The character of the Night King (Richard Brake/Vladimír Furdík) in Game of Thrones struck fear into millions of fans with his human-like qualities, icy exterior, and otherworldly powers. However, it turns out that the original design was much more reminiscent of a frozen Gandalf the Grey.
IGN reports that the GoT lead production designer, Deborah Riley, recently released a book titled The Art of Game of Thrones. In the text, Riley shares first drafts of concept art for the Emmy-winning series, including a look at the original vision of the Night King.
In the artwork, the leader of the White Walkers is tall, bearded, heavily robed, and has very sunken cheeks. Riley explained to Vanity Fair that her team had no point of reference to base the Westeros villain on. She had to create a temporary character, and then pass it on to makeup artist Barrie Gower. When Gower started working on what would become the series’ version of the Night King, he was told to make it "royal" with "the familiar traits of the White Walkers."
Riley, Gower, and the rest of the team clearly went for a more militaristic model of the cold-hearted threat from the North, versus the more immobile, kingly design. It’s a good thing, too; it probably would have been difficult to ride a zombie dragon in those long robes.