Interview with New Worlds' Joe Dempsie
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Joe Dempsie was part of the illustrious first cast of E4 hit Skins and played many people’s favourite character, Chris Miles. Since then he like so many of his Skins colleagues as gone on to play many challenging and high profile roles from Gendry in HBO’s history hit Game of Thrones to his devastating portrayal of a young solider home on leave from Afghanistan in recent Channel 4’s drama Southcliffe.
What was it that drew you to the character of Ned?
Ned is a character who like all of the four young people at the heart of New Worlds is going through huge change and having to make very big decisions about where their allegiances lie. Ned is being primed to take over his father’s company when we meet him but he already has the seeds of moral queasiness about how his father does business. Then he and Hope help a regicide escape from Hadley the town his father owns which is in itself an act of treason and his father packs him of to England where the next stage of his awakening takes place as he meets Abe and Beth and witnesses their revolutionary cause.
Ned shares a love story with Hope. How does that romance begin?
Ned and Hope have known each other from childhood but when they both get involved in the escape of Goffe he sees her as a woman for the first time. She is very feisty and unlike other women he has encountered so he is pretty taken with her. He is devastated when he returns to Hadley and find that his father has betrayed him and pushed Hope to marry someone else although ultimately that doesn’t stop them. It has been fun to explore playing young people who are genuinely effecting changing.
You look very different in New Worlds to the Joe we have seen before.
Yes, on the first day of the shoot the make up lady tentatively asked ‘how attached are you to your hair?’ I said ‘I know what you are asking and go on then’ so she shaved it all off to a number one and then fitted my wigs. At the moment I look quite Jarhead!
After Skins did you get recognised much when you are out and about in Bristol filming New Worlds?
I don’t get recognised that regularly and especially not with the fetching goaty beard I grew for New Worlds. I am lucky that I can look quite different for different jobs which is good as it helps people buy into your on screen characters but also means you can go about your daily life with ease. On Game of Thrones they die my real hair and eyebrows dark.
Did playing a historical role in New Worlds feel very different to Game of Thrones?
As an actor, part of the fun is repositioning yourself on different types and styles of production. In terms of budget I have never experienced anything like Game of Thrones and I think it is pretty unique in terms of scale but US drama is different in that way. However New Worlds is very high end and I enjoyed it being a more compact story, which on the whole is better for actors as you get to have a more in-depth, focused character study.
Had you and Freya met before through the Skins connection?
Yes. Fellow Skins actor Jack O’Connell and I who are friends from Nottingham were invited to do workshop with Freya and her set of Skins actors before the start of filming. It was something that the producers did every now and then to help welcome a new cast. It has been really nice getting to know her better on this. For me I hope the lasting legacy of Skins will be that it was a great breeding ground not just for young actors but for young writers and directors too. They were incredibly bold about the opportunities that they gave people on Skins which you would never get elsewhere in TV. It spawned a whole genre and it always amazed me that no one had identified that gap before.
Your roles to date have been very different. What attracts you to such differing parts?
Every actor has an idea of what they enjoy about acting and I love the variety of playing very different parts and having very different filming experiences. I have been so lucky to have had the diversity of good experiences I have had from Skins to This Is England to Game of Thrones then Southcliffe. For a year or two after Skins I got offered a lot of ‘Chris’ roles but I wanted to move forwards and thankfully I was able to and I never fell out of love with acting.
New Worlds will broadcast on Tuesday 1st April, 9pm, Channel 4.