Before the Throne
Game of Thrones launched the careers of many of its stars, including Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams, who count it as their professional acting debut, while others had been in the business for decades before stepping foot in Westeros. Let’s take a look back at some of the cast’s very first roles.
Peter Dinklage spent decades in the industry before he became Tyrion Lannister. The New Jersey-born actor made his big-screen debut in 1995’s Living in Oblivion, playing an actor named Tito (pictured here) who is tired of being typecast. He continued to rack up minor roles before rising to fame in the 2000s.
In the mid-2000s, a then-unknown actor by the name of Kit Harington joined a production of War Horse in London. He would go on to earn his first onscreen credit in 2011 as Jon Snow on Game of Thrones.
Emilia Clarke was a relative newbie before finding fame as Daenerys Targaryen. She got her start in smaller projects, including the 2010 TV movie Triassic Attack on Syfy, in which dinosaur fossils come to life.
Richard Madden found fame as Robb Stark, but before he was named King in the North, the Scottish star got his start as a child actor in the 2000 film Complicity, starring Jonny Lee Miller, Brian Cox, and his future Bodyguard costar Keeley Hawes.
In his mid-20s, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau made his feature film debut in the Danish thriller Nightwatch (1994), playing Martin, the night watchman in question. More than two decades before he would become Jaime Lannister.
Gwendoline Christie may be most recognizable for playing Brienne of Tarth, but she first earned acting credits in the 2000s. One of her first roles was that of “Classy Shopper 2” in 2009’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Before his star-making turn as Khal Drogo in season 1, Jason Momoa worked as a model, even winning the title of Hawaii’s Model of the Year 1999. His first acting role came soon after with the part of lifeguard Jason Ioane on Baywatch: Hawaii from 1999–2001.
Lena Headey booked her first onscreen role as a teenager. The actress, who would later become Cersei Lannister, debuted in 1992’s Waterland, playing the younger version of Sinéad Cusack’s character, Mary.
Years before he became the famed Joffrey Baratheon, Jack Gleeson hit the big screen in 2005’s Batman Begins as an unnamed little boy in the Narrows who has a short encounter with Christian Bale’s Batman.
Decades before he took on the role of Ser Jorah Mormont, Iain Glen earned his first big-screen credit in 1988’s Paris by Night, a British thriller which never made it to theaters stateside.
Carice van Houten
Dutch actress and singer Carice van Houten had a sizable list of credits under her belt before devoting herself to the Lord of Light as Game of Thrones’ Red Priestess Melisandre. She landed her first leading role in her early 20s in the 1999 Dutch TV movie Suzy Q.
More than a decade before portraying Theon Greyjoy, Alfie Allen was bending the knee to a different queen in 1998’s Elizabeth. Both he and his sister — singer Lily Allen — played small parts in the Oscar-winning film, which was co-produced by their mother, Alison Owen.
Nathalie Emmanuel got her start as a theater actress on London’s West End in the ’90s, but her first onscreen role was as Sasha Valentine in British soap opera Hollyoaks from 2006–2010. She joined GoT in season 3 as Missandei.
Bronn actor Jerome Flynn picked up one of his first onscreen roles in the late ’80s as Joe Narracombe in the British drama A Summer Story.
Isaac Hempstead Wright
At just 12 years old, Isaac Hempstead Wright made his big-screen debut in 2011’s The Awakening, the same year he began his turn as Bran Stark.
John Bradley appeared in a handful of episodes of the European drama Borgia around the same time he got his start as Jon Snow’s BFF Samwell Tarly.
Liam Cunningham started acting long before his role as Davos Seaworth. His first credit was a small part as a policeman in Mike Newell’s heartwarming Into the West (1992). But the Irish actor had a more memorable turn a few year’s later in Alfonso Cuarón’s A Little Princess (pictured), as Captain Crewe, the main character’s beloved father.
Long before his portrayal of Petyr Baelish, Irish actor Aidan Gillen held a supporting role in 1995’s Circle of Friends, starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver.
Conleth Hill started acting long before his role as Varys on GoT. The naturally full-haired actor had a handful of small TV roles in the late ’80s and early ’90s before starring on the short-lived British sitcom Blue Heaven from 1992–1994.
Hannah Murray got her start on the first two seasons of British teen drama series Skins from 2007–2008 while the actress was still a teenager herself. She reprised the role in a feature-length episode during Skins‘ final season after she was already appearing as Gilly on GoT.