Game of Thrones: Before Winter Came...Fans dream-cast

Failed auditions, fan suggestions, crazy ideas

I have a bit of an obsession with the alternate reality of TV Shows, meaning that I love to find out which other actors were considered for iconic roles, who had terrible auditions and who turned down roles.

I also love to read ‘dream-casting’ lists. Sometimes fans get it right. Sometimes they get it very VERY wrong. I recently came across a fanmade list of Game of Thrones dream cast (back from the 90s!) and… let’s just say that there is a reason “casting director” is an actual job.

Anyway, I decided to combine these two obsessions of mine and have some fun with Game of Thrones. I browsed Youtube videos, G.R.R. Martin’s blogs and fan forums to see who was considered and who was suggested by fans to embody our favorite Westeros and Essos dwellers.
These were my best finds:


Let’s start with Ned. I visited a couple of forums looking for fan suggestions I could mock [and I found some: Richard Gere e.g.], but instead, I came across the following post from early 2008:

“Out of all the characters in the series, I think the role most suited to a well-known actor is Eddard Stark. In Game of Thrones, the reader comes away with the idea that Ned is the "primary" protagonist. The reader, thinking he's going to be the main good-guy of the series, is shocked when he dies at the end. This realism, unusual in bread-and-butter fantasy fare, is what got me hooked on the series in the first place, and I'm sure a lot of others had the same feeling.”
OK… clearly these fans knew what they were talking about. In fact, on the official casting thread Sean Bean was the third suggestion.

Believe it or not, this was one of the least crazy suggestions
for a Stark family member... but everyone was pretty set on
Sean Bean from the get go. (Especially since he dies)
But what’s the fun in that? Less enlightened suggestions include: Mel Gibson, Russel Crowe, Clive Owen, Jon Hamm, Kiefer Sutherland, James Purefoy and Kevin McKidd [ok… maaaaybe that one].

A lot of unknown child stars were suggested for Arya and Sansa, so nothing interesting there. Catelyn’s fan suggestions ranged from acceptable (Gillian Anderson, Anna Gunn) to unrealistic (Cate Blanchett) to baffling (Debra Messing, Melinda Clarke)… Guess the main criterion was ‘red hair’…

Moving on to Jon

Hard to understand, but the same clever fans who suggested Sean Bean thought that Jon could be played by either Ryan Goslin or Ioan Gruffudd… Seriously, in what universe would those two be considered for the same role?
But who was actually in the running for Jon?

Sam Claflin (Finn on The Hunger Games) apparently read for Jon AND Viserys. I think he is not broody enough for Jon and probably too nice for Viserys. Well… he gets to play against Emilia Clarke anyway on upcoming movie Me Before You. I think he will be fine…

Alfie Allen – who would eventually be cast as Theon – also auditioned for Jon. However, the most shocking fact is that the runner up for the role of Jon was none other than Iwan Rheon who you know now as notorious psychopath Ramsey Bolton. The horror!

Hard to imagine anyone on the role but Kit who was discovered by the producers while he was on West End play Warhorse. Shortly after he was cast George posted the following on his blog:

“The role of the bastard Jon Snow will be played by a young actor named Kit Harington. You probably haven’t heard of him yet… but you will, we’re confident. David and Dan can’t say enough about his talent and intensity.”
George was right.


Fans weren’t just making ‘dream-cast’ lists for the fun of it. After the show was greenlit by HBO, producers Dan and David posted official “suggestion” threads on a couple of fan forums.

As you might know, Peter Dinklage was the first person cast on the show. He was also the first name suggested for Tyrion and the second and the third and the fourth. Basically no-one even contemplated the possibility of anyone else playing Tyrion.

OK, Alan Dale was a pretty decent suggestion for Tywin,
but that's where the good Lost suggestions ended. 
Charles Dance was also an early suggestion for Tywin. The only other name that stood out for me was Alan Dale… I guess I could see that working out.

As for Jaimie and Cersei, most suggestions were awful.

A popular Cersei choice was Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica. I completely disagree with this suggestion, but fans were really pushing for it. To be fair, it was better than what 90s fans had in mind: Madonna or Nicole Kidman [OK…]

Jaime’s fan suggestions were even worse! They included gems like Val Kilmer and Jensen Ackles. One of the most mentioned name was Josh Holloway. Hmm… I guess he sort of looks like Jamie is described in the books, but there is no way he can pull off a British accent. Is there?


In the unaired pilot, the part of Daenerys Targaryan was played by TamzinMerchant (The Tudors), who was replaced with Emilia Clarke [who was completely unknown except for this].

But before anyone was cast on the role, fans had their say. And there was a bizarre pattern in all the forums: CW actresses! Yeah… for reasons I do not comprehend fans seemed to believe that the mother of dragons was to be found on a CW show [and we are talking about 2008 here! That was Gossip Girl’s heyday].

Taylor Momsen. Eh... no, the mother of dragons was never
going to be someone who was on Gossip Girl (or any CW show)
Suggestions included Taylor Momsen [she’s blond I suppose], Leighton Meester [she’s scheming I guess] and Kristen Bell [mmm no clue about this one… she knows how to solve crimes?]. There was also another CW girl who was suggested for the role of Dany in numerous occasions. The amount of times this actress came up on casting threads was shocking to me. I am talking about Kristin Kreuk! Yeah… would have never thought of that! My first reaction was “What the hell?” But… the more I think about it… guess she has the eyes? Now that would have been an entirely different Dany. Too strange to even picture…

Couldn’t find any audition tapes for Dany, except for this unknown girl, who also auditioned for Cersei. And… this video imagining what would have happened if Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Anniston were the “mother of dragons”.

Naveen Andrews. OK... guess Lost was really big when
Game of Thrones was being cast
But let’s move on to Khal Drogo. This is my favorite category because everything I found online was absolutely outrageous. Can you believe that back in the 90s, a fan favorite to play Khal Drogo was… wait for it… Cuba Gooding Jr!

I know…

Modern day fans had slightly better suggestions. Several ethnicities were considered including Asian, black and Native American. Most were unknown actors, but there were a few big names thrown into the mix including Naveen Andrews and The Rock.

There is something particularly interesting about the casting of Khal Drogo. The producers have gone on record saying that they got Jason’s name from a fan forum. So yeah, fans’ suggestions actually mattered! But Jason’s name was not suggested in the forums until much later in the game and kind of by accident. Here is a transcript of the original post:

Jason Momoa (Hawaiian/Caucasian) from Stargate: Atlantis (ending its run) as Rhaegar.
Now that I think of it, he might be a great Drogo....
I have no idea why someone would think Jason Momoa could be a candidate for Rhaegar [who is supposed to be blond, skinny and pale] but the poster eventually saw the light:

“The more I think of it, the more it sounds right"Jason Momoa as Drogo”

And Jason got some momentum from there. We know he gave a great audition and got the part. But… he was not the only known name who auditioned.

Conan Stevens - who eventually played Gregor Clegane - also read for the role… and we have it on tape. Let’s just say, he had a different interpretation. Here is a video comparing the audition with the final product... a "Drogo-off" if you will 

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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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