‘Game of Thrones’: Casting Director Shares Tips for Working in Westeros

Game of Thrones has one of the biggest ensemble casts on television, with a staggering number of extras to fill out the fantastical world of Westeros. The Belfast Telegraph spoke to Siobhan Allan, a Northern Ireland mother who started the agency the Extras Dept., responsible for all of the HBO production’s background actors, as a way to help her daughter.

As she told the Belfast Telegraph, “I didn’t know anything about the [entertainment] industry. My daughter, Emma, did her degree in film and media and… [s]he came home one Friday night at the end of December 2006 and said, ‘I have to find 250 extras’. I said, ‘Surely there must be an agency,’ but she said there wasn’t, so I thought I would set one up because I was looking for something new to do.”

Just a portion of the massive cast on 'Game of Thrones' at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards (Photo By: Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
Just a portion of the massive cast on Game of Thrones at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards. (Photo: Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)

From those humble beginnings, Allan hired a business partner, Carla Stronge, who won two Emmys for her work on the show. In those early days, Allan would send her out into the streets of Belfast to snap pictures of people for potential gigs. “A few times in those early days I thought, This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought I could have done it as a wee part-time job, but the whole thing just kept growing and growing.”

And that’s when HBO brought the production for Game of Thrones to Northern Ireland. “If they asked us for six dwarfs and one amputee, we always managed to get what they were looking for, even if it seemed impossible.”

Allan also gave some advice to people who wanted to break into the extras game, “The main thing I would say to people is be honest and tell us the truth about your height and size…. A good clear photograph from the knee up is needed. So long as everything is in order, that’s it.”

Despite Siobhan Allan’s close proximity to fame, she has no interest in sharing the spotlight. “I like to stay on my side of the camera, and I have no inclination at all to go in front of it…. My husband was in Game of Thrones because it is something he loves to be able to say. He decided he wanted to be a cop too, but I had to tell him that he couldn’t because the girls in the office said he was too old.”

Game of Thrones returns Sunday, July 16, on HBO.

Watch: ‘Game of Thrones’ SXSW Panel: Spinoffs, Sheeran, and Zombie Stark Sisters

Game of Thrones returns Sunday, July 16, on HBO.

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