What new faces can we look forward to in Season 5? HBO released a video at ComicCon with nine (count’em! nine!) new characters.
Alexander Siddig – Doran Martell
Who? Doran is the Prince of Dorne: a much more cautious, patient, and self-effacing man than his younger brother Oberyn (RIP) but just as dangerous, and just as mindful of the death of his sister Elia and her children in Robert’s Rebellion.
Where do I know him from? Probably Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where he played Dr. Bashir. If you’re in London this summer, you can also catch Siddig at the Globe, where he’s playing Saladin in Holy Warriors.
What do you think? I always pictured Doran as a much larger man, purely because his defining physical characteristic in the books is the crippling gout which keeps him chair-bound and isolated. But I can easily imagine Siddig as Pedro Pascal’s brother (though Pascal is Chilean-American and Siddig is British-Sudanese) and gout is no respecter of body size. I’m in favour.
Keisha Castle-Hughes – Obara Sand
Who? Obara is the eldest of Oberyn’s eight illegitimate daughters. They are collectively known as the Sand Snakes (“Sand” being the surname for illegitimate children in Dorne as “Snow” is in the North – in the books, Oberyn’s lover Ellaria Sand is only the mother of the four youngest Sand Snakes, none of whom feature much). Obara, like her dad, is fond of a spear.
Where do I know her from? Probably Whale Rider and her subsequent Oscar nomination. Or, if you missed that, her casting as the Virgin Mary in The Nativity Story and subsequent scandalisation of conservatives everywhere by going full Method and having her first child at sixteen. Trivia for your next game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Alexander Siddig (Doran Martell) and Ciarán Hinds (Mance Rayder) also starred in this film, as the Angel Gabriel and King Herod, respectively.
What do you think? Castle-Hughes is younger, slighter and certainly prettier than I imagined Obara being. But there’s no doubt she’s a quality actress. I’m intrigued.
Jessica Henwick – Nymeria Sand
Who? Nymeria is the next-eldest of the Sand Snakes, a dab hand with a dagger.
Where do I know her from? Possibly Spirit Warriors, a BBC kids show that ended in 2010, and for which Henwick received a Children’s BAFTA nomination. More likely another BBC show Silk, which also starred Game of Thrones cast members Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) and Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand); but most likely is that she’ll be a new face to most viewers.
What do you think? I’m very interested to see what she can do. I’m also noting that Jessica’s ethnicity/ies differs from her character’s in the books: so it’s possible Nymeria will have a slightly different backstory in the series.
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers – Tyene Sand
Who? You guessed it, the third-eldest of the Sand Snakes. In the books, she avoids edged weapons but takes after her father when it comes to more subtle ones, like poison — in the intro video, she seems to have some serious daggers, though.
Where do I know her from? She played Rachel Weisz’s daughter in The Whistleblower, and if you’re up on your Italian film and TV (who isn’t..?), you might know her from Gli Equilibristi, Buongiorno Papa, and Una Grande Famiglia. She holds dual Italian and US citizenship.
What do you think? Tyene in the books is physically very different: blonde and blue-eyed. Sellers looks much more similar to the actors cast for Nymeria and Obara than Tyene does to her sisters in the books, and again I wonder if that’s significant on the part of the show or not.
Nell Tiger Free – Myrcella Baratheon
Who? Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten already! Myrcella is Cersei’s second child, sent off by Tyrion in Season Two to be betrothed to Doran’s son. Previously she was played by Aimee Richardson, who reacted pretty classily to her job loss on Vine.
Where do I know her from? Err, probably nowhere. Her IMDB has a scant three credits — though to be fair, she’s only fifteen.
What do you think? With all the action in Dorne this season, it’s inevitable that Myrcella will be playing a much bigger role than we’ve seen from her before. Just don’t expect her to be the new Joffrey.
Toby Sebastian – Trystane Martell
Who? Trystane Martell is Doran’s eldest son.
Where do I know him from? Again, probably nowhere, unless you’ve seen post-apocalyptic school film After the Dark. No? Me either.
What do you think? My issue with this casting has nothing to do with the actor — rant below.
DeObia Oparei – Areo Hotah
Who? Areo is Doran’s chief servant and confidant. He is originally from Norvos, one of the Nine Free Cities in Essos (others we’ve seen so far in the TV series are Braavos and Pentos), and in the books arrived in Dorne with Doran’s Norvoshi wife years before.
Where do I know him from? He’s had small parts in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Moulin Rouge. If you’re a British soap aficionado, he’s also popped up in Holby City.
What do you think? Like Xaro Xhoan Daxos and Salladhor Saan, this is another example of Thrones casting a man of colour for a character GRRM had written as white. Xaro’s character changed partially as a result — becoming from the Summer Isles instead of Qarth itself, hence his attempted coup — so I wonder if Areo will likewise have a different background and a different role in the plot.
Enzo Cilenti – Yezzan zo Qaggaz
Who? Yezzan is a collector of slaves in Yunkai in Essos, so he’s the first new face that has nothing to do with Dorne.
Where do I know him from? He was the philandering brother-in-law of Indira Varma’s character in HBO’s Rome (and the real father of her son). Later this year, he’ll also be in TV adaptations of Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
What do you think? Another casting who is very physically different — Yezzan in the books is known for being fat to the point of disability, and thinking through his storylines, I’m guessing his character will be doing different things in the show. I also have plenty of time for anyone who’s been in Rome.
Jonathan Pryce – the High Sparrow
Who? Nothing to do with Dorne, this character has a big part to play in King’s Landing and gives a voice to the increasingly marginalised smallfolk.
Where do I know him from? Among many other things, he was Keira Knightley’s bewigged and bewildered father in Pirates of the Caribbean. You’ll also see him in Wolf Hall later this year as Cardinal Wolsey.
What do you think? This actor knows his stuff and I can’t wait to see him and Lena Headey square up in Season 5.
Of course, all this skirts over the biggest issue with this casting announcement, hidden in the press release that names Trystane Martell as Doran’s heir: the total removal of Arianne Martell from the show. In ASOIAF, Arianne is the eldest child of Doran and therefore his heir, as Dornish law follows absolute rather than male-preference primogeniture. Along with her cousins the Sand Snakes, she is instrumental in the Dornish storylines in these later books. If Trystane is the heir, that means no Arianne. Practically, I can see why the producers might want to cut down on the number of new characters and I can see how the Sand Snakes could take on some of Arianne’s plotlines. As a fan, I’m furious. Arianne is smart, powerful, sexually liberated and a POV character in the books — how could they cut her out?
It’s possible that someone at HBO miswrote the press release, thinking that being Doran’s son automatically means his heir as well, and that Arianne hasn’t been cast yet… but I’m not optimistic.
What do you think of the casting so far? Who else do you think is missing?
If you want to discuss plot points in detail, please use our usual procedure: use rot13.com to encypher your comment (go to that site, write your comment, click, then copy and paste the new text back here). To read spoilery comments, just reverse the process: copy the text here, go to rot13.com, and click to read. Events from the books that have already been depicted in the show are not considered spoilers.