Michelle Fairley rode a career as an accomplished journeyman actor to that rarest of show business phenomena, a signature breakthrough role for an actress in her mid-40s, with her turn as an intrepid noblewoman on HBO's sumptuous sword-and-sorcery hit "Game of Thrones" (2011- ). A native of Northern Ireland, Fairley transplanted to London and found consistent work in the theater and bit television roles in the 1990s. By the late years of the decade, she landed some higher-profile television work, including a lead in the Belfast-set BBC comedy "Safe and Sound" (1996). Her theatrical career took an upturn in 1997 when she landed the female lead in the Conor McPherson play "The Weir," which began in London and jumped the Atlantic for a successful Broadway run. Her stage imprimatur grew in the early 2000s, reaching critical mass with a flurry of lauded stage performances, notably her Olivier Award-nominated performance in Michael Grandage restaging of Shakespeare's "Othello" in 2007 and her scene-stealing turn in Frank McGuinness' "Greta Garbo Came to Donegal." Though her stage successes rarely translated to bigger screen presence - her highest-profile project being her turn as Hermione's mother in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" (2010) - that would change with her winning the role of Catelyn Stark, a tentpole heroine of HBO's "Game of Thrones." Led by her distinctively huge, expressive eyes, Fairley was revealed to international audiences as one of British theater's best-kept secrets.