Season six of uber-popular fantasy-adventure-drama TV series Game of Thrones is only a couple of days away. That’s right: next week sees the return of all the violence, sex, and medieval political warfare you can muster. George R. R. Martin’s creation yields significantly more than just a bevy of bloody action sequences and flesh-fuelled scintillation, however. It is a thinking-man’s series about the social, cultural, and political impact of warring factions over numerous stretches of land. Its themes strongly resonate today, with the angst and anger spread across all narrative, character, and thematic aspects.
Of course, the show’s binge-worthy quality relies almost entirely on the charisma and chutzpah of its cast. Its dynamite array of actors, rounded out by types from stunning broads to greying British thespians, gives audiences plenty to talk about. This list looks at the best and worst of the Game of Thrones cast, specifically at whether they have risen or fallen in the eyes of critics and audiences in projects they have garnered in the off-season.
Scouted for smaller film roles throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Lena Headey has steadily become one of Hollywood’s most consistent performers. Prior to Game of Thrones, the British character-actress was known for valuable roles in 2006’s sword-and-sandal epic 300 and franchise-booster Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Her role as cunning queen Cersei Lannister has seen the actress transition into numerous protagonist and antagonist roles during the off-season. Most notably, her vicious performance as a drug czar 2012’s Dredd saw her chew up the post-apocalyptic scenery. Since then, roles in political-thriller Zipper, period-comedy Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and horror The Purge keep her in the spotlight.
Peter Dinklage is, arguably, the series’ most popular and intricate performer. One of a handful of recognisable dwarf actors, the prominent stage and screen actor has worked consistently throughout the past two decades. His big break came with Tom McCarthy’s 2003 independent drama The Station Agent, showcasing his determination and wide range of abilities. Multiple roles make a point of pointing out his height, with family films including Elf (2003) and Underdog (2007) relegating him to minor, comic-relief roles. Thanks to the continued success of spiteful Tyrion Lannister, Dinklage has since popped up in everything from blockbusters (X-Men: Days of Future Past), comedies (The Boss), and family-adventures (Pixels).
Maisie Williams is on track to become the series’ most successful up-and-coming performer. The now nineteen-year-old was plucked out of obscurity to play tomboyish youngster Arya Stark, trained to take over the proud family name from a long line of warring siblings, parents, and sketchy relatives. The actress has since leaped into short films and independent dramas, making bold choices with a share of unique projects. In particular, HBO movie Cyberbully saw her confront the dangers of the online/social media landscape. Her captivating turn as victim turned victor got audiences talking, with many interesting roles now on the horizon. The actress will soon turn heads in The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea opposite Jason Sudeikis.
With the looks and personality of Prince Charming from Shrek, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, ostensibly, has what it takes to be a cunning leading man. Indeed, his screen presence elevates nefarious prince Jaime Lannister above being your average slimy antagonist. However, his path through cinema has hurriedly skidded off the rails. His venture kicked off promisingly, standing out in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down and Danish gem Headhunters. But Waldau is stuck in quick-paycheque mode, taking unflattering roles as kooky villains in romantic-comedy The Other Woman, sci-fi snooze Oblivion, and horror flick Mama. Recently, his off-season run has gone from bad to worse. Shockers including Gods of Egypt spell disaster for the Danish performer’s chances of long-lasting breakout success.
Blazing through five seasons as Queen of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, Emilia Clarke has rapidly become one of the franchise’s most interesting elements. Perfecting her role of sensitive ruler/badass warrior since the show’s first steps, the actress is now top choice for strong female characters of varying types. Opposite scene-stealing Jude Law, her turn in Dom Hemingway brought light to an otherwise bruising gangster-drama/black comedy. However, one series instalment, in particular, brought her run of luck crashing down. Woeful fifth chapter Terminator: Genisys saw the twenty-nine-year-old become pitifully miscast as Sarah Connor. Stranded by old-timer Arnold Schwarzenegger and charisma-free-zone Jai Courtney, Clarke could soon be banished back to TV.
With the ‘death’ of series-favourite Jon Snow one of 2015’s biggest talking points, the appeal of Kit Harington remains key to the series’ ever-lasting success. The British actor – known for impressive facial hair, and bird’s nest hairdo – has become a staple of Hollywood and British action. Sadly, his opportunities have not quite panned out. Pushed into Gladiator-meets-Titanic disaster Pompeii, Harington delivered a bland performance as the slave turned lover turned liberator. Sadly, roles in box-office flounders Seventh Son and MI5 (Spooks: The Greater Good) were non-starters. His critical and commercial failure saw Harington retreat back to his beloved TV counterpart, but what he will do next is dependent on how season six plays out: with or without his return?
Images courtesy of Home Box Office (HBO) and Showtime Australia