Having played such well known characters, it's hard to imagine the stars of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones before fame; a time prior to their silver screen performances as despicable child kings, incestuous siblings or dragon mothers. But for many of the show's biggest names, their time on the series was also their first major role, giving them to platform to showcase their talent and helping them become the household names they are today.
While some of the actors may not have starred in much since, others have gone on to make the most of the show's popularity, forging successful acting careers in a multitude of projects, from romances, campy teen black comedies, superhero blockbusters, and of course, video game adaptations.
1 Pedro Pascal
Despite only gracing screens for seven episodes - an amount fans can all agree should have been greater - Pedro Pascal's time as Oberyn Martell has seen him go on to do some big things. Prior to Game of Thrones, Pascal's filmography largely consisted of one episode appearances on shows such as Law & Order, Nurse Jackie and Homeland.
But since his stint as the Red Viper, Pascal has gone on to become one of Hollywood's biggest names, earning the title of the internet's 'daddy' and starring in everything from Wonder Woman: 1984, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Mandalorian and Narcos. Most recently, Pascal took on the role of Joel in HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us, which has already received immense praise and been renewed for a second season.
2 Bella Ramsay
Fans of Game of Thrones will remember Bella Ramsay as the fiery Lady of Bear Island, Lyanna Mormont. But since declaring their allegiance to the Starks and falling victim to the white walkers, Ramsay has continued to carve out space as one of the most talented young actors working today.
At only 19, Ramsey has already established an impressive list of roles since their professional acting debut in Game of Thrones, including the HBO series His Dark Materials, A Catherine Called Birdy and Judy. Most recently, Ramsey has starred as the lead alongside fellow Thrones alum, Pedro Pascal, as Ellie in The Last of Us, a series whose debut episode is tied for the highest ranked pilot on IMDB.
3 Sophie Turner
It's official, Sophie Turner is in her Daniel Radcliffe era, relishing the freedom afforded to her by her marvelous portrayal of Sansa Stark, and now turning to smaller, more bizarre roles to satisfy her creative needs. Most recently, Turner featured in a small role in the Netflix film Do Revenge, in which she stole the show with her impassioned line, "I don't do cocaine! I don't know what it looks like!"
Iconic one-liners aside, Turner has come a long way since first appearing on silver screens in her debut role as the true Queen in the North, holding major roles in X-Men Apocolypse, Dark Phoenix and The Staircase.
4 Emilia Clarke
Daenerys Targaryen is often considered one of the greats in a long list of memorable and era defining television characters, and it's a role which propelled Emilia Clarke from relative anonymity into stardom, gripping audiences from the very outset in her first major role as the silvery blonde-haired mother of the dragons.
However, Clarke wasn't the first choice to play Daenerys, with that spot having been held by Tamzin Merchant who appeared in the original unaired pilot. Luckily for Clarke, the role was recast, and she went on to receive four Primetime Emmy Award nominations, before starring in Me BeforeYou, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Last Christmas.
5 Kit Harrington
Before landing his first television role as Jon Snow, Kit Harington played the lead role of Albert in the National Theater's production of War Horse, a role whose emotion and bravery fans can see transcend into his portrayal of the Night's Watch Lord Commander.
Following eight seasons of attempting to prove that Jon Snow did, in fact, know things, Harington has gone on to forge a diverse acting career, starring films such as Pompeii, which echo his role in Game of Thrones, as well as the romance drama Testament of Youth, the comedy Seven Days of Hell, and a role in the Marvel film Eternals. Most recently, Harington has also returned to the National Theater, starring as Henry V in the William Shakespeare play Henry V, and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin has also announced a Jon Snow spin off series is in the works, with Harington set to reprise his role.
6 Gwendoline Christie
Since her first major role as one of the show's greatest characters, Brienne of Tarth, Gwendoline Christie has been taking the world by storm. Following the show's end in 2019, Christie has starred in movies from some of the most famous film franchises, including Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, as well as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.
But it was 2022 that saw Christie's star finally shine the brightest, landing major roles in two of the year's biggest series, Wednesdayand The Sandman, as well as being cast in season two of the Emmy Award-winning series Severance.
7 Richard Madden
Anyone who has watched the show or even heard of the atrocity that was the Red Wedding will be well aware of the fact that, unlike many of the show's other lead characters and breakout stars, Richard Madden's character Robb Stark does not survive much of the series.
Nevertheless, Madden took his three season run and ran with it, going on to star as the leading man in films such as Cinderella, and Eternals, as well as major roles in Rocketmanand 1917, and his lead role in the miniseries Bodyguard.
8 Maisie Williams
Her debut role as Arya Stark is beloved by fans of the show, who came to adore young Maisie Williams for her Emmy Award-nominated portrayal of the fierce Stark middle child, and for her dedication to authentically bringing the character to life, even down to learning her sword work left-handed as it's written in the novels.
But since her start on Game of Thrones, Williams has pursued a diverse acting career, landing roles in TV shows such as Doctor Who, Two Weeks to Live, Pistol and Gen: Lock, as well as lead roles in films such as The New Mutants, Early Man and The Book of Love.
9 Milly Alcock
Nothing is a greater testament to the success and popularity of Game of Thrones than its spin off series House of the Dragon, which found tremendous praise for the way in which it lived up to the incredible legacy left by its predecessor. And with this success comes an excellent platform to showcase new talent, in the same way the original series introduced the world to many of its lead stars.
Milly Alcock is the perfect example of this. Despite having starred in some smaller projects previously, as well as a leading role in award-winning Australian series Upright, her Critics Choice Award-nominated role as young Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon is likely to see her go on to star in more major projects. However, one thing is certain, Alcock won't be returning to a fantasy role any time soon, saying in an interview with the Herald Sun, “I’m not doing any fantasy roles. I don’t want to do anything like that. I have done it and I don’t need to do it again."
10 Emma D'Arcy
Also starring in House of the Dragon as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen is Emma D'Arcy who, apart from their role in Truth Seekers was largely unknown to fans before taking over the role post time jump. Their takeover of the role was one which seemed an interesting move to viewers of the show, given the chemistry and incredible acting of the younger cast, but a move which ultimately succeeded in large part due to D'Arcy's excellent portrayal of the complex female lead.
Although D'Arcy has not announced any new projects following the end of the show's first season, they will be returning to reprise their role in season 2. And having already nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for their work in the first season, fans can trust D'Arcy will deliver another stellar performance in the next season.
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