Game of Thrones star Joe Dempsie talks through his time as Gendry, the question he still wants answered, what he made of the ending, and more.
Joe Dempsie may not have been quite as high profile a Game of Thrones cast member as Kit Harington or Emilia Clarke, but he was never less than convincing as Gendry, the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon.
Speaking to NME, Dempsie reflected on his Game of Thrones journey, starting with the show’s humble beginnings as just another HBO project nowhere cared especially much about. “I hadn’t heard of the books, but one of my friends was really excited when he found out I was auditioning, because he loved the books,” he said. “I remember when I was filming season one and people would ask me what I was working on. I’d start telling them and after about 10 seconds I could see their eyes glazing over.”
Back then, no one knew what an all-consuming pop culture phenomenon Game of Thrones would become, and when Dempsie returned to set after a three-season break, everything was different. “It was noticeable when I came back for season seven,” he said. “The level of security on set. The scripts were under lock and key. You had a few people who didn’t come out for the social aspect, so they could get their sleep… and not have to deal with taking photos all night.”
Oddly enough, Dempsie had experienced something like this level of fame before, when he starred as the hedonistic Chris on the UK teen drama Skins. He didn’t mean to become part of another giant hit again, but it happened, although he wasn’t as close to the center of it as some of the other stars. “It was quite nice being one ring removed from this nuclear cast you’ve been following the whole way through: Emilia [Clarke], Kit [Harrington], Peter [Dinklage]. Lena [Headey]. Those guys carried the weight of the show on their shoulders. I never had to do that… For Kit Harrington, I think going to buy a pint of milk is a hassle, and it isn’t for me.”
Gendry spent the first few seasons of the show in peril, threatened by the Gold Cloaks or nearly offered up as a sacrifice by Melisandre. When he returned in season 7, he had a bit more of a proactive role, although it fell slightly short of his expectations. “I think most actors have a bit of an ego, so definitely part of me thought, ‘Maybe I’m going to come back and it’s going to all be about me. Maybe it’s me! Maybe I win the whole thing.’ It could have been! I think even up to the final episode I was thinking…’maybe?’”
So far as the final season goes, Gendry made it out of the show pretty well, going from a bastard with no lands to a great lord of Westeros. And he lived! That said, he still has some unanswered questions.
I still wanted to find out who Gendry’s mother was. I have a theory that it was actually Cersei and he was actually [her and Robert Baratheon’s] only biological child. In season one, when Ned Stark comes to visit him, he asks him about his parents and he said he never knew his father but his mother had yellow hair. I remember thinking, that’s too loaded a line not to mean anything.
Something to mull, that.
Dempsie mostly side-stepped the blowback the series finale got from parts of the fandom, but of course he has a take on it. “They were never going to please everybody,” he said. “I think in some ways that’s indicative of how popular the show had become. The audience is so huge you can’t please them all… There are some criticisms of season 8 I think are warranted and some that I think are just subjective opinion. [The response] was difficult for some of us to take, just because we knew we’d worked so hard… The petitions to get it remade, we took those with a pinch of salt. ‘Good luck with that one. You got a spare $500 million?’”
Well, apparently Amazon has those kinds of deep pockets, but I suppose that doesn’t apply to an HBO show.
I doubt the final season of Game of Thrones is going to get remade, although with the news these days, you never know. Did you hear that Showtime is bringing back Dexter, the show about a serial killer who only kills other serial killers, back for a new crop of episodes?
And that show had the most controversial ending of anything until…well, until Game of Thrones. Anything’s possible, I guess.
You can currently see Dempsie in Adult Material, a drama about the pornography industry airing on Channels 4 and 5 in the UK.