The HBO series adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series Game of Thrones has continuously broken records in viewership as well as awards won. It’s one of the most popular shows in the world for its content, storyline, ground-breaking cinematography, and of course, acting. Audiences have come to know and love the actors, yet only really know them as the character they play. We thought we’d show you what they look like in real life, along with some fun facts about them, their characters, and what it takes to be a part of Game of Thrones. Have you seen what the actress who plays Cersei Lannister looks like in real life?
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)
Looking a bit more put-together in real life, without his battle scars and sporting a suit, it looks as though Dinklage didn’t need too much done in order to pull off the Tyrion Lannister look. Of course, they did need to change his hair color to give him the signature golden hair of a Lannister, and he also needed to grow out his beard since hygiene is not of the utmost importance in Westeros.
Before truly coming into his own on Game of Thrones, Dinklage acted in films such as Elf, Find Me Guilty, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and more. Since playing Tyrion Lannister, he has won an Emmy, been nominate numerous times, and also won a Golden Globe.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)
When she’s not playing Arya Stark, who slits throats and knocks people off her kill list on Game of Thrones, it looks as if Maisie Williams can be seen wearing pink dresses, jewelry, and a big smile, unlike her rather dark character. Who would have thought that a girl who pulled off playing a little boy for an extended period of time could clean up so well?
Although her character resents the idea of being lady-like, it appears that’s not the case in reality. It must be nice to clean off all of the dirt and muck she’s consistently covered in all the time during shooting!
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie)
On Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie portrays the fiercely loyal monster of a woman named Brienne of Tarth. She is known for her ruthlessness in combat and most men have to look up to even speak with her. Although her character certainly seems formidable enough, Christie’s demeanor out of costume seems much more approachable and even perky, something Brienne is incapable of in Game of Thrones.
The character she plays is interesting enough, but there are some pretty unique facts about the actress too. Prior to acting, Gwendoline was a semi-professional gymnast and considered becoming a nun. She also doesn’t know how old she is!
Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
Since Jamie is described in the book series as being stunningly attractive and the best swordsman in the realm (until he lost his hand), it is no surprise that they chose handsome Coster-Waldau as the man to play him on the television show. Much like Peter Dinklage, it looks like they didn’t have to do much work to make him look like Jamie Lannister except give him some golden hair and throw some Kingsgaurd armor on him.
Also, in his picture in real life, it’s nice to see him crack a smile — which isn’t something that happens all that often in the series. It has to be a relief to switch from armor to a suit every once and a while.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)
Although Turner is pretty in both the television show as well as real life, it’s certainly nice to see some color in her face off of the set and out of costume. Looks like she has no problem slipping out of her animal skin furs and Stark regalia to trade it in for a nice dress while in public.
It’s always interesting to see these characters with real makeup on their face instead of makeup that is supposed to make them look as gaunt and miserable as possible on the show. Turner seems to be doing alright for herself considering that the Lady of Winterfell just recently got engaged to Joe Jonas.
Jon Snow (Kit Harrington)
Potentially the actor with the least transformation to play their character on the show, Kit Harrington has become a heartthrob worldwide. He’s always been an attractive lad, but his heroic deeds and strong character as Jon Snow have brought him global attention by all, Game of Thrones fans or not.
To play Jon Snow, it looks like he has to throw his hair in a man bun in case of a sword fight, and don his King of the North outfit complete with Valyrian steel sword Longclaw, of course. Also, some makeup is applied to make Harrington look as stressed and battle-worn as his character is.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
Although she’s a favorite on the television show, you very well might pass by Emilia Clarke on the street unknowingly without her staple silver Targaryen hair or dragon companions. Emilia Clarke certainly undergoes many transformations on-set according to what her character Daenerys is undergoing at the time. She goes from clean to dirty back to clean so many times it makes your head spin.
Clarke also goes through numerous costume changes as Daenerys slowly rises to power throughout the series. Even though she rides a mechanical bull-like mechanism in front of a green screen during her dragon riding scenes, it feels as though she really has a special connection with them.
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen)
It looks like a shower and a haircut does Alfie Allen quite a bit of good and considering that he wasn’t actually tortured for years on end probably helps too. Like most characters on the show, it’s nice to see Allen doing something other than grimacing or crying right before Ramsay takes of another one of his appendages like in the show.
It’s a pleasant reminder that these actors and actresses are actually real people and haven’t suffered the atrocities of their characters. Believe it or not, Allen’s sister is the famous singer-songwriter Lily Allen whose hit song “Alfie” is about him being a lazy, pothead little brother.
Lord Varys (Conleth Hill)
Who would have ever thought we would see the day when the Master of Whisperers and eunuch Lord Vanys has hair! Conleth Hill is another Game of Thrones actor that you might not recognize while out in public. We’ve never seen Lord Varys without a perfectly shaved head and face with his signature robes.
Now, that we think about it, have we even ever gotten a glimpse of his hands? Hill notes that he had never been bald in the 47 years he had been alive unless he is filming for the show, and now people get weirded out by his hair.
The Night King (Vladimir Furdik)
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!
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)
Clearly, in real life, Isaac Hempstead Wright looks much more like your average teenager than Bran Stark does on Game of Thrones. We all know that must be downright miserable for Wright to wear his hair all matted down to his face like that. Oh, it also must not be the most enjoyable thing to be constantly dragged around in the snow or sitting in a medieval style wheelchair in every scene he is in.
One of the most noticeable costume changes that can be observed in Bran’s character is mostly based on age. He starting filming at such a young age and has had over six years to mature which has also affected his character.
Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham)
Davos Seaworth is one of the noblest and wisest characters throughout the series. By the looks of Liam Cunningham in real life, he’s also an approachable man who you could ask for any kind of advice on any subject. He’s just not wearing any armor and has put on some spectacles.
Other than that, he looks exactly the same as his character on the show. His beard is the exact same length and color as well as his hair. So it must not be too much effort for Cunningham to get ready for individual scenes, but that armor has to be heavy.
The Hound (Rory McCann)
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.
Bronn (Jerome Flynn)
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.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady)
It is no secret that Lena Heady was riding the wave of a very successful acting career years before Game of Thrones even aired. Yet now, she plays one of the most resented people on television. For the character of Cersei, they didn’t need to do much to amplify Heady’s beauty except giver her exceptionally bright Lannister-colored hair.
However, that staple look of her character was eventually cut off after her walk of atonement in the show (and it was cut in real life, too). These days, she’s rocking the short-hair look like nobody’s business. Heady also has to be sure to cover up the various tattoos she has on her back.
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson)
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.
Gilly (Hannah Murray)
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!
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West)
Out of costume, it is clear that John Bradley-West has much more confidence than his character of Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones. Although he’s still wearing black as he does in every scene he’s in on the show, the pea coat is much more fitting. It appears that they need to add extra padding to the interior of his costume in order to make him seem a bit thicker in the belly for the show.
They do this because in both the books and the show, a fundamental aspect of his character is being a bit more overweight than all of the other characters he surrounds himself with.
High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce)
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.
Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman)
Michiel Huisman plays the suave swashbuckling sellsword by the name of Daario Naharis. It’s amazing how a little bit of hair growth — or lack of it — can change someone’s appearance. It could be argued that his character in the show fits society’s current ideals of what it means to be attractive for a male with the beard and hair.
It’s actually kind of surprising his character doesn’t have a man bun. Thankfully for Huisman, it doesn’t take long for him to transform into the character, just a few weeks without cutting his hair or shaving and he’s ready to go.
Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg)
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.
Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa)
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.
Melisandre (Carice van Houten)
The Red Woman looks a lot less terrifying out of costume. We’ve seen what the priestess is capable of doing (like convincing a man to burn his own daughter or bringing Jon Snow back to life) so we know just how dangerous that smirk can be. In real life though, Carice van Houten is as sweet and down to earth as it gets.
Van Houten notably refuses to live in Hollywood, saying that living in Europe is much more her lifestyle. Despite her sweet personality, she tends to take on darker characters.
Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer)
Whether she’s in character or not, there’s no mistaking Natalie Dormer’s stunning looks. Her character Margaery Tyrell uses those doe-eyes and low cut costumes to their advantage to rise to power, but in real life Dormer is much more low-key. While they say blondes have more fun, she prefers to use her incredible acting skills to get ahead.
Dormer got her start in the industry by playing Anne Boleyn in The Tudors, but once she landed her GoT role she’s been unstoppable. Most notably, she played Cressida in The Hunger Games franchise where she had to shave the left side of her head.
Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen)
When he’s not dressed in the heavy armor as Jorah Mormont, Iain Glen looks…well he looks pretty much the same. The big difference is that out of character he looks a lot more stress-free. Trying to simultaneously protect and spy on Daenerys is not an easy job and takes a lot out of you.
Now that’s he’s contracted Greyscale though, season eight will show a very different Jorah. It will probably be fun for Glen to actually look like a brand new, unrecognizable character.
Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance)
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.
Hodor (Kristian Nairn)
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.”
Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson)
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.
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright)
Isaac Hempstead-Wright is only 19 years old and he’s already one of the most famous actors in the world, thanks to his role as Bran Stark AKA The Three-Eyed Raven. The only real major difference between his character and Hempstead-Wright in real life is that he never got pushed out a tower window, so he doesn’t need to be pulled around by Hodor.
Thanks to his young age, we’ve had the pleasure of watching Hempstead-Wright grow up in front of our eyes on Game of Thrones. He’s gone from shaggy-haired, quiet Bran to shaggy-haired pensive Bran.
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.
Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley)
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.