Once upon a time, it seemed unlikely the geek would inherit the pop culture earth. Superheroes, dragons, vampires didn’t tend to occupy the “popular” part of “popular culture.” Confess you liked comic books or Dungeons and Dragons, and you once might have risked an eyebrow raise, if not outright ridicule, from those who didn’t know what they were missing.
But in the early 21st century, something happened. The cinematic adventures of the X-Men, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings fellowship began to wear down the barriers between geek and non-geek.
Nonetheless, when it was announced that HBO would be adapting the novels of George R. R. Martin into an expensive and ambitious show, success was far from certain. Even though it was a story that slowly introduces magic to its world, the novels were nonetheless the stuff of high fantasy: Dragons, witches, resurrections, and whatever White Walkers are.
And yet what seemed a risk proved to be anything but. Game of Thrones became a huge success and its influence spread, for many becoming a gateway to geekery, and contributing — along with projects like the Marvel Cinematic Universe — to the current Golden Age of Geek we now find ourselves in.
Six years after its premiere, Game of Thrones continues to exert its influence on geeky pop culture in a particular way: Its cast, and the projects they take on beyond the show. After all, you can’t keep a Golden Age of Geek alive without feeding it new projects — and the talented cast of Game of Thrones have taken it upon themselves to keep the flame alive.
And while you may not see one of the show’s biggest stars, Kit Harington, grace the geeky silver screen, his cast mates have no qualms about doing so. Here are some of the roles Game of Thrones actors have taken on to keep these glory days of geekdom healthy and thriving.
The League of Thrones Superheroes
If there’s one genre that’s especially welcomed Game of Thrones cast members, it’s some of pop culture’s most popular superhero movies and TV shows.
First up, there’s Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) who took on an ensemble role as a young Jean Grey in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse. Now, her character is set to take center stage in 2018’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, a Grey-centric storyline adapted from what’s been called the most popular X-Men comic story of all time.
With a hearty geek-cred role on Doctor Who behind her, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) will also find her way among super-powered mutants. Williams is set to star as the comic character Wolfsbane in X-Men: New Mutants, a spin-off X-Men movie also set for 2018 that will be about young teens who are still struggling to harness their mutant powers.
Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) has also appeared in the X-Men world via X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, playing the inventor of mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels. It won’t be his last superhero movie appearance; he is set to also appear in Avengers: Infinity War in a still-undisclosed role. Also fun to note is how Dinklage has also appeared in projects where he plays a geek — a live-action role player in Knights of Badassdom (2013) and an obsessive classic video-game player in Pixels (2015).
Then there’s Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) who landed the plum role of Aquaman, whom we saw briefly in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. We will get further acquainted with him in this year’s Justice League movie (which also features Ciaran Hinds, AKA the King Beyond the Wall), as well as in an Aquaman stand-alone film in 2018. Momoa is also rumored to star in a new version of The Crow (based on a superhero comic as well).
Big roles, small screen
Some Game of Thrones actors have also made their way to the small screen in big roles. Most notably, Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell) stars as Danny Rand in the Marvel–Netflix show Iron Fist, and he’ll also appear in the Avengers-style team-up of all the Marvel–Netflix heroes in this year’s The Defenders. And, if you can stomach being reminded of Ramsey Bolton’s sadistic misdeeds, Iwan Rheon is set to appear this fall in ABC’s Inhumans show, based on the Marvel characters.
The Society of Comic-Book Adaptations
Superhero-themed projects aren’t the only comics making it to the big screen. Spandex-less stories have seen their fair share of adaptions, and Game of Thrones cast have found their way into them as well.
Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) has never been a stranger to genre roles (see Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). She reprised her role as Queen Gorgo in the 300 sequel Rise of an Empire (2014) based on Frank Miller’s comic. She also played the villain in the underrated Dredd (2012), based on the Judge Dredd comic character.
Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell) will appear in this year’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the movie based on Mark Millar’s comic (Kick-Ass, Wanted). It isn’t based on a comic, but Pascal also appeared with Matt Damon in this year’s Chinese fantasy blockbuster The Great Wall, which had them squaring off against mythical monsters.
The Guild of Science-Fiction Stars
Of all Game of Thrones cast members, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) is perhaps the biggest breakout of the show. Beyond her time spent marshalling the power of dragons, she had the chance to take on the seminal role of Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys (2015). And while the film’s lukewarm success may put at risk the chance to see her reprise that role, we can console ourselves with enthusiasm for her next big project: An undisclosed role in the forthcoming Star Wars movie about a young Han Solo.
Clarke isn’t alone in the Star Wars universe. Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) appeared in The Force Awakens as the intimidating Captain Phasma. While the role was disappointingly small (though it was expanded in video games and comics), word has it she will be given more time in the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Genre-wise, she’s also set to appear in 2018’s The Darkest Minds, a film about super-powered children who are put into internment camps.
Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) will be dealing with a different brand of aliens from a galaxy far, far away soon, finding himself taking on one of science fiction’s ugliest creatures as a marine in 2018’s The Predator, a direct sequel to Predator 2.
If you count something like The Hunger Games as sci-fi, we also have Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) who appeared in both Mockingjay movies in 2014 and 2015. She’s also set to appear in Patient Zero, with John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), a post-apocalyptic pandemic zombie-style movie.
The Road Ahead
These collection of roles will hardly be the last time we see members of the Game of Thrones cast inhabit geeky roles and realms. The Golden Age of Geek shows no sign of stopping (four of the five top-grossing films of 2017 so far are superhero movies), and will no doubt continue to offer opportunities to the citizens of Westeros. And, as Game of Thrones nears its grand finale in Season 8, the cast will only enjoy more freedom to make their home in geeky television and film projects we can’t wait to see.
Top photo by HBO/Kobal/Shutterstock