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With Game of Thrones almost a year in the rear-view mirror as an iconic part of TV history, it’s worth looking back at the many what-ifs when it came to casting choices. While most of the casting was just about perfect, sometimes a certain twist of fate led to one actor playing a different role on the same show.

It turns out Jason Momoa wasn’t the first choice in playing Khal Drogo during the first season in 2011. As one of the more despised and early departed characters on GoT, it showed audiences Daenerys in a situation she didn’t want to be in. Through an arranged marriage with Khal, she ultimately aborted their own child and then killed him after he suffered a fateful infection.

Khal Drogo was nearly impossible to cast, but Momoa ultimately became the final choice after numerous auditions.

Jason Momoa on the red carpet
Jason Momoa | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Conan Stevens auditioned for the role, among others

Any avid watcher of GoT remembers some of the minor characters who played sideline roles in the plot. One of those characters was Gregor Clegane, otherwise known as “The Mountain.”

While only seen occasionally, Conan Stevens was ultimately cast in this role after first trying out for Khal Drogo.

According to Screen Rant, Stevens was far from the first actor to try out for the Khal role. For whatever reason, Stevens just didn’t have the right look GoT co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were looking for when casting.

Based on character descriptions from the book, Khal Drogo was supposed to be virility with a capital V. As a warlord of the Dothraki, he was known for being one of the fiercest warriors in the known world, including never being defeated in battle.

Finding an actor who could resemble that kind of description wasn’t easy. But after only acting in a couple of shows, Momoa managed to impress Benioff and Weiss during the audition process.

Momoa was clearly going to become like a new Schwarzenegger or The Rock

It’s pretty clear now that Benioff and Weiss were looking for someone more shredded than Conan Stevens. Screen Rant notes David Harewood even tried out for the role yet was ultimately rejected.

Only Momoa managed to impress the showrunners, especially because he looked like he could realistically become a new Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson. He was still a virtually unknown actor, outside of a role on Baywatch: Hawaii and a soap opera. Apparently Benioff and Weiss took Momoa casting suggestions from users on a fan-casting website.

During his audition, Momoa did a ceremonial dance called the haka, which is associated with warriors. Video of this audition dance has made the rounds on YouTube, and he clearly threw every ounce of energy he had into presenting it. Now, he can say he more or less danced his way into progressing his career.

Had it not have been for his big break on Game of Thrones, it might not have given him the jumpstart necessary toward playing the new Conan the Barbarian the same year and then being cast as Aquaman a few years later.

Roles from books are sometimes challenging to cast

The story of Momoa’s big break goes to show how some fantasy characters are becoming harder to cast, especially when given near-impossible traits for an actor to mimic.

Still, it seems the role of Khal Drogo went through as many auditions as several other GoT leads. Based on past lists of actors who tried out for roles from Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen, the show could have looked very different had Benioff and Weiss had any changes of heart.