*Small spoilers ahead, Thrones fans.*
You would’ve never known it under all that hair, but one of the giants from Sunday night’s Game Of Thrones once shared the hardwood with Zach Randolph.
Indeed, this strange blast from the past comes to us courtesy of Grantland’s Andrew Sharp, who noticed an oddly familiar name flash across the screen as the credits rolled on the ninth episode of GoT’s fourth season.
That person was Neil Fingleton—a 7’7” former McDonald’s All-American from England who briefly suited up for the UNC basketball team 14 years ago.
Sharp says he noticed the name, did some Googling and discovered that the man who plays a giant on GoT is the same one who earned McDonald’s All-American honors in 2000. (Fingleton is No. 42. He gets worked by Zach Randolph at the 41-second mark.)
So when you saw that frost giant bust into the Wall’s inner tunnel, that was Fingleton dressed up in furs and makeup.
Here’s a picture of Fingleton in costume, per HBO and Chris Littmann of the Sporting News.
Sharp writes that his love for Carolina basketball helped him trace the connection between Fingleton and the name on the credits.
“I was a Carolina fan, so I vaguely remember the recruiting battle to land [Fingleton], and vividly remember watching him in the McDonald’s All-American Game,” Sharp writes. “Then he showed to North Carolina, couldn’t see the court, got back surgery, transferred to Holy Cross, and everyone sorta forgot about him.”
Clearly, Fingleton has made moves since fading into a college basketball trivia question.
Since leaving the game, the former ballplayer has founded his own clothing line for tall men and actively pursued work in the film industry.
In addition to playing a giant on GoT, Fingleton has landed roles in X-Men: First Class, 47 Ronin and the yet to be released Jupiter Ascending.
According to a 2011 interview with the Daily Mail, Fingleton says he hopes to forge a full-time acting career now that basketball is over for him.
“I have been doing acting work since my basketball career finished,” Fingleton said. “I spent 8 years in the USA attending High School and College. I graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2004 with a degree in History. I have played professionally in Greece, Italy, Spain. Now I am concentrating on acting and trying to move to LA soon to jump in with both feet so to speak”
I’d say any physical gift that lands you a gig on GoT can be counted as a blessing.
As to whether that gift will keep you alive on the show—well, nothing is promised in Westeros. The biggest and smallest fall all the same, usually in a gout of blood and screams.
That said, better to die a frosty giant than to have never frosted at all, right?