What the cast of Game of Thrones looks like in real life

Warning: this article contains spoilers for seasons one through seven!

On the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, a lot of work goes into creating the look of each character. Since it's based on a series of novels, the production team has to make sure that the cast members closely resemble their book counterparts in order to keep viewers (and author George R.R. Martin) happy. Because of the on-screen transformation these actors go through, many of them look quite different in real life. Let's take a look at the current cast of Game of Thrones—the characters who have survived so far, that is—and see how their normal appearance differs from their on-screen personas.

Kit Harington - Jon

Kit Harington plays main character Jon Snow, who starts out as just the bastard of Ned Stark and ends up the savior of the North when he defeats Ramsay Bolton. Ever since the first season, Jon Snow has sported long and curly locks, with plenty of facial hair—appropriate for the cold environment in northern Westeros. In season six, Jon started to sport a "man bun" more often, which resembles Ned Stark's frequent hairstyle from season one.

Before landing his role on Game of Thrones, Harington was a relatively unknown actor who had only acted in theater productions. His role as Jon Snow changed all of that, landing him multiple TV and movie roles in the years since. He even gained a girlfriend because of the show—fellow Thrones co-star and Jon Snow's on-screen romantic interest Ygritte (Rose Leslie).

In real life, Harington doesn't look much different from his on-screen role—when he and Leslie showed up on the red carpet for the July 2017 premiere of season seven, Harington's hair color, style, and facial hair all still look exactly like Jon Snow.

Maisie Williams - Arya

As the rebellious and determined youngest daughter of House Stark, Maisie Williams has practically grown up in front of the viewing audience, as she was only 12 when she was cast in the role of Arya. Arya has gone through an on-screen transformation of her own, both in appearance and in personality: she started as a young lady, before masquerading as a boy for quite some time and finally discovering and accepting herself during season six.

Like many of the other younger actors on Game of Thrones, Williams was a complete unknown before being cast in the series. Her part as Arya was her first professional role, and since then she's racked up many more appearances on both the big-screen and television.

In real-life, Williams also strongly resembles her on-screen counterpart, except for one major difference: the braces she got in early 2017 definitely didn't come from Westeros. Her hair is the same natural brown as it is on the series, although Williams definitely enjoys dressing in more feminine clothing than the tomboyish Arya. At the July 2017 premiere of season seven, she was stunning with a simple hairdo and a gorgeous green dress.

Sophie Turner - Sansa

True to the books, the Sansa of the television series takes strongly after her mother, with the Tully blue eyes and auburn hair. Like Maisie Williams, actress Sophie Turner has grown up on-screen from an unknown 13-year-old actress into the lovely young woman she is today. Her part as Sansa on the show was her first professional role, but since then she has expanded her career to include plenty of other Hollywood roles, including as Jean Grey in the X-Men franchise.

Unlike the red and wavy-haired Sansa, Turner usually sports straight hair in her natural color, blonde. For several seasons of the show, Turner dyed her hair to match Sansa's natural locks, but she reported that she was using a red wig during the filming of season seven. Even though she used a wig during filming, Turner returned to red locks when she walked the red carpet at the July 2017 premiere in L.A., looking every inch like Sansa—if Sansa was transported to the present-day and owned an amazing sequined dress.

Emilia Clarke - Daenerys

For her part as Queen Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke went through a more significant transformation than many of her castmates. The natural brunette spends hours getting her lovely platinum blonde wig styled in the curls and waves that Daenerys typically prefers.

While Game of Thrones was her first major starring role, Clarke wasn't a complete unknown prior to being cast on the series. After graduating from drama school, she worked six different jobs to pay the bills, and landed some early castings in a TV movie and an episode of the BBC television show Doctors. Since her big break on Thrones, Clarke has gone on to rack up an impressive list of television and movie appearances, including in Terminator Genisys and in the 2018 Star Wars Han Solo film.

Peter Dinklage - Tyrion

As Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage has to hold down one of the most complicated roles on the show. As the black sheep of House Lannister, Tyrion tried to still do right by his family—until even his own father betrayed him. Forced into an unwanted exile and responsible for the deaths of both his lover and his father, Tyrion eventually found new purpose in life as a principal advisor to Daenerys Targaryen.

Like the rest of the Lannisters, Tyrion has blond hair, which typically falls in shaggy curls around his ears. In real life, Dinklage's 'do isn't much different—except for the color. Prior to his casting in GoT, Dinklage has had a long career as an actor, with roles dating back to the 1990s. He has naturally dark hair, although he was spotted in early 2017 getting his hair dyed a shocking red—mostly likely for one of his many upcoming films. Additionally, fans of the show will remember the major and disfiguring battle scars Tyrion acquired during the Battle of the Blackwater—scars that Dinklage definitely does not have in real-life.

Lena Headey - Cersei

Like her good friend and on-screen brother Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey's appearance on the series is quite different from her normal look. Also like Dinklage, Headey's career as an actor stretches back to the 1990s, with plenty of prominent roles in both film and television.

As Cersei Lannister, she sported the family's trademark blonde locks—usually in elaborately styled wigs during the early seasons. The one major difference between Cersei and Headey lies in their hair color; Lena normally has dark brown hair. Later on, Cersei had her hair shorn by the sisters of the Faith of the Seven as part of her "walk of shame" ritual. Amazingly, even that razored pixie cut was a wig, too. Headey seemed to take inspiration from her character, however—cutting her own hair short into a pixie bob back in 2014.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Jaime

While he was hardly an unknown actor before being cast in Game of Thrones, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau definitely hit the jackpot when he was picked to play Jaime Lannister, twin and lover of Cersei. Another very complicated character, Jaime must struggle with his own divided loyalties and the pressures that come with it as he attempts to figure out his own identity.

Like the rest of the Lannister clan, Jaime has blond hair, and his haircut has evolved over time, much like his sister's. In the first season, his longer locks were flowing and beautiful, which changed to a dirty and matted mess during his imprisonment during the War of Five Kings. After making his way home to King's Landing with the help of Brienne, Jaime cut his hair short into a more manageable and militaristic style. Coster-Waldau looks nearly identical in real-life, with the same hair color, facial hair and a similar hairstyle—although he wore his locks slicked back and combed for the July 2017 premiere of season seven.

Gwendoline Christie - Brienne

Perhaps one of the most stunning visual transformations on the series has been that of Gwendoline Christie into the character of Brienne of Tarth. On the series, Brienne struggles to find her purpose in life—and understand her complicated feelings for Jaime Lannister—as she strives to be the model of a chivalrous knight in a society that typically treats women little better than chattel.

In real-life, the actress and former model is stunning, but she steps into a more androgynous look for the masculine female warrior on Game of Thrones. Along with the traumatic experience of cutting off her long and beautiful hair, Christie had to undergo an extreme training regimen, gaining over a stone of muscle mass. The training even affected how she carried herself, Christie reported—she went from a dancer's grace to a much more masculine bearing. At the July 2017 premiere of season seven, it was hard to find any hint of Brienne as Christie walked the red carpet, gorgeously done up in a stunning gown with longer hair and lovely makeup.

Aidan Gillen - Littlefinger

Aidan Gillen is one of the Game of Thrones cast members with the most acting experience; his role résumé stretches back over three decades to the mid 1980s. Although some of his fans might remember him better from his roles in shows like Queer as Folk or The Wire, there's no question that his part as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish on Game of Thrones has brought Gillen to worldwide prominence. Littlefinger is one of those characters who is extremely hard to pin down—except that you absolutely know that he cannot be trusted.

Matching his preference for subtle political machinations, Littlefinger has a subtle and unassuming look, with dark (but graying) hair kept short and some unfortunate facial hair choices—including an ill-advised soul patch. In real life, Gillen's style is much more casual. His hair is more gray than Littlefinger's, and he tends to wear it in a boyish and messy style much different from the sleek style worn by Baelish. At the 2017 L.A. premiere of season seven, Gillen did sport a little stubble along his jaw, but thankfully the soul patch was nowhere to be seen.

Conleth Hill - Varys

Like his frequent on-screen adversary Aidan Gillen, Conleth Hill's career as an actor goes all the way back to the '80s. That being said, Game of Thrones certainly launched Hill into the view of fans around the world with his role as Lord Varys. The plotting "Spider" has certainly evolved since the first season, morphing from a "dedicated" servant of King Joffrey to an exile alongside Tyrion Lannister, joining him as one of Daenerys Targaryen's most trusted advisors.

In order to accurately play the secretive and plotting spymaster, Hill has to keep his head shaved. During the "off-season," he typically sports a full head of silver hair, an asset which has helped him keep his anonymity while in public.

Iain Glen - Jorah

Poor Ser Jorah. There may not be any other character—save Brienne—who has stuck as steadfastly to one goal. In the early seasons of Game of Thrones, Jorah's loyalty to Daenerys was not yet established, and he traded information on her back to the Iron Throne in hopes he'd be granted a pardon for selling poachers to a slave trade ship. Since then, he's been dedicated to her in every way—even coming back to her eventually after she exiled him for his betrayals.

Glen's acting career includes dozens of roles over more than 30 years, preparing him for the challenges of playing such a complicated character. If you compare photos of Glen in everyday life and him in costume as Jorah, you'll notice there's very little difference between the two. They both have the same sandy blonde, slightly graying hair, although Glen seems to prefer a clean-shaven look over Jorah's ever-present stubble.

Liam Cunningham - Davos

Liam Cunningham's path to Hollywood took a different road than most; he first spent a number of years in a career as an electrician before deciding to take acting classes and pursue that interest as an adult. He landed his first film part in 1992 and hasn't looked back, racking up dozens of prominent and starring roles since then. As Ser Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones, Cunningham provides the closest thing the show has to a conscience—providing solid and ethical advice to both Stannis Baratheon and Jon Snow.

When it comes to differences in looks, there isn't a lot of change between Liam Cunningham the man and the character he portrays on Game of Thrones. Ser Davos and Cunningham both have the same thinning salt-and-pepper hair, but the Onion Knight keeps his hair and beard much longer than Cunningham's normal look. Given that Davos is currently stuck the in the cold North far away from his home in the Stormlands, we can't blame him for his currently bushy appearance.

Nathalie Emmanuel - Missandei

While some English viewers may remember Nathalie Emmanuel better from her role as Sasha Valentine in the soap opera Hollyoaks, there's no question that her part as Missandei in Game of Thrones has propelled her to stardom. Since landing the part as Daenerys Targaryen's steadfast assistant and advisor, Emmanuel has been landing new roles left and right, including in the Maze Runner film franchise.

The casting department definitely made a good choice when picking Emmanuel for the part; her appearance on-screen is nearly identical to her typical look, with the same hair color and naturally curly hairstyle. That being said, Emmanuel isn't afraid to spice up her look in ways that the demure Missandei would never dream of. At the 2017 premiere of season seven, Emmanuel proved her fashion sense when she showed up in a dress covered with screaming faces, a plucky up-do, deep red lipstick, and a septum piercing. Tyrion would probably need to ply Missandei with a lot of wine before she'd brave any of those looks.

Jacob Anderson - Grey Worm

In addition to an acting career going back over a decade, Jacob Anderson is also a talented musician. He sings and raps under the name Raleigh Ritchie, and released his first album in 2016, called "You're a Man Now, Boy." If you'd like to check out his other talent, we recommend you give the title track from that album a listen—it's amazingly good

In his role as Grey Worm on Game of Thrones, Anderson has gained worldwide recognition. He is a usually-silent and often stern-faced guardian of Daenerys Targaryen, but his connection with Missandei has revealed the hint of a softer side to Grey Worm in recent seasons.

As far as his appearance goes, the only difference between Anderson and Grey Worm lies in his hair; Anderson keeps his head and face trimmed very short in order to play the eunuch soldier. In real life, he still has a trim appearance, but he lets his hair and stubble get a little longer than Grey Worm would consider proper.

Kristofer Hivju - Tormund

The Wildling captain Tormund "Giantsbane" has had a difficult few years, especially following the death of The King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder. That said, Tormund has changed his loyalties somewhat, becoming a dedicated follower of Jon Snow. Although his acting career goes back to 2001, Kristofer Hivju primarily appeared in Norwegian film and television productions in his native country before he was cast as Tormund.

As is typical of the Wildlings men that must brave the bitter cold north of the Wall, Tormund wears his hair long and his beard thick and full in order to help keep his head and face warmer. In real life, Hivju doesn't look much different from the Wildling; he still has the same flowing naturally red locks as Tormund, and sports a glorious beard that probably could win an Emmy if "best facial hair" was a legitimate category.

Vladimir Furdik - Night King

Although this tall and handsome actor primarily has worked as a stunt performer during his TV and film career, Vladimir Furdik scored big when he was picked to replace Richard Brake as the terrifying and enigmatic Night King, the ruler of the White Walkers. For obvious reasons, Furdik's transformation from a regular guy into the leader of a crazy race of frozen magic men is quite extensive. The whole makeup process takes hours as the artists apply prosthetics, paint, and other practical effects to create the White Walker look.

In real-life, Furdik has blond hair; the Night King has no hair, but his head is crowned with multiple icicle-like protrusions. Also, unlike Furdik, the Night King also has extensive lines and furrows in his face—which makes sense when you realize that he's probably over 1000 years old.

Ian Whyte - Wun Wun

Ian Whyte plays Wun Wun, whose full name is abbreviated, for obvious reasons, from Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun. Wun Wun is thought to be the last of the giants, but he's not the only character Whyte has played. He started as what he thought would be a one-off role as the first White Walker in the pilot episode, "Winter Is Coming," before being asked to play Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane. He portrayed the monstrous knight for three episodes before finding his permanent spot as the giant beyond the Wall. In real life, Whyte stands at an incredible 7'1", so there's probably little chance of him being recast once again as Tyrion's long-lost twin brother.

Ross Mullan - White Walker

Another actor who has spent countless hours in the makeup chair for GoT is Ross Mullan. He plays a sort of White Walker Lieutenant who's appeared in several episodes, most notably in "Valar Morghulis," where he rides a zombie horse and doesn't kill Sam for unexplained reasons. Talking about what it's like to portray a White Walker, Mullan told The Verge, "Body language, arm and leg movements, the way you tilt your head or move it back and forward. It all comes together to tell a story, like a dance," which is probably the most eloquent way of describing monsters who tear people limb from limb.

Kae Alexander - Leaf

Leaf seems to be the leader of the Children of the Forest—or she was until she took one for the team to give Bran and Meera a few precious moments to escape the cave. The actress Kae Alexander also sacrifices something for the role: approximately ten hours of her time, which is what it takes for "a full body prosthetic" to be applied, according to Tech Insider. That's longer than it takes for even the White Walkers or Night's King to get made up, so maybe it's some sort of penalty for the fact that Leaf inadvertently created them?

Ian Hanmore - Pyat Pree

We don't know how Ian Hanmore should take this, but apparently the GoT makeup department felt the only thing necessary to transform him into the murderous warlock was some dark eye shadow and weird bluish lipstick. Although to their credit, he does look insanely creepy to the point where we don't know if we'd rather be stuck in the House of the Undying with him or eaten alive by wights beyond the Wall.

Ross O'Hennessy - Lord of Bones/Rattleshirt

Rattleshirt, a.k.a., the Lord of Bones, is the constantly smack-talking wildling who never warmed up to Jon Snow. The character was played by two actors, the first of which was Edward Dogliani, who actually removed the skull mask and briefly showed his face in episode one of season three, "Valar Dohaeris." The other actor is Ross O'Hennessy, who never made it past his single performance in the "Hardhome" episode after Tormund Giantsbane opened up a can on him with his own staff.

Laura Pradelska - Quaithe

Like Pyat Pree, Quaithe is another mysterious character from the city of Quarth, only instead of stealing Daenerys' dragons, she doles out vague and cryptic advice that characters like Jorah Mormont should probably have heeded. Luckily for the actress who plays her, Laura Pradelska, she only had to put on a mask that sort of looks like a reject Tiffany lampshade instead of spending hours having fake tree branches glued to her face.

Hannah Waddingham - Septa Unella

It's kind of strange that even though Septa Unella's face was completely visible, nobody in their right mind would ever confuse her for the bright-eyed and broad-smiled actress Hannah Waddingham. Maybe it's the platinum blonde hair, or maybe it's the lack of Unella's characteristically dour and sadistic grimace from Waddingham's everyday face that makes for such an unbelievable transformation.

Yuri Kolokolnikov - Styr

Styr is the Magnar of Thenn, which is arguably one of the most terrifying clans of the wildlings. In a memorable scene, he tells Ollie he's going to eat his parents, and we don't doubt it for a second. But without the bald head, crazy eyes, and thick scars running all over his face, actor Yuri Kolokolnikov doesn't look at all like a cannibalistic tribal lord—not much of a compliment, we know, but most of his IMDb credits are in Russian, so we doubt he'll ever notice.

Richard Dormer - Beric Dondarrion

Apparently being resurrected from multiple violent and gory deaths really does a number on one's body, because at this point, Beric Dondarrion looks more like a cross between the Mummy and Frankenstein's monster than anything you'd expect from someone known as the Lightning Lord. The Lord of Light can bring you back, but he doesn't restore you to showroom condition, that's for sure. Richard Dormer is the second actor to assume the role of the tattered Lord, and he'd better hope Beric survived the collapse of the Wall at the end of season 7 relatively unscathed, or he might find himself spending some real quality time in that makeup chair.