A guide to spotting your ‘Thrones’ faves outside of Westeros
One of the great pleasures of “Game of Thrones” — and there are many (as well as many frustrations) — is that the show almost exclusively casts actors from across the pond (and beyond) who may be unfamiliar to many American viewers unless they watch British TV and films.
These aren’t the Judi Denches, the Daniel Craigs, the Idris Elbas and the Emily Blunts of the world, in terms of name recognition and celebrity status. But they are good.
Peter Dinklage is one of the rare Americans in the cast. Otherwise the series is filled out with British and Irish acting talent, with a few Scandinavians thrown in as well.
And hey, an Australian! Phryne Fisher in the flesh! Sorry, that would be actress Essie Davis, and if you have no idea who I’m talking about, then you have yet to experience the eye-candy that is the Aussie series “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” (available in the States courtesy of PBS, as well as Netflix).
Set in the 1920s, the case-of-the-week romp follows the adventures of a flapper/amateur detective played by Davis, who sports a killer wardrobe and a spectacular brown bob that is her own hair, not a wig.
She appeared this past week in “Thrones” Episode 55 (“The Door”) as part of a troupe of actors performing a scathingly ribald play depicting a bit of Westeros’ recent history, with Davis as Cersei Lannister.
The quasi-medieval world is so indelible, visually and thematically, it can be jarring — and yet so much fun — to see these same actors in entirely different roles, be it on TV or in film. But there they are, and much of their work is available via streaming. So here is our guide to spotting them outside the realm of George R.R. Martin. This is a sprawling cast, and the following list is in no particular order and it is far from exhaustive.
Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister): As sly and conniving as she is on “Thrones,” Headey gave parenthood an entirely different spin in “The Purge,” as a mother beset by marauding bandits — and a mother who, unlike Cersei, actually has a socially acceptable relationship with the father of her offspring.
Iain Glen (Ser Jorah): The Scottish actor had a lackluster stint on “Downton Abbey” as a one-time fiance of Lady Mary. Glen’s talents are put to much better use in the TV series “Jack Taylor,” as a grizzled cop-turned-private investigator — his character description might as well be “loner in a great-looking coat” — in the perpetually windswept environs of Galway (available via Acorn TV or Amazon).
Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell): If you like lawyer shows, the British series “Silk” (Hulu and Amazon) is a sharp one, as is Dormer’s performance as a lawyer-in-training who sleeps with her mentor (bad!) but isn’t entirely without a sense of professional ethics or human decency (good!). And of course there was her arc on the CBS procedural “Elementary” as Sherlock’s lover (Irene) who also turned out to be his nemesis (Moriarty).
Aidan Gillen (Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish): Unlikable on “Thrones” and unlikable on yet another HBO fan favorite, “The Wire,” on which the Irish actor played an opportunistic city councilman turned Baltimore mayor.
Rose Leslie (Ygritte): She walked away from “Thrones” with her own catchphrase (“You know nothing, Jon Snow!”), which is a helluva lot better than what she got for her role as a housemaid on “Downton Abbey,” which featured her character for all of one season before Leslie was off to do better things, like yell at Jon Snow.
Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis): As Daenerys Targaryen’s right-hand man on “Thrones,” he doesn’t get much to do other than look good in a perpetually sunny if dusty climate. The Dutch actor might be familiar to HBO viewers for his time on “Treme” (available via Amazon). Huisman has also had arcs on “Orphan Black” and “Nashville.”
Conleth Hill (Lord Vayrs): Hill turned up for a six-episode arc on USA’s lawyer show “Suits,” and with a full head of hair! (The actor, who is from Northern Ireland, shaves his head bald for his “Thrones” role.)
Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton): Just the sight of Rheon’s face makes my skin crawl. That makes it all the weirder to see him play such a sweetly dopey character on the British sitcom “Vicious,” a broad comedy about a bickering gay couple in their golden years (Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen, who really should know better). The show is terrible, but it’s worth watching (on PBS and Amazon) just to see Rheon as something other than a sadist.
Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister): With a career dating back to the mid-’70s, there is so much to choose from. More recently, I haven’t caught up with the Cinemax action series “Strike Back” just yet (on which he plays the villain, of course), but he was witty, if biting, in his brief scenes in “The Imitation Game.” Coming up: “Ghostbusters.” Yes, “Ghostbusters.”
And I’ll leave you with this tidbit: Jack Gleeson (King Joffrey) will appear in a theater production in New York this summer called “Bears in Space,” which is described as a quirky adventure “about two bears on a spaceship being chased across the universe by villains.”