This week’s question comes from TV Editor Erik Adams and is inspired by this weekend’s big premiere:
What actor would you like to see on Game Of Thrones?
It’s looking more and more likely that Game Of Thrones will skip over one of the biggest subplots of George R.R. Martin’s last book, A Dance With Dragons: the tale of grizzled father Griff and his mysterious adopted son. That’s fine, really—A Dance With Dragons is a bloated book, in desperate need of trimming—but it’s a shame we won’t get to see Griff (a.k.a. Jon Connington, best friend of Dany Targaryen’s long-dead brother Rhaegar) in the flesh. Michael Shannon would absolutely kill it as the Targaryen true believer, who’s spent years in hiding as part of a complicated plan to bring down those who knocked the royal family from the throne. Equal parts stern father, wide-eyed fanatic, and broken-hearted lover (it’s heavily implied Connington’s feelings toward Rhaegar were more than platonic), Shannon could imbue Connington with the same mixture of madness and vulnerability that he’s brought to so many parts in the past. (On the other hand, it’s not like the show needs another Jon suddenly running around, especially when most of his plot points have already been shunted off onto Iain Glen’s more-compelling Jorah Mormont.)
If Game Of Thrones can’t squeeze Mads Mikkelsen in somewhere, then they’re not even trying. The actor, with a face seemingly chiseled from a block of pure Danish fjord ice, has demonstrated with multiple films—Valhalla Rising, King Arthur, and Age Of Uprising among others—that he’s perfectly suited to slot into whatever historical or fantasy epic as needed. He could play Victarion Greyjoy, the lord captain of the Iron Islands’ fleet and a hulking, armor-clad uncle of Theon. His character was introduced in the books as a possible king of the isles, but instead went to pursue a magical means of forcing control over Daenerys’ dragons. Or if the show should ever indulge in a flashback sequence, he would make a fantastic mad king Aerys II Targaryen, the last king of the Targaryen line to sit on the throne before his madness and cruelty resulted in his murder by Jaime Lannister’s hand and the civil war that set the stage for the events depicted in the book. Hell, he doesn’t even need to be a featured character. Just give him a spear, slap him in a chainmail shirt, and make him stand in the background of as many scenes as possible. The show will be instantly 10 to 15 percent better just for his presence.
There’s no good reason Judi Dench isn’t a highborn noble on Game Of Thrones, as far as I’m concerned. The British dame would fit so well into the icy machinations of royal power plays, it makes me sad to think we’ll never get a chance to see her go toe-to-toe with Diana Rigg’s Olenna Tyrell, or match wits with Lena Headey’s volatile queen regent. Dench has a knack for taking the most verbose and grandiloquent speeches and making them sound as natural as breathing. So let’s go ahead and give her a duchy, or suddenly have one of the non-Lannister houses turn up a vital member of its family to do business in King’s Landing. I don’t know who’ll be left standing to greet Daenerys Targaryen when she makes her inevitable appearance on the shores of Westeros, but it’d sure be fun if Dench were among those ready with outer support and a silver tongue. If she can go toe-to-toe with the world’s greatest spy and not bat an eye, she can certainly handle some earth-shaking dragons.
I haven’t read George R.R. Martin’s books (I know, I know), so I’m not sure how to work him into the story organically, but I think Game Of Thrones could benefit from some Luis Guzmán. Maybe it’s because I’m still mourning the loss of Oberyn Martell, but I’d love to see Guzmán show up as another member of House Martell who’s bent on revenge—this time, for The Viper. Guzmán’s had Falstaffian turns in The Count Of Monte Cristo, Netflix’s Narcos, and another HBO series, How To Make It In America, so scheming against the interests of the Lannisters would be well within his wheelhouse. He’d also manage to provide some much-needed levity.
Hodor and the Bran Pack reach a summit, spying a hooded figure at the foot of a bridge. From where they stand, the figure’s eyes are sunken, the lines on his face suggesting that he’s seen many winters come and go. The vantage point shifts: The is figure positioned in the foreground, and the audio mix fills with vague, Teutonic murmurings. The voice is male—possibly the keeper of the bridge, possibly a wanderer taking a moments rest on his own long journey. Once this strange band of travelers is within his sight, he stops talking about how nature, not any god, is responsible for the known world’s interminable cycles of suffering, and lowers his hood. It’s Werner Herzog, and dammit if he’s not going to join this motley crew, the grounded counterpoint to the Three-Eyed Raven’s mystical musings.
Such is the power of Olivia Colman that the AMC miniseries The Night Manager altered the gender of a main character from the source material so she could play the role. Whether Game Of Thrones gives her a man’s part or creates a new role whole cloth, there must be a way to fit her in. Colman expertly brings virtuousness to morally gray situations, making her the perfect fit as an idealistic crusader butting up against George R.R. Martin’s cruel world. Maybe she’s a new royal figure from Highgarden who joins Olenna Tyrell at King’s Landing. Maybe she’s a big-time player at the Iron Bank Of Braavos who comes to the capitol to bring the law down on the Lannisters. Imagine a character combining Daenerys’ fierceness and Catelyn Stark’s steely morality: Colman might even have a chance at winning the game of thrones—if such a thing is even possible. And if she dies (odds are good), just imagine how sad you’ll feel to see a warrior of righteousness go.
Seeing Michelle Yeoh in a disappointing Crouching Tiger retread recently just underscores what a dearth of worthy roles Hollywood has provided to our greatest living action star (watch the original Tiger and then Supercop and tell me I’m wrong). Imagine what Game Of Thrones could do with Yeoh, who combines Michelle Fairley’s stern gravitas and Gwendoline Christie’s righteous ass-kicking. Who cares if there’s an analogous character in the books? Have her take over the kingdom Daenerys abandoned at the end of last season. Have her mentor badass-in-training Arya. Or let her be the one to finally deliver the disemboweling Ramsay Snow so richly deserves.
My knowledge of Game Of Thrones is severely limited. So why, then, do I have an immediate answer to this question? Because I know Hannah Murray, who has played characters called Cassie in both the U.K. TV show Skins and the wonderful movie God Help The Girl, has a smallish part on Thrones. I know at least one other Skins cast member is already on the show too (and I can’t really angle for more Skins folk when there are so many seasons of Skins I haven’t seen) so I’ll say that I’d like to see Murray’s God Help The Girl co-stars Emily Browning and Olly Alexander make their way to Westeros. Put together as a trio, they’re basically the cutest people in the known universe, so I would definitely seek out whatever episodes they all appeared in. If the show follows my advice, Game Of Thrones might just finally achieve some measure of the success it’s been hoping for all these years.
This is hardly an original suggestion—there’s already a Facebook page dedicated to this idea—but it’s my answer to this question because I’ve asked myself another question more than once during the run of the show to date: Why hasn’t Brian Blessed made it onto Game Of Thrones yet? Although he would’ve been perfect for the role if only the series had started a few years earlier, I realize he was a bit too old to play Robert Baratheon (and I certainly have no complaints about the decision to cast Mark Addy), but surely there’s someone he could’ve played by now. The man has an actual holiday dedicated to him, for heaven’s sake! Surely it’s time for him to get the respect he so richly deserves and finally be gifted with a role on the series.
I must preface this with the disclaimer that I have no inside information about the fate of Ragnar Lothbrok on Vikings, but things this season—hooked on Chinese herbal drugs, getting clobbered in his return invasion of Paris, generally getting twitchy and weird—aren’t looking great for Travis Fimmel’s warrior-king. So if, by any chance, Fimmel suddenly found himself freed up, how easy would it be for the strapping, steely eyed Aussie to slide right over to HBO? After all, I’ve always had the sense that Vikings was History’s (surprisingly successful) attempt to home in on those sweet, sweet Game Of Thrones numbers, and we already know how at home Fimmel looks in leather jerkins and sword accessories. I’m not really up on the whole Game Of Thrones world (sue me, I tried), so I’m not sure who he’d play, but I’ll invent a character—let’s call him Favis Trimmel, which is just on-brand enough to sound plausible. He’s the twinkly, enigmatic assassin who kills off your least favorite character, winks at the khaleesi, fist-bumps Dinklage, then disappears.
Nothing has ever made me more excited about Game Of Thrones than the time the show cast Alexander Siddig as Doran Martell. So in order to keep my goodwill flowing, I’d like to see the showrunners find roles for the entire cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I realize that’s a huge cop-out in terms of answering this question, but I’m hoping I get a pass because the casting prospects are so legitimately exciting. Just imagine: René Auberjonois is a political manipulator who gives Varys and Baelish a run for their money. Colm Meaney is a weathered sailor from the Iron Islands who pays a visit to his old friend Doran. Cirroc Lofton could probably believably play Grey Worm’s brother. Maybe Nana Visitor is a long-lost Lannister who arrives to trade barbs with Cersei. Armin Shimerman is one of those maesters that keep popping up everywhere. Terry Farrell would be perfect as a diplomatic Tully who finally gives Sansa a break. Michael Dorn, naturally, would be from Dorne. And since Avery Brooks has become something of an eccentric spirit, play to type and cast him as a mystical member of the Sparrows. In one fell swoop Game Of Thrones gets a dose of DS9 energy and a whole bunch of new Trekkie viewers.
Well, Caroline already has the clearly best answer, but: I have no idea who she’d play (I’ve read all the books and maybe remember a dozen characters out of the bunch), but ads for The Huntsman: Winter’s War have me convinced that Jessica Chastain should show up on Thrones at some point. Why the hell not? She could be a forgotten Stark or something. Or maybe a mysterious assassin who teaches Arya how to assassin like a pro. Honestly, the existence of a sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman is just breaking my mind, and I’d really appreciate it if Chastain and the rest of the cast could appear in an overly self-serious fantasy property that at least has some justification for its existence. Sure, they’d all die horribly in a few episodes, but at least then we could have closure.
One of the great things about Game Of Thrones is that it’s able to employ actors who have such unusual looks and make them feel like part of the fabric of Westeros. Not everyone needs to be pretty, not everyone needs to be conventional. Toby Jones is certainly not conventional. But more importantly, he’s so good. The diminutive Brit has proven he can play a range of characters—from real people like Karl Rove and Truman Capote—and naturally fit in to fantasy habitats like Hogwarts and Panem. Even with his unusual look, he can transform into whoever he is playing. There are so many parts he can play in Westeros (or beyond) but his size probably limits him, so let’s take fierce wildling warrior off the table. A guy who looks like Jones needs to be smart to survive in Westeros, so he could certainly be some sort of sneaky adviser, à la Varys, or a cunning buddy of Lord Baelish. But I’d really like him to some sort of Walder Frey-esque lord who rules his small fiefdom with an iron fist.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
With her concurrent turns on Jane The Virgin and Marvel’s Agent Carter, it seemed as if Bridget Regan might show up on every show on television as a beautiful psychopath with a knack for destroying men. And hey, Game Of Thrones could use another terrifying, powerful woman in its ranks. Regan has taken on so many different looks in the past year; it’s high time she pick up a sword. I’d like to see her as a highly skilled warrior like Brienne Of Tarth—but way more wicked. Regan wears evil well.
I feel as if the revolving door of Game Of Thrones’ casting needs means that, eventually, Antonia Thomas will likely get the call anyway. However, given that we know that casting team has seen Misfits, and given that her turn last year on The Musketeers proves that she’s up for donning a little faux-period affect and staring men down until they wither, we might as well move up that timetable and get her on Game Of Thrones posthaste. Because if she’s going to show up on the show, sooner is definitely better than later; I want her to share a little screen time with Iwan Rheon’s Ramsay Snow… and then kill him. Twice.
While I’m somewhat concerned about his self-evident virtue sabotaging his shot at longevity on Game Of Thrones, I’d cast Patrick Stewart in a heartbeat. He’s got the Shakespearean chops to do something with all those one-on-one conversation scenes, and he’s spent decades selling Comic-Con fare. As much as I’d love to see Stewart go Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West, just mowing down villagers for his own ends, I suspect it’s a little late to introduce a power player on that level that we’ve never heard of. Luckily I have a perfect role for a man of Stewart’s projected righteousness: the priest who reanimates Renly, reigniting the War Of The Five Kings—now whittled down to three kings—just in time for the final arc of the series.