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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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Game of Thrones, Season 3, Diana Rigg

Diana Rigg
Role in “Game of Thrones”: The formidable Lady Olenna Tyrell, de facto head of the Tyrell clan whose granddaughter Margaery is about to be married to the King, but has not, unlike others we could mention, allowed years of politicking and jockeying for power to dull her wits or her sense of humor.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? One of the best recent additions to the cast, the 75-year-old Rigg has only had five episodes so far, but almost every scene with her is a sly delight. But then, Rigg’s career is a long one and we’ve been fans forever (this writer was reared on repeats of “The Avengers” the iconic British TV show that made her a star). In addition to famously being the only woman 007 ever loved enough to put a ring on it in superior Bond outing “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” she played opposite Oliver Reed in “The Assassination Bureau,” Vincent Price in “Theatre of Blood” and Kermit the Frog in “The Great Muppet Caper.” Mostly, however, she pursued a stage career in the U.K. and the U.S. as well as picking up many TV credits along the way, even launching her own sitcom “Diana” in 1973 which only lasted one season. The '80s and '90s largely saw her wasted onscreen in a succession of lacklustre films and TV remakes, though the “Mrs. Bradley Mysteries” in which she plays a sexier version of a Miss Marple-style lady sleuth, had its moments. A turn in 2006’s underrated “The Painted Veil” was probably the screen highlight of her '00s, prior to a great villanous turn in a 2013 “Doctor Who” episode, and, of course ‘Thrones’ in which, as a Dame, Rigg somewhat outranks the character she plays.
Fans Should Check Out: Not for nothing was Rigg dubbed the sexiest TV star of all time in 1999 (though she was always uncomfortable with the sex symbol tag), and while her stage work as Medea and Mother Courage especially is legendary, it’s the amazing Emma Peel that will always remain her indelible screen creation. Here’s her very first appearance. Swoon.

Joe Dempsie
Role In "Game Of Thrones": Gendry, a poor blacksmith who happens to be one of many illegitimate children of Robert Baratheon. Marked for death, he became a companion of Arya Stark, before being taken by red sorceress Melisandre, though he was last seen being freed by Davos Seaworth.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? Along with Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario, Daniel Kaluuya and fellow "Game of Thrones" actor Hannah Murray, Dempsie was one of the original line-up of cult British TV series "Skins," and has slowly and carefully gone on to become one of the show's most successful graduates. After his "Skins" character Chris was killed off, Dempsie went on to appear in "Doctor Who" and "Merlin," before memorably playing the villain in Jack Thorne's short-lived but glorious TV series "The Fades." Dempsie also appeared in Tom Hooper's "The Damned United" and Jason Statham actioner "Blitz," and recently cropped up in the impressive ensemble of Sean Durkin's powerful miniseries "Southcliffe," and also has one of the leads, alongside Alice Englert, in period series "New Worlds" for Channel 4. He'll soon be seen as the lead in "Monsters: Dark Continent," the sequel to Gareth Edwards' breakthrough indie hit.
Fans Should Check Out: If you're a genre fan and you haven't yet seen "The Fades," you should rectify that stat—funny, inventive and creepy, it was a remarkably confident series, and Dempsie made for a surprisingly great bad guy. He's also excellent in the more grounded "Southcliffe" as an ex-soldier.

Mark Addy
Role In "Game Of Thrones": King Robert Baratheon, the boisterous ruler of Falstaffian appetites, who sees over the Kingdoms before he's done in by a boar (an accident engineered by his wife Cersei).
Yes, But Where Do I Know Him From? Yorkshire-born RADA graduate Addy was one of the better-known figures in the show, albeit in very different roles from King Robert: after starring in U.K. police sitcom "The Thin Blue Line," Addy had a key supporting role in sleeper smash "The Full Monty," picking up a Supporting Actor BAFTA nomination for his performance. This brought him to Hollywood, and after a supporting part with Michael Keaton in "Jack Frost," he went on to play Fred Flintstone in prequel "The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas," before co-starring with Heath Ledger in "A Knight's Tale" and Chris Rock in "Down To Earth." Addy then spent four years as a schlubby Chicago husband in CBS sitcom "Still Standing" until 2008, before starring in the third "Red Riding" film, "In The Year Of Our Lord 1983," and playing Friar Tuck in Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood." Addy currently plays a gone-to-seed version of Hercules in BBC adventure series "Atlantis," and continues to be a big theater name in the U.K.
Fans Should Check Out: Addy's a terrific theater actor (he was great in John Hodge's "Collaborators"), but our favorite of his screen performances is in 'Red Riding,' in which he played tortured, but heroic solicitor John Piggott—a rare pre-GoT indication that he was capable of dramatic power as well as comic skill.

Alfie Allen
Role In "Game Of Thrones": Theon Greyjoy, foster-brother of the Starks' turned inept traitor, turned castrated captive.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From: The son of actor Keith Allen and "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Jane Eyre" producer Alison Owen (and younger brother of singer Lily, who wrote a song on her first album about him), Allen started off his career with cameos in family work like "Elizabeth" and "Agent Cody Banks 2" (directed by uncle Kevin), before landing a role off his own back in "Atonement." Some smaller gigs in Daniel Craig vehicle "Flashbacks Of A Fool" and Natalie Portman-starrer "The Other Boleyn Girl" followed, before he replaced Daniel Radcliffe in the stage version of "Equus" on tour. Since then, he's appeared in a lot of low-budget British fare like "The Kid," "Powder" and the upcoming "Plastic," and has Keanu Reeves thriller "John Wick" in the can.
Fans Should Check Out: Allen's very good in one of his earliest substantial roles, Dominic Savage's TV film "Freefall," about the economic crisis. Even among a strong cast including Dominic Cooper, Riz Ahmed, Rosamund Pike and fellow "Game of Thrones" actors Aidan Gillen and Joseph Mawle, Allen made a strong impression.

Carice Van Houten
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Melisandre, Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, creepy-ass magician and supernatural murderess who has so bewitched Stannis Baratheon with visions of triumph and glory that he can’t see she’s got a different agenda entirely.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Her From? The beautiful Van Houten first came to our attention, after seven or so years in Dutch films and shows, when she took the lead in Paul Verhoeven’s homecoming project after his Hollywood years, “Black Book”—an entertaining thrillerish melodrama in which she plays a Jewish woman going undercover and under covers as a spy for the resistance during WWII. Seeing as she already had the '40s costumes probably, she was then cast as Mrs. von Stauffenberg in “Valkyrie” and then took a succession of films that didn’t quite cut through: “Repo Men,” “Black Butterflies” (co-starring her ‘Thrones’ antagonist Liam Cunningham, no less), “Intruders” and 2012’s “Jackie,” along with a supporting role in “The Fifth Estate.” This rather B-level streak looks set to continue with “Incarnate,” co-starring Aaron Eckhart, due in 2015.
Fans Should Check Out: Van Houten’s so good in ‘Thrones’ that it’s hard to believe she hasn’t had more starring roles (and hard to believe she’s actually only featured in 10 episodes so far as it feels like a bigger part), so “Black Book” is a good place to start, with Verhoeven on typically salacious and broadly entertaining form, yet with still enough intelligence and ambivalence on offer to make it more than a brainless watch. Trailer below.

Rory McCann
Role in “Game of Thrones”: Sandor “The Hound” Clegane merciless, seemingly mindless killing machine/attack dog of the King, turned deserter and unlikely protector of Arya Stark.
Yes, But Where Else Do I Know Him From? McCann’s imposing physicality (he’s 6' 6" in his socks) has seen him play warrior more than once, in “Alexander” and then in the live-action “Beowulf and Grendel,” “Clash of the Titans,” and Nic Cage tax dodge “Season of the Witch.” But he’s probably been at his best when playing against that type, or when allowed to subvert it as he does in ‘Thrones’ with the Hound’s constant toying with (but never quite attaining) redemption in the audience’s (and Arya’s) eyes for the sins he has committed. In fact, we noticed him first playing in absorbingly off-kilter U.K. TV show “The Book Group,” in which he played the wheelchair-bound Kenny, and we heard pretty good notices about “Rockface,” another U.K. show focused on the lives of a mountain search-and-rescue team. Most interestingly, however is “Slow West,” which is due for release this year and sees him play opposite Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn and Kodi Smit-McPhee in a 19th century western story.
Fans Should Check Out: If you want something completely different from the actor, check out “The Book Group” and if not, you can enjoy his comedic riff on the massive intimidating lunk he’s played so often, in this clip from “Hot Fuzz,” which is kind The Hound-meets-Hodor. Yarp.

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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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