THEY might be the world’s most recognisable faces, but even the superstars of Game of Thrones had to start somewhere.
The string of TV stars, who were on the whole relatively unknown before GoT hit the small screen back in 2011, are now regarded as the who’s who of the television world.
Before they became power hungry kings, queens and knights on the hit fantasy series, a bevy of the cast were either fresh out of school or struggling to make ends meet in part-time jobs, while some had long careers in film and television before George R.R. Martin even began writing the books A Song of Ice and Fire back in the 1980s.
The show’s major players, including Emilia Clarke who plays the firey dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen and Kit Harington who portrays King of the North Jon Snow, went from earning near to nothing before GoT, to now pocketing millions of dollars per episode.
Many of the actors who star in the series have bagged coveted Emmy wins and nominations, with the show cleaning up at the annual TV celebrations awards every year.
Their every move attracts a pack of paparazzi and is documented by global media, while they also get hounded by diehard fans in the streets.
But their journey in showbiz hasn’t always been a smooth sailing one.
Ahead of the premiere of season seven on Monday on Foxtel, we’ve dug through the vault to see what your favourite GoT characters were up to before the world of Westeros brought them global fame.
Emilia Clarke, plays Daenerys Targaryen
Before British actor Emilia Clarke became the dragon queen, she had just two film credits to her name.
The 30-year-old’s first television appearance was a walk-on role in Doctors, a UK soap based in a hospital in the early 2000s.
She then played the small role of a teen in the made-for-TV movie Triassic Attack.
Clarke was working six jobs to pay her rent when her agent called to say she landed an audition for GoT.
She is now said to earn up to $4 million per episode.
Kit Harington, plays Jon Snow
English actor Kit Harington, 30, was also an unknown face before he scored the role of a lifetime, with no film credits to his name.
He had only worked in theatre, catching the eyes of GoT producers when he starred as Albert Narracott in the famed production War Horse in London eight years ago.
He is also said to pocket millions for portraying the King of the North.
Lena Headey, plays Cersei Lannister
The evil queen who currently sits on the Iron Throne was scouted at the age of 17, where she was noticed during a school drama competition at the National Theatre in London.
Headey, 43, went on to work steadily as an actress in small roles in films throughout the 1990s.
She found fame for her lead performances in big-budget films such as the fantasy film The Brothers Grimm (2005), the action film 300 (2007), portraying Gorgo, Queen of Sparta, and the adventure and biographical film The Red Baron (2008).
But she is best known for her portrayal of Cersei Lannister in GoT since 2011.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, plays Jaimie Lannister
Danish actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, 46, had already established a solid career in showbiz before playing Queen Cersei’s twin brother.
He made his breakthrough performance in the film Nightwatch (1994), going on to appear in numerous films in his native Scandinavia and Europe.
His American debut film role was in the war film Black Hawk Down (2001), playing Medal of Honor recipient Gary Gordon.
Sophie Turner, plays Sansa Stark
A baby faced Sophie Turner made her professional acting debut as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones when she was just 13-years-old.
The English star, 21, has said she wanted to be an actor ever since she can remember, and was a member of the theatre company Playbox Theatre Company, in the West Midlands of England, since she was only three years old.
Her drama teacher encouraged her to audition for the part of Sansa, and she dyed her blonde hair red for the role.
Aidan Gillen, plays Littlefinger
Before Aidan Gillen played the conniving Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones, he had a beefy film and TV resume under his belt since starting his professional career in the 80s.
The 49-year-old began his acting journey as a teenager with the Dublin Youth Theatre, playing Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Irish actor became well known for his portrayal of Tommy Carcetti in the acclaimed HBO series The Wire in 2011.
Maisie Williams, plays Arya Stark
Another young face who started her professional career on GoT, Maisie Williams was only 12 when she signed on to play Arya Stark.
The British actor was discovered at a talent show in Paris when she was only 10, scoring with an agent and an audition for a role in the movie Nanny McPhee 2.
Williams, 21, didn’t get the role and almost didn’t end up auditioning for Game of Thrones.
Bet she’s glad she did.
Isaac Hempstead Wright, plays Bran Stark
The youngest actor to start on GoT, Britain’s Isaac Hempstead Wright was only 10-years-old when he bagged the role of Bran Stark.
The 18-year-old has said he had no interest in being an actor until he joined a drama club in Kent, England, to avoid playing football on Saturday mornings.
He quickly went on to act in commercials, before making his film debut in horror film The Awakening (2011).
His big break came later that year when he secured a lead part as the youngest member of House Stark.
Wright has said he is saving his GoT earnings to get a PhD at University.
Peter Dinklage, plays Tyrion Lannister
Fan favourite Peter Dinklage initially struggled to find work as an actor because he refused to take the roles offered to actors with dwarfism, such as “elves or leprechauns”.
The 48-year-old began acting in a fifth-grade production of The Velveteen Rabbit at his school in New Jersey, and made his film debut in Living in Oblivion (1995).
His breakthrough came with the comedy-drama The Station Agent (2003). He went on to appear in the films Elf (2003), the crime film Find Me Guilty (2006), and the fantasy film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).
An already established actor, Dinklage started portraying Tyrion Lannister in GoT in 2011, which earned him the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2015.
Rory McCann Porridge commercial
Rory McCann, plays Sandor Clegane
He might be known as the toughest fighter in all of Westeros, but the human giant who plays The Hound began his acting career in a Porridge commercial.
It was a rocky start for Scottish actor Rory McCann, 48, who was also fired as an extra from the 1988 film Willow for laughing during takes.
Originally a painter, his first major acting role was playing a disabled personal trainer in the 2002 television comedy drama The Book Group.
He made his Hollywood debut in the 2004 film Alexander, before playing Michael “Lurch” Armstrong in Hot Fuzz in 2007.
He is best known for his role as tough guy Sandor Clegane in GoT, in which he has starred in since 2011.
Originally published as Humble beginnings for GoT stars