The Early Acting Gigs of 20 Game of Thrones Stars

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

We're two episodes into the final season of Game of Thrones, and still trying to figure out who will win the battle for the Seven Kingdoms. But here’s how some of the series’ stars (past and present) made a living before they were Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens, and beyond.

1. Emilia Clarke // Daenerys Targaryen

Before everyone’s favorite Khaleesi and Mother of Dragons embarked on her quest for the Iron Throne, Emilia Clarke starred in a commercial for the Samaritans, a charity that provides support to people in emotional distress. She broke into TV with a guest role on an episode of the long-running BBC series Doctors in 2009, then played Savannah in Syfy’s Triassic Attack in 2010.

2. Lena Headey // Cersei Lannister

Long before she had to endure the world’s worst walk of shame, Lena Headey had her first on-screen role in the 1992 movie Waterland alongside Ethan Hawke and Jeremy Irons. The then-24-year-old actress played Young Mary Crick, whose character has a sex scene with Hawke’s character (then eventually marries Irons).

3. Gwendoline Christie // Brienne of Tarth

Before Gwendoline Christie swung a sword as the fiercest lady knight this side of the wall, she had bit roles in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Classy Shopper 2) and The Time Surgeon (The Tape/”Victim”). She also played Lexi/Lucy in 12 episodes of the BBC series Wizards vs. Aliens. Check her out in the clip above.

4. Richard Madden // Robb Stark

The dearly departed King in the North honed his craft on the BBC children’s comedy Barmy Aunt Boomerang. Richard Madden played Sebastian, whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of his wacky Australian aunt, Boomerang … who is actually a ghost. Dragons and direwolves probably seemed downright normal after that.

5. Jack Gleeson // Joffrey Baratheon

Yes, Jack Gleeson is the little boy rescued by Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) in Batman Begins. You can also catch the boy who would be Game of Thrones's psychotic King in 2007’s Shrooms, about three couples who go to Ireland to collect magic mushrooms and trip out (Gleeson played “Lonely Twin”), and in 2009’s A Shine of Rainbows as Seamus; you can spot him in the trailer above at the :46 mark.

6. Iwan Rheon // Ramsay Bolton

Iwan Rheon, who plays the bastard everyone loves to hate, cut his teeth on Welsh television. He made his onscreen debut playing Macsen White on the long-running Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm in the 2004 episode “OB Cafe”; two years later, he played Daniel on several episodes of the Welsh drama Caerdydd. Fans of the British TV show Misfits will recognize him as Simon Bellamy, a role he landed in 2009.

7. Natalie Dormer // Margaery Tyrell

Before she was Renly, Joffrey, and Tommen’s Queen, Natalie Dormer made her debut on the first episode of ITV dramedy Distant Shores. She played “Mobile Woman,” a character who loudly talks on her cell phone on the bus and gets chewed out by the main character. You can see it all go down in the clip above.

Margaery isn’t the only queen Dormer has played; she lost her head as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors before booking Game of Thrones in 2012.

8. Liam Cunningham // Davos Seaworth

Liam Cunningham made his onscreen debut in a 1992 short film called Public Toilet. A year later, he appeared in his first feature film, the family adventure Into the West, playing a police officer.

9. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau // Jaime Lannister

Before he played the Kingslayer, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau starred in the 1994 Danish thriller Nightwatch as Martin, who takes a night shift job in a mortuary to finance his law school education. Scary stuff ensues, as you can see in the trailer above.

10. Alfie Allen // Theon Greyjoy

Before becoming Theon Grejoy (or Reek), Alfie Allen—younger brother of singer Lily Allen—had roles in films like Elizabeth (1998), Atonement (2007), and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). He also appeared in three episodes of the 2008 miniseries Casualty 1907, which used records from the archives of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to bring the patients and doctors of the Victorian-era hospital back to life.

11. Aidan Gillen // Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish

Before taking on a character who is a skilled player in the game of thrones, Aidan Gillen had roles in a number of TV movies, hit the big screen as Aidan Lynch in Circle of Friends, and played Councilman-turned-Mayor Thomas Carcetti in The Wire.

12. Rory McCann // Sandor "The Hound" Clegane

Prior to playing the fire-fearing, murder-loving Hound, Rory McCann got his break in a couple of hilarious Scott’s Porage Oats commercials, the first of which is above (you can see the second one here). You might also recognize the 6' 6" actor as Michael Armstrong in Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz (2007):

13. Carice Van Houten // Melisandre

In 1999, the actress who was once Stannis Baratheon's right-hand-sorceress starred in the Dutch TV movie Suzy Q, which followed a weekend in the life of a bizarre family in the 1960s. You can see a clip above.

14. Conleth Hill // Lord Varys

Prior to playing Westeros's scheming eunuch, Conleth Hill sang as an Irish tenor in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1993. You can get a good look at him in the video above, around the 5:50 mark.

15. Nathalie Emmanuel // Missandei

Before she booked Game of Thrones, the future right hand lady of the Khaleesi appeared on the British soap opera Hollyoaks from 2007 to 2010, playing the boy crazy wild child Sasha Valentine. In one story arc, her character overdosed on heroin and slipped into a coma. Watch her bring the drama in the clip above (which has some NSFW language).

16. Jacob Anderson // Grey Worm

Fans of Broadchurch will recognize this leader of the Unsullied as Dean Thomas, Chloe Latimer’s boyfriend. Before that, Anderson made his TV debut in the British soap opera Doctors; he played Ryan Garvey for one episode in 2007.

17. Rose Leslie // Ygritte

Before playing Jon Snow's wildling lover on Game of Thrones, Rose Leslie was a member of Downton Abbey's downstairs crew (she was the housemaid who wanted to become a secretary). But her first TV role was on the documentary series Locked Up Abroad. She played Kim, a lady with less-than-honorable intentions who convinces her boyfriend to come to Peru while she runs a drug smuggling job.

18. Natalia Tena // Osha

Playing a wildling in Game of Thrones isn't Natalia Tena's first foray into fantasy; the actress is perhaps best known for her role as Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter series. But her first big screen role was when she was a teenager, playing Ellie in Chris and Paul Weitz’s Oscar-nominated About a Boy (2002). You can see her at the 1:07 mark in the clip above.

19. Sibel Kekilli // Shae

Before she landed the role as Tyrion Lannister’s lady-for-hire, Sibel Kekilli won two Lolas—the German award equivalent of an Oscar—in 2004 and 2010. She also had a role in the 2004 German film Kebab Connection, about a man of Turkish descent who wants to direct the first German kung-fu movie. You can see Kekilli at the 1:01 mark in the trailer above.

20. Richard Brake // The Night King

Richard Brake only made a couple of appearances as The Night King in seasons 4 and 5 of Game of Thrones, but each one was chilling. (Stuntman Vladimir Furdik took over the role in season 6.) Brake got his start in 1993 on an episode of the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie series Jeeves & Wooster playing a reporter. You might also recognize him as Joe Chill—yup, the guy who kills Bruce Wayne’s parents—in Batman Begins. You can see him at 2:25 in the clip above.

Updated for 2019.

12 Facts About Revenge of the Nerds For Its 35th Anniversary

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

In the summer of 1984, nerds were mainly perceived as guys who wore pocket protectors and had tape on their glasses. But in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs was inventing the type of nerd culture we’re familiar with today. Decades later, nerds rule the world.

Revenge of the Nerds starred then-unknowns Anthony Edwards, Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong, James Cromwell, Larry B. Scott, John Goodman, and Timothy Busfield. In the movie, the jock-filled Alpha Beta fraternity bullies the geeks on the campus of Adams College, so to fight back, they form a frat chapter under black fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda (Tri-Lambs), and take down the jocks. The movie’s plot and title come from a magazine article published around that time about Silicon Valley innovators—who just happened to be nerds.

The film, which was budgeted at $6 million, only opened on 364 screens (it eventually expanded to 877). Somehow the movie had legs and grossed $40,874,452 at the box office and ranked as the 16th highest-grossing film of 1984. It was successful enough to spawn three sequels, none of which were as popular as the original. To celebrate Revenge of the Nerds' 35th anniversary, here are some geeky facts about the underdog comedy.

1. Greek officials at the University of Arizona objected to the movie being filmed on their campus.

The movie filmed at the University of Arizona, and involved the college’s Greek system. The Greek officials didn’t want the movie to be another Animal House, so they threatened to halt production. “We meet with the sororities, and we’re worried we’re about to deal with a bunch of feminists who are pissed because this is a fairly sexist movie,” the film’s director, Jeff Kanew, told the Arizona Daily Star. “I just say to them, ‘Look, I have kids, and I’ll tell you now, I’d let them see this movie. It’s about the triumph of the underdog, not judging a book by its cover. This is a good movie.’” The filmmakers won, and the Greeks allowed them to film there.

2. The set was one big party.

Ted McGinley—who played Alpha Beta honcho Stan Gable—told The A.V. Club: “I was so embarrassed to say Revenge Of The Nerds.” Kanew cast him because he saw him on the cover of a Men of USC calendar, sold at the University of Arizona bookstore. His good looks attracted “hot girls” from the UofA campus to watch the dailies with the cast and crew. “They had beer and pizza and sandwiches,” McGinley said. “I mean, you just don’t do that on movie sets. It was just so much fun, and I thought, ‘It can’t be better than this!’”

3. Curtis Armstrong knew it would be a good movie, even though his character wasn't fully fleshed out.

Curtis Armstrong filmed Risky Business but then was unemployed for a year before he got Revenge of the Nerds. “You have to realize the character of Booger in the original script was non-existent almost,” Armstrong told Entertainment Weekly. “What was there was just, ‘We’ve got b*sh!’ and ‘Mother’s little d**chebag’—those kinds of lines. I was looking at it and thinking, ‘How do I take this and even begin to make it likeable or accessible?’”

With its strong cast, writers, and director, Armstrong said, “It has to be a good movie. But I wasn’t sure how it was going to be taken as opposed to Risky Business, which was sort of an art-house-type movie. This was very much broader and very much cruder, but it had a message that went beyond sex jokes.”

4. The scenes between Booger and Takashi were improvised.

The actors would bring ideas to the director and vice versa, creating a lot of improvisation in the movie. In one scene, Booger and Takashi (Brian Tochi) engage in a friendly game of cards. But unbeknownst to Takashi, Booger tricks him. “We ran and got our cots, and Brian and I were next to each other,” Armstrong told Entertainment Weekly. “It wasn’t planned that we would be next to each other. It just happened that way.”

The production asked the guys to “come up with something” for them to film. “We had nothing at all!” Armstrong said. “We went to the prop people, and they had a deck of cards. And that’s where that scene [and Booger’s whole bit about taking money from Takashi] came from. And they liked it so much that, every time Takashi and I were in the room together, we would have to come up with something else.”

5. Lambda Lambda Lambda exists in real life.

On January 15, 2006, the University of Connecticut founded the co-ed social fraternity. It’s “unaffiliated with Greek Life” and is “dedicated to the enjoyment and enrichment of pop culture and to the brotherhood of its members. Tri-Lambs does not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, class, ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

6. Booger's belch came from a camel.

In one of the film's more memorable scenes, Booger and Ogre compete in a belching contest. Booger takes a swig of beer and lets out a robust seven-second belch and wins the contest. But the effects were added in post-production. “I can’t even belch on command,” Armstrong told USA Today. “If you said to me, ‘Can you belch now?' I couldn’t do it.”

To make up for Armstrong’s dearth of gas, “They wound up finding a recording of a camel having an orgasm,” Armstrong said. “They took this sound and blended it in with a human belch.”

7. Curtis Armstrong wrote a bio for Booger, but it turned out to be about himself.

Because his character wasn’t fully developed, Armstrong wrote a one-page bio for Booger. Years later he re-read the bio and realized he and Booger had similarities. “I’d basically retold my life as Booger without even being aware of it,” Armstrong told Entertainment Weekly. “[One detail] was that [Booger] used nose-picking and belching as a defense mechanism because [he’s] insecure. Now, mind you, I did not pick my nose and belch because I was insecure. However, I was insecure growing up. I didn’t have dates or anything like that; I was not good around girls. But I had other ways of defending myself other than being crude and picking my nose. When I look at it now with some distance, I realize all I was doing was writing about myself.”

8. A Dallas test screening almost killed Revenge of the Nerds.

The film tested well in Las Vegas—an 85—but when the Fox executives took the movie to Dallas, the number dipped. “You’re gonna send us to Dallas to screen a movie that celebrates nerds and in which the black guys intimidate the white football players?!” director Kanew told the Arizona Daily Star. The movie scored in the 60s, which caused Fox to cut marketing for the film and only release it on 364 screens. “I don’t really understand what happened, but it hung around and grew and grew and grew,” Kanew said.

9. Poindexter was originally named after a prop guy.

When Timothy Busfield auditioned for the movie, his character didn’t have many lines, so he had to read Lamar’s lines. At the time, the character was named Lipschultz, after the prop guy. All that was written for the character description was “a violin-playing Henry Kissinger.”

“There was one line Lipschultz had in the original, but our prop guy was named Lipschultz, and he didn’t like the fact that there was a nerd named Lipschultz, so they changed it to Poindexter,” Busfield said during a San Francisco Sketchfest Nerds reunion. Busfield found Poindexter’s costume at a thrift store and showed up to the audition with his hair parted, and danced to “Beat It.”

10. The sequel to Revenge of the Nerds afforded Anythony Edwards a pool.

Anthony Edwards told The A.V. Club that he didn’t want to appear in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, but acquiesced because the producers talked him into it. He’s hardly in the film, but the money he earned afforded him a simple luxury. “I ended up with a pool in my backyard that I called the Revenge of the Nerds II pool,” Edwards said. “Not that I’m complaining, but they seriously overpaid me for my weeks of work on the film, so I used it to put in a pool.”

11. A remake (thankfully) got shut down.

After two weeks of filming in the fall of 2006, a Revenge of the Nerds remake stopped production. Emory University in Atlanta pulled out of filming, but according to Variety, the real reason was because a Fox Atomic executive “was not completely satisfied with the dailies.” The cast included Adam Brody and Jenna Dewan.

12. Revenge of the Nerds pushed nerdom into the mainstream.

“I’m not going to say Revenge of the Nerds was responsible for everything in nerd culture, but I do think you could make an argument that that attitude began with the last scene in Revenge,” Armstrong told HuffPost. “The last scene—the scene I probably love above all in that movie—we’re at the pep rally and come out in front of everybody as nerds, and encourage these people of different generations to join them in their nerdness. I get teary thinking about it, and you could certainly make an argument that that was the beginning of embracing nerd culture by everybody.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

The Office Star Ellie Kemper Wants to Do a Reunion Episode

NBC - NBCUniversal Media
NBC - NBCUniversal Media

While rumors of The Office getting a reboot have been swirling around for years, the outlook on that happening any time soon doesn't look good. But a reunion episode might just be possible.

Ellie Kemper, who played Erin Hannon in the beloved series, recently stopped by Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen to dish about the sitcom and her thoughts on whether it might be making a return to the small screen: "I would love there to be a reboot, but I don't think there will be. So, that's a sad answer," Kemper admitted. "But maybe like a reunion episode? That would be fun."

E! News reports that Kemper isn’t the only cast member that wants to get the band back together. Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly, also thinks a reunion episode would be a hit. “I think it's a great idea," Fischer said in 2018. "I would be honored to come back in any way that I'm able to.”

A key player in the series' success, however, is not so enthusiastic about the idea. Steve Carell, who played the infamous Michael Scott, doesn’t think a revival would be well-received. "The climate's different," Carell told Esquire back in 2018. "I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior. I mean, he's certainly not a model boss. A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That's the point, you know? But I just don't know how that would fly now.”

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