A fan's analysis of the Game of Thrones season two casting
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As casting comes to an end, Shadowlocked's GoT expert - Christopher Morgan - casts his analytical eye over the choices...
George R R Martin must be having a ball. HBO’s epic adaptation of his further epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire - retitled Game of Thrones for TV - has been a runaway success. On the back of this success, Martin recently celebrated the launch of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the seven-volume series. And now, with casting almost complete for season two of Game of Thrones, HBO has announced the actors playing three of the major new players come next season, Stephen Dillane, Liam Cunningham and Carice van Houten as Stannis Baratheon, Davos Seaworth and Melisandre of Asshai respectively.
As a somewhat obsessive fan of the series, I’ve been wondering about who HBO would pick for these roles for some time, as have many others. Speculation tipped several big name actors for Stannis, including Mark Strong, Christopher Eccleston, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes. Few, if any, had listed Stephen Dillane as a likely choice, and this goes to show again just how ahead of the game HBO are when it comes to casting.
Melisandre was a harder face to pin down, with various suggestions from Eva Green of the recently-cancelled Camelot to Monica Belluci, who - while a little on the older side - would have been pitch-perfect. Once again, no one was really close to the mark and almost nobody considered Dutch actress van Houten.
Stephen Dillane is a choice I never saw coming, though that by no means makes him a bad one. In miniseries John Adams, Dillane played chief-author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. It was a show-stealing performance, and despite the exceptional standard of acting in John Adams (another HBO production), Dillane clearly and consistently drew the eye. He’s an exciting choice for Stannis, and seems to imply that the writers will be carefully examining the core of his character, something they could very easily have ignored – Stannis is a man who sees and understands the black and white, and though not to be underestimated, he is often described as a man who would break before he bends.
Stannis Baratheon, King Robert’s (played by Mark Addy in season one) embittered younger brother with an unyielding sense of justice, will be proclaiming himself King of the Seven Kingdoms after his brother’s death and the discovery that recently-crowned King Joffrey is not Robert’s son, but a bastard born of incest between the Queen and her twin brother. Lady Melisandre is a mysterious woman from Asshai across the Narrow Sea, far to the east and has become a highly influential figure in Stannis’ court. She has seduced Stannis and converted him to her “one true god”, R’hollor, Lord of Light, and that Stannis is the fabled hero who will save the realm from the coming attack of the Others from beyond the Wall.
Stannis rules his own court at Dragonstone, a new location certain to be of integral importance next season in Game of Thrones as Stannis prepares for open war against not just King Joffrey and House Lannister, but also his own brother, Renly Baratheon (played by Gethin Anthony, who we recently interviewed here at Shadowlocked) who has also declared himself King.
Liam Cunningham has one of those faces – you know you him, but you can’t say why or from where. He’s appeared in a slew of British movies over the years along with some TV dramas to boot. A veteran of recently cancelled Camelot, Cunningham looks nothing like how I imagined Davos Seaworth to be, and yet somehow I already feel he’s an excellent choice. He has the look of the everyman about him, a quality which is vital for the part of Davos.
Carice van Houten is another left-field choice, but is a pretty high-calibre actress in her own right. She starred in thriller Black Book, and shared the screen with Tom Cruise as his wife in Valkyrie. She’s largely unknown to western audiences, but this may be exactly what’s required for portraying the enigmatic seductress that Melisandre is. That said, I would have loved Monica Belluci or Eva Green for this.
With Natalie Dormer cast as Margaery Tyrell and Gwendoline Christie also confirmed as Brienne of Tarth, season two of Game of Thrones certainly looks set to expand the horizons of the Seven Kingdoms as well as the scope of the show. As I said many times throughout my reviews of the first season, the real story begins in season two.
Natalie Dormer is an odd choice for Margaery, who is supposed to be a maid of sixteen years, while Dormer herself is twenty nine. Presented as a girl that’s all innocence (or is she?), it’s going to be interesting to see how the writers tackle bringing Margaery to the silver screen, particularly as she played master manipulator Queen Anne Boleyn in The Tudors.
Meanwhile, Gwendoline Christie is 6ft 3in, and while not as obviously beautiful as Dormer, for example, some fans are claiming she isn’t ugly enough to play Brienne. To non-readers, it may seem an odd criticism, but in the books Brienne is described as homely giant of a girl, broad of shoulder and muscled to boot with the face of a pig. Gwendoline Christie isn’t, but ultimately it’s irrelevant. If she can bring Brienne’s personality to the role, her physicality will take care of itself. For the record, George R R Martin stated on his blog that when Christie came in for the audition, she didn’t look like Christie, she looked like Brienne.
Game of Thrones is due to return next April on HBO and SKY Atlantic. It’s going to be a long wait.
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