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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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And beyond...

Oona Chaplin
The daughter of Geraldine Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin and great-grandaughter of Eugene O'Neill (how's that for a family tree...), the Spanish-raised British actress and RADA graduate played the ill-fated Talisa, bride of Robb Stark, on "Game of Thrones." Before the show, she had small roles in "Quantum of Solace" and "The Devil's Double," and played Dominic West's wife on "The Hour." More recently, she impressed in "Inside No. 9" and is starring in WWI nursing drama "The Crimson Field."

Mackenzie Crook
Before playing eagle-possessing wildling Orell in "Game of Thrones," Crook was best known for playing gawky Gareth on the original BBC version of "The Office." After that, he became an occasional Hollywood character actor, most notably as the wooden-eyed sidekick in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy. He's also won acclaim for his stage work in the U.K., most notably in a legendary production of "The Seagull" co-starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Carey Mulligan and Kristin Scott Thomas, and for smash hit "Jerusalem," and can currently be seen on Fox's sci-fi cop show "Almost Human."

Sibel Kekilli
The German actress who plays Tyrion's lady-love Shae, Kekilli actually appeared in a number of pornographic movies before getting her mainstream break in Fatih Akin's acclaimed arthouse drama "Head-On," which won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2004. Other than 'Thrones,' she mostly works in German film and television, most notably with a recurring role in regional police procedural "Tatort."

Natalia Tena
Tena, who plays wildling Osha, the guardian of young Rickon Stark, is another actress with fantasy credentials, having played fan-favorite Nymphadora Tonks in the later 'Harry Potter' movies. She also had a notable role in Hugh Grant rom-com "About A Boy," and co-starred in David Mackenzie's music festival rom-com "You Instead" with Luke Treadaway.

Noah Taylor
Locke, the man who took Jaime Lannister's hand, needed a memorable face to make an impression in a brief time, and Australian character actor Noah Taylor was a pretty strong choice. The actor broke through in John Duigan's coming-of-age tales "The Year My Voice Broke" and "Flirting," and has since appeared in "Shine," "Almost Famous," "Max" and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," among many others.

Robert Pugh
Welsh actor Pugh, who played vile baby-murderer/incestuous polygamist Craster on the show, is one of those British actors who's been in pretty much everything. Arguably his best known big-screen appearance was as one of Russell Crowe's crew in Peter Weir's "Master and Commander." He also appeared more recently in Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" and Scott's "Robin Hood," and had significant TV roles in "Doctor Who," "Longford" and "The White Queen."

Julian Glover
Though he looks rather different now, as wizened and disgraced Grand Maester Pycaelle, Julian Glover has a pretty storied career: on top of countless stage and screen roles, he played General Veers in "The Empire Strikes Back," the Bond villain in "For Your Eyes Only," (alongside 'Thrones' co-star Charles Dance) and evil Nazi Walter 'He Chose... Poorly' Donavan in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

James Cosmo
The excellently named Scottish actor James Cosmo, who plays Jeor Mormont, the fearsome commander of the Night's Watch, has a long and storied history of big-screen appearances, mostly with a Scottish theme: he was Angus MacLeod in "Highlander," Campbell in "Braveheart" and Renton's father in "Trainspotting." More recently, he also played Father Christmas in "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe," and had a recurring role as a priest in "Sons Of Anarchy."

Ciaran Hinds
We've only seen glimpses of Ciaran Hinds as upstart king of the north Mance Rayder so far, but we're sure there's more to come, as you don't hire an actor of this caliber for a small role. Hinds previously had his HBO bona fides for playing Julius Caesar in "Rome," but he's a more familiar face from the big screen, with roles including "Road To Perdition," "Munich," "There Will Be Blood," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and, uh, "Race To Witch Mountain." He just starred on Broadway in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" opposite Scarlett Johansson, and recently voiced the Troll King in "Frozen."

Donald Sumpter
Another one of those faces, Donald Sumpter, who played Stark confidante Maester Luwin, took the lead role of criminal Donald Neilson in '70s British crime flick "The Black Panther." Since then, he's had notable roles in "K-19: The Widowmaker," "The Constant Gardener," "Eastern Promises" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," and will soon be seen in Ron Howard's "In The Heart Of The Sea."

Richard Dormer
The Northern Irish actor, who made a strong impression as seemingly immortal Brotherhood Without Banners leader Beric Dondarrion, came to prominence playing troubled snooker player Hurricane Higgins in a one-man show, before last year getting a big-screen showcase in charming Belfast-set punk biopic "Good Vibrations." He'll soon be seen alongside Jack O'Connell in much-praised Berlin competition film "'71."

Kate Dickie
Scottish actress Kate Dickie, who plays the inappropriately-breastfeeding Lysa Arryn, came to fame with a remarkable performance in Andrea Arnold's debut "Red Road." Since then, she's also appeared in British indies "Somers Town" and "Filth," and was one of the crew of the "Prometheus."

David Bradley
Yet another fantasy veteran, Bradley, who played Red Wedding perpetrator Walder Frey, is best known for playing caretaker Argus Filch in the 'Harry Potter' films. He's an RSC veteran with stacks of TV credits, who also had a scene-stealing turn in Mike Leigh's "Another Year," and appeared incomprehensibly in "Hot Fuzz," and more intelligibly in "The World's End." His career continues to go from strength to strength: he recently and movingly played original Doctor Who in biopic "An Adventure In Space And Time," won a BAFTA nod for whodunnit "Broadchurch," and replaced John Hurt in Guillermo del Toro's upcoming FX series "The Strain."

Oliver Upton/HBO

Rose Leslie
The wildling Ygritte is definitely her largest role to date and is ongoing, so we expect to see a lot more from Leslie in the future, but she did also have a recurring part on another TV phenomenon (though not one we can really say we've ever gotten into in the same way) "Downton Abbey," in which she played the maid Gwen. Also, for kicks, it's great to hear her natural speaking voice which is plummy and cultured and a million miles away from Ygritte's harsh Northern-inflected brogue.

Michael McElhatton 

Along with Hinds and Cunninghamn, another Irish actor for whom 'Thrones' has been a boon, McElhatton's been a well known face and voice on U.K. and Irish television for a long time, with the excellent mockumentary comedy show "Paths to Freedom," which he co-wrote, showing his range: in contrast to the perfidious but haughty Roose Bolton he plays a newly released lowlife prisoner called Rats. He also took roles in "Albert Nobbs," "Shadow Dancer" "I Went Down" and "Intermission," and the recent, very well-received "The Fall" TV show starring Gillian Anderson.

Conleth Hill
Another Northern Irish 'Thrones' alum, Hill is totally unrecognisable outside the show because as soon as he's got hair, he looks nothing like the oleaginous eunuch Varys. In fact he's had a six-episode arc on USA's "Suits" (Michelle Fairley/Catelyn Stark has also guested on the show) as well as a small role in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and a part in a recent episode of terrifically weird concept TV show "Inside no 9" (in which Oona Chaplin/Talisa has also shown up, in case you're playing a "Game of Thrones" version of the Kevin Bacon game).

So we hope this set off as many "Oh that's what I'd seen him/her in!" moments for you as it did for us, and that it provided with you enough suggestions for further, extra-credit viewing to tide you over the gaping maw of the rest of the week till next Sunday rolls around.

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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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