Game of Thrones Actors: Why Mostly British?

Here’s why there are so many British actors in Game of Thrones:

Mostly, it’s because the show was filmed and produced in the United Kingdom.

Even though the production company is American, the production itself was based in Belfast (which is in Northern Ireland).

Hiring British actors was easier and cheaper, and it led to the authenticity of the story overall.

So if you want to learn all about why Game of Thrones had mostly British actors, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Game of Thrones Actors: Why Mostly British? (All the Info)

What Is Game of Thrones?

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Maybe you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t know.

Game of Thrones is one of the most successful and popular TV shows of all time.

It was aired on HBO throughout its run, and it captivated an international audience.

The show was known for its huge budget and impressive production value—depicting movie-like battle sequences and telling a winding story of betrayal and intrigue.

The show follows several noble families in a fictional, fantasy world known as Westeros, and it spans several years of plot development.

The show concluded in 2019, and at the time, it was one of the most celebrated TV shows of all time.

With all of that covered, in order to talk about the cast of Game of Thrones, I have to talk about the show’s production, and some production decisions were actually tied to plot points in the show and character decisions.

That is to say, there will be some spoilers in this discussion.

This isn’t an overview of Game of Thrones, so I don’t have to ruin every plot twist.

But if you haven’t watched the show or read the books, then you’re going to see a couple of spoilers along the way.

This is your official warning.

The TV Show vs the Books

In order to talk about Game of Thrones in any great detail, it’s always necessary to separate the books from the TV show.

In case you don’t know, Game of Thrones is the title of the TV show that was produced and aired by HBO.

That show was inspired by a series of books known as A Song of Ice and Fire.

The first book in that series was called A Game of Thrones (note the capital A which distinguishes it from the title of the TV show).

These books were written by George R. R. Martin, and as of the time of this writing, the book series is not yet finished (even though the TV show concluded a few years ago).

That said, Martin hasn’t released a new book since 2018, and it wasn’t part of the original storyline.

The most recent release in the original storyline was back in 2011.

It might be safe to speculate that Martin has moved on.

All of that said, because the TV show was very largely based on the original books, there are a lot of influences from the books that even impacted the show’s production.

I’ll circle back to this, but the show was filmed in a lot of British locations because the show’s producers imagined a gloomy British climate when they were reading the books.

There’s a lot of that, so I’ll have to talk about both the books and the show to discuss why so many actors were British.

The truth is that there are a lot of reasons for production decisions in the show.

Why Are There So Many British Actors in Game of Thrones? (5 Reasons)

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That’s enough background information that we can really get into the original question.

Why are there so many British actors in the show?

For starters, it’s important to note that there were plenty of actors in the show who are not British at all.

Peter Dinklage (who played Tyrion Lannister) was one of the most prominent faces in the show’s run, and he’s American.

Other notable non-British cast numbers include Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Denmark (Jaime Lannister), Jason Momoa from the United States (Khal Drogo), and Pedro Pascal from Chile and the United States (Oberyn Martell).

Plenty of other cast members through the show’s run could also be on this list.

That said, there were more British actors than not, and the majority of the lead characters were played by Brits.

Why is that?

Well, there are a number of reasons.

#1 Game of Thrones is a British Production

Camera man shooting a feature film during winter

This is the leading reason.

I’m going to talk about other things, and they contributed to the British-ness of the cast, but more than anything else, it’s because the production was largely British.

Now, to be fair, the two main producers of the show were actually American, but the production company set up shop in Northern Ireland for the show’s entire run.

Most of the filming was done there (more on that in a bit), and the U.K. even subsidized some of the production.

Because of all of that, it makes sense that a lot of local talent was sourced—local talent being British in this case.

Who Made Game of Thrones?

Actually, this merits a little more detail.

Two people, for the most part, helmed the production of the TV show: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

They are both American TV producers, and Game of Thrones is their most successful endeavor.

They created the show specifically for HBO, an American subsidiary of Warner Brothers, which is also an American company.

What’s the point of all of this?

At the top of the production, Game of Thrones was definitely an American TV show.

That’s where the money came from (well, that’s complicated too).

And, ultimate decisions for how the show was made came from Americans.

That means that at the end of the chain, Americans were responsible for hiring so many British actors.

But when we look a little deeper, we see that once Benioff and Weiss decided to film the show in the U.K., they set up production operations in Northern Ireland (I’ll explain why in the next section).

As a part of that, they hired Nina Gold as a casting director.

Gold is British, and she was the person directly responsible for casting.

She selected the largely British crew and put it into context with everything else you know, it all falls into place.

Technically, Game of Thrones was made by an American parent company, but in all practical applications, it was a British production made in the U.K.

#2 Game of Thrones Was Largely Filmed in Belfast

Dunluce Castle on the cliff in Bushmills, filming location of Game of Thrones

This goes hand in hand with the show being a British production. 

Now, Game of Thrones took place in a lot of different fictional places, and as a result, the show was filmed across the globe.

But, the vast majority of settings in Westeros (which is where most of the story takes place) were actually filmed in and around Belfast.

The showrunners even said that they always envisioned Westeros as having the same gray atmosphere as the United Kingdom.

Why did they choose Northern Ireland in particular?

The areas around Belfast really fit the aesthetic that they had in mind.

Not only did it have the gray atmosphere and weather that they liked, but the countryside also fit their vision of Westeros.

Since most of the scenes were filmed in the U.K., it’s only natural that most of the actors were from the U.K. as well.

With local actors, you don’t need work visas (that can be hard to get and slow down production).

You can also find local talent that might not be as expensive, since you don’t have to fly them halfway around the world for work.

#3 Having British Actors in Game of Thrones Provided a Sense of Royalty and Class Structure

A crown and a sword in a field of green grass

This is a different take, but it’s pretty common for media in the English language to depict class-based societies as British.

You can look at Lord of the Rings movies as an example.

Many of the characters had British accents in those movies for no specific reason.

The films were shot in New Zealand, and several key characters were played by American actors using British accents.

It’s a common thing, and it has to do with a sense of authenticity.

After all, Britain is the only English-speaking country with a history of formal class structures.

So, if you want royalty and lords and all of that stuff in your story, it might feel natural to insert British accents for a sense of authenticity.

Game of Thrones certainly steered into this idea, and if you’re going to have a bunch of people with British accents, why not hire British actors to do it?

#4 There Are British Influences in the Game of Thrones Story

Medieval knight with sword in armor in winter landscapes

While British accents in the Lord of the Rings might not make perfect sense, they’re a lot more appropriate for Game of Thrones.

Part of that is because the original story draws a lot of inspiration from real history.

When George R. R. Martin was writing the books, he did a lot of research on British power struggles.

In fact, the Lannisters and Starks in the series are largely based on the houses of York and Lancaster in the U.K.

For anyone who doesn’t know, there are real houses in the U.K. that have had power struggles very similar to some of the stuff in Game of Thrones.

And, that’s really just the beginning.

The Wall in the North is definitely based on Hadrian’s wall.

That’s a long wall in the United Kingdom that was built by the Roman Empire.

In other words, it’s been there a long time.

The Red Wedding (if you don’t know what this is, just watch the show or read the books already) is based on real history too.

It’s loosely derived from the Black Wedding, which is a famous event that took place in 1400s Scotland.

There are many, many other real historical references that pop up in the books and the TV show.

You can find a pretty good breakdown of most of them here. 

Seeing how much British history influenced the original story, you can see how filming in the United Kingdom and hiring British actors helps the show feel more authentic. 

#5 Game of Thrones Wanted to Use Unfamiliar Faces

Knight in armor with outstretched arms

This last idea has more to do with focusing on local talent.

Technically, Game of Thrones could have been filmed anywhere.

Getting unfamiliar faces in the show didn’t require anyone to specifically hire British actors.

But, this did influence who was hired, so allow me to explain.

Game of Thrones showrunners wanted to avoid having too many big-name actors in the show for quite a while.

The idea was that they didn’t want famous faces detracting from the story by causing people to think about other famous roles done by those actors.

The most famous exception to this was Sean Bean, who played Ned Stark, but his character was killed off rather quickly—leaving the show in the hands of newer actors who were not so easily recognized.

If you want to hire young talent that people won’t recognize too easily, then the easiest way to do that is to source local talent.

Since the production was based in Northern Ireland, the local talent ended up being British.

That they had natural British accents and lent authenticity to the production is a bonus on top.

Is Game of Thrones British?

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With all of that said, there’s a natural question that arises.

Is Game of Thrones a British show?

The most honest answer is that it was an international show.

American producers with an American production company set up shop in the United Kingdom and largely used local resources to make the show.

Scenes were filmed around the world, and the ultimate case was truly international.

The show was also enjoyed around the world.

So, the filming production was more British than not, but it was an international show.

As for the story, it may take inspiration from real British history, but it is not a British story.

It’s an intentionally fictional world (the ruling class rides dragons after all) written by an American author who lives in New Mexico.

That’s about as un-British as you can get while still speaking English.

Combine all of this with what I said earlier, and the truth is that there are a few answers that would all sound reasonable.

Much of the show was made as a local production in Northern Ireland.

But, it was a big, massive show, and there were plenty of elements that transcended the British elements of the production.

So, yes, it was a British show.

But, it was made by an American parent company.

And, there were plenty of elements around the world the whole way.

You can take whichever answer seems right.