This afternoon, HBO announced the new cast members for the upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones, and released a short video wherein the primary players introduce themselves. The casting looks perfect across the board, with luminaries such as Jonathon Pryce (more than one hundred credits over the last forty years, including the starring role in Brazil (1985)), genre favorites like Alexander Siddig (Dr. Julian Bashear in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and experienced young actors like Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider). Click through for introductory video, as well as brief introductions of each actor and the role they’ll be playing.
In order of appearance on the video, here is some brief biographical information, both on the actor and the character she or he will be playing:
Alexander Siddig as Prince Doran Martell
Prince Doran Martell is the elder brother of Prince Oberyn, recently slain in combat with The Mountain in King’s Landing. Doran is known for his even-handed rule just as much as his brother was known for his fiery temper, but will his presumptive alliance with the Lannisters survive his brother’s death? He does, after all, have King Tommen’s sister, Princess Myrcella, at his palace.
Siddig is probably best known to genre fans for his role as the long-suffering Dr. Julian Bashear in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but he has also played genre roles in more recent shows such as Atlantis and Da Vinci’s Demons. His suave British air and north African looks should fit well with the ground already broken by Pedro Pascall’s Prince Oberyn.
Toby Sebastian as Prince Trystane Martell
Prince Trystane is Doran’s eldest son, and first in line to inherit the seat of House Martell in Dorne. He is also betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon, as part of the pact between House Lannister and House Martell.
Sebastian is a relative newcomer, with only four screen credits to his name. He physically resembles both Siddig and Pascal, however, and should only be gradually brought along, giving him a chance to develop his skills.
Nell Tiger Free as Princess Myrcella Baratheon
Princess Myrcella is a pawn in the Game of Thrones that has been tearing Westeros apart, but unlike another young pawn, Sansa Stark, she is enjoying relatively good treatment, and is betrothed to an honorable young man (Prince Trystane Martell, mentioned above). There is, however, more than one way to play a pawn; this recasting of Myrcella suggests that she will be playing a larger role in the upcoming season.
Free has a small body of work, but considering her young age this is not unexpected. The actress is fifteen, which is a bit older than Myrcella is in the books, but it will certainly allow Benioff and Weiss to cast her into more mature situations, as her character is thrust into the spotlight in the struggle between the Lannisters and, well, everybody else.
Deobia Oparei as Areo Hotah
Areo is Prince Doran’s Captain of the Guard, and a native of Norvos, one of the Free Cities. He’s extremely loyal to the Prince, and will do literally anything he is ordered to do, living by the mantra, “Serve, obey, protect.”
Oparei is a massive guy, and will fit well the role of the ax-wielding Areo. He’s been acting for almost twenty-five years, and has been in such genre movies as Alien 3, Dark City, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Enzo Cilenti as Yezzan zo Qaggaz
Yezzan is a Wise Master from Yunkai, whose role is such that I cannot mention anything about it here without giving away key plot elements from season five. He will be playing a role in Slaver’s Bay, as one might expect.
Cilenti is actually cast quite a bit off from the description of Yezzan in the books (Yezzan is morbidly obese, unable to walk, and stinks of his own urine). Cilenti’s appearance is more reminiscent of Daario Naharis, so don’t be surprised if the things his character gets up to are considerably different from the books as well.
Jessica Henwick as Nymeria “Nym” Sand
Nym is one of Prince Oberyn bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes, the second eldest after only Obara. She is a beauty who is deadly with blades, secreting numerous daggers on her person at all times. She, along with her sisters, seeks revenge for her father’s death in King’s Landing.
Henwick is a bit younger than Nym in the books (twenty-two compared to twenty-five), but she is well cast as the beauty with dark silken tresses. Despite her youth, Henwick actually is quite an accomplished actor, appearing as a regular in no fewer than three series in the UK.
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers as Tyene Sand
Tyene is Oberyn’s third daughter, and is a mistress of poison. In the books, each of the four eldest Sand Snakes seems to represent an aspect of their father, and her focus on poison and herbology, hidden behind an innocent demeanor, makes her potentially the most dangerous and insidious of the sisters. Better watch out if you get invited to dinner at her keep.
Sellers is an accomplished actress, establishing herself in Italy before returning to the States. She is perhaps best known for her titular role in Memories of Anne Frank, a 2009 TV movie.
Keisha Castle-Hughes as Obara Sand
Obara is the eldest of Prince Oberyn’s bastard daughters, and the one who represents his brute strength the best. While Tyene is the poisoner, and Nym the agile fighter, Obara is the knight, the fighter who will go toe-to-toe with the toughest opponents. Don’t expect her to take her father’s death lying down.
Castle-Hughes has been acting since she was twelve years old, when she gained international acclaim as Paikea in The Whale Rider, a role for which she was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (she lost out to Charlize Theron in Monster). She acted sporadically in the years following, but has recently enjoyed a good run as Gaia in The Almighty Johnsons.
Jonathon Pryce as High Sparrow
High Sparrow is a new force in King’s Landing, a religious leader who ministers to the lowest of the low, while ready to lay the plight of the poor at the feet of the rich. He is a Septon of the Faith, and his concern for the poor means that he forgoes many of the trappings of power his peers embrace.
Pryce is a coup, on par with the casting of Dame Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell two seasons ago. He instantly brings credibility and gravitas to a role that will be quite important in at least Season 5, if not further into the future. Genre fans likely know him best for his leading role in Terry Gilliam’s insane and brilliant magnum opus Brazil, but he’s had turns in shows as disparate as Doctor Who and Glengarry Glen Ross, as well as playing Governor Swann in three of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
I’m very excited to see these new actors bring favorite characters to life on screen, and it is refreshing to see the joy with which each of them seems to be approaching the opportunity to join the award-winning HBO cast. Season 4 was, for my money, the best season so far – here’s hoping these actors can help to raise the game one more time.