20 Actors Who Almost Starred on 'Game of Thrones'

Nicole Pomarico | May 17, 2019 TV
20 Actors Who Almost Starred on 'Game of Thrones'

Tom Chadbon, Aisling Franciosi, and Wilf Scolding in Game of Thrones, Charlie Hunnam
Helen Sloane/HBO; Splash News

After eight seasons of Game of Thrones, the HBO fantasy drama is finally coming to an end. The story -- and the major plot twists that happened along the way -- are a huge part of why this TV show ended up being such a massive success. But GoT wouldn't be what it is today without its cast. It's hard to imagine the characters being played by anyone else, but as it turns out, they actually almost were.

Surprisingly, a lot of famous actors almost starred on Game of Thrones, and the show would have been so different if these celebs ended up in these roles.

Think about it: We only know Emilia Clarke as Daenerys, and in our minds, Kit Harington is the only Jon Snow. But there were  other actors who were up for these roles, and Emilia and Kit almost didn't end up playing these iconic characters. Even just those changes would've made GoT a different show from the one we know and love (and sometimes get really, really frustrated with) -- and that barely scratches the surface.

Some of these actors auditioned and didn't get the part, while others were offered roles and turned them down. We have to wonder if they would've made a different choice, knowing the massive phenomenon GoT turned out to be. Fate stepped in, and now, we have our current cast -- and most fans wouldn't have it any other way.

These are the celebrities who almost starred in GoT. This final season would've been totally different if these castings had actually ended up happening. Some of them are surprising, but it's fun to imagine what the show would have been like if any of these actors had snagged a life-changing role in Game of Thrones.

  • Sam Claflin


    We all know Sam Claflin for playing Finnick in The Hunger Games, but things could've been a lot different if he ended up starring in GoT. As he told CinemaBlend in 2015, he auditioned for both Viserys Targaryen and Jon Snow, but the timing just wasn't right as his roles in other movies got in the way. 

    "I sort of did my first auditions and I sort of went quiet basically, but I'm kind of glad," Sam said. "I like getting into things like that [as a viewer] and not being a part, because I always find it's very jarring if I was part of it. But I'm a big fan."

  • Gillian Anderson


    This X-Files star almost ended up in another famous franchise. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Gillian admitted that she's turned down roles in GoT and Downton Abbey because of the time it would require her to spend away from her children.

    "My 18-year-old cannot believe that I would turn down Game Of Thrones or Downton -- things she loves to watch," Gillian said. "But if I am going to be spending that amount of time working on something I would rather be working with a director like Martin Scorsese." 

    What role was she up for? Reportedly, she may have been cast as Cersei, which would've been wild.

  • Izzy Meikle-Small


    It's hard to imagine anyone but Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, but that role almost went to Izzy Meikle-Small. And as she told The Telegraph, she was actually relieved she didn't get the part

    "I got to the final two to play Lady Sansa Sark, but I didn't get it," Izzy revealed. "I was a bit sad, because the show's massive, but I'm not that unhappy, because they all show a lot of flesh, don't they? I don't think my parents would be happy."

  • Jennifer Ehle


    When GoT creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss appeared on the Scriptnotes podcast, they revealed that the pilot episode of the show had to be reshot, and with that came recasting some of the actors. Included in that was Jennifer Ehle, who played Catelyn Stark in the pilot. She was replaced by Michelle Fairley.

  • Tamzin Merchant


    Speaking of that original pilot? Unfortunately, Tamzin Merchant was another casualty. She played Daenerys in the first pilot that was shot. She was later replaced by Emilia Clarke, and it's hard to imagine GoT without her.

  • Sam Heughan


    Outlander star Sam Heughan was another star who auditioned for GoT. And when he didn't get the part he wanted, he just kept trying as he told Vulture in an interview.

    "I auditioned for Game of Thrones seven times! Loads of times," Sam said. "I auditioned for Renly, Loras, some of the members of the Night's Watch. And I'd always get so close! I'd be like, 'Guys, just give me a sword!'"

  • Jamie Campbell Bower


    Rob Ostlere's role in Game of Thrones was very short-lived. First, it went to Jamie Campbell Bower, who's now set to star in the show's prequel series. As Winter Is Coming pointed out, Jamie shot the original pilot as Waymar Royce, but when it needed to be reshot, he was no longer available since he was starring in Camelot.


  • Mahershala Ali


    In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Mahershala Ali admitted he auditioned for GoT, but it was one of the worst auditions of his life. And as we all know now, he didn't end up getting the part. Instead, it went to Nonso Anozie.

  • Iwan Rheon


    We couldn't imagine anyone but Kit Harington as Jon Snow. But Iwan Rheon first auditioned for the part, even though he eventually ended up playing a different "Snow": Ramsay. Iwan told the whole story to The Telegraph, and it sounds like everything worked out for the best.

    "I auditioned for the pilot of Game of Thrones, and was down to the last two for Jon Snow, so I guess they knew me," he said. "But Ramsay is the complete polar opposite. In my mind, I secretly thought it was Ramsay."

  • Ian McNeice


    In that original GoT pilot that never aired, another actor who ended up getting replaced was Ian McNeice. He was set to play Magister Illyrio, but sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Roger Allam was given the role when it was recast.

  • Perdita Weeks


    This one is a true bummer. Perdita Weeks was offered a role in GoT as Roslin Frey (which ultimately went to Alexandra Dowling), but she had to turn it down for another project ... and then, that project got canceled. As Perdita told The Daily Mail, she tried to get the role back, but it was too late.

    "I gave up a role on Game of Thrones to take the part and even rang the producers to beg for it back once I'd heard the news about Romania, but it was too late," she said.

  • Nicholas Hoult


    Add another almost Jon Snow to the list. Nicholas Hoult auditioned for the role, as he told Page Six, but as we all know, GoT ultimately went another way.

    "I think I auditioned for Jon Snow," he said. "I remember it because I was filming Clash of the Titans at the time, so I had long hair extensions. They gave me a ponytail and also a very patchy fake tan. So I remember being like, 'This is probably not what they’re hoping for,' and it obviously wasn't.”

  • Danny Dyer


    Try as he might, Danny Dyer just couldn't snag a role in GoT. As he said during an appearance on ITV's Jonathan Ross Show, he auditioned more than once for the show -- including for the role of Pyp -- which ended up going to Josef Altin. 

    "I've been up for it three times. I got three knockbacks," Danny said.

  • Jared Harris


    In 2017, Jared Harris told Vulture that he auditioned for GoT himself, but sadly, it wasn't meant to be. He was up for the High Sparrow, but that role ended up going to Jonathan Pryce.

    Such a bummer!

  • Lily Allen


    During a Reddit AMA (via Vulture), Lily Allen admitted that she was asked to do a cameo on GT, playing Theon's sister -- being that she's a sister to the actor who plays Theon in real life, Alfie Allen. But she wasn't into it, and instead, Gemma Whelan was cast. 

    "I've been asked to do a Game of Thrones cameo, they asked me if I'd be interested in playing Theon's sister," she wrote. "I felt uncomfortable because I would have had to go on a horse and he would have touched me up and sh-t. Once they told me what was entailed, I said no thanks."

  • Dominic West


    As Wire star Dominic West told Huffington Post, he auditioned for GOT -- reportedly for Mance Rayder, who's played by Ciaran Hinds, but he ended up turning it down.

    “I was offered something on Game of Thrones and unfortunately, I hadn't seen it, but my nephew and his father said, 'Gosh, Game of Thrones is the only great show on!'" Dominic said. "And I felt terrible, because I'd just turned them down."

  • Charlie Hunnam


    It's hard to believe that Charlie Hunnam was almost Rhaegar Targaryen, but in the end, it just didn't work out. According to what Charlie told the Associated Press, he rejected the offer to have a cameo on the show because he was busy with other projects. 

    "I would love to do a Game of Thrones cameo, they offered me a cameo on that show a little while ago but I was shooting something else so I wasn't able to do it but maybe in the future, who knows," he said.

  • Tricia Helfer


    In a Twitter reply to a fan, Tricia Helfer admitted that she auditioned for Cersei way back when. She didn't get the role -- that's all Lena Headey these days -- but she did say it inspired her to read the books. 

    "Yes it was Cersei," she confirmed in her tweet. "Got me interested in the books tho. Half way thru the 3rd one. Great books."

  • Eugene Simon


    Eugene Simon played Lancel Lannister in GoT, but he originally auditioned for the role of King Joffrey. And it's a good thing he didn't end up scoring that one, or he'd have had a shorter run on the show. As Eugene told AAP, he thinks it all worked out for the best, too. 

    "I actually auditioned for Joffrey but I was relieved when Jack Gleeson got it because he did such a good job," Eugene said. "I felt the stars aligned with me getting this role."

  • Conleth Hill


    Conleth is another GoT star who almost played a different character. We know him as Varys, but as he told HuffPost, he originally auditioned for King Baratheon -- and he thinks Mark Addy was the right choice for the role.

    "It is true, to be honest, but I have to say that I came out of the meeting, which went all right, and looked who was in after me, saw who it was, and went, 'Well, he'd be all right for it,' and he was, and he got it," Conleth said. "You know, that's showbiz."

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