Game of Thrones is filled with a diverse cast of characters who come in all shapes and sorts. As with any story focusing on a fictional universe, we usually see unique fashions, hair styles, and even characters who aren’t even the same species as some of their cast members. Game of Thrones is no different in that regard, and has a number of cast members who you would be pretty surprised to see how they look when they are out of costume.
This list will look at the most startling actors to see in their ordinary lives. Sure, we could include the likes of Jon Snow, but it’d be pretty silly since there isn’t much that differentiates the appearance of Kit Harrington from his on screen persona. So the actors on this list will be people who play characters who look significantly different than their real selves for one reason or another. Some of the actors play characters who are maimed, a non-human race, or who have simply grown up on screen and look significantly different now. Without further ado, let’s look at Game of Thrones: What Do the Actors Look Like in Real Life?
15. GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE AS BRIENNE
Gwendoline Christie makes the bottom of this list because Brienne isn’t a character who is maimed, disfigured, or especially altered by costumes like most of the characters later on in this list are. That being said, Brienne of Tarth has a reputation for being an ugly woman, and it’s a reputation that follows her as much as her prowess as a warrior does. But in real life, Christie doesn’t fit that former trait any more than she fits the latter.
Without dirt smears and other effects to make her look more worn down on screen, Gwendoline Christie looks surprisingly normal in real life. She stands out in particular, since Brienne is one of the few women on Game of Thrones who isn’t using blush and lipstick to alter her looks, so seeing her with make-up on in real life almost makes her look like a different person. It’s a shock what difference a few beauty products can make.
14. NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU AS JAIME LANNISTER
Talking about Jaime Lannister brings us to our first maimed character to make the list, and he certainly won’t be the last. Coster-Waldau clearly doesn’t have to deal with Jaime’s struggle of learning to adapt to using one hand, which was basically the start of a transformative period for one of the few kind Lannisters. It’ll quickly become apparent that a common theme on this list is the characters tend to look more run-down than the actors, and that’s certainly true for Coster-Waldau.
Jaime Lannister’s appearance has gone through a multitude of changes on the show, with his hair getting cut shorter, and him sporting a beard for a while as well. In real life, it looks like Coster-Waldau prefers to have a mishmash of his looks from the show, typically sporting shorter hair and some amount of stubble. Jaime has looked rather haggard at times during his journey, and his easy going smile has been worn down by his tribulations. Coster-Waldau seems to like the rougher look, as the biggest contrast in how he looks now comes from glancing back at his clean cut appearance in season 1.
13. ART PARKINSON AS RICKON STARK
Art Parkinson has the distinguishing trait of being one of the youngest regular cast members still on the show. And, of course, since he started on Game of Thrones as a young child, he’s still rapidly changing with each year that goes by. Some child stars pretty much keep their same looks into adulthood, like Leonardo DiCaprio, but others wind up looking so different that it’s a surprise they’re the same person. It looks like Art Parkinson might be heading for that latter category.
As you can see just from side by side shots of Rickon from the show, he’s changed quite a bit over the years. He’s lost those wide, innocent eyes, while the hair has only become longer and curlier. It’s a look that Art seems to enjoy even when he’s off the set, though he could just be under a Kit Harrington-type of contract that forbids him from cutting his hair. Regardless, if Game of Thrones finishes by the seventh season, it’ll be quite a look back to see what Parkinson looked like at the very start and at the very end.
12. ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT AS BRAN STARK
Isaac Hempstead Wright, better known to show viewers as Bran Stark, is another one of the show’s young actors who have changed quite a bit. Even just from watching the show each season, we’ve seen Bran slowly shed his longish hair and adopt a shorter style. Like Art Parkinson, he’s also lost his baby face for the most part, as he’s advanced into becoming a full-on teenager.
While the most obvious difference between Bran and Wright is that the latter stands taller due to being able to use his legs, Wright also has a different fashion sense off the set. In a lot of interviews he seems to favor glasses over contacts, and the specs lend a whole new look to his face. With the glasses there’s no doubt that he looks less like a young lord and more like a kid you went to high school with.
11. RORY MCCANN AS SANDOR CLEGANE
It’s usually preferable for an actor or actress to naturally resemble their character as much as possible before being chosen for a role, but in lieu of Rory McCann having a genuinely melted face, we can make an exception for this one. Sure, the make up for Sandor Clegane’s half burned face doesn’t always look totally convincing, but it’s the best that can be done, barring finding a great actor who just happens to already have had a bad accident in their life.
In real life, Rory McCann has less scar tissue, and less hair as well. Sandor uses his longer hair to try and conceal his injury, but obviously McCann has no such reason to let his own hair grow out. And it certainly makes Rory looks like a more approachable person than the typically gruff personality of the Hound. But then, most viewers have learned to soften on Sandor when compared to his brother.
4. LAURA PRADELSKA AS QUAITHE
Even though she’s such a minor character in the grand scheme of the story, there’s no doubt that the actress behind Quaithe is one of the most surprising to see in real life just because we finally get a look at her face. Though, admittedly, seeing her face at the time she was first on Game of Thrones would not have led to too much recognition from fans since Quaithe was one of her earliest acting parts.
Fortunately for Laura Pradelska, she’s not someone who anyone would say is in need of a mask. She looks fine without it, and has continued to gain roles in new movies and shows since her brief time on Game of Thrones. Her mysterious character of Quaithe will probably always be best remembered for her unusual mask rather than the woman beneath it, leaving fans to wonder what the storyline explanation was for what she looked like beneath it. But in real life, the face of the native of Germany is one that we’ll probably be getting a lot more accustomed to.
9. HARRY LLOYD AS VISERYS TARGARYEN
Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen don’t share the silver hair and purple eyes that Targaryen siblings of the books do, but on screen they share having blond hair and brown eyebrows. Though that’s probably less of an intentional design choice and more because it can be a hassle to dye eyebrows.
Like Emilia Clarke, Harry Lloyd looks pretty shocking with his normal hair after getting used to his look on the show. Though it’s honestly a good change, since blond just doesn’t seem to be his color. However, it does make you wonder why they didn’t just cast a blond actor in the first place since they knew that was the look they were interested in portraying? Not that we’re complaining, since Lloyd did quite well in his short time on the show, before he got his infamous crown.
8. JASON MOMOA AS KHAL DROGO
A lot of the actors on this list look nothing like their characters at all when they’re out of costume, but a few just bring such a distinct look to their appearance on and off set. Jason Momoa certainly seems to fit into that latter category. Sure, he lacks the eye liner in real life, but the rest of his look seems to be the genuine Momoa.
In reality, Jason is still a tall guy, over six feet in height, and also seems to share Khal Drogo’s fashion sense for keeping his hair long. Though admittedly, he might just keep his hair that way since he seems to land repeated roles for warrior characters. He didn’t last long as Drogo on Game of Thrones, but he continued to wield weapons for his role in 2011’s Conan the Barbarian, as well as his upcoming role as Aquaman in the Justice League movie.
7. HAFÞÓR JÚLÍUS BJÖRNSSON AS “THE MOUNTAIN” GREGOR CLEGANE
Now being honest, one major reason you might not recognize Björnsson off screen is because, depending on which season of Game of Thrones you’re watching, Gregor Clegane could be played by one of three different actors. But Björnsson is the one we’re featuring since he is the latest to take on the role, and after the Mountain’s fight against the Viper, most definitely the actor who has had the most memorable scene as the character.
As you can see, Björnsson is no less massive in real life, and has the added intimidation factor of boasting some pretty large tattoos which demonstrate he’s no more afraid of being pierced by a tattoo machine for a few hours than he is Oberyn Martell’s spear. Björnsson might just be the only actor on this list you’d have trouble recognizing because you’d think no one could possibly be that huge in real life. You’d be wrong, though. Look beneath those tattoo sleeves and you’ll find arms bigger than your head.
6. CONLETH HILL AS VARYS
Of all the characters on Game of Thrones there are few portrayed as accurately as that of Varys. Book fans couldn’t help but be pleased with the depiction that was so spot on to the fleshy, pale, bald man described in the novels. Sure, you can still have the same character just from getting the correct mannerisms and keeping their story relatively the same, but the right look is a big step in winning over the book readers.
Conleth Hill, the actor behind Varys, went the extra mile to ensure he resembled his book counterpart. As you can see above, he’s not naturally bald. Some actors might be deterred if they don’t immediately have the right look for a part, but Hill has been dedicated enough to shave his head for the part for going on seven seasons now. It makes for quite the different look, and shows what commitment the actors have to their roles on the show.
5. CARICE VAN HOUTEN AS MELISANDRE
The priestess Melisandre is so well known for her red outfits and red hair that you might assume she’s a natural redhead, or at least goes around like that in real life. But evidently Carice van Houten doe not consider red her color, and as seen above, prefers to go about with her natural brown hair when she is not filming for Game of Thrones.
And it should go without saying, but Melisandre’s older form that we saw this season obviously looks nothing like van Houten in real life. She’s not exactly a child at this stage in her career, but not even the best make up artist out there could not make her look that old at this point in her career. Still, we’re so used to seeing her draped in crimson that getting to see her show off some other colors can make for quite a difference.
4. IAN WHYTE AS WUN WUN
And now we’re really starting to get into the characters who you would have a seriously tough time recognizing out of costume. In fact, Ian Whyte is so well disguised as Wun Wun the giant that you may be in the dark about the actor already having had a role on Game of Thrones years before he ever played Wun Wun. You’ve probably noticed that Gregor Clegane has had multiple actors on the show, and before the show runners settled on the intimidating looking Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson for the role, Ian Whyte had screen time as the Mountain as well.
Now you might think that just because someone plays a giant on TV that that’s just a character. But this guy played two of the most enormous characters on Game of Thrones for a reason—he’s gigantic even when the cameras aren’t rolling. Ian Whyte looks a lot less scary when he’s not dressed as someone that would break you in half, but he uses his size well to land roles as various monstrous figures in a variety of TV shows and movies.
3. EMILIA CLARKE AS DAENERYS TARGARYEN
It’s only natural a few members of royalty from Westeros would make this list. After all, these characters are usually so dressed up that just seeing them in a plain shirt can make for a shocking difference. But this is especially true for Emilia Clarke since unlike many of the Game of Thrones cast, this was her first major role, so viewers haven’t had a whole lot to compare her appearance by.
The most obvious difference between Daenerys Targaryen and Emilia Clarke is the hair. You can tell just from looking at her on screen that Dany’s blond hair isn’t a natural color since not too many people are born with blond hair and brown eyebrows. It’s not dye though, but rather a wig. And when she’s not wearing it, she nearly looks like a different person. While many of the characters from the show look better in real life due to not being dressed in rags or smeared with dust and blood, Daenerys is always dressed like royalty, and yet Emilia’s casual outfits in real life can still look even nicer than her time as a Khaleesi.
2. VLADIMIR FURDIK AS THE NIGHT KING
Though we’ve already seen the actor behind the Night King on screen when Bran witnessed the children of the forest creating the white walkers, the costume and special effects for the character are so intricate that you probably did not even realize he has been played by two different actors in the series. Pictured above is the latest actor to take on the role, Vladimir Furdik, but in earlier seasons he was portrayed by Richard Brake. If you could tell the difference between the two without being told, then you must have a really keen eye.
Obviously we would not expect the man behind the Night King to actually have blue skin and frosty eyes, but it’s still stunning to see that an ordinary looking person can become such an imposing looking character. If not for how far behind the scenes we get to see nowadays thanks to interviews, IMDB pages, and so on, Vladimir is the type of actor who could easily walk around unrecognized when he was done leading ice zombies and returned to ordinary life.
1. OCTAVIA ALEXANDRU AS LEAF
Once the white walkers got represented on this list, you knew the children of the forest couldn’t be far behind. Leaf ranks at the top of this list because while some of the white walkers have at least resembled human beings and given us a glimpse of who could be beneath the make up, the costumes for Leaf and her fellow forest dwellers are so elaborate that they truly look like a totally different species.
As you can see, the actress behind Leaf lives up to the “children” part of her on screen species, because she herself is still a child. The young Octavia Alexandru is a dancer in real life, and her role on Game of Thrones is one of her earliest acting roles as well. It’s an impressive starting role, especially for such a young talent, but Alexandru really showed off her skill by becoming completely immersed in a role that leaves her unidentifiable once the make up comes off and she goes back to being an ordinary child.
Which characters were the most surprising to see how they look in real life? Tell us in the comments, and share any other characters you know from the show who look way different out of costume!