×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Game of Thrones cameos you probably missed

Ed Sheeran's cameo on the Season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones attracted more attention than anything else in the episode. The pop star only appeared briefly as a Lannister soldier, but it was all anyone seemed to be talking about the next day—and mostly, fans seemed to be against it, feeling that a cameo by a Top 40 musician could only be a distraction that was beneath a show with the prestige of Game of Thrones

But in fact, Sheeran is far from the first clever cameo inserted into the popular HBO series. Here are a few other musicians, actors, and other stars who made brief appearances during its first six seasons.

Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol

Long before Sheeran arrived on set, Game of Thrones made a point of inviting well-known musicians to appear on the show anytime there was music to be performed. In the Season 3 episode "Walk of Punishment," it was Gary Lightbody, lead singer of the Northern Irish/Scottish band Snow Patrol, who leads a battalion of House Bolton soldiers in a rendition of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." In the world of Westeros, this is a folk song everybody seems to know. But in the real world, it was necessary to make audiences aware that the song exists, because an upcoming episode, also titled "The Bear and the Maiden Fair," would heavily reference it. There's also a full version of the song recorded by the Hold Steady, which played over the credits of "Walk of Punishment."

Roy Dotrice

If you're a longtime fan of fantasy on television, you probably remember Roy Dotrice as Ron Perlman's wise father figure on Beauty and the Beast. But if you're a fan of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, you probably know him as the celebrated reader of the audiobooks. In fact, he was personally chosen for that job by Martin, who had worked as a writer on the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast

When Game of Thrones was first being made, Dotrice was announced as Grand Maester Pycelle, but he soon had to back out for medical reasons. Fortunately, he was able to appear in Season 2 as the pyromancer Hallyne, who shows up briefly in the episodes "The Ghost of Harrenhal" and "Blackwater." While he wasn't onscreen much, Hallyne played a key role in Tyrion's master plan for the Battle of the Blackwater, and it was a fitting use of an actor who will forever be linked to the books this show is based on.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

The House of Black and White, where Arya Stark receives her training as a mystical assassin, features an endless hall filled with columns lined with the faces of the dead—not statues, but the actual faces that have been removed and serve as masks for the Faceless Men. Naturally, the production design staff who made the faces ended up including people they knew, most notably show creators Benioff and Weiss, whose faces occupy adjacent compartments that receive a bit of camera time.

Mastodon

The American heavy metal band Mastodon didn't perform music on Game of Thrones, but they did contribute a song called "White Walker" to the Catch the Throne Vol. 2 mixtape HBO released to tie into the show in 2015. So it wasn't surprising when members of the band showed up in the episode "Hardhome," in which they were killed and then resurrected by the White Walkers. Game of Thrones executive producer D. B. Weiss is apparently a big fan of the band, which probably has a lot to do with their inclusion in both the mixtape and the show itself.

George W. Bush

This is both the silliest and most controversial cameo, if you can even call it that. Sometimes when you're filming Game of Thrones, you need a whole bunch of heads to put on spikes around the set. For example, in the Season 1 episode "Fire and Blood," when King Joffrey forces Sansa to look at her father's severed head, and it's surrounded by the heads of House Stark allies and other enemies of the crown. 

According to Benioff and Weiss, existing head props are used for scenes like this, and that's why one of the heads here is recognizably that of former U.S. President George W. Bush. Nobody even noticed the distinctive profile of the ex-president until Benioff and Weiss mentioned it in a DVD commentary for the episode, at which point some people found such a violent depiction of a former president to be disrespectful. This led to official apologies from HBO as well as Benioff and Weiss—all of which seems sort of quaint today, but 2012 was a different universe when it comes to presidential politics.

Sigur Rós

Another memorable musical cameo came at Joffrey and Margaery's wedding in Season 4's "The Lion and the Rose," when Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós show up with a strange set of musical instruments to perform a droning take on the House Lannister song "The Rains of Castamere." Joffrey makes it clear that he doesn't care much for their performance, but the band escapes suspicion when the King is poisoned just a few minutes later. "Rains of Castamere" is of course a song about the Lannisters destroying their enemies, and was previously heard at the Red Wedding, just before the Freys and Boltons violently betrayed the Starks in favor of the Lannisters. So it seems somehow fitting that the song returns in an extra-sad incarnation just before a Lannister ruler is murdered at his own nuptials.

Will Champion of Coldplay

One more musical cameo, this time as a part of one of the most chilling musical moments on the series. In the episode "The Rains of Castamere," the drummer playing in the hall of the Twins is recognizable as Will Champion, who's better known for drumming in the veteran Britpop band Coldplay. The most memorable song he performs here is of course the one the episode is titled for, which is used to signal the start of the massacre of House Stark in the very upsetting Red Wedding sequence. The deaths of the King in the North, Robb Stark, his pregnant wife Talisa, and the King's mother Catelyn Stark were all presaged by a performance featuring the same drummer as "Yellow."

George R. R. Martin

It seems strange that, for all the other cameos the show has made room for, we've yet to see author George R. R. Martin's face in Game of Thrones. After all, writer/director Peter Jackson appears in every Lord of the Rings movie, and if J.R.R. Tolkein had been alive when the made them, he might have been too. But it turns out that Martin was meant to appear in the very first Game of Thrones episode, "Winter is Coming," and just didn't quite make it to our screens. 

Martin filmed scenes in costume as a Pentoshi nobleman at the wedding of Khal Drogo and Danaerys Targaryen; unfortunately, much of that sequence was reshot when the part of Danaerys was recast after the pilot was picked up. Martin may theoretically still be in a crowd shot somewhere, but his face is unseen. He later talked about a possible cameo in Season 4, but that never happened either.

Noah Syndergaard

Now this is a cameo that just makes sense. House Lannister always chooses the best of everything, even when they're terribly in debt. And when you're hiring spearmen to fight off Dothraki and dragons, obviously you're going to want guys who have better throwing arms than anyone else. This particular spear-thrower, seen taking down a Dothraki horseman in the Season 7 episode "The Spoils of War," is actually Noah Syndergaard, starting pitcher for the New York Mets. Syndergaard is a huge Game of Thrones fan, so he was thrilled to get to spend time in Westeros. And he was a 2016 Major League All-Star, so who wouldn't want him throwing spears on the front lines? We didn't see if his character survived the ensuing dragon attack (although most of the army didn't), but either way, that one spear toss was an exciting moment for both Syndergaard and his fans.

Mastodon (Again)

In "The Dragon and the Wolf," the Season 7 finale, D. B. Weiss's favorite metal band makes a return appearance. This makes perfect sense within the story, because we saw them become wights back in "Hardhome," so it provides continuity when these faces we recognize turn up among the vast army of the dead as they march south for Season 8's big final showdown. And it's clear now that this is something the members of Mastodon enjoy doing—or at least Brann Dailor, Bill Kelliher, and Brent Hinds do, since we haven't seen bassist Troy Sanders on the show—so it won't be at all surprising if these same three wights appear in Season 8 as well. Perhaps they'll even get to be killed by—or kill—a major character when the big battle arrives.

Rob McElhenney & Martin Starr

During a raid on Euron Greyjoy's ship during the eighth season premiere of Thrones, some eagle-eyed fans might have suspected that they found some familiar faces among Euron's soldiers, and they were right — two of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' funnier friends stopped by to lend a hand for this long-awaited episode, putting a cameo rumor to rest as well as giving comedy fans an incredible Easter egg (although, considering how dark the scene was, it probably requires a few rewinds to catch).

Rob McElhenney, creator and star of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, has been a longtime friend of Thrones — after Benioff and Weiss wrote an episode of Sunny, "Flowers for Charlie," during its ninth season (and even scored cameos in a 2017 episode), it was rumored that McElhenney had quietly appeared alongside his Sunny co-star Charlie Day in a season six episode of Thrones as two Unsullied soldiers, thanks to news of a set visit from the two comedians (though McElhenney later debunked that). Luckily for McElhenney, a self-professed fan of the show, he finally got his chance, and this time, he didn't have to wear a mask, getting shot right through the eye during a mission to rescue Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan). He wasn't alone, either – Martin Starr, best known for Silicon Valley and Freaks & Geeks, joined McElhenney onscreen to play another Greyjoy henchman gruesomely murdered during the attack. 

Chris Stapleton

Thrones' Battle of Winterfell aired over the last weekend of April 2019 and brought plenty of carnage with it — that is, if you could see anything particularly clearly. With plenty of complaints about the episode's lighting and quick cuts during huge battles, you might be forgiven if you're not sure who lived or who died, or even who was in the battle. As far as celebrity cameos go, it seems impossible that anyone might have picked up on a secret appearance during the series' biggest ever battle.

You'll be forgiven, in other words, if you didn't catch country star Chris Stapleton among the dead raised by the Night King (accompanied by his bass player and tour manager). The "Tennessee Whiskey" singer, who is a self-professed huge fan of the show, had his manager reach out about making an appearance, and his wish was granted when he scored a bit part as one of the White Walkers during the final season's climactic battle. Stapleton told Rolling Stone that he and his friends had to be coached to move like White Walkers as they worked alongside professional extras and stuntmen; he and his wife both documented the once-in-a-lifetime experience on Instagram, showing off their full zombie makeup. 

Aaron Rodgers

The penultimate episode of Thrones' eighth and final season, "The Bells," featured a long-awaited battle sequence the show has been building to for years — specifically, the siege of King's Landing, wherein an angry, vengeful Daenerys Targaryen swoops in on a dragon and absolutely decimates the capital of Westeros so she can take whatever might even be left of the Iron Throne. In the ensuing chaos, it was sometimes hard to tell who was who, even among the main characters, but sharp-eyed viewers spotted a surprising celebrity cameo.

Aaron Rodgers, the popular quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, made a short appearance in the episode as a man trying to escape the destruction of King's Landing, and even though most people on the show are sworn to absolute secrecy, self-described superfan Rodgers hinted at his appearance quite some time ago. Since the show is just about over, it makes sense that the showrunners and crew would let at least one more famous face join them on set.