HBO’s Game of Thrones

Before They Played the Game of Thrones

HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thones is often recognized for its fantastic ensemble cast, from famed stage actors to fresh-faced newcomers. By now, most people will recognize cast members Sean Bean from The Fellowship of the Ring (and his impressive cinematic death reel), Lena Headey from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, or Osha/Tonks and Walder Frey/Filch from the Harry Potter series.

Now the third season approaches and with it comes a new crop of character actors with genre credibility and embarrassing YouTube videos dating back before their time in Westeros. Remember when the Queen of Thorns schooled Harry Potter on how to ask for his condom back? Or when Daario wooed Daenerys with his hip-hop flow? Or when Tywin Lannister trained acrobatic dogs? Here are only some classic clips from the series regulars that they surely wish had been left buried in their IMDB pages….


Ciarán Hinds (Mance Rayder) Smacks Down a Pharaoh

The veteran Irish character actor is no stranger to portraying a charismatic and complex ruler. Hines played Gaius Julius Caesar on HBO’s shorter-lived historical drama, Rome. In a pivotal episode, Caesar has pursued his enemy Pompey to Egypt and ends up giving the pharoah a verbal spanking of epic proportions. (And mounting some heads on pikes, a lá Joffrey, by hour’s end.) That scene perfectly captures Hinds’ ability to lend gravitas to his characters and words, giving him an ideal pedigree for the rebel King-Beyond-the-Wall. Hinds might also be familiar to Harry Potter fans—he played Aberforth Dumbledore in The Deathly Hallows, Part 2.


Dame Diana Rigg (Olenna Redwyne, Queen of Thorns) Settles an Unruly Condom-Flinging Harry Potter

A respected stage actress and 60s icon, Rigg is perhaps best known for her role in the (other) Avengers as sexy secret agent Mrs. Emma Peel—a far cry from the scheming, barb-tongued grand matriarch of House Tyrell that she will depict in Game of Thrones season 3. She’s also acted opposite another Game of Thrones actor as Charles Dance’s (Tywin Lannister) mysterious housekeeper in the 1990 BBC adaptation of Rebecca.

More recently, the distinguished dame had a condom flung at her by Daniel Radcliffe (as himself!) on Ricky Gervais’ profane HBO series, Extras.


Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully) Has Been Duped Before, Will Be Duped Again

HBO loves to recycle actors—see the aforementioned Ciarán Hinds, and don’t forget about Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger), formerly of The Wire. Menzies played Brutus on Rome, and that makes sense, because Brutus and the youngest Tully actually have a bit in common. Effective but not outstanding military commanders, both men were thrust into a position of power somewhat by default, not ambition. But while history remembers Brutus as synonymous with betrayal, Edmure Tully is best remembered for being one of the unwitting dupes in…a very “colorful” event. Menzies played a reviled figure with sensitivity and depth, qualities he’s sure to bring to a minor but important face. (Menzies is also not to be confused with his doppelgänger, young Alan Ruck.)


Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed) Gets Punched By John Lennon

Before the green dreams came upon him, Sangster was playing a wise-beyond-his-years kid in the cynical Christmas classic, Love Actually. That was ten years ago. Ten. Years. Since then, the perpetually youthful Thomas has stolen the Doctor’s fob watch in the Doctor Who episodes “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood,” voiced Ferb in Phineas and Ferb, and played a young Paul McCartney in the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, which focused on Lennon’s pre-Beatles years and the bond forged between John and Paul from their shared tragedy.


Ed Skrein (Daario Naharis) Raps About Running in Marathons

Anyone who’s read A Dance with Dragons probaby has already formed a strong opinion of the flamboyant captain of the Stormcrows and his naked-lady dagger hilts. Will Brit rapper Skrein bring a bit of humility to the blue-bearded, perpetually leering object of Dany’s misguided desire? Probably not.

Iwan Rheon (rumored to be playing Ramsay Snow, The Bastard of Bolton) Has Already Played A Weird Misfit

This Welsh actor will be familiar to fans of E4’s supernatural drama Misfits. Rheon played Simon Bellamy (or “Weird Kid” or, occasionally, “Barry”) with such angsty, neurotic charisma, it’s no wonder fans are hoping to see him cast as Game of Thrones’ second (much more evil) major bastard, Ramsay Snow.


Rory McCaan (Sandor Clegane) Gets His Ass Kicked by Simon Pegg

The Hound really doesn’t seem so tough when Simon Pegg can kick his ass in 2007’s hilarious cop comedy Hot Fuzz. Yarp.


Rose Leslie (Ygritte) Climbs the Ladder Regardless of Era or World

While we were introduced to the red-haired Wildling girl last season, she’ll be playing a bigger role in the upcoming episodes. Before she was tempting floppy-haired crows away from their vows, Leslie portrayed a girl struggling to find her place in a much more civilized—but no less stratified—society as Gwen on Downton Abbey. Who knew watching a housemaid become a secretary could be so compelling?


Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) Trains Acrobatic Rottweilers

It pains us to pull out this skeleton from Dance’s closet, considering how commanding he is as the head of the Lannister household. (And we loved his sexy, subversive romance with Sigourney Weaver in Alien3.) But watch him chew scenery opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the box office bomb, Last Action Hero. Come for the ridiculous Charles Dance, stay for the team of trained Rottweilers. Seriously. You can hear a dog snicker at some of these hilariously bad lines.


Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) Keeps Getting Cancelled

Before he took up kingslaying, Coster-Waldau was making an early American debut as John Amsterdam on New Amsterdam, a genre show so fun and full of promise it could only be cancelled by Fox. After New Amsterdam, Coster-Waldau had the misfortune to be cast in the Ronald D. Moore’s post-Galactica science fiction series, Virtuality. The 2009 pilot was never picked up and instead aired as a two-hour movie. On Fox. We’re grateful to HBO for realizing that the Danish actor’s talents were wasted on network TV.


Lena Headey’s (Cersei Lannister) Whole Family Gets Seduced By Sting

Whether she was kicking ass in ancient Sparta as Queen Gorgo in 300 or in the future as the titular mom on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Headey is known for her tough-as-nails heroines. But it wasn’t always so. In 1995, she starred alongside a Sting in a vanity project produced by his wife, Trudie Styler, in a movie so terrible they had to market it under three different titles. The Grotesque (a.k.a. Grave Indiscretions, a.k.a Gentlemen Don’t Eat Poets) saw young Lena as Cleo, a very naive girl whose betrothed —and mother! — are both seduced by saucy butler Sting in a long con to destroy her paleontologist father. The film also stars a future, decidedly un-saucy, butler, Jim Carter. That’s right. Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey was also in this stinker, which was so universally panned it’s impossible to even find a trailer online, let alone an official DVD. But there is a screenshot of Headey holding a frog on a platter.


Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Lannister) Gets a Telescope From Batman

No, Batman! Don’t give the cute little blond kid a Bat-telescope! You don’t know the evil he shall produce with it!


Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) Likes Aggressive Women with a Nerdy Vibe

After early standout roles in indie films Living in Oblivion and the bittersweet The Station Agent, Dinklage’s career soon took off in the mainstream. Not content to merely play stereotypical roles offered to actors of his physical stature, Dinklage guest-starred as the United Nations Commissioner of Water Temperature and Food Taint—and Liz Lemon’s man-fail—on 30 Rock.


Jerome Flynn (Bronn) Becomes an Overnight Muzak Sensation

Just because this never ever gets old:


Game of Thrones premieres Sunday, March 31st at 9p.m. EST on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to She covers True Blood, Game of Thrones, and is also an avid gamer. She has also covered tech and TV for and Action Flick Chick. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci


Back to the top of the page


This post is closed for comments.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.