It’s an actor's responsibility to bring a character to life - to become that character. To eat, sleep, speak, and interact as that character. This is especially true of Game of Thrones' ensemble cast of unique and multifaceted characters. Because each character has intricate histories and detailed backgrounds, casting directors are tasked with pouring over thousands of hopefuls to find each role's perfect fit. While capturing the character's aesthetic and interpersonal dynamics is no easy task, looking back at their Game of Thrones auditions, it's pretty clear how natural of a fit some of the actors were for their iconic roles.
Originally shared during the Game of Thrones panel at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, the good producers at HBO sliced a short video together with auditions for key players (both dead and alive). Featuring in order: Brienne of Tarth, Missandei, Ygritte, Jaqen H'ghar, Dolorous Edd, Oberyn Martel, Tywin Lannister, Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju, unsurprisingly, does the manliest spit take during his audition), Renly Baratheon, Margaery Tyrell, Davos Seaworth, Melisandre, and Daario Naharis. The HBO mashup only offers a few soundbites per character, but plenty of individual auditions have also made their way online.
10 Kit Harrington As Jon Snow
Kit Harrington packed a serious punch during his audition for the role of Jon Snow. Seriously, he was punched in the face just before his screener. The day before he scored the iconic role of bastard-turned-heir to the Iron Throne, Harrington received a black eye the traditional way: Being punched during a fight with a man who was rude to his date during their intimate McDonald’s dinner. In an interview with W Magazine, the Northman credits the shiner for nabbing him the role of brooding Jon Snow.
9 Emilia Clarke As Daenerys Targaryen
It’s oddly nostalgic to see recordings of her scenes from earlier seasons because Daenerys Targaryen has grown so much over the past nine years of Game of Thrones. Reading lines from an early episode, it’s obvious why Emilia Clarke wowed the casting directors. During her audition, Clarke demonstrated her incredible emotional range, one that has since come in handy now that she has clearly inherited her father’s propensity for madness.
When The Breaker of Chains witnessed her best friend's beheading at the hands of Cersei Lannister, Clarke wowed fans with her moving performance. The actresses exceptional acting skills shined as she dramatically, realistically, and thoughtfully emoted rage, grief, and her pure hatred for the Lannister Lioness.
8 Maisie Turner As Arya Stark &...
Filmed back in 2010, the Stark sisters' audition is a great example of how casting directors made decisions based on actor compatibility and chemistry, not just isolated auditions. It is this attention to the interpersonal that makes Game of Thrones such an exceptionally cast show - and the two main heroines are no exception.
Filmed back in 2010, the Stark sisters' audition is a great example of how casting directors made decisions based on actor compatibility and chemistry, not just isolated auditions. It is this attention to the interpersonal that makes Game of Thrones such an exceptionally cast show—and the two main heroines are no exception.
7 ... Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
Auditioning separately for their parts as Arya and Sansa Stark, the relatively unknown Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner cinched their career-defining roles by showing off their “sibling dynamic”. Casting directors must have been floored to see how naturally Maisie and Sophie interacted, and the directors clearly played up their special connection when filming the show.
It’s no surprise that Williams and Turner play convincing sisters on screen - They’re besties IRL. Confessing that they unwind together after filming in a shared bath, Williams and Turner have been inseparable since their audition. #bestfriendgoals.
6 Rory McCann As Sandor Clegane
Ser Sandor Clegane is nothing if not multi-faceted. While auditioning for the role, Rory McCann blew away the casting directors with his interpretation of the brooding and burnt knight. However, McCann's anger wasn't exactly acting.
In interviews, McCann has attributed much of his success to his sister, sharing, "I think I really only got the part because my sister f**** up. She was supposed to print out what I was meant to learn for the audition speech, but she sent me the wrong one — only two or three lines, that was it. I was waiting in this heat wave in London at the casting director's place, and I see everyone reading this big speech for the Hound about how he got his face burned. I had to delay my meeting for four hours so I could learn it. By that time, I was f**** raging. When I walked into the room, I knew I had to go crazy, so I unleashed all this. It was just a fluke that day — I was just especially angry. [Laughs] Something worked."
Channeling his stress and anger, McCann brought the intense, yet delicate knight to life while delivering the Hound's lines, cementing his role as Ser Sandor Clegane.
5 Kristian Nairn As Hodor
How do you audition for a role without lines? With only one word to work with, Kristian Nairn's creative audition tape nabbed him the iconic role of Hodor. Nairn's audition tape, which appears to be filmed on a tripod in a sleepy suburb, featured the Game of Thrones' Northman tossing around furniture and carrying a Bran-sized child on his shoulders. Because Hodor has a very limited vocabulary, Nairn's audition focused on the physicality of the role. The unique audition paid off - Nairn's mannerisms and quirks landed him the coveted character.
4 Jack Gleeson As Joffrey Baratheon
Even if you have never seen Game of Thrones, you know who King Joffrey is and his importance to the series. He’s a name we have heard around the water cooler for nine years (still feeling old). Jack Gleeson played the immature, entitled sociopath. As if the role was written for him, Gleeson managed to play Joffrey so well that he developed a hate club.
In the video, you can see the Irish actor’s chops. Unlike the rest of auditions, this impressive clip is taken from an interview with GQ, where Gleeson demonstrates his innate ability to go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde by reading the same line from both the good and evil perspective. Joffrey plays an important role in Game of Thrones, representing the true banality of evil, and clearly his thoughtful understanding of the duality of Good and Evil helps him portray The Boy King.
3 Jason Momoa As Khal Drogo
It's impossible to imagine Khal Drogo as anyone but Jason Momoa. Standing at 6'4", he certainly fits the physical bill, but it was Momoa's creativity that landed him the role. Poised to deliver the Khal's lines, Momoa took his audition in a different direction. Instead of repeating "no" over and over again as his script prompted, the Hawaiian-native broke into a Haka. His risky choice to go off-script with an intense and aggressive performance paid off. D. B. Weiss and David Benioff were so impressed they called Momoa back for a second performance and offered him the role of The Great Khal.
2 Miltos Yerolemou As Serio Forel
Watching Miltos Yerolemou’s audition for the role of Syrio Forel, Arya’s beloved sword master gives any Game of Thrones fans chills. His character, though ostensibly a minor supporting role, ended up playing a profound role in the character development of Arya Stark.
It’s no wonder casting directors chose Miltos - his audition tapes clearly show that he plays the mentor turned friend role perfectly. Not only did the native Londoner perfectly deliver The First Sword of Braavos’ lines, but he also did so while holding a sword. Obviously, his role required this of him, but no less impressive.
1 Conan Stevens As Gregor Clegane (Season 1)
Conan Stevens, an Australian actor and scriptwriter, flexed just about everything—including his acting skills—in his audition tape for the role of The Moutain. Towering above us at 7' 1/4" (2.14m), the imposing professional wrestler wowed casting directors.
A perfect fit for George R. R. Martin's impossibly-large knight, Stevens brought life to the character by delivering such wisdom as "A man who sees nothing has no use for his eyes" in his gruff, booming voice. Despite being replaced after just one season, Stevens is a fan favorite for setting the stage for many future plotlines. Interestingly, Stevens originally auditioned for the role of Khal Drago. While Stevens does fit the bill physically, casting directors correctly recognized that Stevens could bring The Mountain to life in a way that nobody else could.