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The Best Performances From The 'Game Of Thrones' Cast

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist April 8, 2014 at 3:46PM

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.
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Game Of Thrones

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.


This article is related to: Features, Feature, Television, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones


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