The Chicago Tribune confirmed today that Lena Headey is joining the cast of HBO’s Game of Thrones, its pilot offering for a possible series adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy behemoth, A Song of Ice and Fire.
The Game of Thrones casting started with period-piece powerhouses (Sean Bean, Jennifer Ehle) and strong character actors who elevate their material (Mark Addy, Peter Dinklage), but the last few reveals have gone from uncannily perfect to television standard (we’re pulling ingénues from The Tudors? For real?), and I’m beginning to worry.
Epic Fantasy Acting is a very specific skill set; it’s hard to make it look natural and not like Peoria Community Theatre Presents The Hobbit. Litmus test: some actors are perfectly decent until you throw them into a fantasy, where they flounder. As proof, allow me to offer every single person in Mists of Avalon, which should be a cautionary tale for all subsequent attempts to film epic fantasy on the small screen.
I like Leda Headey as much as the next person, but even though her work 300 is not a lot to go on, her most recent work is epic in the exploding-robots sense, which might work in her favor. She will not be getting a lot of help from her twin brother on this—he is being played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who underwhelmed me in New Amsterdam (and Virtuality, while we’re at it), so we’ll just have to take a leap of faith that he’s got the chops for something of this scope. They’ll be up against plenty of competition; if you need some acting done, you can put Addy, Dinklage, Ehle, and Bean in a room with a camera and they’ll take care of it, you know?
I had been holding out hope that these, uh, super-close siblings would be played by Marie Bonnevie and Dennis Storhoi (The Thirteenth Warrior)—both excellent actors who work beautifully with epic settings. Then again, pipe dream casting happens no matter what the work, and it’s unfair to think that you can ever cast a piece this big and have everyone work out the way you hoped (Liv Tyler as Arwen, I am looking at you).
What do you think: is Lena Headey just what the series needed, or did you have your heart set on someone else?
Genevieve Valentine is a writer who gets invested in actors like some people get invested in fantasy baseball. She talks nonstop about movies of various quality over at her blog.