5 Facts About New Game of Thrones Cast Member Rose Leslie

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[Update: This post is old. Please click here for the most recent updates on Game of Thrones season three.]

We don’t know about you guys, but we got really excited over the summer when casting for the second season of HBO's Game of Thrones just kept rolling out, and rolling out, and rolling out. You know what was curious, though? Among those casting notices, the character of Ygritte was nowhere to be seen. Why? Ygritte is awesome! A redheaded Wildling from beyond the Wall, Ygritte factors prominently in Jon Snow’s (Kit Harrington’s) story, and besides Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), she just may be the coolest female character in the entire series.

But finally– finally!– the wait is over: Ygritte has been cast! In the second and third seasons of Game of Thrones, this super awesome character will be played by Rose Leslie. We may have been pulling for Bonnie Wright or Lily Cole when we were putting together our dream cast back in July; but now that the verdict is out, we can’t think of a better choice than Rose Leslie. If you’re a fan of British period dramas, you may have caught Rose in the glorious Downton Abbey; she played Gwen, the plucky young maid determined to make more of herself, in the first season of the show. We'll miss her in the second season, but we won’t be missing her that much if we know she’ll be taking on Game of Thrones.

But who exactly IS Rose Leslie? Here are five need-to-know facts about the actress:

1) Her full name is Rose Eleanor Arbuthnot-Leslie.
She was born on February 9, 1987, which makes her 24 years old, and she’s from Aberdeen, a city in the northeast of Scotland. I wonder if she likes haggis?

2) She’s trained in theatre.
This may not come as a surprise, since almost every well-known screen actor to come out the United Kingdom trained at its best drama schools; but Rose has a pretty good pedigree: she trained at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, aka LAMDA. She graduated with honors in 2008, too, and she tackled such meaty roles as Yelena in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet while she was there. Furthermore, she graced the stage of none other than Shakespeare’s Globe in Nell Leyshon’s new play Bedlam about the notorious London lunatic asylum last fall. Critics described Rose in Bedlam as “genuinely poignant as the beautiful country girl driven mad by lost love.”

3) Rose is good with accents.
She may be Scottish by birth, but since Rose spent her school years in England, her natural accent these days is closest to what those “in the business” call “received pronunciation,” or RP: the standard BBC accent. However, for Downton Abbey, Rose not only had to learn a Yorkshire accent, but moreover, she had to learn the 1912 version of the Yorkshire accent. In an interview about the show, she said that “All accents now have become quite sloppy,” whereas “in 1912, it was more acute and there were no long bits at the end of the word, where the mouth drops open.” She got it in the end, though! It will be interesting to see what sort of accent she ends up using in Game of Thrones— the farthest north we’ve gone in the show so far is the Wall, but Ygritte is from beyond the Wall, so it could get quite interesting-sounding indeed.

4) She already has an award under her belt.
Rose made debut in a 2009 television film called New Town, for which she took home the Scottish BAFTA for Best Acting Performance – New Talent. Not too shabby for her first time out!

5) She digs physical roles.
Rose has said that she really hopes Ygritte will be a physically demanding role: She wants to be running up and down mountains, shooting a bow and arrow, and generally kicking arse. She got certified in basic stage combat while at LAMDA; now, though, she might have the chance to kick that basic certification up a notch. Knowing what the books tell us about the Wildling, it’s pretty likely she’ll be getting plenty physical!

I have just discovered, by the way, that “Ygritte” is pronounced “EYE-grit,” which is not at all how I’ve been reading it all this time. Weird. Anyway, catch Rose saying “Ygritte” and talking about a whole bunch of other Game of Thrones stuff here: