There are a lot of incredible characters on Game of Thrones. If you’ve watched the show you know that every single character has a very distinct look. While you might never mistake the series popular characters on the small screen, you might not recognize the actors who play them if you were to walk by them on the street. The makeup artists and costume designers for Game of Thrones do an amazing job when it comes to transforming the show’s stars into the men and women they portray. Here are 25 Game of Thrones characters you might not recognize in real life.
Kit Harington as John Snow
Jon Snow is one of the most popular characters on Game of Thrones and the actor who plays him, Kit Harington, has done an amazing job of showcasing the character’s tortured life and his immense strength in the face of adversity.
If you were to walk up to Kit Harington on the street you might recognize him, but it could take a double take before you were able to draw the connection. Maybe it’s the glasses or maybe it’s the fact that he’s not wearing his usual battle gear.
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
It’s truly amazing what a transformation can be accomplished by putting Sophie Turner into some period clothing and then coloring her hair. She has done a great job in her role as Sansa Stark.
Truth be told, she’s a beauty on the show and in real life. She’s the elder daughter of Lady Catelyn and Lord Eddard Stark and a true beauty to behold. She does look a little older with the red hair but not enough to be shocking to fans who happen upon her in real life.
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Peter Dinklage, with his beard and mustache, is one of the few actors on our list who actually looks more out of place in real life than he does as the clean-cut Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones.
You might walk right past him on the street if not for his easy-to-recognize brow and distinctive stature. I have to admit, I find his real-life persona to be more alluring and manly. Plus he acts the heck out of his role so we have mad respect for his skills.
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
I’m a huge fan of GoT but I have to admit I would probably walk right by Lena Headey in real life without paying her a second notice. Her short hair that covers the top of her forehead makes her look nothing like her character, Cersei Lannister.
The makeup and hair team for Game of Thrones have done an amazing job transforming her into a memorable character. Plus, she freaks us out beyond belief and that’s just an impressive acting job by itself.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jamie Lannister
We didn’t think it was possible, but Jamie Lannister is even sexier in real life than he is on Game of Thrones. Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau takes his stubble to the extreme while not acting on the popular HBO series.
It really works for him and provides a scruffy manly look. He also styles his hair far better than the show’s makeup team does for his character. But we will take him however we can get him.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
While Emilia Clarke has some very distinct facial features, she is still a much different-looking character on the show. Her lipstick is toned down which makes her lips less prominent on the show, and her hair is pulled back most of the time to reveal more of her face.
In either case, she is a beautiful actress and her character is the type of powerful and thoughtful type of person we want to stand behind and cheer for throughout her quick and surprising rise to power.
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell
Natalie Dormer’s character is a master of manipulation who uses her sex appeal and cute smile to get her way. Oddly enough, we feel like she’s more of a dangerous sexy vixen in real life.
Her flowing blonde hair makes her look more mature when she’s off the screen. Regardless of her looks, some things can’t be avoided – even with a cute smile, as we learned towards the end of the most recent season of Game of Thrones.
Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark
His hair’s different, he’s wearing glasses, and he actually smiles in real life. Admittedly upon first look, we would probably walk right past Wright without giving him a second look. He’s actually a pretty “casual stylish” guy in real life.
He most certainly looks less weary and world traveled, which makes him look younger. I’m sure the ladies reading this would agree that he’s cute in any form. We expect to see him in many other roles in the years to come.
Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton
I get the nervous every time I look at Ramsay Bolton. His sadistic acts and ominous crazy demeanor are riveting but also incredibly disturbing. In real life, he looks like a really nice, maybe even a likable guy.
His hair is a bit different and his eyes don’t look so dead, which by the way was an impressive feat of acting on his part. He really does a great job of going from sadistic-looking to pretty ordinary in real life.
Kae Alexander as Leaf
British Japanese actress Kae Alexander plays the role of Leaf in the Game of Thrones series. Leaf is one of the remaining members of the Children of the Forest, a dying race of mystical non-humans who worship nature, and above all, the Weirwood trees.
Leaf aided in the creation of the White Walkers thousands of years ago in hopes of having a fighting chance against the men who had come to Westeros, waging war on the children and destroying the Weirwood Trees.
Vladimir Furdik as The Night King
Slovakian actor Vladimir Furdik plays the Night King, the leader of the White Walkers and controller of the Army of the Dead. Furdik is a stuntman who decided to try his hand at acting after he was approached by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
He plays the ultimate threat in the Game of Thrones universe and does a great job at it. Surely, his character has given countless people nightmares even though the Night King doesn’t have one word of dialogue in the whole show!
Carice Van Houten as Lady Melisandre
Carice Van Houten is hot. Lady Melisandre is not. This is one of the Game of Thrones stars we would definitely walk right past on the street without realizing in any way that such a beauty plays the hideous character we see above.
It helps that in real life she has a full set of hair and doesn’t look like a gray monster who wants to eat your soul. We give all of the credit to the makeup team for this transformation.
Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei
The hair. The hair. The hair. Let’s talk about Nathalie Emmanuel and her hair. She has a full-on afro in Game of Thrones but wears her hair a bit more relaxed in real life. We can’t get over the fact that her dresses on-screen and in everyday appearances seem to match up oddly well.
I have to admit that I like her hair pulled back a little more to reveal more of her face and her ears. She’s a sexy female both in real life and on the small screen.
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
Brienne of Tarth has quickly become one of my favorite characters. I always figured that with her very distinct look on the show that I would spot her in public in seconds.
Truth be told, when her hair isn’t combed all the way back, her facial features look completely different. Without the armor, she appears more feminine as well. We even have a photo when she’s smiling and she has a cute smile.
Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
Greyjoy didn’t start to look crazy until Ramsay got his hands on him. He is actually a really good-looking guy on the show, especially when he’s not being twitchy after being repeatedly tortured.
I would probably pass right by him in real life but then do a double take over his face. He seems like a really normal guy you — someone you would have a drink with at the pub without realizing he’s a star on Game of Thrones.
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
Arya Stark is quickly becoming a fan favorite on Game of Thrones and that may be because of her transition from a tomboy to a young woman taking charge of her own life and destiny.
We chose to show her extremes, from blind street wanderer to gorgeous young Hollywood starlet. I’m 100% sure I would walk right past this hot actress and only pay attention because she’s gorgeous and not because she’s on Game of Thrones.
Conleth Hill as Varys
Here’s yet another star from the series who looks better in real life. Actor Conleth Hill looks like a creepy monk-type character on Game of Thrones, and because we never fully understand his motives, he’s a bit of a creepy mystery.
In real life, he looks like a guy who should be playing a typical TV dad on any other show. He’s a distinguished gentleman who looks like he enjoys a glass of whiskey after a long day.
Aidan Gillen as Peter Bealish
Take away the beard and mustache and actor Aidan Gillen looks refreshing. He definitely doesn’t look like a brothel owner in real life, which is a step up compared to his cathouse-owning character on Game of Thrones.
His facial features are distinct, so even with the differences in his appearance, we would probably recognize him in real life.
Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy
Yara Greyjoy is a war-torn lady who is hellbent on restoring honor to her family name. She looks dirty, unafraid of a fight, and is often visibly angry. In real life, Gemma Whelan is a super cutie.
I would place her in the “take her home to meet the parents” category. What amazes us most are her beautiful eyes that look so alive, even though they look dark and mysterious on GoT. This is definitely quite the transformation.
Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth
Admittedly, Liam Cunningham is probably one of the most recognizable actors on this list. He pretty much maintains the same hairstyle and facial hair that he wears on the show. His biggest difference is the glasses that he is often spotted wearing when not filming scenes for Game of Thrones.
His facial hair is a little bit more trimmed but that’s pretty much the biggest difference in his two looks.
Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis
Huisman is another actor on our list who we would probably recognize in real life. He wears the same facial hair in real life and his flowing hair is hard to ignore. The coloring in his hair is the biggest change we could spot, but overall he’s the Daario Naharis we have come to love – and even admire – for his devotion to the mother of dragons.
Not only would we recognize him, we’d probably stop and try to chat.
Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont
The biggest difference setting Iain Glen apart from his Game of Thrones character is the lighter natural hair color he wears when not filming for the show. He’s another actor who appears less worn, torn, and weary than his GoT character.
He’s also a bit more clean-cut in real life which makes him look distinguished. We love his casual and confident look.
Art Parkinson as Rickon Stark
Art Parkinson looks like a young boy going through puberty in real life, and not so much like a Stark who is in a constant battle to protect his land and live up to the family legacy. I would honestly have no inkling that the actor above was on Game of Thrones if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.
He’s definitely a better-looking character than a real-life person.
Natalia Tena as Osha
Tena’s character is often dirty and her hair is all over the place. Perhaps that’s why seeing her in real life is such an eye opener. She is a real stunner and that is likely owed to the fact that she isn’t covered in dirt in real life.
Her darker hair in real life would probably be enough for many fans to walk right by without realizing who she is. She really does become transformed from real life to the small screen.
Max von Sydow as The Three-Eyed Raven
Max von Sydow is one of those distinguished actors that you see and immediately recognize. His hair is lighter on Game of Thrones but ultimately his appearance is unmistakable. He even maintains the same smirk and furrowed brows in real life.
It’s as if he is living the character he plays on the show. He does look a little younger in real life and I’m sure he’s not complaining about that.
Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand
I wouldn’t recognize Indira Varma if I saw her in real life. She wears her hair completely different off-screen than she does for the hit TV show, and she appears to be more whimsical in real life.
It’s really amazing how even the smallest makeup choices can transform her into a character that we have all watched with intensity. She’s an interesting personality on the show, that’s for sure.
John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly
Give him a much better haircut and a shave, and John Bradley-West is actually a very nice looking young man. His character has become more strong-willed in recent seasons which is great, after watching him admit to being a coward for far too long.
His face is definitely recognizable but with his haircut and clean-shaven look, it would probably take me a minute to recognize him in real life.
Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark
Catelyn Stark had a short but memorable tenure on Game of Thrones. As the matriarch of the Stark family, she was as no-nonsense as it got, but still supported her son marrying the love of his life (even if it got them all murdered at the Red Wedding).
In real life, Michelle Fairley looks just as much of a boss chick as her character. Her other characters like Dr. Ava Hessington from Suits and Margot Al-Harazi from 24: Live Another Day are people we wouldn’t want to mess with.
Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju)
The leader of the Wildlings certainly has a wild look to him, and the actor who portrays him keeps up that image in real life. Of course, Kristofer Hivju knows how to clean up when he needs to on the red carpet. We can only assume that they didn’t have ponytails back in Westeros.
In real life, Hivju is from a Norwegian acting family. His mother, father, and cousin are all actors. He even graduated from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts. Hivju has also worked as a producer and writer.
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon
Without the crown, evil smirk, and overall sadistic mannerisms Jack Gleeson looks like any other teenager out there. Joffrey Baratheon was one of the most hated characters because he was such an evil, spoiled brat of a king. It might be hard to separate the character from the actor but all of Gleeson’s co-stars insist he’s one of the nicest people on the set.
Don’t expect to see Gleeson take on any other evil characters in the future though. After his time on GoT ended, he retired from acting and now runs a touring theatre company.
Kristian Nairn as Hodor
I think we can all agree that no one expected Hodor to serve up punk rock hipster vibes in real life. That’s because in real life, he’s a DJ. While he’s gone on to act in other film and television shows, playing the friendly giant was Nairn first acting role ever.
After he takes off the multiple layer of fur coats, Nairn returns to DJ. He is the resident house DJ at a gay club in Belfast, Ireland and in 2014 went on a DJ tour called “Rave of Thrones.”
Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister
Charles Dance is one of the most respected actors in England, but most of us know him as the head of the Lannister family. His character might dress relatively modestly but don’t be fooled, he’s one of the wealthiest men in the Seven Kingdoms and one of the most powerful political figures in Westeros.
You’d never guess that the man on the right in the same person who was shot to death with a crossbow by his own son, while he was sitting on the toilet. Tywin’s death has definitely gone down in GoT history.
Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo
Let’s be honest, Jason Momoa was a perfect fit to play the character of Khal Drogo. Even without the tribal tattoos, braided beard, and dark makeup he still has a king-of-the-wild-tribe vibe going on. Still, outside of the costume it’s obvious that Momoa can clean up well. No one expected the Khal to look so good in a pink velvet suit.
Thanks to his unique appearance, Momoa has been able to land a ton of similar roles. He portrayed the character of Conan the Barbarian and in 2014 took on the role of DC’s Aquaman.
Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell
Without her character’s classic medieval head covering, it might be difficult to identify Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell. In the show, she is always dressed extremely regally and is usually trailed by one or two servants ready to cater to her various needs. Seeing her in relatively normal clothes without all of her jewelry and flowy gowns can come as a bit of a shock.
Also, she doesn’t have her usual expression of “I know something that you don’t” and isn’t scheming behind your back which makes her extra unrecognizable. In real life, Diana Rigg looks like she’d bake you cookies rather than assassinate your firstborn son.
Jonathan Pryce as High Sparrow
In the television series, Jonathan Pryce plays the pious, yet not so innocent, High Sparrow. He is so dedicated to his faith and being “a man of the people” that he does not bathe, change clothes, wear shoes, or take care of any personal hygiene at all. Out of costume, Pryce looks like a respectable human being in comparison to his character’s homeless appearance, as though he grew up on the streets in Flea Bottom.
Although not much can be done about his hair, it’s amazing what a shower and a change of clothes can do for an actor. One of the few makeup transformations appears to be the application of even thicker eyebrows to really emphasize his rather evil facial expressions.
Hannah Murray as Gilly
In the television series, we see Gilly as a rather distressed new mother still recovering from her previous life north of the wall. She is usually dressed in her old and dirty brown robes that she’s probably worn for the majority of her life, with tangled hair and no makeup.
But have no fear, actress Hannah Murray looks far from the character that she portrays on the show. She clearly has not lived a life of abuse, doesn’t have the stresses of being a new mother, and has the time to keep up with her personal hygiene. It’s probably more time and work to make her look bad than good!
Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm
Jacob Anderson plays Grey Worm, the elite fighter and leader of Daenerys’ Unsullied Army. In the novels as well as the show, Grey Worm was castrated when he was a slave during childhood, so in the show they make him appear to have very boyish features for his age.
They do this by keeping him totally clean-shaven except for his head during filming. He also had to keep his body in tip-top shape considering that he wears the most revealing armor in the entire show, with his arms exposed at all times.
Jerome Flynn as Bronn
By the looks of his clothes and the smile on his face, Jerome Flynn has a much better attitude than Bronn, the character that he plays on the show. Although the hair is the same, there’s clearly some makeup that goes into making him look older, more sinister, and worn out.
Without all of this makeup, he actually looks like a real person who hasn’t been fighting and killing people since he was a young boy. He also looks a lot more innocent without his broadsword at his side or the knife he also keeps secretly behind his back.
Rory McCann as The Hound
From first glance, it’s obvious that the makeup team on Game of Thrones had to put in some serious work on Rory McCann’s face every day of shooting. They did a really good job of making him look as ugly as possible, and you’d never guess what he looks like in real life.
His half-burned prosthetic face takes two hours to put on and a half an hour to get off. McCann noted that the prosthetic would fill up with sweat and would leak every time that he smiled. He’s one of the main characters in the show that actually had to consistently wear such a detailed prosthetic since day one of shooting.