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Only a Cat of a Different Coat: Five "Game of Thrones" Casting Choices That Could Have Been Better, and One Major Casting Rumor

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | August 6, 2012 | Comments ()


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Most of the “Game of Thrones” cast has been as well chosen as readers could have hoped—Sean Bean was brilliant as Eddard Stark, and I can’t think any young actors doing better than Maisie Williams, Jack Gleeson and Sophie Turner. Even the inspired choice of Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy—which at first threw me—has turned out well. But there are a few actors who, no matter how I try to accept them, just don’t seem right for their parts. So here are a few coulda/shoula beens that have gotten stuck in my head…

*As always, please don’t discuss book spoilers in the comments.

5. Gemma Whelan as Yara (aka Asha) Greyjoy

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Coulda/Shoulda Been: Ruth Wilson (“Luther, Jane Eyre,” Anna Karenina). I’ve never bought Theon being attracted to Yara and Whelan is playing the whole thing just a little too butch. Wilson has an offbeat beauty, darkness, and the sarcasm that would have made her Yara delicious.

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4. Kristian Nairn as Hodor

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Coulda/Shoulda Been: Vinnie Jones (“The Cape,” Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). Hodor needs to convey a world of emotions with just his facial expressions and a one word utterance. Nairn has the bulk but not the presence or range—Jones would have taken Hodor to another level.

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3. Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

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Coulda/Shoulda Been: Keeley Hawes (“Upstairs Downstairs [2010], Ashes to Ashes”). Though Headey has improved since Season 1, she still hasn’t mastered the glorious Queen that Cersei should be. Hawes would have captured the audience from her first moment onscreen, and held us in her sly, gorgeous hands until the end of time.

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2. Steven Dillane as Stannis Baratheon

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Coulda/Shoulda Been: Philip Glenister (“Mad Dogs, Ashes to Ashes, Cranford, Life on Mars”). Don’t get me wrong, Dillane’s a great actor—but he’s looking a little too soft, old and worn to be Stannis. Glenister already carries himself the Baratheon way, and he radiates that powerful something that a would-be king should.

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1. Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark

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Coulda/Shoulda Been: Catherine Tate (“Doctor Who, The Office, The Catherine Tate Show”). Need I say anything at all? Fairley’s Catelyn comes across only sad and forlorn; a one-note Nellie. I think we all know where this could have gone…

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And now, for the casting news/rumor: HBO has signed on Iwan Rheon (“Misfits”) for Season 3—that part is confirmed.


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The interesting bit is, the role he’s said to be playing (by HBO) is “Boy,” but the interwebs ain’t buying it. Rumor has it Rheon landed the significant role of Ramsay Snow, aka the bastard son of Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton). *Update: As of today, his imdb entry does read Ramsay Snow. Could/should be good.


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Cindy Davis would like to dance with dragons.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Wrong

    Man. This article is all wrong. ALL of it.

  • roodle

    SHUT UP! I looove catherine tate, would have been so much better than the current catelyn. she does nothing for me.

  • I can just see someone telling Catelyn the news about Ned getting beheaded and the girls being locked away under Lannister control in Kings Landing. "Am I bovvered? Do I look bovvered?"

  • Horatio Postlethwaite

    I agree with Lena Headey completely. Throughout Terminator she had one facial expression and the same was true for Season one of Thrones. She has improved in Season two, but she still bugs me a bit.

  • Daffodil

    You're just the worst.

  • RoloTomassi

    Cindy, if you had a manhood, Shagga would cut it off and feed it to the goats. You missed the glaringly obvious miscast of everyone's favorite arrogant BAMF! Renly Goddam Baratheon, Baby! Bravado and invincibility personified, he's a younger, stronger, vice-free Robert. Oh, wait, HBO says no. Renly is instead a slight hipster who blanches at a drop of blood and melts into a quivering pool of goo when his wife wants to have sex. Please, the network that created Omar Little should have the sense to realize being gay does not = teary on the edge of a breakdown. Oh, indeed.

  • GrntDth

    Wait, have I jumped up celebrating Curiosity's landing, banged my head on a sharp corner when I didn't stick the landing and only now have woke up on April Fool's Day to read this article?

  • Nachiket

    Dillane nails it as Stannis ....Right down to the grinding of teeth.
    No way that shouldve been different.

  • poguemahone

    Oh man. This list is bruuutal. I had to double check to make sure this wasn't a parody post. Game Of Thrones is the most well-cast show on television; even the most hardened of Martin purists think Nina Gold is a genius at getting the right people for the right parts. None of the above were miscast in even the slightest way. Catherine Tate? Is that a joke? Do you think an actor as well-known as Vinnie Jones would be willing to play a role in which his only line EVER is "Hodor"? Gemma Whelan was what half of what made the Iron Islands scenes interesting (the other half being the relationship between Theon and his father, played by the also well-cast Allen and Patrick Malahide).

    I was told to say nothing at all when I only had bad things to say when growing up, but I can't just sit idly by and do that, so I'll stop here. Pajiba's editors were asleep at the wheel on this one.

  • Vinnie fuckin' Jones?
    Hodor would act Vinnie Jones better than Vinnie Jones would act Hodor.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Your choices for Cersei and Stannis are inspired, although my first idea would ahve been Liam Cunningham in the latter role.

    I don't agree about Catherine Tate. She's too shrill for that role. Or maybe you were just trolling us.

  • Kip Hackman

    As much as I like Ruth Wilson, everytime she came on screen I'd be looking for John Luther, expecting him to saunter over and be really mad at everyone until they gave up. I guess what I'm trying to say is that every episode of Game of Thrones with Ruth Wilson but without Idris Elba would make me a sad twin brother to FBI Agent Bert Macklin.

  • HeyBulldog

    It's interesting that this list left off the two more obviouse casting choices that many fans have criticized. That of Renly and Robert Baratheon. Both actors were servicable and both chatacters are dead, so it's never affected my enjoyment of the show. Mark Addy plays a great fat, drunken bastard and Robert is indeed a fat, drunken bastard. But he's supposed to be a fat, drunken bastard who used to be the greatest alpha male, badass, war hammer wielding killing machine back in his prime. I can't imagine the fat guy from "Still Standing" as ever being that. The correct casting choice for Robert? There is only one: Ian Fucking McShane. Yeah, he's too old for the part and not fat but that can easily be worked out with Robert's beard and kingly garb. Addy never really held his own when sharing a scene with Bean. And his beard always looked fake. And think of Al Swearagin bitch slapping Cersei into her place and screaming at Lancel to get the breast plate stretcher. Awesome. Just awesome.
    As to Renly, he was supposed to be young Robert. Except more dashing and charming. And gay. The guy that played Renly was just fine but he just wasnt quite right. And it's hard to tell if it's the acting or the writing that missed the mark. Nothing unforgivable. But it could have been better. This also applies to the Hound and I guess Yara if you want to get nit picky.
    BUT, the casting and acting on the show has improved way more characters than they've hurt. There are a ton of main characters that are played perfecty (Tyrion, Ned, Joffrey, Cersei, Jaime, Danny, Aria, Theon, Tywen) but there's a lot of minor characters that were a little forgetable in the books that are brought to life by their portrayals. Those would include Bronn, Davos and Stannis (i was always bored with their chapters), Yoren, Varous, Maester Luwin, Jorah Mormont, Salador San, Jeor Mormont and probably a lot more.

  • bucketofstars79

    NO at Catherine Tate. Or as Michael Scott would put it: NOOOO GOD. NO GOD PLEASE, NO NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

  • Rocabarra

    I disagree with all of these, except for MAYBE Stannis. But Tate as Catelyn? You gotsta be trippin'. And I think Gemma Whelan is nailing it - the whole point of Yara/Asha is to be butch!

  • lowercase_ryan

    Andre the Giant would have made a great Hodor. *le sigh*

  • AbbyNormal

    Frankly, I think everyone has been aptly cast so far and that your castings are quite poor but to each their own.

  • clambone

    Lena Headey has blown me away (I've only seen Season 1). I always found Cersei to
    be one of the most interesting characters, but heard her dialogue in my
    head in a rather booming, declarative voice, much like the evil queen in
    Disney's Snow White.

    I much prefer the way Lena Headey plays her as so demure that she's
    almost swallowing her words before she says them. She really stands out,
    especially in scenes with Robert and/or Ned, who are more likely to
    play to the back of room. It suits her much better and makes her
    plotting that much more theatrical.

    I'm really enjoying the series, and find her performance to be the
    biggest improvement over how I read it. I can't wait to see more.

  • *w00t*

    Oh My God yes!!! FUCK YEAH Iwan Rheon. He was far and away my favorite actor on Misfits and I'm so happy he has a role on one of my favorite shows :DDD *w00t*

  • celery

    Oh wow, Iwan Rheon is going to be amazing. Great casting.

    (now who can Robert Sheehan be?)

  • John G.

    What the fuck is wrong with you? All of these choices are terrible. I mean, Catelyn Stark could have been someone else, not the person you chose, but someone else. ALL OF THESE CHOICES ARE WRONG.

  • jM

    I don't agree with most of this, but I'm mostly with you on Gemma Whalen. She bored me until her last scene with Theon. I want her to have a bit more fire, I guess. And, it really doesn't take much more than being female to attract to Theon. Ros is the best he's done on the show and he had to pay her. Between him hitting on Osha before she even found a comb and the ship captain's daughter, why not his salt-stained sister?

  • competitivenonfiction

    Iwan Rheon will be perfect as Ramsay Snow. I'm still upset about the casting though because I fell so in love with him in Misfits and am not sure that my crush will survive Ramsay Snow.

  • I've not watched the series or read the books yet, so I was thinking of doing so solely to see Rheon on tv again. But from what I've heard, I'm not going to be happy to see him. Bollocks.

  • Snath

    Wait..Asha/Yara is too butch? That does not compute.

  • AngelenoEwok

    NO SUCH THING. AMIRITE?

  • Wednesday

    After seeing The Catherine Tate Show and her run on The Office, I don't think I'd find her believable as "Upright-Walking Mammal #4", much less a meaty role such as Catelyn. She's awful.

    I do like Yara (still wish they'd have called her Asha)...Theon's a dog and him trying to seduce Asha was about like being attracted to like AND his proclivity for seeing all women as his personal sexual playthings. Ruth Wilson was terrific on "Luther" but I think it would have to visualize her as a pragmatic leader of cutthroat pillagers and rapers.

    Also not sure why Hodor would require a lot of range. If you've got the physical impact, that's all that matters. He's not a deep character, nor does the book require any more complex characters.

  • John W

    The only one I don't have any reservations about is Ruth Wilson after seeing her on Luther, yes she would have been great as Asha.

    Vinnie Jones and Catherine Tate. No. I think Michelle Fairley is spot on. She's had her husband murdered, one daughter is being held hostage, the other is missing, one of her son's has been crippled and when she goes to her sister for help she's turned away. I think I would be sad and forlorn too for most of the novels under those conditions.

    I could see Jones playing the Hound but not Hodor.

    I haven't seen enough of the other actors you mentioned.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I know that Asha is in the books is a very different character than Yara has been in the show so far, but I enjoy them both. And too butch?! Too butch?! She's supposed to be a freaking viking that cuts some motherfuckers. I don't think throwing some mud and leather on Ruth Wilson would have sold that.

    Also, I know I've mentioned that book-Stannis is by far my least favorite character (there's no quicker way for me to finally start nodding off and need to put a book down than when I come to a chapter where someone's talking to him). But Dillane's performance has managed to breath some life into him for me.

  • BendinIntheWind

    Completely with you on Stannis. The little tweaks they've made plot-wise have done wonders for his character (leading the siege on Blackwater like a badass), but his performance has elevated the character from what largely came off in the books as a crotchety, short-sighted, entitled curmudgeon.

  • The night is dark and full of errors -- Stannis the Grammar Nazi

  • Fi

    I'm not sure what you mean by the whole thing where Gemma Whelan isn't right 'cause she's playing Asha (okay, fine, Yara) "just a little too butch." Would Theon be incapable of being attracted to her (before he knows she's his sister, that is) because she is... what? Capable? Fierce? Obviously a bad-ass? Unscented by flowery perfume? I don't know if I buy that. I think there is something in Theon that is drawn to strong women who could whip his ass if needed. And in any case, I hardly think that what we need in this day and age are more suggestions for traditionally pretty/feminine actresses when, in fact, those are pretty much the only ones we ever get to see anyway. Gemma Whelan is quite lovely, anyway, but that's beside the point.

  • Hazel Dean

    THIS times a million.

  • supafly

    Also your Vinnie Jones suggestion is fucking ridiculous. Hodor is poorly cast but that is beyond retarded as a suggestion.

  • John G.

    He's not poorly cast, if you remember that they cast him for that giant's cock.

  • supafly

    Your suggestion of Catherine Tate as Catelyn Stark is the worst suggestion in the history of all suggestions. About absolutely anything. For shame.

  • NynjaSquirrel

    I had to check the date and make sure it wasn't April the 1st.

  • Zahira

    When I read the books I still image Charlize Theron as Cersei. Cersei is suppose to be basically a playboy center fold who's crazy. Lena Heady doesn't play Cersei as someone who immediately uses sex to win over men. I also picture Asha/Yara as Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) with her short hair cut. Someone with a commanding presence. I do like who they've cast for Catelyn. Catherine Tate would have been a terrible terrible decision.

  • John G.

    Cersei is supposed to be someone who is just passing out of her playboy centerfold days.

  • POINGjam

    Hodor is likeable and Cersei is the best. Lena Headey pulls off stressed mood swings well.

  • I always pictured Zoe Bell in the role of Asha Greyjoy. She's hot and her wallet definitely says Bad Mother Fucker on it.

  • Guest

    Well this is a first... I disagree with this list 100% and I'm even a bit insulted by the Catherine Tate inclusion. Go watch the Catherine Tate show and then come back here to apologise immediately.

  • TheGreatUnstainer

    'No, Ned. Don't go to King's Landing because Doctor Donnnnaaaaaaaa Doctor Donnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaa.... Awwwwww, cheeky. Come 'ere, ya lug.'

    Shudder.

  • Mara

    I think all the actors are great, but I wish they would have bleached Lena Headey's eyebrows. Cersei is supposed to look like a shining golden fairy tale princess, but with total iron bitch underneath.

  • Kala

    Loved most of the casting. I guess I'm on a far off island on by me onesies, but I would love to see Catherine Tate take on a role as potentially juicy as Catelyn. Then again, I'm keen on the idea of actors playing against type.

    A respectful "no" to the idea of Ruth Wilson. WAY too textbook pretty. Whelan is perfect. She's no beautiful flower, but that wasn't what drew Theon to her in the first place. Asha/Yara presented herself with a hell of a lot of mouth and swagger, which is often far more alluring than mere looks.

  • stardust

    Same here, Kala. Sometimes comedians turn in the best dramatic performances. I think Tate has it in her.

  • Yocean

    Don't agree above number 3. Iwan Rheon as Ramsey could be awesome but isn't he bit too pretty? Well I guess with make up that intense eyes would be terrifying.

  • Jenne Frisby

    Have you seen Misfits? He has a good run there as someone that could potentially be pretty darn savage, in a thoroughly disturbing way. He's got a lot of range too, so I was really pleased by this news.

  • Lindzgrl

    I love Yara. I think she's brilliant in that part!

  • Cree83

    I can see the complaints for Gemma Whelan as Yara/Asha, but I just can't see hundreds of old bloodthirsty sea dogs falling in line behind this Ruth Wilson person. Maybe it's just that picture, in which she looks like a debutante.

    Although I will say that I did I picture Yara/Asha as being more of a 'tall, dark, and handsome' woman. Perhaps a younger Embeth Davidtz type.

  • I don't care for our Asha/Yara, but I think that Ruth Wilson would have been way too "textbook pretty" to pull it off. And Asha needs to be that combination of tough enough for men to follow (without constantly trying to nail her) and bitchy enough to carry some of Asha's actions/lines, but still just attractive enough that you buy Theon being attracted to her and thinking she's "different" than the other women he sees at port, and how he remembers the Iron Islands.

    And I'm glad someone finally said that Cersei and Catelyn were not exactly cast well. I don't buy Headey as the beautiful, golden Cersei (for that matter, although I do like our Jamie, he's not what I pictured either.) Fairley is just so sad, all the time, before she really gets to that point of (to borrow a phrase from another movie) "a man of constant sorrow."

  • KatSings

    Guess it just goes to show how a book can lead to so many individual interpretations. I have no objection to any of the people you do (maybe Stannis, but not with the replacement you have in mind). I've been really satisfied with the casting, to the point where during my re-reads of the series I'm starting to see those actors in my head. The only casting that was unfortunate, for me, was replacing Conan Stevens with Ian Whyte as Gregor Clegane. Which was unavoidable due to Conan's schedule, but still.

  • APOCooter

    Brienne of Tarth with the best photobomb ever.

  • Rooks

    Holy hell, your comment made me flinch and scroll back up. I didn't recognize her. She didn't even come to mind. But I did recognize that hairline behind Alfie Allen (or at least I think I did/do).
    And now I feel bad.

  • catagisreading

    thank god Catherine Tate was not given the opportunity to ruin another awesome show. She nearly killed Dr Who for me. You want one note, want that note to be unbelievable annoying Catherine's your gal.

  • Jenne Frisby

    I've been hearing this a lot lately, but I have to say that she's very nearly tied with Martha as my favorite (New) companion. They both got raw deals though... although I guess that's the fate of most of them.

  • NynjaSquirrel

    Ugh, Catherine Tate was just dire, and as Catag said almost completely turned me away from DW.

  • PyD

    this is just trolling right?
    I mean Tate - ayfkm?

  • Ailas

    I agree. Tate makes everything worse. Doctor Who, The Office, etc. Keep her away from TV. They are right about Gemma Whelan. She's an example of terrible casting, but the actress is doing the best she can with the role. It's not her fault she was miscast.

  • DeistBrawler

    I don't even think Kristian Nairn is big enough to be Hodor, and I certainly don't think Vinnie Jones would have pulled it off. You think Nairn can't convey emotion, but what does Jones have other than "I can murder you with a look?" He's too gruff from the dumb big idiot that Hodor is.

    I also think Michelle Fairley is a wonderful Catelyn Stark. Catherine Tate would be completely fucking wrong for the role. For one thing she's too abrassive. She certainly doesn't have the dignity nor look for someone who is playing nobility.

  • But... Catelyn Tully IS always sad and forlorn...?

  • Aislinn

    In her own words: "A creature of dust and bitter longings."

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I haven't read the books. But I really enjoy the performances of both Catelyn and Cersei, and I'm also enjoying Yara's performance. It's nice that not every woman needs to be a knockout. As for Theon's attraction to it...I just saw that as him essentially trying with every beddable woman.

    Isn't Hodor a simpleton?

  • Milly

    Saying Vinnie Jones had range was the start of the trolling sound alarm in my head.

  • John G.

    Yara was perfectly cast. I think Cindy Davis should be recast.

  • Jannymac

    I've always thought that the biggest blunder was in the casting of the Dog (forgot his name). In one of the scenes in the book he's described as being disfigured on the one side and handsome on the other side. I always thought that was such a great metaphor for GOT over all.

  • Rooks

    What exactly is your gripe with McCann? Not handsome enough or not disfigured enough? Or not capable enough as an actor?

  • Jannymac

    Not handsome enough. BUT I should say that I haven't seen the series (don't have cable), I've just read the books.
    In Family Guy, there's a funny scene where a fat woman is murdered and the little boy (I am getting soooo bad with names, lately) says "that would be so much more tragic if she had been thinner." I think that sums up where I'm going here.

  • KatSings

    The Hound, Sandor Clegane. And I've LOVED Rory McCann in the role so far.

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