Personally I can't remember life before Game of Thrones, but a recent, unhappy look at one of my childhood photos confirmed that it was apparently a thing that happened. That got me thinking about what the major players from the Houses Stark, Lannister and Tyrell looked like when they were young, cute and badly-dressed, before the great game made jaded murderers out of them all.
Was Jon Snow always that gloomy? Was Littlefinger always so damn creepy? Let's rewind time and have a good, old-fashioned ogle at a few youthful photos the Game of Thrones cast would probably rather forget.
Richard Madden / Robb Stark
Richard Madden was 24 when he took the role of Robb Stark, ditched his Scottish accent for a Northern dialect and grew out his beard. A few years earlier, though, he was a clean-shaven, fresh-faced wee lad winning acclaim on the stage as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at the Globe in London. Beard or no beard, Robb Stark was a total mummy's boy, which makes complete sense after seeing the picture above.
Lena Headey / Cersei Lannister
Some women were born to be bad. Young Lena Headey looks super-cute in a turn-of-the-century, sale-at-the-knitwear-store kinda way, but let's be honest, she was always destined for better, blonder, furrier things. Anybody who's been following Headey's career will know she's a professional badass, having kicked some major ass in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Dredd and, this year, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (if you've not seen it yet, rectify that right now. You can thank me later).
Charles Dance / Tywin Lannister
Like many of the other older thespians on this list, Charles Dance has comfortably found his niche: He plays old men with a ruthless streak from an enviable bloodline. His Game of Thrones character Tywin Lannister is probably the most ruthless of all Dance's characters — remember when he told Tyrion he had to fight the temptation to drown him in the ocean as a young child?
Once upon a time, though, Charles Dance was a bit of a sex symbol. Check him out looking well buff half a lifetime ago. Even then, he looks kind of evil, don't you think? But more the kind of evil that might steal your girlfriend, rather than drown his own flesh and blood. It's all relative.
Jason Momoa / Khal Drogo
If you were hoping for an embarrassing photo of a young Jason Momoa looking like an awkward, puny teen with zits, sorry to disappoint — this man has always been blessed with enviable DNA. For two years between 1999-2001, Momoa was the star of Baywatch Hawaii. Time has been even kinder in the years since, and when Game of Thrones began in 2011, Momoa was far more ripped than you or I will ever be.
Khal Drogo didn't speak much, but then that body does all the talking.
Sean Bean / Ned Stark
Sean Bean loves himself a good period drama. Twenty years before Ned Stark had his hand chopped off, Bean was rocking the aristocratic look like a true high-born in the BBC's Clarissa. I've never seen Clarissa, so I'm not sure if he died in that, but it's probably a safe bet he did.
Diana Rigg / Olenna Tyrell
Diana Rigg was one of the television's ultimate sex symbols in the 1960s thanks to her role as Emma Peel on The Avengers (nothing to do with Captain America and co.), and she reached peak global fame (and sex appeal) as the headstrong, fur-clad Contessa Tracy di Vicenzo, future wife of 007 in the classic James Bond adventure On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
Almost five decades later, Rigg keeps herself fully dressed as Olenna Tyrell, Queen of Thorns, but that acid tongue has not mellowed with age.
Aidan Gillen / Lord Petyr Baelish
Littlefinger may be one of the most influential men on Westeros, but long before he was creeping around the Vale pushing people through moon doors, Aidan Gillen was part of one of the most groundbreaking television series ever made.
In the original Queer As Folk, Gillen played Stuart, a promiscuous gay man who inducts a teenager into the Manchester gay scene. The series is frequently credited with pushing the boundaries of sex on television and changing mainstream attitudes to LGBT communities, and was remade a year later for US audiences by Showtime.
He's greyed out a lot since 1999, but Gillen still looks pretty dapper, and you still wouldn't trust him with your grandmother's purse (or Sansa's life).
Ian McShane / Brother Ray
The legendary Ian McShane joined Thrones for one episode of Season 6 playing Brother Ray, leader of the pacifist camp at which the Hound did a lot of wood chopping. McShane has appeared in pretty much everything ever made at some point or other, but long before he was in GoT or Deadwood, he was named Cosmo magazine's pin-up of the week.
He celebrated this feat by posing naked with a canine friend, naturally. Age has been kind to McShane, and these days that moustache doesn't look half so bad.
Kit Harington / Jon Snow
The serious, brooding, frequently-angsty and permanently-Northern Lord Commander of the Night's Watch didn't always have that majestic mane of hair sitting like a beautiful, suspiciously well-maintained mop atop his head.
This is what young Kit Harington looked like, taken sometime before he signed up as the lead in the stage production of War Horse in 2009. Even young Kit looks like somebody who didn't have much to smile about. Cheer up, son. You're t'King in t'Noorth!