HBO’s Game of Thrones

Before They Played the Game of Thrones—Updated for Season 4

HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones is often recognized for its fantastic ensemble cast, which keeps replenishing its ranks every season. Last year, we met the Queen of Thorns, Mance Rayder, some Tullys, some Reeds, and mercenary bad-boy Daario. But there’s plenty of room for more new faces after the Red Wedding.

As the fourth season nears, let’s take a look at some of the actors stepping into Westeros for the first time. Proving that networking at the BBC is great for one’s career, a number of these new actors have already worked with each other and the existing Thrones cast. Get a glimpse of the exciting and sometimes embarrassing pasts of Oberyn Martell, Ellaria Sand, The Queen of Thorn’s oaf of a son, a Wildling or two, and mercenary bad-boy Daario. Again.

Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand) is a Professional Paramour

Not content to let her other Rome costars, Ciarán Hinds and Tobias Menzies, have all the fun, Indira Varma comes to King’s Landing as the mistress of Oberyn Martell, having previously broken Idris Elba’s heart on Luther by locking lips with the Eighth Doctor, returned from the dead on Torchwood, and played a guest spot on Bones. Readers of the book know Ellaria to be brave and sexually adventurous and viewers impatient for a taste of cable-worthy romance can check out Varma’s performance as a bold courtesan opposite Naveen Andrews in Mira Nair’s 1995 historical drama Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love. Which also stars Ramon Tikaram, whose severed head was offered to Daenerys last season.


Pedro Pascal (The Red Viper) Gets His Ass Kicked By Charlie’s Angels

He went to college with Buffy but didn’t fare well, having been turned into a vampire during their freshman year. (That’s one way to drop out of school. Permanently.) Post-Buffy, Pascal continued his television acting career on such popular series as NYPD Blue, The Good Wife, CSI, Nikita, and Homeland. But before all of that he was on the short-lived ABC reboot of Charlie’s Angels. Presumably, he’s done a lot more training to get ready for King’s Landing. Because if Minka Kelly can beat you up, you’re probably not going to hold your own against The Mountain. Bonus fact: Pascal was going to have a big role in the defunct Wonder Woman series. His other co-star? Joseph Gatt…


Joseph Gatt (Styr of Thenn) is Big, Bald, and Badass for a Living

Unless you watched his creepy as hell performance on Cinemax series Banshee, you may not recognize Joseph Gatt’s face. But you’re probably still familiar with his work. He’s been the voice of Sith Lord Scourge in Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic and a Dunmar Male in Skyrim. He also does the motion capture for the equally bald and imposing Kratos in the God of War games, and, most recently, he played Frost Giant Grundhuth in Thor. Blink and you might miss him as a cyborg in Star Trek Into Darkness.


Mark Gatiss (Tycho Nestoris) jokes around with the Doctor

The Iron Bank of Braavos is serious about collecting tens of millions of dollars in debt from the ruling Lannisters (thanks for that, Littlefinger.) If they know what’s good for them, they’ll pay up because acclaimed writer and actor Mark Gatiss is not a man who you want to mess with. He’s got powerful allies. When you’re real-life buddies (and sometimes fictional nemeses) with the Doctor and brother to the world’s best detective, there’s just no predicting what favors he can call in.


Michiel Huisman (Daario 2.0), Squints, Looks Smug

Michiel Huisman is new to Game of Thrones, but he’s been on HBO previously as a smarmy hipster busker on Treme. He’s also been in the feature film World War Z and will have a recurring role on Orphan Black. But his biggest role to date has been as an even smarmier bad boy on CW’s country music soap opera Nashville. While I’m disappointed that Ed Skrien and his swagger left to, among other things, work on a prequel to The Transporter (who knew he had such a complex early life of driving cars fast and kicking people) I’m going to give Huisman the benefit of the doubt in creating a character everyone but Dany hates.


Roger Ashton-Smith (Mace Tyrell)

A Gilliam regular, this venerable actor of British stage and screen had small parts in Brazil and in The Brothers Grimm. And he makes one hell of a Ben Franklin impersonator. How this will translate to playing Oleanna’s “oaf” of a son, the Lord of Highgarden and father to Margaery and Loras, we’re not sure — maybe his Brothers Grimm co-star Lena Headey can put in a good word for him. And, yes, he was on Torchwood, too. He played a science teacher in possession of a Dogon Sixth Eye in the poignant first series episode “Random Shoes.”


Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Gregor Clegane 3.0) Hulks Out. Literally.

The Icelandic actor makes good on his “Strongest Man” title by setting a world record for tossing a washing machine. While dressed as the Hulk. Super endearing. Here’s to hoping the third times the charm when it comes to casting this mountain of a character.



Below, we’re re-running the original “Before They Played…” post (found here) which includes actors from the first three seasons of Game of Thrones:

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 (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 returns Sunday, April 6th at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. She’s also the resident Hannibal fannibal at Boing Boing. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci


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