the equivalent character in the first film but was unnamed) and took a cameo as Uncle Ralph in the disappointing “Kick-Ass 2." Supporting turns include “Beautiful Creatures,” “Song for a Raggy Boy,” “Tara Road,” “The Iron Lady” and the role of Richard the Lionheart in “Kingdom of Heaven.” And if TV geeks didn’t love him enough for ‘Thrones,’ he also showed up in two Matt Smith episodes of “Doctor Who.” More recently, TV costume dramas have been a good source of income for the actor, between “Ripper Street,” a recurring role in “Downton Abbey” as Sir Richard Carlisle, and a regular slot on ’60s-set Brit show “Breathless.”
Fans Should Check Out: The most old-school enjoyable way to get your fill of Glen is probably with his lead turn in “Mountains of the Moon,” but we’re very fond of him as Hamlet (a role he’s a hall-of-famer for on stage, by all accounts) in the underrated film version of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” Sample below.

Liam Cunningham
Character In "Game Of Thrones:" Davos Seaworth (also known as the Onion Knight), a one-time smuggler who, during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, became Stannis’ right-hand man.

Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From: Cunningham’s a veteran Irish character actor whose appearance in "Game of Thrones" has coincided with a general and long overdue rise in his profile. The Dublin native kicked off his career in the theatre, before getting his first big-screen break as the father of the main character in Alfonso Cuarón‘s gorgeous English-language debut "A Little Princess." Further work in blockbuster "First Knight," Michael Winterbottom‘s "Jude" and Stephen Poliakoff‘s "Shooting The Past" followed, and he played "Citizen Kane" DoP Gregg Toland in HBO movie "RKO 281." After a quiet few years focused mostly on TV work, he returned to the big screen by playing the bad guy in future GoT director Neil Marshall‘s cult debut "Dog Soldiers," and went on to appear in "Breakfast In Pluto," Rupert Wyatt‘s "The Escapist" and in a major role in Ken Loach‘s Palme d’Or-winning "The WInd That Shakes the Barley." He got particular attention opposite pal Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen‘s "Hunger," and has since cropped up in "Centurion," “The Guard,” "Clash Of The Titans," "The Guard," "War Horse," "Doctor Who" and "Safe House," while starring and producing short "Pitch Black Heist" alongside Fassbender, which won him a BAFTA.
Fans Should Check Out: Cunningham’s one of those actors who elevates everything he’s in (even when those things are terrible), but he’s particularly good in "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "Hunger," the latter of which he shares an extended unbroken 20-minute scene with Fassbender.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Accomplished warrior and incest-haver Jaime “Kingslayer” Lannister, whose character-building arc has proven one of the most satisfying of the show, and has seen him become a more complete man. Even if he is now incomplete.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Of all the many actors who owe a debt to “Game of Thrones,” Coster-Waldau may be at the top of the list, as without the gift of this role (in which, to be fair, he is superb) he’d likely be consigned to continue the streak of forgettable supporting turns in major pictures that take advantage of his square jaw, but not his way with a quip or an eyeroll. So after an early lead in the original “Nightwatch,” there followed a fair mix of TV and films in his native Denmark (truly, after Viggo and Mads, the land than just keeps on giving), as well as a small role in play adaptation “Bent” about homosexual persecution in a concentration camp. But the early ’00s was really when Coster-Waldau went international, getting in two episodes of the “Lock Stock…” TV show, as well as bit parts in “Enigma” and “Black Hawk Down” before landing a fair sized role as a rival tennis champ in “Wimbledon.” Then back to smaller duties in stuff like “Firewall” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” but the actor had kept his hand in Danish productions all the while and in 2011 that paid off, with his lead role in international hit “Headhunters” coming the same year he was cast in ‘Thrones.’ Since then he’s hunked up horror film “Mama,” played a resistance fighter-type in Tom Cruise vehicle “Oblivion” and taken a thankless role in Juliette Binoche vehicle “A Thousand Times Good Night.
Fans Should Check Out: ‘Thrones’ is the best part he’s been given so far, though in a couple of weeks already you can check him out on man-candy duties once more in “The Other Woman” or you could hunt down his first bid for U.S. TV dominance in the short-lived supernatural detective show “New Amsterdam.

Natalie Dormer
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Margaery Tyrell, soon to be King Joffrey’s bride, but perhaps the one woman in Westeros calculating enough to survive such an alliance, especially when her gran’s got her back.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? Dormer’s Margaery is only the latest in a line of sly and sexy paramours she’s played even at this relatively early stage in her career: she first brought some raunch to the usually tragic role of Anne Boleyn in "The Tudors," went on to a recurring part in legal drama "Silk," had a tiny part in "Captain America: The First Avenger," a role, for her sins, in "W.E.," and a leading role in shortlived BBC supernatural thriller series "The Fades." Since ‘Thrones,’ we’ve seen her in tiny parts in "Rush" and "The Counselor," but more memorably as perhaps the foxiest incarnation of Moriarty yet in Sherlock Holmes-in-New-York series "Elementary," in which she is again, a sly, sexy paramour. Coming soon, though, is Lone Scherfig‘s "Posh" and the character of Cressida in the final two ‘Hunger Games‘ movies.
Fans Should Check Out: Margaery’s closest antecedent is Dormer’s Anne Boleyn in "The Tudors," but arguably more enjoyable is her turn in the silly but kind of popcorn-munchingly engrossing "Elementary," which is excellent entertainment of the "while I’m folding laundry" variety.


Jerome Flynn
Role In "Game Of Thrones": Bronn, the lowly sword-for-hire who becomes Tyrion’s champion, friend and right-hand man. A big fan of drinking, killing and shagging.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From: Flynn has undoubtedly the most colorful background of any "Game of Thrones" actor. He broke through in then-popular British TV drama "Soldier Soldier," and with co-star Robson Greene, unexpectedly became singing sensations with the help of Simon Cowell with easy-listening double act Robson and Jerome, racking up three number one U.K. singles, including a cover of "Unchained Melody" that was the biggest selling hit of 1995, and two number one albums. More TV work followed until, due to his friendship with "Law & Order" and "Batman Begins" actor Linus Roache, Flynn essentially gave up his career to become involved with a religious sect run by guru Andrew Cohen. Little was heard of him for the next decade, but he returned to acting for "Game of Thrones," immediately reviving his career. He can also be seen at present in Victorian detective drama "Ripper Street," co-starring Matthew MacFadyen. He’s also the half-brother of up-and-coming musician/actor Johnny Flynn, star of Anne Hathaway Sundance picture "Song One," and Olivier Assayas‘ imminent "Clouds Of Sils Maria."
Fans Should Check Out: Flynn’s pretty good as football legend Bobby Charlton in the otherwise underwhelming biopic "Best," but since his renaissance, his best role other than Bronn has definitely been in the pretty good "Ripper Street," in which he plays good-hearted bruiser Sergeant Drake. Flynn picked up a BAFTA nomination for the performance yesterday, and though the BBC cancelled it after the second series, it’s been picked up for a third by Amazon.

Diana Rigg
Role in “Game of Thrones”: The formidable Lady Olenna Tyrell, de facto head of the Tyrell clan whose granddaughter Margaery is about to be married to the King, but has not, unlike others we could mention, allowed years of politicking and jockeying for power to dull her wits or her sense of humor.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? One of the best recent additions to the cast, the 75-year-old Rigg has only had five episodes so far, but almost every scene with her is a sly delight. But then, Rigg’s career is a long one and we’ve been fans forever (this writer was reared on repeats of “The Avengers” the iconic British TV show that made her a star). In addition to famously being the only woman 007 ever loved enough to put a ring on it in superior Bond outing “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” she played opposite Oliver Reed in “The Assassination Bureau,” Vincent Price in “Theatre of Blood” and Kermit the Frog in “The Great Muppet Caper.” Mostly, however, she pursued a stage career in the U.K. and the U.S. as well as picking up many TV credits along the way, even launching her own sitcom “Diana” in 1973 which only lasted one season. The ’80s and ’90s largely saw her wasted onscreen in a succession of lacklustre films and TV remakes, though the “Mrs. Bradley Mysteries” in which she plays a sexier version of a Miss Marple-style lady sleuth, had its moments. A turn in 2006’s underrated “The Painted Veil” was probably the screen highlight of her ’00s, prior to a great villanous turn in a 2013 “Doctor Who” episode, and, of course ‘Thrones’ in which, as a Dame, Rigg somewhat outranks the character she plays.
Fans Should Check Out: Not for nothing was Rigg dubbed the sexiest TV star of all time in 1999 (though she was always uncomfortable with the sex symbol tag), and while her stage work as Medea and Mother Courage especially is legendary, it’s the amazing Emma Peel that will always remain her indelible screen creation. Here’s her very first appearance. Swoon.

Joe Dempsie
Role In "Game Of Thrones": Gendry, a poor blacksmith who happens to be one of many illegitimate children of Robert Baratheon. Marked for death, he became a companion of Arya Stark, before being taken by red sorceress Melisandre, though he was last seen being freed by Davos Seaworth.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Along with Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, Daniel Kaluuya and fellow "Game of Thrones" actor Hannah Murray, Dempsie was one of the original line-up of cult British TV series "Skins," and has slowly and carefully gone on to become one of the show’s most successful graduates. After his "Skins" character Chris was killed off, Dempsie went on to appear in "Doctor Who" and "Merlin," before memorably playing the villain in Jack Thorne‘s short-lived but glorious TV series "The Fades." Dempsie also appeared in Tom Hooper‘s "The Damned United" and Jason Statham actioner "Blitz," and recently cropped up in the impressive ensemble of Sean Durkin‘s powerful miniseries "Southcliffe," and also has one of the leads, alongside Alice Englert, in period series "New Worlds" for Channel 4. He’ll soon be seen as the lead in "Monsters: Dark Continent," the sequel to Gareth Edwards‘ breakthrough indie hit.
Fans Should Check Out: If you’re a genre fan and you haven’t yet seen "The Fades," you should rectify that stat—funny, inventive and creepy, it was a remarkably confident series, and Dempsie made for a surprisingly great bad guy. He’s also excellent in the more grounded "Southcliffe" as an ex-soldier.

Mark Addy
Role In "Game Of Thrones": King Robert Baratheon, the boisterous ruler of Falstaffian appetites, who sees over the Kingdoms before he’s done in by a boar (an accident engineered by his wife Cersei).
Yes, But Where Do I Know Him From? Yorkshire-born RADA graduate Addy was one of the better-known figures in the show, albeit in very different roles from King Robert: after starring in U.K. police sitcom "The Thin Blue Line," Addy had a key supporting role in sleeper smash "The Full Monty," picking up a Supporting Actor BAFTA nomination for his performance. This brought him to Hollywood, and after a supporting part with Michael Keaton in "Jack Frost," he went on to play Fred Flintstone in prequel "The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas," before co-starring with Heath Ledger in "A Knight’s Tale" and Chris Rock in "Down To Earth." Addy then spent four years as a schlubby Chicago husband in CBS sitcom "Still Standing" until 2008, before starring in the third "Red Riding" film, "In The Year Of Our Lord 1983," and playing Friar Tuck in Ridley Scott‘s "Robin Hood." Addy currently plays a gone-to-seed version of Hercules in BBC adventure series "Atlantis," and continues to be a big theater name in the U.K.
Fans Should Check Out: Addy’s a terrific theater actor (he was great in John Hodge‘s "Collaborators"), but our favorite of his screen performances is in ‘Red Riding,’ in which he played tortured, but heroic solicitor John Piggott—a rare pre-GoT indication that he was capable of dramatic power as well as comic skill.

Alfie Allen
Role In "Game Of Thrones": Theon Greyjoy, foster-brother of the Starks’ turned inept traitor, turned castrated captive.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From: The son of actor Keith Allen and "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Jane Eyre" producer Alison Owen (and younger brother of singer Lily, who wrote a song on her first album about him), Allen started off his career with cameos in family work like "Elizabeth" and "Agent Cody Banks 2" (directed by uncle Kevin), before landing a role off his own back in "Atonement." Some smaller gigs in Daniel Craig vehicle "Flashbacks Of A Fool" and Natalie Portman-starrer "The Other Boleyn Girl" followed, before he replaced Daniel Radcliffe in the stage version of "Equus" on tour. Since then, he’s appeared in a lot of low-budget British fare like "The Kid," "Powder" and the upcoming "Plastic," and has Keanu Reeves thriller "John Wick" in the can.
Fans Should Check Out: Allen’s very good in one of his earliest substantial roles, Dominic Savage‘s TV film "Freefall," about the economic crisis. Even among a strong cast including Dominic Cooper, Riz Ahmed, Rosamund Pike and fellow "Game of Thrones" actors Aidan Gillen and Joseph Mawle, Allen made a strong impression.

Carice Van Houten
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Melisandre, Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, creepy-ass magician and supernatural murderess who has so bewitched Stannis Baratheon with visions of triumph and glory that he can’t see she’s got a different agenda entirely.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? The beautiful Van Houten first came to our attention, after seven or so years in Dutch films and shows, when she took the lead in Paul Verhoeven’s homecoming project after his Hollywood years, “Black Book”—an entertaining thrillerish melodrama in which she plays a Jewish woman going undercover and under covers as a spy for the resistance during WWII. Seeing as she already had the ’40s costumes probably, she was then cast as Mrs. von Stauffenberg in “Valkyrie” and then took a succession of films that didn’t quite cut through: “Repo Men,” “Black Butterflies” (co-starring her ‘Thrones’ antagonist Liam Cunningham, no less), “Intruders” and 2012’s “Jackie,” along with a supporting role in “The Fifth Estate.” This rather B-level streak looks set to continue with “Incarnate,” co-starring Aaron Eckhart, due in 2015.
Fans Should Check Out: Van Houten’s so good in ‘Thrones’ that it’s hard to believe she hasn’t had more starring roles (and hard to believe she’s actually only featured in 10 episodes so far as it feels like a bigger part), so “Black Book” is a good place to start, with Verhoeven on typically salacious and broadly entertaining form, yet with still enough intelligence and ambivalence on offer to make it more than a brainless watch. Trailer below.

Rory McCann
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Sandor “The Hound” Clegane merciless, seemingly mindless killing machine/attack dog of the King, turned deserter and unlikely protector of Arya Stark.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? McCann’s imposing physicality (he’s 6′ 6" in his socks) has seen him play warrior more than once, in “Alexander” and then in the live-action “Beowulf and Grendel,” “Clash of the Titans,” and Nic Cage tax dodge “Season of the Witch.” But he’s probably been at his best when playing against that type, or when allowed to subvert it as he does in ‘Thrones’ with the Hound’s constant toying with (but never quite attaining) redemption in the audience’s (and Arya’s) eyes for the sins he has committed. In fact, we noticed him first playing in absorbingly off-kilter U.K. TV show “The Book Group,” in which he played the wheelchair-bound Kenny, and we heard pretty good notices about “Rockface,” another U.K. show focused on the lives of a mountain search-and-rescue team. Most interestingly, however is “Slow West,” which is due for release this year and sees him play opposite Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn and Kodi Smit-McPhee in a 19th century western story.
Fans Should Check Out: If you want something completely different from the actor, check out “The Book Group” and if not, you can enjoy his comedic riff on the massive intimidating lunk he’s played so often, in this clip from “Hot Fuzz,” which is kind The Hound-meets-Hodor. Yarp.

And beyond…

Oona Chaplin
The daughter of Geraldine Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin and great-grandaughter of Eugene O’Neill (how’s that for a family tree…), the Spanish-raised British actress and RADA graduate played the ill-fated Talisa, bride of Robb Stark, on "Game of Thrones." Before the show, she had small roles in "Quantum of Solace" and "The Devil’s Double," and played Dominic West‘s wife on "The Hour." More recently, she impressed in "Inside No. 9" and is starring in WWI nursing drama "The Crimson Field."

Mackenzie Crook
Before playing eagle-possessing wildling Orell in "Game of Thrones," Crook was best known for playing gawky Gareth on the original BBC version of "The Office." After that, he became an occasional Hollywood character actor, most notably as the wooden-eyed sidekick in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy. He’s also won acclaim for his stage work in the U.K., most notably in a legendary production of "The Seagull" co-starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Carey Mulligan and Kristin Scott Thomas, and for smash hit "Jerusalem," and can currently be seen on Fox‘s sci-fi cop show "Almost Human."

Sibel Kekilli
The German actress who plays Tyrion’s lady-love Shae, Kekilli actually appeared in a number of pornographic movies before getting her mainstream break in Fatih Akin‘s acclaimed arthouse drama "Head-On," which won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2004. Other than ‘Thrones,’ she mostly works in German film and television, most notably with a recurring role in regional police procedural "Tatort."

Natalia Tena
Tena, who plays wildling Osha, the guardian of young Rickon Stark, is another actress with fantasy credentials, having played fan-favorite Nymphadora Tonks in the later ‘Harry Potter‘ movies. She also had a notable role in Hugh Grant rom-com "About A Boy," and co-starred in David Mackenzie‘s music festival rom-com "You Instead" with Luke Treadaway.

Noah Taylor
Locke, the man who took Jaime Lannister’s hand, needed a memorable face to make an impression in a brief time, and Australian character actor Noah Taylor was a pretty strong choice. The actor broke through in John Duigan‘s coming-of-age tales "The Year My Voice Broke" and "Flirting," and has since appeared in "Shine," "Almost Famous," "Max" and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," among many others.

Robert Pugh
Welsh actor Pugh, who played vile baby-murderer/incestuous polygamist Craster on the show, is one of those British actors who’s been in pretty much everything. Arguably his best known big-screen appearance was as one of Russell Crowe‘s crew in Peter Weir’s "Master and Commander." He also appeared more recently in Polanski‘s "The Ghost Writer" and Scott‘s "Robin Hood," and had significant TV roles in "Doctor Who," "Longford" and "The White Queen."

Julian Glover
Though he looks rather different now, as wizened and disgraced Grand Maester Pycaelle, Julian Glover has a pretty storied career: on top of countless stage and screen roles, he played General Veers in "The Empire Strikes Back," the Bond villain in "For Your Eyes Only," (alongside ‘Thrones’ co-star Charles Dance) and evil Nazi Walter ‘He Chose… Poorly’ Donavan in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

James Cosmo
The excellently named Scottish actor James Cosmo, who plays Jeor Mormont, the fearsome commander of the Night’s Watch, has a long and storied history of big-screen appearances, mostly with a Scottish theme: he was Angus MacLeod in "Highlander," Campbell in "Braveheart" and Renton’s father in "Trainspotting." More recently, he also played Father Christmas in "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe," and had a recurring role as a priest in "Sons Of Anarchy."

Ciaran Hinds
We’ve only seen glimpses of Ciaran Hinds as upstart king of the north Mance Rayder so far, but we’re sure there’s more to come, as you don’t hire an actor of this caliber for a small role. Hinds previously had his HBO bona fides for playing Julius Caesar in "Rome," but he’s a more familiar face from the big screen, with roles including "Road To Perdition," "Munich," "There Will Be Blood," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and, uh, "Race To Witch Mountain." He just starred on Broadway in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" opposite Scarlett Johansson, and recently voiced the Troll King in "Frozen."

Donald Sumpter
Another one of those faces, Donald Sumpter, who played Stark confidante Maester Luwin, took the lead role of criminal Donald Neilson in ’70s British crime flick "The Black Panther." Since then, he’s had notable roles in "K-19: The Widowmaker," "The Constant Gardener," "Eastern Promises" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," and will soon be seen in Ron Howard‘s "In The Heart Of The Sea."

Richard Dormer
The Northern Irish actor, who made a strong impression as seemingly immortal Brotherhood Without Banners leader Beric Dondarrion, came to prominence playing troubled snooker player Hurricane Higgins in a one-man show, before last year getting a big-screen showcase in charming Belfast-set punk biopic "Good Vibrations." He’ll soon be seen alongside Jack O’Connell in much-praised Berlin competition film "’71."

Kate Dickie
Scottish actress Kate Dickie, who plays the inappropriately-breastfeeding Lysa Arryn, came to fame with a remarkable performance in Andrea Arnold‘s debut "Red Road." Since then, she’s also appeared in British indies "Somers Town" and "Filth," and was one of the crew of the "Prometheus."

David Bradley
Yet another fantasy veteran, Bradley, who played Red Wedding perpetrator Walder Frey, is best known for playing caretaker Argus Filch in the ‘Harry Potter‘ films. He’s an RSC veteran with stacks of TV credits, who also had a scene-stealing turn in Mike Leigh‘s "Another Year," and appeared incomprehensibly in "Hot Fuzz," and more intelligibly in "The World’s End." His career continues to go from strength to strength: he recently and movingly played original Doctor Who in biopic "An Adventure In Space And Time," won a BAFTA nod for whodunnit "Broadchurch," and replaced John Hurt in Guillermo del Toro‘s upcoming FX series "The Strain."

Rose Leslie
The wildling Ygritte is definitely her largest role to date and is ongoing, so we expect to see a lot more from Leslie in the future, but she did also have a recurring part on another TV phenomenon (though not one we can really say we’ve ever gotten into in the same way) "Downton Abbey," in which she played the maid Gwen. Also, for kicks, it’s great to hear her natural speaking voice which is plummy and cultured and a million miles away from Ygritte’s harsh Northern-inflected brogue.

Michael McElhatton 

Along with Hinds and Cunninghamn, another Irish actor for whom ‘Thrones’ has been a boon, McElhatton’s been a well known face and voice on U.K. and Irish television for a long time, with the excellent mockumentary comedy show "Paths to Freedom," which he co-wrote, showing his range: in contrast to the perfidious but haughty Roose Bolton he plays a newly released lowlife prisoner called Rats. He also took roles in "Albert Nobbs," "Shadow Dancer" "I Went Down" and "Intermission," and the recent, very well-received "The Fall" TV show starring Gillian Anderson.

Conleth Hill
Another Northern Irish ‘Thrones’ alum, Hill is totally unrecognisable outside the show because as soon as he’s got hair, he looks nothing like the oleaginous eunuch Varys. In fact he’s had a six-episode arc on USA‘s "Suits" (Michelle Fairley/Catelyn Stark has also guested on the show) as well as a small role in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and a part in a recent episode of terrifically weird concept TV show "Inside no 9" (in which Oona Chaplin/Talisa has also shown up, in case you’re playing a "Game of Thrones" version of the Kevin Bacon game).

So we hope this set off as many "Oh that’s what I’d seen him/her in!" moments for you as it did for us, and that it provided with you enough suggestions for further, extra-credit viewing to tide you over the gaping maw of the rest of the week till next Sunday rolls around.

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Comments

s

wait…..i'm confused as to why you stated at the beginning of the article why you were omitting a large number of actors based of the fact that they don't have an extensive body of work pre-thrones….but then go on to include emelia clarke?????? errrr………
your "where have i seen them before" section for her is essentially blank waffle, followed by "she's got a gig where she's jude law's daughter coming up".
the girl seems nice, but she's done absolutely nothing except a stage Breakfast at Tiffany's, and her acting is as dull, wooden and lifeless in thrones as a performance gets. no light behind those dead blank eyes that don't so much as blink, no change in facial expression, no change in vocal tone or infliction….utterly boring. unless she gets some lessons again and improves remarkably, i don't see her going far.

plus, women have it harder than men. i don't think kit harington's an astonishingly good actor either – he's servicable for the most part, but has had some pretty bad turns too – though he has displayed a noticable improvement through season 4 that's fairly impressive for a young actor…and besides, his looks can coast him by anyway. he's already had roles in Silent Hill with sean bean (and carrie-ann moss) and the upcoming Seventh Son with jeff bridges and julianne moore and the How To Train Your Dragon sequel (with cate blanchett), plus the starring leading man roles in Pompeii (with keifer sutherland and carrie-ann moss, again), Testament of Youth, Monte Cassino (sp?) and if it ever gets approved from it's behind the scenes trouble, he'll be king arthur in the disney adaptation of merlin and co, Arthur. he was in exactly the same boat as clarke what with game of thrones being his first job. if anyone's taken this oppertunity and truelly ran with it, it'd have to be him. those are some MAJOR big budget guarenteed blockbusters working alongside some very fine pedigree, all in a tight short space of time inbetween thrones shoots.

i'd like to see richard madden and maise williams do well. unfortunately i haven't actually heard anything about them….the only other credit on madden's cv i'm aware of is a very brief stint on a show called Sirens in which he was a gay paramedic pre thrones.

dkbg

Can't believe you left out Thomas-Brodie Sangster- he has such an impressive filmography and is getting more and more recognition nowadays.

and

I immediately recognized Noah Taylor from Almost Famous!

ZAQ

Emilia Clarke is such a horrible actress. I hope she dissappears after Game of Thrones is over.

TheoC

Peter Vaughan, if only because he was Grouty in Porridge.

jawsnnn

You left out the biggest shocker. Joffrey Baratheon is the same innocent kid that Katie Holmes saves from a mad mob during the climactic battle of Batman Begins.

benutty

smh at this misleading headline. this post SHOULD be about all of the great performances that this cast gives in THIS show that go unremarked in the media/at the emmys.

james

One guy i noticed was Josef Atlin, one of the Night's Watch, who starred in Eastern Promises.

Joe

Emiliar Clarke is terrible and one note, in Game of Thrones.

Xian

Priceless! That's Stephen Graham who plays young Al Capone from Boardwalk Empire in that cross-dressing date scene with Sean Bean. Good find.

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