Game of Thrones is known for having a sprawling ensemble cast so large that other shows like LOST look average by comparison. Considering this, the show was bound to let a few stellar actors slip through the creative cracks, so to speak. However, over the course of six seasons, more than a few actors appeared on the series that were short-changed in some way. Whether their time was far too limited, their talents were wasted on nonsensical scenes, or less worthy characters ate up precious screen time, we have noticed some incredible and diverse performers get a teensy bit wasted by the show (and we don’t mean wasted drunk).
Take the lukewarm romance between Missandei and Grey Worm, for example, or the entire season five plot involving Dorne and the Sand Snakes. The former was a waste of screen time on characters the audience didn’t really care much about, the latter was harebrained, and featured more than a handful of actors doing their best with very underwritten material — and neither plotline was present in the books.
Thus, we compiled a list of the show’s best performers who were, to some extent, misused or squandered somehow. Take a look at Game of Thrones’ 20 Most Wasted Actors:
20 Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell)
Here we have a classic case of a character taking a show by storm and promptly getting killed off in one of the most garish ways imaginable. Just about every non-book reader was flummoxed by the death of Pedro Pascal’s revenge-seeking Dornishman after he almost pulled off the near-impossible task of killing The Mountain, but instead, got his head crushed in, eyeballs first. The saga of The Mountain and The Viper was meant to end as it did — the Oberyn's pride had to be his undoing, and, much like Glenn’s death in The Walking Dead comics, it had to happen on the show because it serves as a catalyst that propels other characters’ stories forward. But we still think Thrones wasted Pascal’s talents a bit.
For example, in Pascal’s final episode, season four’s “The Mountain and the Viper,” we don't see Pascal until the end, just before his final fight, but the episode includes a five-minute scene with Grey Worm watching Messandei bathe. Wouldn’t that time have been better spent with Oberyn, observing how he feels now that he finally has his shot at revenge? Pascal was so perfect and dynamic in the role, we would have been entertained just watching him drink Dornish red for breakfast.
19 Patrick Malahide (Balon Greyjoy)
A perpetual contender for father of the year alongside Tywin Lannister and Randyll Tarly, Balon Greyjoy isn’t a likable character by any means. But he and House Greyjoy were a much larger part of the A Song of Ice and Fire books (ASOIAF from here on out), and considering Malahide was in four episodes throughout the entire series, we think he deserved an additional episode or two — particularly considering his offspring (Yara and Theon) and his brother (Euron) are still relevant to the series’ endgame. An extra few scenes providing background about the Greyjoys and life on the Iron Islands wouldn’t have hurt.
Regardless of his hyper-prickly side, Yara was fiercely loyal to him, and in the books, readers could see how proud he was of her fiery spirit and warrior-like ways. It would have been nice to see Patrick Malahide play proud papa in private just once on the show.
18 Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion)
As Beric Dondarrion, the six-times resurrected leader of the rogue group the Brotherhood without Banners, Richard Dormer manages to be creepy, noble, and mysterious all at once. But the character of Beric appeared before Dormer did, and that’s largely why he made this list.
There was a blink-and-you-miss-it scene in the first season in which Ned tasks Beric with retrieving the Mountain to bring him to King’s Landing to receive the king’s justice. Dormer wasn't yet cast; a different actor was in the role at that time, which is a pity. Considering Ned’s request to fetch The Mountain was an act that resulted in the first of Beric’s many deaths, we think showing their altercation might have been a nice way to set up the might of The Mountain while maybe even hinting at the ressurective powers of the Lord of Light. Dondarrion has appeared in five episodes so far, and, as we'll discuss in more detail in entry #15 on this list, he sacrifices himself in the books in order to give his resurrective powers to Catelyn Stark after she was killed at the Red Wedding. Therefore, we hope the show has at least one or two more stellar scenes to throw his way, because both the character and the actor deserve it.
17 Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel)
The first sword of Braavos does not run. Or get much screen time, apparently. While the series did capture the best scenes Syrio and Arya shared in the books, the show has also had a keen sense as to when to give special performers extra. Yerolemou was so dynamic, and his scenes with Maisie Williams’ Arya were so compelling and character-revealing, we can’t help but feel as though there was a wasted opportunity here.
We thought there was a chance for his return during Arya’s brief stint in his hometown of Braavos last season — we never technically saw him die in the first season, and we know what he says to death — but when he never showed, we were undeniably bummed. We’re still holding out for a miracle return in the final two seasons, no matter how unlikely it is.
16 Kiesha Castle-Hughes (Obara Sand)
In a huge cast overflowing with talent, the underrated Castle-Hughes has one of the few Oscar nods for acting (she was nominated for 2002’s Whale Rider). But we’re willing to bet most fans couldn’t tell her apart from her other sisters on the show — and that’s a bummer, especially considering how rich and layered the Sand Snakes are in the books. Castle-Hughes plays Obara Sand, one of Oberyn Martell’s many bastard daughters, and so far, the show hasn’t told us much about her, other than the fact that she enjoys killing people with a spear.
In ASOIAF, she is the most temperamental of the Sand Snakes, but while she’s bent on revenge against the Lannisters, she will also stop and listen to reason. As it stands, the show has painted all three of the Sand Snakes as one-note women hellbent on revenge. We’re still waiting to see their distinct personalities emerge (more on this later).
15 Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark / Lady Stoneheart)
There are a huge group of book readers who are still peeved we’ve not seen (nor will we likely ever see) Catelyn Stark resurrected in the form of Lady Stoneheart. This entry is for them. ASOIAF readers are very familiar with Stoneheart, who is born thanks to a little help from a sacrifice made by Beric Dondarrion, and the dark magic associated with the Lord of Light, a la the resurrection of Jon Snow. In the books, Lady Stoneheart cannot speak (because Catelyn’s throat was slit too deep), but she still makes herself heard.
She ends up taking Dondarrian’s place as the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and they wander the countryside in search of Lannister and Frey men, which they sentence and kill (Arya would be so proud). Fairley has appeared on several shows since her departure from Thrones, and every time we see her, we’re reminded of how perfect she was in the role, and how much we’d love to see her again — even in vengeful zombie form.
14 Richard E. Grant (Izembaro)
Remember the play Arya watched in Braavos that ate up like 20 minutes of three episodes in season six? Not really? Yeah, us neither. In a total waste of time and talent, Arya was tasked with poisoning an actress in the play, which apparently meant we had to sit through several of the play’s scenes — scenes that were recreations of recent events in the seven kingdoms, so they taught us nothing new. Richard E. Grant played Tywin Lannister in the production, and the role was so paltry, we’re still wondering why it was even written, especially considering Grant's acting chops.
Grant’s recent work has been incredibly diverse: he has been in everything from Logan to Downton Abbey to Girls, and he has some incredible film performances to his credit (see his work in Gosford Park, or in the wonderful '90s indie Jack and Sarah). We’re left wondering why the show didn’t utilize his talents more, because Izembaro was nothing more than a blip on the show’s radar.
13 Noah Taylor (Locke)
Here’s a seriously underrated actor capable of incredible things. Taylor’s work in films like Almost Famous and Max is mind-blowingly good, and his work on Thrones was great — it’s just that considering how talented and capable he is, we would have liked to see him do more than just cut off Jamie Lannister’s hand and antagonize him relentlessly for several episodes straight.
Sure, he also antagonized Brienne by throwing her in a pit with his bear, and later went to the Night’s Watch to spy on Jon and see if Bran showed up, but that’s pretty much his arc on the show, summed up. Taylor is currently doing impressive work on Preacher, and he was a good casting decision to play Locke — we just wish Locke had had more to do.
12 Alexander Siddig (Doran Martell)
Another element of the storyline in Dorne the show just never got right, Alexander Siddig’s Doran fell victim not just to Ellaria’s dagger, but to weak writing and poor characterization. In ASOIAF, Doran was wheelchair bound and weak, but he was also clever, cunning, and constantly plotting. When Ellaria and the Sand Snakes take over Dorne in the season six premiere by killing him and everyone around him off, they also killed an opportunity for a sneakily cool character to emerge.
Take his fan-favorite speech from A Dance with Dragons, which lets us know how weak Doran really is: “Oberyn was ever the viper. Deadly, dangerous, unpredictable. No man dared tread on him. I was the grass. Pleasant, complaisant, sweet-smelling, swaying with every breeze. Who fears to walk upon the grass? But it is the grass that hides the viper from his enemies and shelters him until he strikes.” Oof! We're thinking the show missed a major opportunity by not letting the very talented Sidding deliver that speech.
11 Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand)
One of the few bright spots on Iron Fist, we love Jessica Henwick’s fierceness coupled with her subtle humor. It’s too bad those qualities and more have stayed latent during her stint on Thrones. The second Sand Snake to make this list, Henwick’s Nymeria (she’s the one with the whip), like Castle-Hughes’ Obara, is woefully underwritten.
In the books, the sisters are completely different, each with distinct personality traits. They all want revenge for their father's death, but they disagree vehemently about how to exact that revenge. On the show, they all sorta blend together, each woman coming across as vengeful and spiteful, with not one expressing any conflict at all over the fact that all this killing they’re doing is the exact opposite of what Oberyn would have wanted. The books express this struggle, and the show does not, which is a shame, because Henwick is talented enough to play more than just the one note role she has been given on Thrones.
10 Jerome Flynn (Bronn)
This may seem like a controversial choice, because Jerome Flynn’s Bronn is such a beloved character who has been in every season of the show thus far. The show hasn’t totally wasted his character. But what has he done over the past two seasons other than follow Jamie around? His dalliance with Jamie in Dorne was ridiculous and reviled by fans, and it ate up all of his time in the fifth season. Flynn is so good in the role, and his delivery is so on point, we cannot help but want to see more of him — just not in Dorne.
In the books, Bronn has an entirely different life fans of the show haven’t seen or heard about. He ends up getting married to a witless woman, and they have a son — whom he names Tyrion, largely to incense Cersei. The potential for humor there is endless — and it remains an untapped well as long as Thrones continues to have Bronn be an afterthought.
9 Clive Russell (Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully)
Perhaps we’ve seen the last of The Blackfish. Perhaps not — technically, we didn’t see him die. Regardless, his stints in both season three and season six were far too short-lived, and we can’t help but wish for another scene or two, at the very least. Considering the amount of talent in the room, wouldn’t one more Tully-centric scene with him and Fairley back in season three have been a nice way to further establish the family history between the Freys and the Tullys?
Russell’s talent and pedigree are undeniable (take a gander at his lengthy and impressive list of TV and film credits sometime) and he was perfectly cast in the role. Our only complaint is that we didn’t get a scene or two more from him.
8 Natalia Tina (Osha)
Easily the best babysitter in the realm, Osha was an outstanding character we didn’t care for at first, but she definitely grew on us. In the books, we're not sure what Osha's fate is just yet. She disappears with Rickon and Shaggydog with the goal of finding safety with Stark bannermen. We know how that turns out in the show, and we’re not happy about it. We get it. Everyone dies on Game of Thrones, valar morghulis and all. But did she really deserve to be yet another one of Ramsay Bolton's casualties? Hadn't we watched him kill enough people by that point? We think she deserved better as a character.
We’re not demanding that she live, but wouldn't it have been more fun to keep her around, at least until the final battle with the white walkers? Imagine Jon Snow or Sansa finding her locked away in Winterfell’s dungeons. Also, a scene or two with Tina and Kristofer Hivju’s Tormond would be priceless, wouldn’t it?
7 Ciaran Hinds (Mance Rayder)
Another character still alive in the books, Ciaran Hinds’ Rayder only got scenes in five episodes of the entire series before his character was killed off by Stannis. Mance is a MAJOR player in the books — it’s not a stretch to say book readers consider him to be a legendary and iconic character. He was the king of the Wildlings, yet on the show, we saw more of minor players like Renly’s personal lives than we did of Mance’s. Didn’t we both need and deserve a scene or two of substance showing or explaining who he really was?
In the books, Mance has a pregnant wife, a lot of depth, and a fascinating history. Book Mance has been spying on the Starks, including Jon Snow, since their very first feast when they hosted King Robert, and much later in the books, he goes back to Winterfell to spy on Ramsay Snow at the request of Jon. It’s not a stretch to say book Mance got short-changed on the show, which is a shame, because Hinds, so good in shows like Political Animals and Rome, would have nailed all of Mance’s major moments.
6 Max von Sydow (Three-Eyed Raven)
From Bergman’s The Seventh Seal to Flash Gordon to The Force Awakens, von Sydow has more than established his legendary status as a cinematic icon. So, when we heard he was cast as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran’s Yoda-esque teacher and mentor, it seemed like yet another brilliant casting decision. And it was -- but it was over about as soon as it began. Von Sydow appeared in three episodes total, and didn’t net much screen time when he did appear. As a result, Bran’s training felt rushed, and the Raven’s history still feels in need of explanation.
Considering von Sydow’s mythic presence, as well as the character’s overall importance, we wish the series had given us a few more moments with him, or at the very least, an additional scene explaining a bit more about his history.
5 James Cosmo (Jeor Mormont)
As a character, The Old Bear deserved better than an ending in which his skull was used as a flagon for a rapist’s wine. But, alas, this is Game of Thrones, and that’s the ending he got. We wouldn’t have minded if he had gotten a few more scenes of substance before that, though — and we have one major scene in particular in mind.
Lord Commander Mormont meets his end in a similar fashion at Craster’s Keep in the books, but he also has a dying wish he passes along to Samwell Tarly: that Sam find his son Jorah and ask him to join the Night’s Watch. With all the extraneous rape the show found necessary to include at Craster’s that season, (as if his daughters hadn't suffered enough!) surely they could have found the extra few minutes to include the fact that Mormont’s final thoughts were of his son finding redemption. We know Cosmo would have nailed the scene, and it's a shame the show didn't include it.
4 Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully)
Edmure is another character we've seen much more of in the books, and we get it; the show is already overflowing with amazing characters, and he's basically just been locked in a cell. But it’s a cell we've never seen or visited. Which is a pity, because it means the actor who plays him, Tobias Menzies, is locked away with his character.
Menzies, who has showcased his range as the sadistic Black Jack Randallstown on Outlander and as Julius Caesar in Rome, had a great few scenes in season six, in which we learned that Edmure and his still-much-too-young-for-him wife, Roslin Frey, have a son he has never met. Now that Arya has disposed of Walder Frey (and a few of his sons for good measure), we will hopefully see more of this complicated coward in the future.
3 Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje(Malko)
Powerful and merciless as Adebisi on Oz, the skilled Akinnuoye-Agbaje also saw his time cut far too short on LOST, where he played the fascinating Mr. Eko, a haunting character we wish we could have gotten to know better. His time on Thrones was both a waste of screen time, and of his talents.
His character, the throwaway role of Malko, the slave trader who sells Tyrion and Jorah to Meereenese masters, was easily forgettable, and inconsequential. Perhaps Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s talents would have been better served in the recurring role of Salladhor Saan, the Lysene sellsail pirate who helps Davos sail from here to there from time to time. Regardless, Akinnuoye-Agbaje showed off his vast skill set on LOST, and it’s a shame he never had the chance to do so on Thrones.
2 Ian McElhinney (Ser Barristan Selmy)
This one was a shocker, and many fans still aren’t over the noble knight’s early exit. But it wasn’t just the fact that Ser Barristan was a beloved character who was killed off too soon; it was the way that he was killed that many found so cumbersome. At the hands of a group of slave-owning aristocratic cravens?! Really?
We loved hearing the stories he told Dany about her deceased brother Rhaegar, we miss his calming influence, and since he was one of the first people to tell Joffrey off in public, we loved him immediately. McElhinney was the perfect fit for the weary, white haired hero, and he was reportedly unhappy with his early departure from the series. Ser Barristan is a POV character in the books, and at present in ASOIAF, he is still alive and waiting for Dany to return after taking off on Drogon. We can only hope that if he meets his end in the books, it’s a more just send off than the one he got on the show.
1 Ian McShane (Brother Ray)
Maybe it’s our fault for getting too excited too soon. When we heard McShane drop an early hint about his Thrones character in an interview, letting it be known that his character would be bringing a presumed-dead character with him, we hoped for the outcome we got: a resurrection of sorts for Rory McCann’s Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. When McShane’s character, a different version of a wise religious leader with whom The Hound seeks refuge in the books appeared, he mesmerized us instantly. And an instant later, he was gone.
Fans of books and show alike were beyond miffed: one measly episode, and no Septon Meribald speech (one of THE iconic monologues in GRRM’s tomes)?! Brother Ray couldn’t have stuck around for just one more episode? There is a wonderful little moment in the books in which Brienne and Pod cross paths with him while they were searching for Sansa, and we think, at the very least, the show’s creatives should have been included that scene.
What do you think? Which characters do you think were the most squandered on the show? Let us know in the comments.
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