The Definitive Game Of Thrones Viewers' Guide

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With approximately 72,000 principal characters and at least a million different plot strands (give or take a White Walker), HBO’s Game Of Thrones is an epic of epic epicness, drawing its viewers into an addictive world of dastardly double-crossings, lengthy sex scenes and increasingly uncuddly dragons. It’s so all-consuming that it can be quite alarming to spot a GoT actor outside of George R.R. Martin’s televisual universe. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, has taken The Cinnamon Challenge on camera and appeared on the Empire Podcast, thereby proving that she is, in fact, an actual person. But what about the rest? To help you identify and further enjoy the work of the Game Of Thrones cast, here they all are, each with our specific tip for what else to watch in their back catalogues.

P.S. Apologies in advance for not including some of the acting newcomers – Kristian Nairn, John Bradley-West, Sophie Turner and so on – as they hadn’t all done enough for us to make a suggestion. That said, Thomas Brodie-Sangster needs a Love Actually shout-out, so here's a link to his adorable work with Liam Neeson.

Age: 27
Place of birth: Aberdeen
Character name: Ygritte

Rose Leslie

What to watch outside of Westeros: Series 2 Blandings episode 'Custody Of The Pumpkin'

Everyone’s favourite wily, wild-haired wilding is actually a rather well-to-do lady who grew up in a Scottish castle, but you wouldn’t know that from her roles in Downtown Abbey (a housemaid) or Banged Up Abroad (someone in Banged Up Abroad). A brief role in 2012’s Now Is Good is a little more lah-di-dah, but a guest spot in P.G. Wodehouse adaptation Blandings really seals the deal, as she lairds it up rather well, what what?

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Age: 44
Place of birth: New Jersey, USA
Character name: Tyrion Lannister

Peter Dinklage

What to watch outside of Westeros: The Station Agent (2003)

Though Elf fans will be jumping onto their desks in outrage at the absence of Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell’s Christmassy comedy – “He’s an angry elf” – there is no finer hour in Peter Dinklage’s career than his breakout performance in Thomas McCarthy’s Sundance darling The Station Agent. Playing a sullen train enthusiast drawn into the complicated worlds of a diner van driver (Bobby Cannavale) and a grieving mother (Patricia Clarkson), he fills out a difficult role beautifully, kickstarting his career in the process (Find Me Guilty, both Death At A Funerals, The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian and more all followed). Next up, another tiny little indie called X-Men: Days Of Future Past, where he plays robotics expert Bolivar Trask...

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Age: 40
Place of birth: Hamilton, Bermuda
Character name: Cersei Lannister

Lena Headey

What to watch outside of Westeros: Dredd (2012)

Anyone who’s watched 2001’s Ealing-esque Brit-com The Parole Officer will remember Lena Headey as the strikingly beautiful policeperson Emma, but that particular Steve Coogan vehicle is not what we’d advise as your first pick from her back catalogue. Her role as Queen Gorgo in 300 is well worth a look, while more recently her turn in The Purge helped the 2013 home invasion horror evolve into an unexpected franchise. And while she was kick-ass on TV playing the title role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it’s 2012’s instant cult classic Dredd that gives her the most to play with. You haven’t known batshit badassery until you’ve met Ma-Ma, the world’s foremost Slo-Mo slinger.

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Age: 26
Place of birth: London
Character name: Daenerys Targaryen

Emilia Clarke

What to watch outside of Westeros: Season 10 Futurama episode ‘Stench And Stenchibility’

It may seem unfair to choose a piece of voice acting for someone so gorgeous, but Emilia Clarke’s performance in the final season of Futurama is so much fun it’s impossible to resist. Clarke plays Marianne, a flower seller with no sense of smell who falls in love with stinky space crustacean Zoidberg. For reasons it’s important not to disclose, Marianne gets her nasal abilities back halfway through the episode, and comedy swiftly ensues. It’s silly, it’s stupid, it’s adorable. “Woop woop woop woop woop”, indeed.

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Age: 27
Place of birth: London
Character name: Jon Snow

Kit Harington

What to watch outside of Westeros: Pompeii (2014)

He was the first Albert Narracott in the ongoing National Theatre production of War Horse between 2008 and 2009, he appeared in posh play Posh as Ed Montgomery in 2010 and, um, was also in Silent Hill: Revelation 3D in 2012, but Harington fans – Haringtonians? Haringtownies? – have had to wait until 2014 for our Kit’s first lead movie role in Pompeii, which may not be high art but it certainly involves lots of action. From here on in, it’s film after film after film for The Man Who Knows Nothing, with both a role in Spooks spin-off The Greater Good and a voice part in How To Train Your Dragon 2 coming up later this year, as well as a small role in Jeff Bridges’ staff and sorcery flick The Seventh Son, out in 2015.

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Age: 21
Place of birth: Cork, Ireland
Character name: Joffrey Baratheon

Jack Gleeson

What to watch outside of Westeros: Batman Begins (2005)

Twitter has featured the tweet “OMG! Joffrey is in Batman Begins!” so many times that there should be a social media starter pack that allows you to choose that exclamation as your first microblog. Gleeson was also in a tiny role in Reign Of Fire when he was smaller still, but that was so fleeting that it has kept similar “What a little bastard!” tweets to a minimum. Limiting those tweets in the future is [SPOILER REDACTED] and the fact that Gleeson has decided to quit acting following his Thrones turn. That’s a shame, since he’s very good, so we hope that he just takes a break to escape the worst of the typecasting and one day returns as a good guy.

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Age: 27
Place of birth: London
Character name: Theon Greyjoy

Alfie Allen

What to watch outside of Westeros: Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004)

The Alfie Allen seen his big sister Lily’s music video for ‘Alfie’ does not quite make the cut here because it isn’t actually him (it’s a puppet). And while we were tempted to credit him for his performance in Atonement, we had to go with dodgy tweenquel Agent Cody Banks 2. After all, Atonement doesn’t have him singing ‘War’ in front of Her Majesty. Be warned: this video contains lines so clunky that you may pass out. Think “First I kill you, then I make my escape, then I rule the world” and you’re just about there. Theon wouldn’t be caught dead with dialogue this obvious. Or he wouldn’t have been, before [SPOILERS].

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Age: 43
Place of birth: Rudkøbing, Denmark
Character name: Jaime Lannister

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

What to watch outside of Westeros: Headhunters (2012)

Before Game Of Thrones made him casting agents’ catnip, Coster-Waldau had been doing bits and pieces in Hollywood since way back in 2001, with his first big break coming from Ridley Scott and Black Hawk Down, where he played sniper Gary Gordon defending the crash site of a Super 6-4. Later, Wimbledon had him buddy up with Paul Bettany against tennis’s youthful upstarts; Kingdom Of Heaven saw him playing an exceptionally attractive “Village Sheriff” and very recently, The Other Woman gave the world several shots of him walking into a glass door. Norway’s Jo Nesbø thriller Headhunters, however, is better than all three combined, with Coster-Waldau on delightfully sinister form.

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Age: 15
Place of birth: Faversham. Kent
Character name: Bran Stark

Isaac Hempstead-Wright

What to watch outside of Westeros: The Awakening (2011)

2011’s haunted house horror The Awakening was a thoroughly British affair, all creaky floorboards, mysterious rocking chairs and spooky faces appearing in goose feather pillows. It starred Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton and a total newcomer in the form of Isaac Hempstead-Wright, whose angelic fizzog made for serious creeps as Hall tiptoed round the paranormal pile on the look-out for something ghoulish. Hempstead-Wright was just 11 when he shot his part, and he was embarrassingly good, even if the film itself wasn’t.

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Age: 45
Place of birth: Glasgow
Character name: Sandor “The Hound” Clegane

Rory McCann

What to watch outside of Westeros: Hot Fuzz (2007)

The towering McCann has appeared in many other things outside of Hot Fuzz, notably Alexander (as Macedonian nobleman Craterus) and Solomon Kane (where he fights James Purefoy in a lake of mud), but Hot Fuzz is Hot Fuzz and Lurch is Lurch. All together now… “Yarp”. It’s a line that comes in handy each and every day, on almost any occasion, and it’s a testament to McCann’s delivery that it will never leave our minds.

P.S. You can watch McCann's Game Of Thrones audition tape here and if you're keen to see him sell porridge oats by walking half-naked out of an icy river, you can do so here.

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Age: 52
Place of birth: Edinburgh
Character name: Jorah Mormont

Iain Glen

What to watch outside of Westeros: The Jack Taylor series (2010-2013)

Iain Glen may have won the Silver Bear for Best Actor for his role in Silent Scream and acted on stage opposite the likes of Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room, but such highfalutin’ gigs haven’t stopped him from playing a good ol’ fashioned pulpy bad guy in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or a sinister scientist in the Resident Evil franchise. Small roles in Kick-Ass 2, Harry Brown, Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Spooks and Kingdom Of Heaven (as Richard The Lionheart) should all be noted, but it’s his regular appearances as Irish private investigator Jack Taylor in the TV movies of the same name that deserve your time. Jorah with a gun! It’s a hard thing to get your head around.

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Age: 67
Place of birth: Redditch, Worcestershire
Character name: Tywin Lannister

Charles Dance

What to watch outside of Westeros: Ali G Indahouse (2002)

Everyone has their favourite Charles Dance appearance. It could be something from his TV work, such as Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Fingersmith or Bleak House. It could be something from his film career, such as Underworld: Awakening, Your Highness, Ironclad, Starter For Ten, Space Truckers or For Your Eyes Only (his first big screen outing). It could be his turns on panel show Would I Lie To You? or Top Gear. But it's probably not any of those – it’s either his Dr. Jonathan Clemens in Alien 3, Sardo Numspa in The Golden Child or Benedict in Last Action Hero. You pick one... if that’s even possible. Attempts to choose just one here almost tore the office apart, resulting in someone remembering his crossdressing cameo in Ali G Indahouse, and now we can't get the image of Tywin in a red leather skirt out of our heads (and neither will you). Dance, Charles, dance!

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Age: 46
Place of birth: Dublin
Character name: Petyr Baelish

Aidan Gillen

What to watch outside of Westeros: The Wire (2004-2008)

There’s genuine pleasure to be had in watching Aiden Gillen flounce around the inside of Big Ben at the end of the historically horrifying romp that is Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan’s Shanghai Knights. This is a film that has Aaron Taylor Johnson as Charlie Chaplin and Tom Fisher as some writer bloke called “Artie Doyle”, so Gillen as would-be Empress assassin Lord Nelson Rathbone makes a delightfully bonkers sort of sense. It is undoubtedly Gillen’s finest hour – better than his excellent work in Queer As Folk, The Dark Knight Rises, Blitz or recently Calvary – and one every Littlefinger fan must watch immediately. Oh, wait, he was Tommy Carcetti in Best TV Show Ever™ The Wire. All right, let’s go for that then.

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Age: 49
Place of birth: Ballycastle, County Antrim
Character name: Varys

Conleth Hill

What to watch outside of Westeros: Series one Inside No. 9: Episode 'Tom & Gerri'

Lawyer dramedy Suits is nothing like celebrity-obsessed “comedy” Keith Lemon: The Film, and neither of them are anything like mum-friendly romance Salmon Fishing In The Yemen. But one person unites them all, and that is Conleth Hill, a Game Of Thrones actor blessed with a first name that sounds like its own Game Of Thrones character. But he’s at his very best on the BBC’s dark comedy anthology series Inside No. 9, and our little birds tell us that show creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton agree. OK, they told us they agree, which instantly makes his episode eunuch-who’s finest hour.

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Age: 29
Place of birth: London
Character name: Osha

Natalia Tena

What to watch outside of Westeros: About A Boy (2002)

Tena’s highest-profile role to date is undoubtedly that of Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter series – specifically The Order Of The Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince and both Deathly Hallows – but there’s just not enough screentime for her despite the multi-film appearances. Bel Ami gives Tena more love, but the movie isn’t much cop, so you’re best off avoiding it. Fortunately, About A Boy is here to step into the breach, wherein she plays the object of Marcus’s (Nicholas Hoult) affections, a grungy girl called Ellie who doesn’t look too dissimilar to Osha (minus the piercings, anyway). You might also want to check out her frontwoman work with her band, Molotov Jukebox.

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Age: 36
Place of birth: Worthing, Sussex
Character name: Brienne Of Tarth

Gwendoline Christie

What to watch outside of Westeros: Her Patrick Wolf performances

You’ll be hard-pressed to spot Christie’s appearances in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, where she plays “Classy Shopper #2”, or The Zero Theorem, where she can be seen in a “street commercial”, so to avoid straining your eyes, stick to her on-stage performances with perennially befeathered pop peacock Patrick Wolf. In a former life, Christie was a semi-professional gymnast, but a spine injury pushed her into acting, and thence to playing the queen in a Barbican Theatre production of Cymbeline in 2007 and Lucifer at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2010. Come December, you’ll see her in The Hunger Hames: Mockingjay – Part 1, where hopefully she’ll be using her gymastery to teach Jennifer Lawrence how to fall over less often.

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Age: 26
Place of birth: Liverpool
Character name: Gendry

Joe Dempsie

What to watch outside of Westeros: Skins (2007-2008)

Though he’s still a young ‘un, relatively speaking, Dempsie has worked on a vast variety of Ice And Fire-free projects, from voiceovers for Clearasil adverts to talking about his love of Nottingham Forest on Soccer A.M. Skins is the show that made Dempsie’s name in the UK, however, with E4’s ever-so-edgy millennial perennial giving him a fanbase so devoted they literally want to lick his face - something die-hard Whovians might also attempt, given his role on series four episode The Doctor’s Daughter. Then there’s a one episode gig on family-friendly magic show Merlin, two episodes on Shane Meadows spin-off This Is England ’88 and four episodes on BBC 3’s critically-acclaimed (but ratings poor) supernatural drama The Fades (where he co-starred with GoT's very own Natalie Dormer). He’s also in Jason Statham vehicle Blitz, where Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) shoots him in the head. How lovely.

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Age: 51
Place of birth: Bromley, Kent
Character name: Bronn

Jerome Flynn

What to watch outside of Westeros: Soldier Soldier (1991-1997)

Though he’s excellent in Ripper Street and your mum loved him in London’s Burning: The Movie, the best place to see Jerome Flynn’s acting talent put to the test outside of HBO’s anything-goes environs remains mid-‘90s ITV army argy-bargy Soldier Soldier. And it’s in one particular Soldier Soldier episode that Flynn’s Sergeant Paddy Garvey and co-star Robson Green’s Fusilier Dave Tucker managed to become a musical phenomenon, with their take on the classic croon ‘Unchained Melody’ hitting number one in the charts and making them household names in the process.

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Age: 32
Place of birth: Reading, Berkshire
Character name: Margaery Tyrell

Natalie Dormer

What to watch outside of Westeros: Elementary (2012-)

Dormer has worked with several big name directors in her film career so far, playing a nurse seduced by Chris Hemsworth in Rush (Ron Howard) as well as a shopping assistant who sells Michael Fassbender lingerie in The Counsellor (Ridley Scott). Then… there’s Madonna’s W.E., but only a small part. You may have spotted her as the girl who kisses Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger and makes Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter jealous, and if you’ve managed to survive 2005’s Casanova, you’ll be well aware of her charms there. In TV, Dormer has taken bigger roles, playing both Irene Adler and a character called Jamie Moriarty – it’s complicated – in her American Holmes-from-home Elementary, on top of her understandably time-limited role as Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s The Tudors. Look forward to seeing more of her in the movie version of Posh and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Parts 1 and 2.

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Age: 52
Place of birth: Dublin, Ireland
Character name: Davos Seaworth

Liam Cunningham

What to watch outside of Westeros: The Guard (2011)

The glorious tenor tones of Liam Cunningham have been heard for a good long while now, and in wildly disparate works, such as A Little Princess, Jude, Dog Soldiers, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Hunger, Centurion, Clash Of The Titans, The Escapist and Black Butterflies. To pick just one of those would be very hard indeed, so here’s another entirely: John McDonagh’s The Guard, a very funny dark comedy that sees Cunningham play one of four Irish drug dealers up against Brendan Gleeson’s acerbic law enforcer. Enjoyably, his character’s name is Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a moniker that rivals even George R.R. Martin’s most periphrastic efforts.

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Age: 65
Place of birth: Clydebank
Character name: Jeor Mormont

James Cosmo

What to watch outside of Westeros: Braveheart (1995)

The man’s been in Highlander and Braveheart, Trainspotting and, um, Troy, not forgetting The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (where he plays Father Christmas), Shane Meadows’ Once Upon A Time In The Midlands and that Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma you were forced to watch at school once. Braveheart is his biggest and most memorable role, so that just about wins out, but die-hard Highlanders – pun very much intended – will want his MacLeod clansman to live forever.

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Age: 37
Place of birth: Leiderdorp, The Netherlands
Character name: Melisandre

Carice Van Houten

What to watch outside of Westeros: Black Book (2006)

Playing the lead role in Holland’s biggest Dutch language film of all time, the first port of call for any new Carice Van Houten fans has to be Zwartboek – or, as it’s known in English, Black Book. A World War II drama from Paul Verhoeven, it tells the story of a young Jewish Dutch woman (Van Houten) who becomes a spy for the resistance, seducing information from Nazi soldiers. In the English-language camp, Valkyrie (2008), Repo Men (2010) and Black Death (2010) are all… films Carice Van Houten has been in, with Valkyrie the best of that bunch by quite some distance.

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Age: 27
Place of birth: Renfrewshire, Scotland
Character name: Robb Stark

Richard Madden

What to watch outside of Westeros: Klondike (2014)

The most important thing to know about Richard Madden’s career outside of Game Of Thrones is that he’s playing The Prince in Kenneth Branagh’s live-action adaptation of Cinderella, but as that isn’t out until 2015, here’s something completely different: Klondike. The Ridley Scott-produced Discovery Channel drama centres on the 1890s Canadian gold rush of the same name, so be prepared to see The King Of The North handling some panning. In the career curio department, there’s 2010 Brit-thriller Chatroom, which sees Madden act alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Imogen Poots and Game Of Thrones co-star Hannah Murray, as well as his voice work on the Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow series of video games, where he plays a half-human half-vampire called Alucard.

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Age: 50
Place of birth: Coleraine, Northern Ireland
Character name: Catelyn Stark

Michelle Fairley

What to watch outside of Westeros: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

In real life, Fairley went to drama school with Conleth “Varys” Hill, which just goes to show that it’s a small world after all. As is traditional for actors in this country, she appeared on The Bill, Casualty, Inspector Morse, Holby City and Lovejoy, and she’s been in some stellar stage shows. But her film work, while sporadic, has been interesting: she took small roles in The Others, Philomena and The Invisible Woman. For most fans, however, it’s her tiny and wordless role in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 that stands out, where she plays Hermione’s mum in a brief scene where her daughter wipes her memory (for her protection) and sneaks out of the house.

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Age: 55
Place of birth: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Character name: Eddard Stark

Sean Bean

What to watch outside of Westeros: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

Bean really needs no introduction to an Empire audience; you’ve all seen him in The Lord Of The Rings, GoldenEye, Troy, Patriot Games and Equilibrium as a minimum. You probably also watched him cut a swathe through the Napoleonic Wars in Sharpe to boot, while wearing either the best uniform ever or a big frilly shirt. And we’re absolutely certain you’ve seen his death reel showing his many screen demises. But what’s his best work? For the absolute newbie, we’d recommend starting with Boromir in The Fellowship Of The Ring and going from there.

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