Game Of Thrones Actor And Musician Wilko Johnson Is Dead At 75

Wilko Jonson playing the guitar.
(Image credit: Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

Wilko Johnson passed away on the evening of November 21 at the age of 75. Johnson was best known as the guitarist of the band Dr. Feelgood, a British blues-rock band, and for his role on the hit TV show Game of Thrones where he played Ser Ilyn Payne. 

Johnson’s official Facebook page announced the musician’s death, and thanked fans for respecting his “family’s privacy at this very sad time.” They also noted the “tremendous support” Johnson felt throughout his life from his fans. 

The family of Johnson also posted a heartfelt thank you to the actor’s doctor Charlie Chan, and his surgeon Emmanuel Huguet for helping him through his battle with pancreatic cancer. The singer was diagnosed in 2012, and he was told it was terminal, according to US News. The Facebook post said: 

As many of you know, we have cancer doctor Charlie Chan and surgeon Emmanuel Huguet to thank for the extra years Wilko was able to enjoy.

Along with the thank you to the medical professionals who helped him, the family also posted a quote from his surgeon Huguet, who said: 

I feel honoured to have known Wilko. He was uplifting and life enhancing for me. Like so many other people, I loved him.

Today, many will recognize Johnson for his role as Ser Ilyn Payne on Game of Thrones. He played the mute knight, and it was his character who executed Ned Stark in the shocking Season 1 finale. While Johnson wasn’t on the show for long, did play a major role in the Season 1 finale, "Baelor" which is still regarded as one of the best episodes of GOT. His character was not only part of a major game-changing moment on the show but also a monumental moment in television history, in my opinion. This is because the show killed off the person who had been the lead character up until that point, likely shocking everyone who watched the series. 

His legacy lived on during the show, because Ilyn Payne was an early name on Arya Stark's death list, which she would recite as she went to sleep, for example in Season 2 when she was in Harrenhal she would say: 

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, The Hound.

The list grew over the years, and she became a stone-cold assassin throughout the seasons, leading up to her killing the Night King. So, while we may have only seen Ser Payne a few times, Johnson’s character remained present throughout the entire show. The shocking nature of GOT, and Johnson’s actions as Payne have lived on as GOT, and its prequel series House of the Dragon, which was a wildly popular addition to the 2022 TV schedule, continue to be impactful and popular programs.

Along with Game of Thrones, and his acting career, Johnson was also a guitarist for the band Dr. Feelgood, which was a group he formed with friends from his hometown. The band had a No. 1 album in the UK and toured across the United States. Johnson left the band in 1977.

Following his cancer diagnosis in 2012, he decided to come back to music, and go on one last tour, according to U.S. News. He also released an album called Going Back Home, which he made with Roger Daltrey from The Who in 2014. Then in 2018, he released another album called Blow Your Mind. According to USA Today (opens in new tab), he had been performing live up until last month.

If you are interested in checking out Johnson’s body of work, you can stream his latest albums, as well as his music with Dr. Feelgood, and you can watch him on Game of Thrones with an HBO Max subscription.

We at CinemaBlend extend our condolences to Wilko Johnson’s family in this hard time.

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso.