In the fictional land of Westeros, ultimate power is to be found on the Iron Throne. The road to obtaining said power is full of deceit, bloodshed, and otherworldly struggle. Any character wishing to take the Iron Throne for themselves is most likely to end up dead – fan favorite or not. Fortunately for the actors playing these parts, rising to fame is much easier and safer in our world than in Westeros.
Game of Thrones has been running on television for five years now, and it’s built up a pretty remarkable cast over its six seasons. From Peter Dinklage to Max von Sydow to Sean Bean to Lena Heady, there’s no shortage when it comes to the big name talent on their cast. They’ve even launched the careers of a few notable people you’ve been seeing a lot these past few years and will continue to see in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest breakout stars of the series.
Maisie Williams (Arya Stark)
While Arya Stark is on her way to becoming a Faceless One, Maisie Williams is becoming one of the most recognizable young actors currently working in television. The first season of Game of Thrones is actually Williams’ first credit, and she has had the attention of audiences since then. With Arya, Williams has proven the character one of the strongest and most committed characters in that world and one of the identifiable staples of the show. Arya’s gone through the ringer, witnessing most of her family killed off and having to journey with the Hound for a season, and yet, it feels like there’s a lot more to be explored with her character. Same with Williams, who at a young age has gotten key roles on popular series such as Game of Thrones and Doctor Who and is soon to make an appearance in the comic book movie realm with Fox’s New Mutants.
Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei)
Nathalie Emmanuel, after gaining some popularity with her main role in British series Hollyoaks, started off on Game of Thrones in a supporting role as Daenerys Targaryen’s interpreter for season three. The role evolved into a main role over the course of a couple of seasons, as the character herself became teacher and caregiver to Grey Worm and Daenerys’ most humanizing companion. Emmanuel was able to transition into film through key supporting roles as well, joining the two Maze Runner sequels as Harriet and the diverse cast of Furious 7, which is currently the sixth highest-grossing film of all-time.
Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark)
Being a teenage girl is hard. Being a teenage girl that’s also presumed to be the only living Stark child is the worst possible situation to be in. And yet Sansa Stark pushes on, never surrendering to the awful men who seek to use her for their own ambitions. Even Sophie Turner seems unfazed by the show’s frequently awful mistreatment of her character. Fans have been more than ready to see the character take redemption, and we might get that when the next season airs over the next few weeks. Aside from being a fan treasure on the series, Turner is set to breakout on film in a big way with her taking on the role of iconic comic book character Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse, and most likely, its sequels.
Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)
The “Mother of Dragons” became the famous mother of John Connor when Emilia Clarke took on the iconic role of Sarah Connor in last year’s Terminator Genisys. The film may not have been a big hit, but it was interesting seeing Clarke depict a version of one of the science-fiction heroes. Essentially, Clarke has become through Game of Thrones what Robert Downey, Jr. has become through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She has become extremely famous and the role has become a household name, but it has left all her recent roles to be outshined by her one iconic character. It’s not uncommon for television. Game of Thrones basically took a relative unknown and made her one of the most recognizable people of the current age of television.
Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell)
Margaery Tyrell climbed her way to the top using her intelligence, charm, and incredibly good acting skills (Margaery deserves an Emmy for making Joffrey think that he’s likable). She even stole the hearts of the people of King’s Landing, remaining the people’s favorite until even past the death of her husband. Same could be said for Natalie Dormer, who quickly captured our attention when her character was able to keep the Lannister’s at bay with her seductive skills. Dormer has become a fan favorite since then, with her popularity lending itself well to her moving on to different projects. She portrayed war documenter Cressida in both The Hunger Games: Mockingjay films and an amalgamation of Sherlock Holmes characters, Moriarty and Irene Adler, in Elementary. Her stardom even allowed The Forest to become a success back in January and for the upcoming Patient Zero to become an anticipated film for some.
Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth)
Dedicated is one word to describe Brienne of Tarth. The character travelled around Westeros, pairing up with different people and fighting off big dudes, all just to keep her oath to Catelyn Stark. Gwendoline Christie portrays the dedication and the strength that comes with the character spectacularly, and it’s one of the reasons she’s one of Game of Thrones’ biggest breakout stars. Last year, Christie had her biggest year yet, with Game of Thrones, playing Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, and embodying a role that is design-centric with Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All roles gave her the opportunity to display her strength of displaying certain character traits visually, and all projects were successes to various degrees (the latter project being a juggernaut of a success).
Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo)
Jason Momoa is the only guy on this list, and was only on the show for a season, but he does currently have the most exciting lineup of future films. Momoa broke out in 2011 with him taking on the mantle of iconic role of Conan the Barbarian, as well as with his portrayal of the savage leader of the Dothraki, Khal Drogo, in the first season of Game of Thrones. The two roles gave general audiences the perceived image of an actor capable of playing the intense and brooding muscle man, which is why it’s no surprise that audiences gladly embraced his casting as Aquaman in the DC Extended Universe. With his first appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this past year, it’s clear that gone are the days of Aquaman riding a seahorse to catch up with his super friends. Now, we have an Aquaman ready to kill his enemies in the dark depths of the ocean. The character will be further explored in a main role in two upcoming Justice League films, and he even gets to headline his own film in the near future.