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The Best Performances From The 'Game Of Thrones' Cast

by The Playlist Staff
April 8, 2014 3:46 PM
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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.

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  • s | April 26, 2014 7:29 PMReply

    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 | April 17, 2014 11:14 AMReply

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

  • and | April 9, 2014 2:12 PMReply

    I immediately recognized Noah Taylor from Almost Famous!

  • ZAQ | April 9, 2014 8:26 AMReply

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

  • TheoC | April 9, 2014 4:41 AMReply

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

  • jawsnnn | April 8, 2014 10:19 PMReply

    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 | April 8, 2014 10:06 PMReply

    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 | April 8, 2014 6:10 PMReply

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

  • Joe | April 8, 2014 5:27 PMReply

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

  • Jer | April 8, 2014 5:31 PM

    Agreed! She's a terrible actor. She will fade away when Game of Thrones is done (good luck with Terminator, what will surely be another middling reboot)

  • Xian | April 8, 2014 4:58 PMReply

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

  • PiscesEd | April 9, 2014 6:06 PM

    Terrible? How much acting have you done? I love Emilia Clarke.

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