Game of Thrones has a pretty good track record in casting. Their casting director, Nina Gold, was honored recently with a BAFTA special award for her work across both TV (which also includes shows like Wolf Hall and Rome) and movies (which includes the new Star Wars trilogy.)
But not every casting works in the longer term. Myrcella, for instance, was replaced when the original actor didn't grow into a tall, willowy woman like they wanted. Tommen was also re-cast, with another child actor who had played a Lannister cousin, who was developing more along the lines they wanted. Most notably, The Mountain was recast three times in first four years.
This year, we have another Game of Thrones re-casting: Dickon Tarly. We met Sam's younger brother, who is favored by their father, last year in Season 6. Then he was played by Freddie Stroma, who fans might remember as Cormac McLaggen in the later Harry Potter films.
But this year, Stroma won't be back. A combination of factors went into the decision, including Stroma getting cast in the short-lived series Time After Time. The show might have tried to work out a schedule, but they too seem to have had a different direction to go with the character, who will spend most of his screentime this season on horseback and in battle.
In his place, the show has cast Tom Hopper, from STARZ's Black Sails series. Hopper is a taller fellow, with a harder, leaner look, in comparison to Stroma's softer, prettier one. Though it was totally believable that Lord Tarly (James Faulkner) would prefer Stroma's classically handsome face to Sam's portly one, just a quick look at Hopper and his more masculine, soldier-like visage and the difference between Sam and his younger brother (and their father's preference) becomes even more pronounced.
Will fans notice the recast? Some might, though considering that the only time we saw Dickon before was in a not-so-well-lit dining room, while this season will see him in armor on the battlefield, suggests that most won't really feel the change.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 16.