Casting can make or break a show, and that’s mainly correct when your series or film is based off a famous book series. Cast the incorrect actor or actress in a character, and you may have irate fans giving out their thoughts about your show everywhere throughout the web.
With regards to the beloved Game of Thrones, several of the characters don’t accurately match what’s written in George R.R. Martin‘s books—actually, in a few situations, they don’t match in any way.
Sometimes for realistic or storytelling reasons, it’s essential for producers and writers to transform how someone looks. Let’s take a side-by-side comparison of those Game of Thrones characters that don’t exactly satisfy their novel namesakes, and what they should truly look like. But fair warning—this list may include spoilers for the whole Game of Thrones TV series, plus the A Song of Ice and Fire books.
The Game of Thrones writers determined to change Asha Greyjoy’s name to Yara on the show—maybe to keep away from misunderstanding with Osha, the Wildling guardian of Rickon Stark. But this name isn’t all that’s been altered. Actress Gemma Whelan has Asha’s self-confident and rough-tongued outlook down pat, but she doesn’t totally look the part.
The show’s Bran—played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright—does not accurately match the depiction of Bran specified by George R.R. Martin in the books. Most of the Stark children in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels favored their Tully side—with the exception of Arya. In the show, this has been generally overlooked, with only Sansa (and Robb, to a lesser extent) taking more strongly after Catelyn.
Rather than brown hair and eyes, Bran should have the auburn hair and blue eyes of the Tullys, with a sober face.
Brienne of Tarth
Part of Brienne’s disaster is how much she wants fall in love and be loved, but she knows she’s devastatingly awkward and unattractive by Westerosi standards—excluding her attractive large blue eyes. Brienne actress Gwendoline Christie is a beautiful woman, and though she has the height, hair color, and appearance wonderful, she will never appear the Brienne of the books.
All through the track of the novels, Brienne has run-ins with enemies that put down her even more broken. A fight with the Brave Companions knocks out two of her teeth, and Biter attacks her at the inn at the Crossroads—almost chewing off half of her cheek.
Until now the Game of Thrones show runners have had two different chances to get Daario Naharis right, and they’ve failed both times. Although you can’t actually blame them for taking a different course with Daario—colorful hair and a forked beard don’t really interpret well onscreen.
If you disregard the aforesaid age differences, the casting department did a great job with selecting the stunning Emilia Clarke for the character of Daenerys. There are a few quibbles to be had, however, mostly with her eyes and her hair.
While Pilou Asbæk does a splendid job depicting the Crow’s Eye, it’s fateful that the show has disregarded so much of what makes Euron threatening. The show’s Euron does look like Asha and Theon strongly, but he should be a much scarier figure—lots of that fear factor stems directly from his near-otherworldly looks in the books.
Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane
The HBO makeup artists do a great job making the mass of scars and twisted flesh that wrap one side of Sandor Clegane’s face, but they don’t go far enough. Book readers will make out that the features of the Hound from the books is really horrifying—and for fine reason.
Ser Jorah is not fairly as handsome as the showrunners would have us consider. Our favorite friend-zoned knight is more gorgeous and also more lightly built on the Game of Thrones TV series than his book-version counterpart.
On the show, the notorious Bastard of Bolton cut quite a wicked and brutal figure. But would you trust that the book adaptation of Ramsay is even worse? In the novels, several of the things Ramsay Snow does make you tremble, and he is nowhere close to as striking or appealing as Iwan Rheon.
The Lord of the Dreadfort is cunning, unkind, and as cold as the winter winds about to beat through Westeros. For five seasons, Michael McElhatton has excellently depicted the manipulative personality of Roose Bolton to a tee, but there’s one trouble—McElhatton doesn’t actually look anything like the character of the books.
For starters, Bolton should have long black hair, pale eyes the color of mist, and a weirdly unlined face (in spite of his age).
On the show, Theon went through hell as the prisoner of Ramsay Snow—but came out from his suffering mostly unharmed (apart from for his dangly bits). In the books, the Bastard of the Dreadfort treated “Reek” much more cruelly, aging the youngest Greyjoy by 40 years and parting Theon short several fingers, toes, and teeth by the time he flees.
Peter Dinklage makes an amazing Tyrion, but he’s absolutely more good-looking than the Imp of the books. He should have a “squashed-in” face, and following the Battle of the Blackwater only about half of his nose. His pale blond and black hair is an amazing combination, as are his different-colored eyes.
Tywin Lannister—as played by Charles Dance—cuts a very impressive figure on the show. Dance is almost ideal for the character, and he has mastered the outlook of the aloof and oppressive Tywin. The show also got much of Tywin’s look accurate—apart from the hair and beard.
In the novels, Robb, Sansa, Bran and Rickon all appear the Tully side of the family, with auburn hair and blue eyes. On the show, Robb is quite exact in terms of eye color, but his hair is a little more brown than red.
One of the main troubles book readers have with the show’s adaptation of Jaime Lannister is his hair. All through the show, it seems that they just haven’t been capable to get it right—it’s all the time the wrong color and generally the wrong length. During the first two seasons, Jaime should have long curly blonde hair and be clean shaven.
After being released by Catelyn, Jaime shaves his head and starts growing a long beard—which he takes a razor to after making it back to King’s Landing. He begins to let the hair and beard grow out again towards the end of A Feast for Crows, which means he should have a very messy emergence again by season 6 on the show—not the military style he presently wears.
In addition, Jaime and Cersei are supposed to appear near mirror images of one another. We can forgive the casting department on this one, though, as it must be close to impractical to get definite male/female fraternal twins who have the acting chops to take on the character of the Lannister siblings.
Lancel’s emergence in early seasons was exact for the most part, but much of what happens to him after joining the Sparrows on the show is anticipated. Book Lancel takes severe wounds at the Battle of the Blackwater, which age him too early. He afterward gives up his lordship and new wife to join the Faith Militant, but there’s no face carving concerned.
Barristan the Bold
When Barristan Selmy travels to Essos to join Daenerys’ entourage, he’s grown his hair and beard long and goes by an alias—Arstan Whitebeard. Although Barristan ultimately trims his hair and beard after enlightening his true identity to Daenerys, the show totally omitted this progress in Barristan’s look.
People love Stephen Dillane as Stannis, and he nails the character’s demanding, adamant appearance—but he just doesn’t look much like the Stannis of the books. Maybe the major concern with Dillane is that he candidly looks older than Robert Baratheon actor Mark Addy, when Robert is supposed to be the older brother, and Stannis the younger. Stannis is only supposed to be 34 at the start of the books.
The selection of Carice van Houten for the character of Melisandre was an achievement by the casting team. Like Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Aidan Gillen, and Charles Dance, van Houten seems like she was born to play her Thrones character.
We all agree that Sean Bean was a great pick to play Lord Eddard on Game of Thrones, it’s also pretty clear to book readers that he doesn’t look much like his namesake from the novels. Fortunately, Bean makes up for it with outstanding acting.
Mark Addy was an excellent selection to play King Robert. Only nitpick is that Addy’s hair is a medium brown shot through with gray, when George R.R. Martin makes it obvious that in spite of his plumpness, Robert is still quite black-haired. In addition, Robert Baratheon would loom over most men, putting him close to the height of Hodor, while actor Mark Addy stands only 5’11” tall.
Edmure is the baby of the Tully family, but on the show he barely looks like his sisters Catelyn and Lysa, and he also looks just as old as they do—when he in fact should be in his late 20s or early 30s at the start of the novels.
He’s huge, muscular, and frightening, but the Mountain that Rides has not been very exactly portrayed on the show.
Three different actors have played the Mountain in the show, and none have come near to matching the portrayal of Ser Gregor from the books—but that’s comprehensible given that any casting director would be pushed to get an actor matching Clegane’s perverted physique, depicted as almost 8 feet tall and 30 stone (420 lbs).
Conan Stevens (7′ tall) played Clegane in season one, followed by Ian Whyte (7’1″) in season two. Whyte would go on to play the role of gigantic Wun-Wun, and the role of the Mountain has been played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″) ever since season four. While the shortest of the three actors to depict Clegane, Björnsson comes closest in appearance.
As a strongman contender, Björnsson has the heavily-muscled build we anticipate of Clegane.
Among readers in addition to show-only fans, “dancing master” Syrio Forel is a favorite minor character. But while fans of both mediums can agree on Syrio’s awesomeness, book readers will be fast to indicate that there’s one problem with Miltos Yeromelou in the character—his full head of thick, black hair.
Rose Leslie would perhaps say we know nothing, but she’s much too attractive to play the part of Ygritte if we stay totally true to the books. As with Brienne, the showrunners chosen a beautiful lady to play someone particularly less-than-beautiful—at least, as said by George R.R. Martin‘s writing.
The Game of Thrones casting department did an outstanding job when selecting Lena Headey for the character of Cersei. There are a few things different about Cersei in the books when compared to the show. As her stress levels increase, Cersei begins to drink a lot and near continually in the novels.
With all this wine comes a quite noteworthy weight gain—to the point where she no longer can fit into many of her old gowns.
Actor John Bradley has Sam’s demeanor down pat, but he doesn’t bear a strong similarity to the Samwell of the novels. The book adaptation of Sam is clean-shaven, has light-colored eyes, and weighs a good bit more than Bradley does.
Where’s his pointy beard? Why is he so gray-haired? He’s only 30 years old! But Baelish was going prematurely gray in the books, too.
Pedro Pascal was a motivated option to play Oberyn Martell. That said, his look on the show wasn’t 100% exact to how he’s illustrated in the books. While he has the similar swarthy olive skin tone and black eyes, he lacks the longer hair and widow’s peak the Red Viper of Dorne should have.
The show really blundered here by aging Missandei up so severely—just to provide viewers a new romance storyline between her and Grey Worm. A few years older for roles like Daenerys and the Stark children are comprehensible, but this is bizarre.
In addition, the physical portrayal of Missandei, her home island of Naath and their pacifist religion really seems to point to a Southeast Asian influence. Asians can have “dusky skin,” too!
As with Maisie Williams for Arya, the casting directors did a wonderful job choosing Kit Harington for the character of Jon Snow. Some book readers were a little hesitant about that show-only beard of his—which was a boyish, delicate thing in early seasons—but it’s come in thicker and fuller for season six, after Jon Snow “kills the boy” to let the man be born.
Some book fans complained about Jon’s curly hair and beard on the show, but a close review of the text discloses that the texture (or accurate length) of Jon Snow’s hair is never clearly laid out in the books. In addition, while his “hairless cheeks” are pointed out by a Wildling in the novels, it doesn’t totally exclude a beard like Harington has—which still does leave him with mostly hairless cheeks.
Maisie Williams is as nearly ideal for the role of Arya as you can find, with the right color hair, eyes, and sober face. HBO made the choice to age up all the Stark kids by a few years for the TV series—she should really be nine years old in season one, not the 12 she is on the show.
Numerous book readers were tremendously astonished when we got our first look of Lysa Arryn at the Eyrie. In the novels, Lysa is swollen and plump from a progression of unsuccessful pregnancies and miscarriages. Kate Dickie nails the harsh, envious and mistrustful manners of Lysa, but there’s no way anyone would ever call her “overweight.”
Gilly should be much younger than she appears onscreen. She’s supposed to be a teenager, and while actress Hannah Murray depicts the innocence of Craster’s daughter pretty well, the 27-year-old actress will never appear a fresh-faced teenager.
Moreover, Murray has famous upper front teeth, and for several book fans, her bucktoothed look during the first few seasons was a little distracting—because such an exceptional facial feature was never stated in the novels.
For book readers, the exact identity of the inexplicable Coldhands has been a subject of hot dispute for several years. Those who felt Coldhands = Benjen may have gotten several validation when the characters were merged for the show. But as we know, just because something happens in the series doesn’t mean that’s how GRRM will do it.