The latest cast member comes with a little bit of baggage—and a great big bushy beard.
As you may have already heard, HBO and Game of Thrones are going to extreme lengths to keep the secrets of the eighth and final season under wraps. Series star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau went so far as to claim he wouldn’t be receiving scripts at all; instead, he said, the cast would have their lines fed into earpieces. But longtime fans know better than to believe a Lannister—especially one who famously trolled book readers with an obscure and wholly made-up false hint about a duck, just for the fun of it. Besides, actor Liam Cunningham has already admitted to having received all six scripts for Season 8, albeit under strict lock and key. The point, though, is that Game of Thrones is taking secrecy around its increasingly-leaky production very seriously.
But one source of information for Game of Thrones news has always been particularly difficult to control: casting. Notices for new, upcoming roles on the series have to be made public during the casting process, and fans eager for crumbs of information have often, in the past, been able to piece together a hint or three from some casting calls. Which brings us to Season 8, and the news not only of a new role based on the books, but also which actor has been picked to play him. For the reveal of that juicy morsel, stick with us after the jump.
Last month, Game of Thrones fan site Watchers on the Wall was the first to report that the production was looking to cast a number of new Season 8 characters, including “a Mercenary, aged 35 – 50. He’s described as an authoritative, fit, cool and charismatic military type. He’ll be appearing in 2 episodes of season 8. The role requires he be able to ride a horse.” Watchers was quick to guess that this character might be the leader of the Golden Company, an elite fighting force Euron Greyjoy went to fetch for Cersei at the end of last season to help even the crown’s odds against Daenerys, her two dragons, and everyone else in Westeros.
Watchers confirmed their guess Monday with the news that German actor Marc Rissmann has been cast in the role as “Harry Strickland.” Given his work on both the Viking series The Last Kingdom and the post-apocalyptic fantasy Into the Badlands, Rissman is BYOBeard-ready to join the cast of Game of Thrones.
The handsome, young Rissman does not at all match the portly, balding, cowardly Harry Strickland of the books. But this wouldn’t be the first time the series has given book characters a significant physical (or personality) make-over. Strickland is, however, the leader of the Golden Company, no question—so this news, alas, destroys the fun crackpot fan theory that the mercenary group would arrive in King’s Landing in Season 8 only to have the leader whip off his helmet and reveal. . .Dany’s long-lost lover Daario Naharis. We’re not saying Daario won’t return next season, but if he does, it won’t be in this precise and surprising way.
It’s also possible the Golden Company will betray Cersei in order to follow a Targaryen leader. Based on both their dialogue and background in the books (they were formed by Targaryen bastards called Blackfyre), this seems to be where Strickland and the rest might be headed in A Dance with Dragons.
But how much of a role, really, can this new character Strickland have to play in the final season of Game of Thrones? Liam Cunningham himself pointed out to TV Guide that while his character, Daavos, may have a wife we haven’t seen throughout the span of the series, there isn’t space for a book character like Marya Seaworth in the final season. “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Cunningham said. “We’ve got six episodes left, and we’re ramping up to World War III in Westeros. The introduction of my fabulously beautiful wife, I’d imagine, is not going to be seen.”
And admittedly, most of the casting news last year didn’t deserve as much scrutiny as it got. The call for a “16-year-old Northern girl” and “10-year-old Northern boy” to appear in “a high-stakes scene with leading cast members” kicked off a lot of chatter about abandoned book plots and House Karstark—but, in the end, yielded little more than brief cameos.
Even Jim Broadbent’s much-ballyhooed casting, though enjoyable, didn’t add up to much last year. The show can’t afford to add characters now, when it’s so focused on stripping things away.
Still, according to the original casting call for Strickland, the character is supposed to appear in two episodes in Season 8. That may not sound like much—but, put a different way, this character will appear in exactly one third of the remaining episodes of Game of Thrones.
There’s also a possibility that along with tying up eight years of the Thrones saga, the final season will have to lay a little bit of track for the upcoming proposed Thrones spin-offs. With Season 8 shooting well into next summer and HBO C.E.O. telling Variety that the most of the “fantastic group of writers and talent” working on the new shows “have lived inside the Thrones eco-system” and “are very, very familiar with its intricacies,” hope springs eternal that among all the dragons, zombies, betrayal, incest, and direwolves, Game of Thrones will have room to draw back the curtain on the ongoing adventures to come. In other words: don’t hold your breath for a new character like Harry Strickland to wind up sitting on the Iron Throne.