Casting can make or break a show, and that’s particularly true when your series or movie is based off a popular book series. Cast the wrong actor or actress in a role, and you may have angry fans sharing their thoughts about your show all over the internet. When it comes to the beloved Game of Thrones, many of the characters don’t exactly match what’s written in George R.R. Martin’s books—in fact, in a few circumstances, they don’t match at all.
Sometimes for practical or storytelling reasons, it’s necessary for producers and writers to change how someone looks. Let’s take a side-by-side comparison of those Game of Thrones characters who don’t quite live up to their novel namesakes, and what they should really look like. But fair warning—this list may contain spoilers for the entire Game of Thrones television series, as well as the A Song of Ice and Fire books.
1. Yara/Asha Greyjoy
The Game of Thrones writers decided to change Asha Greyjoy’s name to Yara on the show—perhaps to avoid confusion with Osha, the Wildling guardian of Rickon Stark. But this name isn’t all that’s been changed. Actress Gemma Whelan has Asha’s self-assured and rough-tongued attitude down pat, but she doesn’t completely look the part.
So spake Martin: Theon turned to give her an appraising glance. He liked what he saw. Ironborn, he knew at a glance; lean and longlegged, with black hair cut short, wind-chafed skin, strong sure hands, a dirk at her belt. Her nose was too big and too sharp for her thin face, but her smile made up for it. – A Clash of Kings
Show accuracy: 4/10 – I’ve given Asha black hair cut short, and made her face leaner and harder, with a downturned and more pointed nose.
2. Bran Stark
The show’s Bran—played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright—does not exactly match the description of Bran given by George R.R. Martin in the books. Most of the Stark children in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels favored their Tully side—with the exception of Arya. In the show, this has been mostly ignored, with only Sansa (and Robb, to a lesser degree) taking more strongly after Catelyn. Instead of brown hair and eyes, Bran should have the auburn hair and blue eyes of the Tullys, with a solemn face.
So spake Martin: Catelyn had always thought Robb looked like her; like Bran and Rickon and Sansa, he had the Tully coloring, the auburn hair, the blue eyes. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 7/10 – Bran gets colored contacts and a dye job to put him more firmly in the Tully camp.
3. Brienne of Tarth
Part of Brienne’s tragedy is how much she wants fall in love and be loved, but she knows she’s painfully awkward and ugly by Westerosi standards—except for her beautiful large blue eyes. Brienne actress Gwendoline Christie is a gorgeous woman, and although she has the height, hair color, and demeanor perfect, she will never look like the Brienne of the books. Throughout the course of the novels, Brienne has run-ins with enemies that leave her even more damaged. A fight with the Brave Companions knocks out two of her teeth, and Biter attacks her at the inn at the Crossroads—nearly chewing off half of her cheek.
So spake Martin: Beauty, they called her… mocking. The hair beneath the visor was a squirrel’s nest of dirty straw, and her face… Brienne’s eyes were large and very blue, a young girl’s eyes, trusting and guileless, but the rest… her features were broad and coarse, her teeth prominent and crooked, her mouth too wide, her lips so plump they seemed swollen. A thousand freckles speckled her cheeks and brow, and her nose had been broken more than once. – A Clash of Kings
Show accuracy: 4/10 – I’ve given Brienne larger and brighter blue eyes, a liberal sprinkling of freckles, and a slightly crooked nose. A wider and plumper mouth hides crooked and broken teeth, and a large chunk of scar tissue twists along her cheek.
4. Daario Naharis
So far the Game of Thrones showrunners have had two different chances to get Daario Naharis right, and they’ve failed both times. Although you can’t really blame them for taking a different direction with Daario—multicolored hair and a forked beard don’t really translate well onscreen.
So spake Martin: Daario Naharis was flamboyant even for a Tyroshi. His beard was cut into three prongs and dyed blue, the same color as his eyes and the curly hair that fell to his collar. His pointed mustachios were painted gold. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 2/10 – This was the hardest transformation, and it looks ridiculous. Daario’s hair is now longer, reaching his collar, and dyed a bright blue to match his blue eyes. His beard is forked into three sections and dyed the same color as his hair, except for that crazy golden mustache.
5. Daenerys Targaryen
If you ignore the aforementioned age differences, the casting department did a great job with choosing the beautiful Emilia Clarke for the role of Daenerys. There are a few quibbles to be had, however, particularly with her eyes and her hair.
So spake Martin: They dressed her in the wisps that Magister Illyrio had sent up, and then the gown, a deep plum silk to bring out the violet in her eyes… “She’s too skinny,” Viserys said. His hair, the same silver-blond as hers, had been pulled back tightly behind his head and fastened with a dragonbone brooch. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 8/10 – I’ve given Daenerys a set of striking violet eyes and lopped off her hair. According to the books, she was bald as an egg after surviving the pyre that hatched her dragons, and her hair was burnt off again when she escaped the fighting pits at Meereen on Drogon. This is about the length I’d expect it to be by time she reaches Westeros with a fleet.
6. Euron Greyjoy
While Pilou Asbæk does an admirable job portraying the Crow’s Eye, it’s unfortunate that the show has ignored so much of what makes Euron intimidating. The show’s Euron does resemble Asha and Theon strongly, but he should be a much scarier figure—a lot of that intimidation factor stems directly from his near-otherworldly looks in the books.
So spake Martin: Euron was the most comely of Lord Quellon’s sons, and three years of exile had not changed that. His hair was still black as a midnight sea, with never a whitecap to be seen, and his face was still smooth and pale beneath his neat dark beard. A black leather patch covered Euron’s left eye, but his right was blue as a summer sky. His smiling eye, thought Victarion. “Crow’s Eye,” he said. “King Crow’s Eye, brother.” Euron smiled. His lips looked very dark in the lamplight, bruised and blue. – A Feast for Crows
Show accuracy: 4/10 – Euron’s hair and beard should be dark as a raven’s feathers, and I’ve given him back his trademark eyepatch. His “smiling eye” is a brilliant blue, while the other (fully functional) one hidden below the eyepatch is black as death. His lips are a bruised blue because of his addiction to the narcotic beverage called shade of the evening.
7. Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane
The HBO makeup artists do a great job creating the mass of scars and twisted flesh that cover one side of Sandor Clegane’s face, but they don’t go far enough. Book readers will know that the visage of the Hound from the books is truly terrifying—and for good reason.
So spake Martin: The right side of his face was gaunt, with sharp cheekbones and a grey eye beneath a heavy brow. His nose was large and hooked, his hair thin, dark. He wore it long and brushed it sideways, because no hair grew on the other side of that face. The left side of his face was a ruin. His ear had been burned away; there was nothing but a hole. His eye was still good, but all around it was a twisted mass of scar, slick black flesh hard as leather, pocked with craters and fissured by deep cracks that gleamed red and wet when he moved. Down by his jaw, you could see a hint of bone where the flesh had been seared away. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 6/10 – The show has actor Rory McCann scarred on the wrong side of the face, so I’ve flipped it to the correct left side. He was also at too healthy a weight, so I’ve sunken in his cheekbones and given him a more dagger-like nose accordingly. The Hound shouldn’t have an outer ear, and much more extensive scarring has been added to better match his description.
8. Jorah Mormont
Ser Jorah is not quite as handsome as the showrunners would have us believe. Our favorite friend-zoned knight is more attractive and also more lightly built on the Game of Thrones television series than his book-version counterpart.
So spake Martin: Ser Jorah was not a handsome man. He had a neck and shoulders like a bull, and coarse black hair covered his arms are chest so thickly that there was none left for his head. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 5/10 – I have made quite a few changes to actor Iain Glen to be more accurate. Book-Jorah is balding (but not yet completely bald), with darker hair and beard, as well as a healthy crop of black chest hair. I’ve also given him a wider neck and shoulders to reflect how crazy strong this Bear Isle exile really is, and a “demon’s mask” brand on his right cheek, which Jorah receives for being disobedient while he and Tyrion are slaves.
9. Ramsay Bolton
On the show, the infamous Bastard of Bolton cut quite an evil and sadistic figure. But would you believe that the book version of Ramsay is even worse? In the novels, some of the things Ramsay Snow does make you shudder, and he is nowhere near as attractive or charismatic as Iwan Rheon.
So spake Martin: Yet for all the splendor of his garb, he remained an ugly man, big-boned and slope-shouldered, with a fleshiness to him that suggested that in later life he would run to fat. His skin was pink and blotchy, his nose broad, his mouth small, his hair long and dark and dry. His lips were wide and meaty, but the thing men noticed first about him were his eyes. He had his lord father’s eyes—small, close-set, queerly pale. Ghost grey, some men called the shade, but in truth his eyes were all but colorless, like two chips of dirty ice. – A Dance With Dragons
Show accuracy: 5/10 – Ramsay gets a long and shaggy haircut and a extreme face makeover, which kind of makes him look like Glenn Danzig. I’ve given him blotchier skin, closer-set and lighter eyes, a wider nose and more pinched mouth.
10. Roose Bolton
The Lord of the Dreadfort is cunning, cruel, and as cold as the winter winds about to whip through Westeros. For five seasons, Michael McElhatton has admirably portrayed the calculating nature of Roose Bolton to a tee, but there’s one problem—McElhatton doesn’t really look anything like the character of the books. For starters, Bolton should have long black hair, pale eyes the color of mist, and a strangely unlined face (despite his age).
So spake Martin: He had a plain face, beardless and ordinary, notable only for his queer pale eyes. Neither plump, thin, nor muscular, he wore black ringmail and a spotted pink cloak. The lord regarded her. Only his eyes moved; they were very pale, the color of ice. – A Clash of Kings
The Lord of the Dreadfort did not have a strong likeness to his bastard son. His face was clean-shaved, smooth-skinned, ordinary, not handsome but not quite plain. Though Roose had been in battles, he bore no scars. Though well past forty, he was as yet unwrinkled, with scarce a line to tell of the passage of time. His lips were so thin that when he pressed them together they seemed to vanish altogether. There was an agelessness about him, a stillness; on Roose Bolton’s face, rage and joy looked much the same. All he and Ramsay had in common were their eyes. His eyes are ice. – A Dance With Dragons
Show accuracy: 3/10 – I’ve removed many of the lines from McElhatton’s face, lightened his eyes, and given him some raven locks—befitting of the evil plotter that he truly is.
11. Theon Greyjoy
On the show, Theon went through hell as the prisoner of Ramsay Snow—but emerged from his ordeal mostly unscathed (except for his dangly bits). In the books, the Bastard of the Dreadfort treated “Reek” much more harshly, aging the youngest Greyjoy by 40 years and leaving Theon short several fingers, toes, and teeth by the time he escapes.
So spake Martin: The second lord, the straight-backed old man in the mail byrnie, studied Reek with flinty eyes. “Look again,” he urged the other lord. “His hair’s gone white and he is three stone thinner, aye, but this is no serving man. Have you forgotten?” The crookback lord looked again and gave a sudden snort. “Him? Can it be? Stark’s ward. Smiling, always smiling.” “He smiles less often now,” Lord Ramsay confessed. “I may have broken some of his pretty white teeth.” Reek did not know what to say, so he said nothing. One wrong word could cost him another toe, even a finger. Thus far he had lost two fingers off his left hand and the pinky off his right, but only the little toe off his right foot against three from his left. – A Dance With Dragons
Show accuracy: 6/10 – I’ve given Theon the gray hair and whiskers he has in the books and sunken in his cheeks harshly to illustrate the more than 40 pounds he has lost while in captivity.
12. Tyrion Lannister
Peter Dinklage makes a wonderful Tyrion, but he’s definitely more attractive than the Imp of the books. He should have a “squashed-in” face, and following the Battle of the Blackwater only about half of his nose. His pale blond and black hair is a startling combination, as are his different-colored eyes.
So spake Martin: Tyrion Lannister, the youngest of Lord Tywin’s brood and by far the ugliest. All that the gods had given to Cersei and Jaime, they had denied Tyrion. He was a dwarf, half his brother’s height, struggling to keep pace on stunted legs. His head was too large for his body, with a brute’s squashed-in face beneath a swollen shelf of brow. One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank fall of hair so blond it seemed white. Jon watched him with fascination. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 4/10 – I’ve “squashed” Tyrion’s face, given him the odd-colored eyes, and lopped off his nose. His hair gets the “platinum blond and black ombre” treatment, which is the hottest style for this Winter.
13. Tywin Lannister
Tywin Lannister—as played by Charles Dance—cuts a very imposing figure on the show. Dance is nearly perfect for the role, and he has mastered the attitude of the disdainful and tyrannical Tywin. The show also got much of Tywin’s appearance correct—except for the hair and beard.
So spake Martin: The Lord of Casterly Rock was as lean as a man twenty years younger, even handsome in his austere way. Stiff blond whiskers covered his cheeks, framing a stern face, a bald head, a hard mouth. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 8/10 – Dance really looks the part, and so all I had to do was remove his hair and give him a thicker and blonder beard. After seeing the results, I almost wish that they had gone with Tywin’s actual muttonchops on the show. They are glorious.
In the novels, Robb, Sansa, Bran and Rickon all look like the Tully side of the family, with auburn hair and blue eyes. On the show, Robb is fairly accurate in terms of eye color, but his hair is a little more brown than red.
So spake Martin: “The deserter died bravely,” Robb said. He was big and broad and growing every day, with his mother’s coloring, the fair skin, red-brown hair, and blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun. – A Game of Thrones
He is a boy no longer, she realized with a pang. He is sixteen now, a man grown. Just look at him. War had melted all the softness from his face and left him hard and lean. He had shaved his beard away, but his auburn hair fell uncut to his shoulders. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 8/10 – I’ve given Robb a clean shave and some longer and redder locks.
One of the major problems book readers have with the show’s version of Jaime Lannister is his hair. Throughout the show, it seems that they just haven’t been able to get it right—it’s always the wrong color and usually the wrong length. During the first two seasons, Jaime should have long curly blonde hair and be clean shaven. After being released by Catelyn, Jaime shaves his head and starts growing a long beard—which he takes a razor to after making it back to King’s Landing. He begins to let the hair and beard grow out again towards the end of A Feast for Crows, which means he should have a very unkempt appearance again by season 6 on the show—not the military style he currently wears.
Additionally, Jaime and Cersei are supposed to look like near mirror images of one another. We can forgive the casting department on this one, though, as it must be near impossible to find actual male/female fraternal twins who have the acting chops to take on the role of the Lannister siblings.
So spake Martin: There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face. – A Game of Thrones
He squinted up from the floor, his cat-green eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the light. – A Clash of Kings
“I had hoped that by now you would have grown tired of that wretched beard. All that hair makes you look like Robert.”
“Robert’s beard was black. Mine is gold.”
“Gold? Or silver?” Cersei plucked a hair from beneath his chin and held it up. It was grey. – A Feast for Crows
Show accuracy: 7/10 – I’ve given Jaime the longer curls and thicker beard he should have in Season 6 instead of the shorter military look. I have also made his eyes greener. I’ve also slimmed down his nose to make it resemble actress Lena Headey’s more closely.
Lancel’s appearance in early seasons was accurate for the most part, but much of what happens to him after joining the Sparrows on the show is imagined. Book Lancel takes severe wounds at the Battle of the Blackwater, which age him prematurely. He later gives up his lordship and new wife to join the Faith Militant, but there’s no face carving involved.
So spake Martin: Though only seventeen, he might have passed for seventy; grey-faced, gaunt, with hollow cheeks, sunken eyes, and hair as white and brittle as chalk. Though his hair had gone white, his mustache fuzz remained a sandy color. – A Feast for Crows
Show accuracy: 5/10 – I’ve given Lancel back some longer chalky hair and a wispy moustache, made him greyer and added sunken, darkened eyes and fine wrinkles. I also removed the Seven-Pointed Star on his forehead, because in the books he doesn’t go through this initiation ritual.
17. Barristan the Bold
When Barristan Selmy travels to Essos in order to join Daenerys’ retinue, he’s grown his hair and beard long and goes by an alias—Arstan Whitebeard. Although Barristan eventually trims his hair and beard after revealing his true identity to Daenerys, the show completely skipped this evolution in Barristan’s appearance.
So spake Martin: The other man wore a traveler’s cloak of undyed wool, the hood thrown back. Long white hair fell to his shoulders, and a silky white beard covered the lower half of his face. – A Clash of Kings
Show accuracy: 7/10 – I’ve given Barristan a longer beard and longer locks to resemble his “Arstan” disguise, and changed actor Ian McElhinney’s normally hazel eyes to be a bright blue like Barristan’s.
People love Stephen Dillane as Stannis, and I must admit he nails the character’s stern, uncompromising demeanor—but he just doesn’t look much like the Stannis of the books. Perhaps the biggest issue with Dillane is that he frankly looks older than Robert Baratheon actor Mark Addy, when Robert is supposed to be the older brother, and Stannis the younger. Stannis is only supposed to be 34 at the start of the books.
So spake Martin: Stannis Baratheon was broad of shoulder and sinewy of limb, with a tightness to his face and flesh that spoke of leather cured in the sun until it was as tough as steel. Though he was not yet five-and-thirty, only a fringe of thin black hair remained on his head, circling behind his ears like the shadow of a crown. Stannis kept his own whiskers cropped tight and short.
They lay like a blue-black shadow across his square jaw and the bony hollows of his cheeks. His eyes were open wounds beneath his heavy brows, a blue as dark as the sea by night. His mouth would have given despair to even the drollest of fools; it was a mouth made for frowns and scowls and sharply worded commands, all thin pale lips and clenched muscles, a mouth that had forgotten how to smile and had never known how to laugh. – A Clash of Kings
Show accuracy: 4/10 – I’ve removed quite a bit of hair, and darkened what is left from Stephen Dillane’s natural salt-and-pepper to a black more befitting a Baratheon. I also gave him dark blue eyes, removed some wrinkles, and widened his shoulders.
The choice of Carice van Houten for the role of Melisandre was a triumph by the casting staff. Like Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Aidan Gillen, and Charles Dance, van Houten seems like she was born to play her Thrones role.
So spake Martin: “It was her!” Davos cried. “Mother, don’t forsake us. It was her who burned you, the red woman, Melisandre, her!” He could see her; the heart-shaped face, the red eyes, the long coppery hair, her red gowns moving like flames as she walked, a swirl of silk and satin. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 9/10 – Carice van Houten is basically perfect for the role, right down to her heart-shaped face. All I’ve had to do here is change her eyes from their natural blue to an amber red.
20. Ned Stark
While I think we all agree that Sean Bean was a great choice to play Lord Eddard on Game of Thrones, it’s also pretty obvious to book readers that he doesn’t look much like his namesake from the novels. Thankfully, Bean makes up for it with excellent acting.
So spake Martin: Bran’s father sat solemnly on his horse, long brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest. He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 6/10 – I’ve given Lord Stark longer and darker hair that more closely resembles that of his counterpart in the books.
21. Robert Baratheon
Mark Addy was a brilliant choice to play King Robert. My only quibble is that Addy’s hair is a medium brown shot through with gray, when George R.R. Martin makes it clear that despite his obesity, Robert is still quite black-haired. Additionally, Robert Baratheon would tower over most men, putting him near the height of Hodor, while actor Mark Addy stands only 5’11” tall.
So spake Martin: Since the night they had stood side by side in Greyjoy’s fallen stronghold, where Robert had accepted the rebel lord’s surrender and Ned had taken his son Theon as hostage and ward, the king had gained at least eight stone. A beard as coarse and black as iron wire covered his jaw to hide his double chin and the sag of the royal jowls, but nothing could hide his stomach or the dark circles under his eyes. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 8/10 – I’ve darkened Robert’s hair to a truer Baratheon shade.
22. Edmure Tully
Edmure is the baby of the Tully family, but on the show he hardly resembles his sisters Catelyn and Lysa, and he also looks just as old as they do—when he actually should be in his late 20s or early 30s at the start of the novels.
So spake Martin: Her father’s guards waited on the water stair with her brother. Ser Edmure Tully was a stocky young man with a shaggy head of auburn hair and a fiery beard. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 5/10 – I’ve gotten rid of Edmure’s boring short brown hair and given him a flowing shaggy mane of auburn, with a thick red beard and the blue eyes of the Tullys.
23. The Mountain
He’s gigantic, strong, and terrifying, but the Mountain that Rides has not been very accurately depicted on the show. Three different actors have played the Mountain in the show, and none have come close to matching the description of Ser Gregor from the books—but that’s understandable given that any casting director would be hard-pressed to find an actor matching Clegane’s unnatural stature, described as nearly 8 feet tall and 30 stone (420 lbs). Conan Stevens (7′ tall) played Clegane in season one, followed by Ian Whyte (7’1″) in season two. Whyte would go on to play the part of giant Wun-Wun, and the part of the Mountain has been played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″) ever since season four. While the shortest of the three actors to portray Clegane, Björnsson comes closest in appearance. As a strongman competitor, Björnsson has the heavily-muscled build we expect of Clegane.
So spake Martin: He was huge, the biggest man that Eddard Stark had ever seen. Robert Baratheon and his brothers were all big men, as was the Hound, and back at Winterfell there was a simpleminded stableboy named Hodor who dwarfed them all, but the knight they called the Mountain That Rides would have towered over Hodor. He was well over seven feet tall, closer to eight, with massive shoulders and arms thick as the trunks of small trees…. In the middle of the field, Ser Gregor Clegane disentangled himself and came boiling to his feet. He wrenched off his helm and slammed it down onto the ground. His face was dark with fury and his hair fell down into his eyes. – A Game of Thrones
“He is almost eight feet tall and must weigh thirty stone, all of it muscle. He fights with a twohanded greatsword, but needs only one hand to wield it. He has been known to cut men in half with a single blow. His armor is so heavy that no lesser man could bear the weight, let alone move in it.” – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 6/10 – I’ve given Björnsson a beefier build, including arms as thick as tree trunks. The Mountain also is supposed to have hair long enough to fall into his eyes, so I’ve given him a messy dark brown ‘do.
24. Syrio Forel
Among readers as well as show-only fans, “dancing master” Syrio Forel is a favorite secondary character. But while fans of both mediums can agree on Syrio’s awesomeness, book readers will be quick to point out that there’s one problem with Miltos Yeromelou in the role—his full head of bushy, black hair.
So spake Martin: The hall seemed empty, until an unfamiliar voice said, “You are late, boy.” A slight man with a bald head and a great beak of a nose stepped out of the shadows. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 8/10 – I’ve taken away Yeromelou’s curly locks and given him a bald head like Syrio should have.
Rose Leslie would probably say we know nothing, but she’s much too pretty to play the part of Ygritte if we stay completely true to the books. As with Brienne, the showrunners picked a gorgeous lady to play someone notably less-than-beautiful—at least, according to George R.R. Martin’s writing.
So spake Martin: Ygritte’s hair was such a tangle that Jon was tempted to ask her if she only brushed it at the changing of the seasons. At a lord’s court the girl would never have been considered anything but common, he knew. She had a round peasant face, a pug nose, and slightly crooked teeth, and her eyes were too far apart. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 6/10 – I’ve given Ygritte brighter “kissed by fire” hair, and made some adjustments to her face—a rounder jawline, a more upturned nose, crooked teeth, and wider-set eyes.
26. Cersei Lannister
The Game of Thrones casting department did an excellent job when picking Lena Headey for the role of Cersei. I now have a very hard time picturing anyone else in the role. That being said, there are a few things different about Cersei in the books when compared to the show. As her stress levels rise, Cersei begins to drink heavily and near constantly in the novels. With all this wine comes a fairly significant weight gain—to the point where she no longer can fit into many of her old gowns.
So spake Martin: She was as beautiful as men said. A jeweled tiara gleamed amidst her long golden hair, its emeralds a perfect match for the green of her eyes. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 7/10 – I’ve brightened Cersei’s eyes to give them that “emerald” hue, and lightened her hair to match more closely with the paler (and more accurate) blonde she was in earlier seasons. I also made her rounder and more jowly in the face to reflect her alcohol-induced weight gain.
Actor John Bradley has Sam’s demeanor down pat, but he doesn’t bear a strong resemblance to the Samwell of the novels. The book version of Sam is clean-shaven, has light-colored eyes, and weighs a good bit more than Bradley does.
So spake Martin: Jon turned. Through the eye slit of his helm, he beheld the fattest boy he had ever seen standing in the door of the armory. By the look of him, he must have weighed twenty stone. The fur collar of his embroidered surcoat was lost beneath his chins. Pale eyes moved nervously in a great round moon of a face, and plump sweaty fingers wiped themselves on the velvet of his doublet. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 7/10 – I’ve removed the scraggly beard and wispy mustache that Sam’s been cultivating for six seasons, leaving him clean-shaven. I’ve also changed his eyes from brown to a paler shade of gray, and made his face heavier to reflect the additional 40-50 pounds he should be carrying around.
At first, so much about Littlefinger bothered me. Where’s his pointy beard? Why is he so gray-haired? He’s only 30 years old! Then after a re-read, I realized that Baelish was going prematurely gray in the books, too—I’d just never noticed before.
So spake Martin: Petyr had been a small boy, and he had grown into a small man, an inch or two shorter than Catelyn, slender and quick, with the sharp features she remembered and the same laughing grey-green eyes. He had a little pointed chin beard now, and threads of silver in his dark hair, though he was still shy of thirty. They went well with the silver mockingbird that fastened his cloak. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 9/10 – All I’ve done here is add a more prominent pointy little beard to accentuate the soul patch that the showrunners gave Littlefinger.
29. Oberyn Martell
Pedro Pascal was an inspired choice to play Oberyn Martell. That said, his appearance on the show wasn’t 100% accurate to how he’s described in the books. While he has the same swarthy olive complexion and black eyes, he lacks the longer hair and widow’s peak the Red Viper of Dorne should have.
So spake Martin: The princeling removed his helm. Beneath, his face was lined and saturnine, with thin arched brows above large eyes as black and shiny as pools of coal oil. Only a few streaks of silver marred the lustrous black hair that receded from his brow in a widow’s peak as sharply pointed as his nose. A salty Dornishmen for certain. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 8/10 – All I’ve done here is given Oberyn longer black hair with a widow’s peak, as well as made his eyebrows thinner and his nose slimmer and more pointed.
While I love Nathalie Emmanuel, the show really blundered here by aging Missandei up so drastically—just to give viewers a new romance storyline between her and Grey Worm. A few years older for characters like Daenerys and the Stark children is understandable, but this is ridiculous. Additionally, the physical description of Missandei, her home island of Naath and their pacifist religion really seems to point to a southeast Asian influence. Asians can have “dusky skin,” too!
So spake Martin: The girl spoke the Common Tongue well, for one who had never been to Westeros. No older than ten, she had the round flat face, dusky skin, and golden eyes of Naath. The Peaceful People, her folk were called. – A Storm of Swords
Show accuracy: 3/10 – I’ve essentially done a face swap here, giving Missandei a rounder and more childlike jawline as well as the “flatter” features of a girl from southeast Asia. I also did some work on her eyes to make them more “golden.”
31. Jon Snow
As with Maisie Williams for Arya, the casting directors did a great job picking Kit Harington for the role of Jon Snow. Some book readers were a little dubious about that show-only beard of his—which was a boyish, wispy thing in early seasons—but it’s come in thicker and fuller for season six, after Jon Snow “kills the boy” to let the man be born. Some book fans complained about Jon’s curly hair and beard on the show, but a close review of the text reveals that the texture (or exact length) of Jon Snow’s hair is never explicitly laid out in the books. Additionally, while his “hairless cheeks” are mentioned by a Wildling in the novels, it doesn’t completely rule out a beard like Harington has—which still does leave him with mostly hairless cheeks.
So spake Martin: Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb, but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 9/10 – All I’ve done here is make him look a little younger, change his eyes from dark brown to dark gray, and lighten his hair a touch.
Maisie Williams is as close to perfect for the part of Arya as you can get, with the correct color hair, eyes, and solemn face. HBO made the decision to age up all the Stark children by a few years for the television series—she should really be nine years old in season one, not the 12 she is on the show.
So spake Martin: Arya took after their lord father. Her hair was a lusterless brown, and her face was long and solemn…. “Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.” – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 9/10 – Since she’s been aged up on the show—she is 11 or 12 at the end of A Dance with Dragons—I’ve only made a few minor changes to make her face more youthful. While it’s debatable if book-Arya was ever really a “Horseface,” I have lengthened William’s face slightly to give her a more accurate look.
33. Lysa Arryn
Many book readers were extremely surprised when we got our first glance of Lysa Arryn at the Eyrie. In the novels, Lysa is puffy and overweight from a succession of failed pregnancies and miscarriages. Kate Dickie nails the strident, jealous and paranoid behavior of Lysa, but there’s no way anyone would ever call her “overweight.”
So spake Martin: Her sister was two years the younger, yet she looked older now. Shorter than Catelyn, Lysa had grown thick of body, pale and puffy of face. She had the blue eyes of the Tullys, but hers were pale and watery, never still. Her small mouth had turned petulant. As Catelyn held her, she remembered the slender, high-breasted girl who’d waited beside her that day in the sept at Riverrun. How lovely and full of hope she had been. All that remained of her sister’s beauty was the great fall of thick auburn hair that cascaded to her waist. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 5/10 – With an actress as slim as Kate Dickie, it’s pretty hard to make her heavyset—as Lysa should be—but I’ve added some weight to her face, as well as changed her eye color from light green to light blue.
Gilly should be much younger than she appears onscreen. She’s supposed to be a teenager, and while actress Hannah Murray portrays the innocence of Craster’s daughter quite well, the 27-year-old actress will never look like a fresh-faced teen. Also, Murray has prominent upper front teeth, and for many book fans, her bucktoothed appearance during the first few seasons was slightly distracting—because such a unique facial feature was never mentioned in the novels.
So spake Martin: The woman regarded them with nervous eyes. She was younger than he’d thought at first. A girl of fifteen or sixteen years, he judged, dark hair plastered across a gaunt face by the falling rain, her bare feet muddy to the ankles. – A Clash of Kings
Gilly was dark-haired and slim, with the big brown eyes of a doe. She was swallowed by the folds of Sam’s old cloak, her face half-hidden by its hood, but shivering all the same. Her face looked wan and frightened. – A Feast for Crows
Show accuracy: 8/10 – I’ve given Gilly a facelift to bring her closer to her true age by removing the bags under her eyes and fine lines around her nose and mouth. I also gave her a slimmer and more gaunt face, slightly enlarged her big brown eyes, and fixed her toothiness.
35. Benjen Stark
For book readers, the true identity of the mysterious Coldhands has been a topic of hot debate for many years. Those who felt Coldhands = Benjen may have gotten some validation when the characters were merged for the show. But as we know, just because something happens in the series doesn’t mean that’s how GRRM will do it.
So spake Martin: His uncle was sharp-featured and gaunt as a mountain crag, but there was always a hint of laughter in his blue-grey eyes. – A Game of Thrones
Show accuracy: 7/10 – I’ve made Benjen thinner and given him blue eyes. Because we don’t 100% know if Coldhands is Benjen in the books, I haven’t given him any of Coldhands’ features (like the black eyes).