THE INSIDER: JOE DEMPSIE
the 'game of thrones' star talks tweets and tv.
How did you get started as an actor? I fell into being an actor. It was never an ambition of mine. There was a drama group for young people called The Television Workshop. You had to audition to get in. Once you were in it, it was completely free. It didn't matter what background you were from. Over the years it became a good place to go. Every now and then we'd get auditions. It was more of a hobby than anything else. After I finished my exams, I hadn't tried anything else that I enjoyed as much. I went to university to study history and then I got the part in Skins.
Being on Game of Thrones is sort of like studying history in a way? Slightly. If dragons existed, what could possibly go wrong
How did you get your part in the series? I had heard about the pilot a few years before. When the series was commissioned there were loads of opportunities. I auditioned for other smaller roles and really hoped that I got the part. Actually, the much more pleasant reality was that David Benioff--who created the show--identified people that he wanted to work with. From then, it was a jigsaw puzzle and whichever piece of the puzzle you fit into was the part you got. I was so wrong for the part in every way, physically, but they've brought me on and it's been great. It's increased my social circle. I've made so many friends. We hang out a lot off set.
Why are you wrong for it? At the time of the casting I had zero out of the three qualifications, which were to be tall, muscular, and dark-haired. I'm only five-foot eight. And I've had to hit the gym and dye my hair. I have a friend who is obsessed with the Game of Thrones books and and he was outraged that they cast me.
Are the conditions that you film under real? Is the climate real? It is jaw-dropping. The weather is so real. The weather is absolutely real. There's a person whose job it is to scout the most remote locations where we shoot. We also have massive studios. On the first day of shooting, we walked onto the set and they essentially built a real cave inside of the studio. It was like the "bat cave." And water started coming down the rocks. I don't know how they do it, but it's impressive. Production-wise it's the biggest I've ever worked with. It took me a while to not be nervous.
Are your costumes uncomfortable? The costume design is amazing--I didn't exactly luck out out in that department. My character is not dressed in all of the finery that you see throughout the series. I've worn the same clothes for three years. This season I get a costume change towards the end of the series. That was a way bigger deal for me than it should have been. The leather waistcoat was disintegrating as we filmed.
What do you like to watch on TV? I love watching comedy--lately I've been watching Louis CK. I keep getting told that I need to watch Breaking Bad. Once you start watching you can kiss any sense of productivity or your social life goodbye. Everyone in the UK loves Girls; Lena Dunham is writing about what she knows and it seems like it's paying off. We get all of the best TV from America cherry picked. So we think every show on American TV is brilliant.
That's surprising, because there's so many American pop culture references that I wouldn't think would translate very well. I'm fascinated by that in a way. Have you seen the Ricky Gervais show Extras that aired on HBO? The thing about Extras that was so great is that there were so many references that I don't think transferred over at all. There were famous British actors shown as "the extras" and Americans probably didn't understand who any of them were. The same goes for Family Guy--you know that the joke probably would have been quite funny if you would have gotten the joke. There was an episode when Peter Griffin is in court and they're waiting for the verdict. When the jury determines that he's guilty everyone says, "Oh, no!" and then a big jug of Kool-Aid bursts through the wall saying "Oh, yeah!" I still thought it was funny.
British humor and New York humor is similar. It's exactly what NYLON is all about. There are people that live between the two and they share cultural similarities. That's where British and American culture meet: in New York. I don't want to get too deep, but America is fascinating in that it's so vast. There's so many people living massively different lives in one country that's it so difficult to get a consensus on anything. In the UK you can get a sense of what the nation as a whole is feeling. The difference between "the haves" and the "have nots" is not so different.
What else are you working on now? I hope to write a script someday. I got verified on Twitter last week, I've arrived. Surely I've made it now that I have a blue check next to my name. There's something about Twitter that let's me put out a clever tweet instead of saving it for a script that I'll never write.
Getting started is the hardest part. Someone once told me that even if you think your writing sucks, usually everyone else's is even worse. It might be horrible advice, but it makes me feel better. I feel that way about auditions. Even if I'm not right for the part, I'll still be one of the better people they've seen that day. I see films getting made that are truly horrendous that I think, as long as these films are getting made I know there's a chance that I can write something better one day.
Without giving too much away, can you let us know what happens to your character this season? He's on a road trip heading north. This season is about the people that they meet along the way. Some more unsavory than others. He explores his own personality and history. He gets a bit vengeful this time around.