Joe Dempsie Is Back and Gendry’s Ready to Go

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The actor behind Robert Baratheon’s bastard son shares his thoughts on Davos, Jon Snow, and why he may be to blame for all of those rowing jokes.

HBO: Did you have any idea you’d be coming back?

Joe Dempsie: At the end of Season 3, I was told Gendry was going to disappear for a while, but be revisited at some point. They [David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, series creators] didn’t put a timeframe on it, but I think they wanted to wait until enough time had passed that people might actually have started to forget about Gendry. But the show is bigger than any one character, so you have to be realistic. There could’ve been a point over the intervening years where Dan and Dave went, “You know, we haven’t got the time or space to address this.” So I’ve been as in the dark as anyone else about whether Gendry would be returning and when.

My mum goes, “You should email David Benioff just to see…” I was like, “Mum I don’t think an email is going to make them go, ‘Oh sh**t, Gendry.’ So. It’s great to know people outside of my mum were interested. You can’t possibly underestimate how obsessed fans of the show are. Any stone you leave unturned is going to become more and more conspicuous the longer it goes on. I became the sole focus of conspiracy theories and general questions. It’s been a lot of fun.

HBO: And just how many rowing jokes have heard in the last three years?

Joe Dempsie: It sort of became part of my everyday existence. I guess I have to accept some level of culpability for it. I tweeted “Still rowin” at the end of Season 4, and it just became way beyond my control. There’s a lot that the internet has to answer for, but it’s been brilliant. When I shot my first scenes on Season 7, I’d been on Irish soil for about 10 minutes and someone got a snap of me walking through the airport in Belfast. Within 24 hours, that picture had done the rounds and someone had managed to Photoshop me carrying an oar. I’ve really enjoyed playing along with it.

HBO: What’s going on for Gendry when Davos finds him?

Joe Dempsie: Gendry’s been a man biding his time. He’s cut off as much of his hair as he can, so he looks less like his father. He’s in hiding, but he’s allowed himself to be a little proud of his lineage. He’s someone who has struggled to know where he fits into society, and has been on the bottom rung of it. This has almost made him hopeful; His world has been a very small one, and suddenly, it’s opened up. It’s completely life-changing.

Certainly, there’s a level of resentment at the fate of his father, even though he never knew him personally. Every day he has to go back to the forgery and pour blood and sweat into armory for a family he despises. It’s allowing the anger in him to build. He also craves something bigger. He experienced a wider world and now he’s back where he started, just waiting. He doesn’t know what’s coming, just some kind of some kind of reckoning, and he wants to be a part of it.  

HBO: When he agrees to go with Davos, does he care about what the mission will be or does he just want to get out of King’s Landing?

Joe Dempsie: One thing about Gendry is he’s a fairly constant character. He has a certain level of street smarts, but he’s way out of his depths going up to the North to capture these creatures he’s really only heard about in the context of folklore. The main driving factor is he wants to have a purpose again; something that will make him feel worthwhile. Maybe if he knew exactly what he was in for, he might have given it a second thought... But the great thing about Gendry is that he sends himself right into the eye of the storm.

HBO: What do you think of the Davos/Gendry dynamic?

Joe Dempsie: They’re two people who crossed paths at a time when they were extremely vulnerable. Obviously, Gendry needed rescuing back in Season 3, and Davos was a recently bereaved father. Plus they’re both from the same part of King’s Landing, and there’s a certain experience of being of low-born stock and then suddenly finding yourself caught up in the wars of people far more privileged than you. They both have something the other really craves; that deeper urge Gendry has for a positive male role model and father figure, and Davos pining for the son that he lost. All those elements combined make the bond really strong. I think all this time Gendry’s been keeping his head down and preparing for whatever it is he’s expecting to come, and I think it’s always been in the back of his mind that it’s Davos he wants to walk through that door.

HBO: Why doesn’t he listen to Davos’ advice to keep his identity from Jon a secret?

Joe Dempsie: It’s a mixture of being proud of who he is — he grew up not knowing his parentage, and he likes that he’s somehow related to Robert Baratheon — having heard about Jon Snow, this King in the North, and thinking they probably have a lot of shared experiences, and also just being a bit thick. What Davos told him, it’s sort of gone in one ear and out the other. He can’t really help himself.

HBO: What does Gendry think of Jon?

Joe Dempsie: Gendry is still somebody who, although he recently found out that he’s the son of a king, is still aware of his place within the hierarchy. Gendry really admires the position Jon has managed to rise to and that he’s a man of principal. There’s a deep respect there.

HBO: Has Gendry thought about Arya at all in the last few years?

Joe Dempsie: Over the course of the first three seasons, and probably in his life leading up to it, Gendry found himself to be very trusting of people — and sometimes the wrong people. The events of Season 3 have hardened him a little bit; made him a little less naïve. I think with that in mind, he’d love to see Arya again. He senses she’s a good soul. I wouldn’t say he’s pining, because you have to toughen up and accept there are people who are going to drift in and out of your life. I’m sure he thinks of her every now and again and wonders how she’s getting on, and whether she’s crossed more names off that list.

HBO: Finally, let’s talk about the hammer. How long did you train with it?

Joe Dempsie: I mean, it’s a good way to start on a job when they go, “You’re going to have this f**king badass weapon this time around.” I was told I’d get the hammer when I got on set and was told, "Go get yourself a sledgehammer and just sort of practice with it in the garden…" I thought alright, cool. It’s a very good thing no one can see into my garden otherwise I would have looked like a psychopath. But I was practicing with a sledgehammer for about six to eight weeks before we started filming, just to get used to the weight of it all. When it comes to fight sequences you can’t use the heavy hammer anyway because you’ll hit the stuntman in the head. We’ve got these foam versions. I got a bit excited; you stop apologizing after a few takes. You get used to it. The next time it’s a different stuntman you’re hitting.

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