The Early Acting Gigs of 20 Game of Thrones Stars

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

We're two episodes into the final season of Game of Thrones, and still trying to figure out who will win the battle for the Seven Kingdoms. But here’s how some of the series’ stars (past and present) made a living before they were Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens, and beyond.

1. Emilia Clarke // Daenerys Targaryen

Before everyone’s favorite Khaleesi and Mother of Dragons embarked on her quest for the Iron Throne, Emilia Clarke starred in a commercial for the Samaritans, a charity that provides support to people in emotional distress. She broke into TV with a guest role on an episode of the long-running BBC series Doctors in 2009, then played Savannah in Syfy’s Triassic Attack in 2010.

2. Lena Headey // Cersei Lannister

Long before she had to endure the world’s worst walk of shame, Lena Headey had her first on-screen role in the 1992 movie Waterland alongside Ethan Hawke and Jeremy Irons. The then-24-year-old actress played Young Mary Crick, whose character has a sex scene with Hawke’s character (then eventually marries Irons).

3. Gwendoline Christie // Brienne of Tarth

Before Gwendoline Christie swung a sword as the fiercest lady knight this side of the wall, she had bit roles in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Classy Shopper 2) and The Time Surgeon (The Tape/”Victim”). She also played Lexi/Lucy in 12 episodes of the BBC series Wizards vs. Aliens. Check her out in the clip above.

4. Richard Madden // Robb Stark

The dearly departed King in the North honed his craft on the BBC children’s comedy Barmy Aunt Boomerang. Richard Madden played Sebastian, whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of his wacky Australian aunt, Boomerang … who is actually a ghost. Dragons and direwolves probably seemed downright normal after that.

5. Jack Gleeson // Joffrey Baratheon

Yes, Jack Gleeson is the little boy rescued by Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) in Batman Begins. You can also catch the boy who would be Game of Thrones's psychotic King in 2007’s Shrooms, about three couples who go to Ireland to collect magic mushrooms and trip out (Gleeson played “Lonely Twin”), and in 2009’s A Shine of Rainbows as Seamus; you can spot him in the trailer above at the :46 mark.

6. Iwan Rheon // Ramsay Bolton

Iwan Rheon, who plays the bastard everyone loves to hate, cut his teeth on Welsh television. He made his onscreen debut playing Macsen White on the long-running Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm in the 2004 episode “OB Cafe”; two years later, he played Daniel on several episodes of the Welsh drama Caerdydd. Fans of the British TV show Misfits will recognize him as Simon Bellamy, a role he landed in 2009.

7. Natalie Dormer // Margaery Tyrell

Before she was Renly, Joffrey, and Tommen’s Queen, Natalie Dormer made her debut on the first episode of ITV dramedy Distant Shores. She played “Mobile Woman,” a character who loudly talks on her cell phone on the bus and gets chewed out by the main character. You can see it all go down in the clip above.

Margaery isn’t the only queen Dormer has played; she lost her head as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors before booking Game of Thrones in 2012.

8. Liam Cunningham // Davos Seaworth

Liam Cunningham

made his onscreen debut in a 1992 short film called Public Toilet. A year later, he appeared in his first feature film, the family adventure Into the West, playing a police officer.

9. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau // Jaime Lannister

Before he played the Kingslayer, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau starred in the 1994 Danish thriller Nightwatch as Martin, who takes a night shift job in a mortuary to finance his law school education. Scary stuff ensues, as you can see in the trailer above.

10. Alfie Allen // Theon Greyjoy

Before becoming Theon Grejoy (or Reek), Alfie Allen—younger brother of singer Lily Allen—had roles in films like Elizabeth (1998), Atonement (2007), and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). He also appeared in three episodes of the 2008 miniseries Casualty 1907, which used records from the archives of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to bring the patients and doctors of the Victorian-era hospital back to life.

11. Aidan Gillen // Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish

Before taking on a character who is a skilled player in the game of thrones, Aidan Gillen had roles in a number of TV movies, hit the big screen as Aidan Lynch in Circle of Friends, and played Councilman-turned-Mayor Thomas Carcetti in The Wire.

12. Rory McCann // Sandor "The Hound" Clegane

Prior to playing the fire-fearing, murder-loving Hound, Rory McCann got his break in a couple of hilarious Scott’s Porage Oats commercials, the first of which is above (you can see the second one here). You might also recognize the 6' 6" actor as Michael Armstrong in Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz (2007):

13. Carice Van Houten // Melisandre

In 1999, the actress who was once Stannis Baratheon's right-hand-sorceress starred in the Dutch TV movie Suzy Q, which followed a weekend in the life of a bizarre family in the 1960s. You can see a clip above.

14. Conleth Hill // Lord Varys

Prior to playing Westeros's scheming eunuch, Conleth Hill sang as an Irish tenor in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1993. You can get a good look at him in the video above, around the 5:50 mark.

15. Nathalie Emmanuel // Missandei

Before she booked Game of Thrones, the future right hand lady of the Khaleesi appeared on the British soap opera Hollyoaks from 2007 to 2010, playing the boy crazy wild child Sasha Valentine. In one story arc, her character overdosed on heroin and slipped into a coma. Watch her bring the drama in the clip above (which has some NSFW language).

16. Jacob Anderson // Grey Worm

Fans of Broadchurch will recognize this leader of the Unsullied as Dean Thomas, Chloe Latimer’s boyfriend. Before that, Anderson made his TV debut in the British soap opera Doctors; he played Ryan Garvey for one episode in 2007.

17. Rose Leslie // Ygritte

Before playing Jon Snow's wildling lover on Game of Thrones, Rose Leslie was a member of Downton Abbey's downstairs crew (she was the housemaid who wanted to become a secretary). But her first TV role was on the documentary series Locked Up Abroad. She played Kim, a lady with less-than-honorable intentions who convinces her boyfriend to come to Peru while she runs a drug smuggling job.

18. Natalia Tena // Osha

Playing a wildling in Game of Thrones isn't Natalia Tena's first foray into fantasy; the actress is perhaps best known for her role as Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter series. But her first big screen role was when she was a teenager, playing Ellie in Chris and Paul Weitz’s Oscar-nominated About a Boy (2002). You can see her at the 1:07 mark in the clip above.

19. Sibel Kekilli // Shae

Before she landed the role as Tyrion Lannister’s lady-for-hire, Sibel Kekilli won two Lolas—the German award equivalent of an Oscar—in 2004 and 2010. She also had a role in the 2004 German film Kebab Connection, about a man of Turkish descent who wants to direct the first German kung-fu movie. You can see Kekilli at the 1:01 mark in the trailer above.

20. Richard Brake // The Night King

Richard Brake only made a couple of appearances as The Night King in seasons 4 and 5 of Game of Thrones, but each one was chilling. (Stuntman Vladimir Furdik took over the role in season 6.) Brake got his start in 1993 on an episode of the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie series Jeeves & Wooster playing a reporter. You might also recognize him as Joe Chill—yup, the guy who kills Bruce Wayne’s parents—in Batman Begins. You can see him at 2:25 in the clip above.

Updated for 2019.

Mifflin Madness: Who Is the Greatest Character on The Office? It's Time to Vote

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
NBC

Your years of watching (and re-watching) The Office, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, have all led up to this moment. Welcome to Mifflin Madness—Mental Floss's cutthroat competition to determine The Office's greatest character. Is Michael Scott the boss you most love to hate? Or did Kevin Malone suck you in with his giant pot of chili?

You have 24 hours to cast your vote for each round on Twitter before the bracket is updated and half of the chosen characters are eliminated.

The full bracket is below, followed by the round one and round two winners. You can cast your round three vote(s) here. Be sure to check back on Monday at 4 p.m. ET to see if your favorite Dunder Mifflin employee has advanced to the next round. 

Round One


Round Two


Round Three


The Office Planned to Break Up Jim and Pam in the Final Season—Then (Smartly) Thought Better of It

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted when, in Season 3—after years of flirting—John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together. But an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.

Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philadelphia and Pam struggled to take care of their children on her own back in Scranton, putting intense strain on their otherwise seemingly perfect relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice.

As Collider reports, Pam and Jim's relationship could have taken a turn for worse in the final season—and the writers had planned it that way. As recounted in Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, series creator Greg Daniels sat down with each of the show's stars before starting the final season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea of putting Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice. According to Krasinski:

"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do … And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.'"

Several writers weighed in with ideas about how they might handle a split between Jim and Pam from a narrative standpoint—though not everyone was on the same page.

Warren Lieberstein, a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of bringing Brian—the documentary crew's boom operator—into the mix. “[This] was something that came up in Season 5, I think," Lieberstein said. "What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.

Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to fans of the show." Ellickson said that they backtracked so quickly, they even had to re-edit certain episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up. Which is something the show's millions of fans will be forever grateful for.

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