One of the main reasons for the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones are the actors. These are dedicated professionals who do everything they can to become their onscreen characters. But the show is also full of characters who are dirty, grimy, scarred, and even dismembered. Some have lost limbs, some have different hair colors, and some are so covered with mud and muck that fans can barely see their faces beneath those of the characters.
Many of these actors spend hours in the makeup chair before filming their scenes. They have their hair and faces completely altered to a point that they become unrecognizable. But that’s the beauty of Game of Thrones: the show’s makeup and wardrobe department is so good that they can take a well-known actor and make them virtually unrecognizable.
It’s likely that many of the actors from the series never get Game of Thrones fans approaching them on the streets because they look so completely different on television.
Here are Game Of Thrones: 15 Actors Who Look Shockingly Different From Their Characters.
15. Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth)
Fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire books, the series that HBO based Game of Thrones on, understand that the descriptions of Brienne of Tarth mention that she’s not just woman in armor, but that she is also quite brawny and yes, even ugly. So that meant that HBO needed an actress that could handle sweating it out in armor without makeup, with stringy hair and a face dirtied up so much that only a mother (and a cadre of fans) could love it.
That actress was Gwendoline Christie. Fans were ultimately shocked when they finally saw what she looked like offscreen, though. The tall and leggy Christie ended up being quite a knock-out: pretty much the exact opposite of how Brienne gets described in the books and gets depicted on the show.
14. Ian White (Wun Wun)
It takes a great deal of makeup and special effects to make a guy like Ian Whyte look like one of Game of Thrones‘ giants, but HBO did a stellar job in making the actor completely unrecognizable in the role. As Wun Wun, Whyte is one of the Free Folk Giants saved by Jon Snow, who takes him south of the Wall.
The heavy prosthetics and makeup that Whyte wears in the role is pretty remarkable and looks realistic, but underneath all that is just a regular good-looking Welshman.
However, Whyte is something of a giant: he stands at 7’1″ tall, which made him perfect for the role on the series. And yes, he was once a professional basketball player before he became a stuntman and an actor.
13. Natalia Tena (Osha)
Actress Natalia Tena became famous thanks to her role as Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter movies, but shortly after that, she appeared on Game of Thrones as Osha, a wildling who ended up in the service of House Stark.
Because Osha is a Free Folk, she hardly cares about appearances and lives up to the wildling name with her scruffy appearance and disheveled mane of dark hair. But Osha was loyal to the Starks and successfully escorted young Rickon away from Winterfell when it fell.
Tena looks nothing like her wild character. Although her hair color changes as much as Tonks’ did, she usually sports a dirt-free face and carefully styled locks. Her clothes are generally more well-groomed than her Game of Thrones character’s, too.
12. Rory McCann (The Hound)
Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, is not a character anyone should trifle with. As a bodyguard for the house of Lannister, he is probably one of the most dangerous men in Westeros. He looks intimidating, too: scars cover half of his face from burns he received as a child when his brother shoved his head into a brazier. He’s a monster of a man, tormented by demons and driven by hate and anger.
But underneath that scarred and terrifying face is Rory McCann, a sweet-faced man who seems full of humor and kindness. There is such a huge difference between the two that it’s hard to believe that they are one and the same. Isn’t that a sign of McCann’s wonderful acting, as well as HBO’s fantastic makeup department?
11. Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)
As the mother of dragons, Daenerys Targaryen is the silver-haired daughter of Aeris II, a previous king of Westeros. She is one of the last surviving members of that royal family. She survived an abusive brother and the death of her beloved husband to become a leader in her own right and has now travelled back to the land that exiled her, to claim it as her own.
The actress that plays Daenerys, though, is nearly unrecognizable when she isn’t in character. Although Daenerys’ long silver hair gives her a regal appearance, Emilia Clarke looks a lot different from her Game of Thrones counterpart, thanks to her long dark hair. She transforms herself completely in her role as the Khaleesi and is easily one of fans’ favorite characters on the show.
10. Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H’ghar)
Jaqen H’ghar is literally no one or everyone in the House of Black and White, depending on who you ask, but Game of Thrones viewers still recognize his face when he finally reveals himself in the Free City of Braavos after Arya Stark seeks him out at the guild of assassins. Jaqen is really a Faceless Man, and Jaquen H’ghar is just a name that he used, as the Faceless often do.
That might seem confusing, but Jaqen still has one more commonly used face: that of German actor Tom Wlaschiha. Although Game of Thrones fans know the actor from his character on the show, the long-haired man in robes who utters a lot of confusing sentences at Arya, Wlaschiha looks a lot different offscreen.
9. Rosabell Laurenti Sanders (Tyene Sand)
Tyene Sand is one of the bastard daughters of Prince Oberyn Martell and a member of the Sand Snakes, a group of said prince’s bastard daughters who eventually seize power in Dorne with their mother. Each member of the group has their own unique set of fighting skills and abilities. Tyene might seem child-like and innocent, but it’s all an act, because she is deadly when she whips out her set of daggers.
In reality, Tyene is Rosabell Laurenti Sanders, an actress who rarely resembles her Game of Thrones character. In reality, Sanders seems as sweet as Tyene when Tyene fakes it, with a smile that is genuine and less snake-like. Her hair is also a lot different: Tyene’s hair is a no-fuss short do. It’s likely that Sanders had to cut her much longer hair for the role.
8. Conleth Hill (Varys)
Lord Varys, otherwise known as the Spider, is only on one side when it comes to Westeros: his own. The bald eunuch often appears to offer up advice to those who would seek power, but it seems that uses those opportunities to advance his own agenda, whatever that is. He has a long sordid history, but always seems to come out on top.
Varys also looks nothing like the actor who portrays him, Conleth Hill. Perhaps it’s because Varys has no hair and Conleth often sports a full mane of gray when he’s not filming, but everything else about Hill also seems different from his Game of Thrones counterpart.
7. Michiel Huisman (Daario Neharis)
Daario was one of those characters that really confused fans of the books when the series finally revealed his character. In the books, Daario has blue hair and comes with a very distinct description. Perhaps it was because of this that HBO recast the role in 2013, although the network never gave an official reason for their decision.
Even now, Daario still looks nothing like his book description, but he is easy on the eyes in a scruffy, bearded kind of way. The actor that plays him, Michiel Huisman, is definitely handsome, but in real life, he looks completely different from Daario, especially when he shows up in public without the beard. George R.R. Martin fans, though, still mourn the lack of blue hair for the character.
6. Diana Rigg (Olenna Tyrell)
Actress Diana Rigg has been in show business for a really long time. She earned her claim to fame in the 1960s as agent Emma Peel in the UK series The Avengers. Since then, she’s had a long career that includes TV, movies and theatre, with her earning many nominations and awards in all three. Rigg also became a Dame in 1994.
As an acclaimed actress, Rigg often transforms herself for a role, but her biggest transformation is on Game of Thrones. Her turn as the matriarch of House Tyrell, who knows politics better than most of the men around her, is highly believable. She also doesn’t look anything like her character; a woman who never leaves the house without her head and neck completely covered.
5. Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark)
Poor Rickon Stark. When Winterfell went down, almost everyone thought that the youngest Stark was dead. He was actually on the run, although fans didn’t really know what happened to him until he showed up at the Battle of the Bastards. But Rickon was too young and foolish to play with the big dogs and got felled by an arrow during that fight.
Rickon’s actor, Art Parkinson, looked really young when he first appeared on the series way back in season one. He, along with the character he portrayed, grew up along the way, until Rickon’s death in season six. One thing was certain, though: Parkinson never really looked like his character. Sure, the mop of curly brown hair is present on both, but that’s where the similarities end.
4. Richard Brake (Night King)
“The true enemy won’t wait out the storm. He brings the storm.” These words uttered by Jon Snow were about the Night King, one of the most evil villains in the universe of Game of Thrones. He is old as time itself and a master of the Wights. So it’s not surprising that the Night King doesn’t look human.
However, the actor behind the Night King (at least in seasons four and five) looks very human, and pretty much resembles a normal king. That actor is Richard Brake, who spent many hours in the makeup chair to get that appearance of something from another world that existed in the age of the First Men. Unfortunately, because of scheduling conflicts, HBO replaced Brake in the sixth season with another actor.
3. Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy)
Fans learned quickly on that Theon Greyjoy’s sister, Yara, was not someone to trifle with. She can easily match her brother in a fight and is one of the claimants to the throne for the Kingdom of the Iron Islands, as well as an ally to Daenerys. To top all that off, she also captains her own ship, the Black Wind.
Behind Yara is actress Gemma Whelan, who looks nothing like the often dirty-haired and mud-smeared face of her Game of Thrones character. Most photos of Gemma out of character feature her smiling – something Yara only does when she’s greatly pleased with something or coming up with a strategic plan. Many of Whelan’s Instagram photos are of her goofing around – something Yara does very little of.
2. Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy)
As the last son of King Balon Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy began life as a privileged brat. Bitter that his family sent him off to grow up with the Starks in Winterfell, Theon eventually betrayed that family and took over Winterfell in an attempt to impress his father. Eventually, Theon fell into ruin and became a captive of the cruel Ramsay Bolton. Left to live life like a dog in Bolton’s “care,” he became Reek, a dirty creature who lost all traces of his former self.
In reality, the actor behind Theon, Alfie Allen, looks nothing like Theon or Reek. He’s usually clean-shaven and well-dressed, with well-groomed hair. He’s virtually unrecognizable on the street, so it’s likely fans walk right by him without a second look.
1. Kae Alexander (Leaf)
Leaf is a member of a race called “the Children,” a group of non-humans that existed long before the First Men. They created the White Walkers that now terrorize Westeros and beyond. Leaf has powerful magic that saves Bran Stark when he approaches the heart tree and gets attacked by wights. She then leads him into a cave to finally meet the Three-Eyed Raven.
As a non-human, Leaf looks more like a sprite or fairy. But underneath all those prosthetics and makeup is a real actress: Kae Alexander. It’s likely Alexander spent hours upon hours in the production’s makeup department to look like Leaf, and it’s also likely that she rarely gets recognized for her work on the series because the transformation was so drastic.
Are there any other Game of Thrones actors who undergo huge transformations for their roles? Let us know in the comments!
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