Looking hunkier and mature with a stubbled face, British actor Joe Dempsie never seemed more like Gendry, the baseborn son of the stocky, hirsute monarch Robert Baratheon in the HBO drama series “Game of Thrones.”
Who could then blame female fans at the recent AsiaPOP Comicon in SMX Convention Center, where Dempsie was among four Hollywood celebrity headliners, for begging the 29-year-old to show some skin?
“Please, Joe, pleeease! Take off your shirt,” fans squealed at Dempsie, whose six-pack abs earned their screen time on “GoT” whenever Gendry was intensely busy (and thus sweaty) with blacksmithing. To their dismay, the actor declined and excused himself with, “I haven’t been to the gym for quite some time.”
For now, fans would have to be content binge-watching the TV comedy-drama “Skins,” featuring a younger Joe often shown flashing not only his charming smile, but his nakedness, too.
The critically acclaimed British TV series explored how teens dealt with controversial issues, such as substance and alcohol abuse, sexuality and gender, bullying, mental disorders and dysfunctional relationships.
Dempsie was part of the 2007 debut cast, costarring Nicholas Hoult, who was also at Comicon Manila for his role as the X-Men’s Beast. Most of “Skins”’ original cast members have shot to fame, landing bigger projects later on, like Hannah Murray, now known to GoT fans as Samwell Tarly’s wildling lover Gilly, and Dev Patel of the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” and HBO’s political drama series “The Newsroom.”
Dempsie told fans and members of the media in separate Comicon Manila events that he identifies more with his “Skins” character Chris, compared with the abs-baring Gendry on GoT.
“Chris is the character I’ve always felt quite attached to, maybe because he has a lot more qualities that I would like to think I have, or one day would learn to acquire,” the actor shared.
“His whole life has been turbulent but he remained optimistic, which I admired about him, and I’d like to think I took a bit of that away with me from the job.”
From “Skins” he also forged a “bromance” with Hoult, who kept him company during a tour of Intramuros. The longtime buddies visited Manila Cathedral, walked in Luneta Park, paid their respects to José Rizal at the National Hero’s monument, and hopped on a kalesa.
On a serious note, he said, “It’s nice to get a feel for the Philippines’ culture and history, and what makes Manila the city that it is and the people that they are.”
Judging by his anecdotes, Dempsie seems to have a healthy appreciation for the arts and culture.
His bedside reading include “Crime and Punishment” (“Since I was young, I’ve had the idea that one should read the classics… because they’re classics”) and Booker Prize-winner “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James. There’s also popular literature in the mix, like “Gone Girl,” which Dempsie considers a page-turner.
He’s a huge fan of director Sean Durkin, who won the Prix Regards Jeunes at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for his indie film “Martha, Marcy, Mae, Marlene.” They worked together on the crime drama mini-series “Southcliffe,” which Dempsie described as an opportunity that he “grabbed with both hands.”
“I would work with him for the rest of my career if he wants me to,” the actor declared.
Flooded with questions about his thoughts on returning to “Thrones,” from which Gendry made a quiet, nonviolent exit in Season 3 (as opposed to GoT’s reputation for characters getting literally axed when they’re dispensed from the storyline), Dempsie pacified fans by sharing one of his many comeback ideas.
“Saving Jon Snow and his beautiful hair from imminent death, that’ll be a nice way to go back,” he said in jest.
But, really, he would just like the chance to work with Kit Harrington, said Dempsie. Harrington, who plays the show’s youngest ever Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, joined the HBO series as a relatively unknown actor, just like Dempsie.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” said the real Gendry, “but our paths have never crossed on ‘Game of Thrones’ before.”