Jumper; ESK. Jeans, Cheap Monday. Trainers; Saucony.
photos / Sam Evans -Butler
stylist / Madeleine Østlie
grooming / Jose Quijano
story / Koko Ntuen
additional reporting / Tiffany Tso
From roles as a loveable pill-popping teenager to a bastard blacksmith, English actor Joe Dempsie is becoming a veritable well-rounded force in the acting realm. His earnest approach to his craft consistently comes through in his characters as he constantly convinces his audience he is a different person. Art over ego, Dempsie tells LADYGUNN why he doesn’t take himself or the industry seriously but is still passionate about developing himself into a skilled actor amongst the ranks of DiCaprio and Bale. Garnering major titles like Skins, Game of Thrones and up-coming blockbuster MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT, we predict Joe is well on his way to becoming a legend.
Have you always wanted to be an actor? Did you want to be something else when you were younger?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a footballer or a soccer player, that’s really the dream for a lot of young lads here, but the reality is actually pretty good (laughs), but my acting was never a long-held ambition or anything I wanted to do [at a] a young age. I kind of fell into it by accident. I started doing a workshop in a town I grew up in… Nottingham. It was two nights a week for youngsters, and it had a good reputation. I mean I had an interest in drama in school, but really it was just an opportunity to meet people, and it helps you. I was quite shy actually, but it helped me build a bit of confidence. It had a good reputation for producing young, natural actors. So I auditioned for a part in it, and I joined that group when I was 13, and from then on, throughout my teens, I did a few parts here and there, and TV programs in the UK which had very little street credit, but it gave me a taste for it and some experience of being on set, and made me decide that I wanted to do this, that I should give it a shot, and a year later is when Skins came along, So, I’ve been very fortunate, you know. I take it seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously or the industry as a whole too seriously. If you want it a bit too much, it can manifest itself in quite unsavory ways.
Yeah like ‘I’ve got to get that part,’ instead of it happening naturally.
Yeah exactly, and ultimately the one thing is desperation, and it’s not attractive. Post-Skins, I spent about two years not doing much, because the work I wanted to do wasn’t really coming my way, and so you get into periods out of work where [you’re a] little anxious about whether you’re going to get the part, or if you’re ever going to get a job again. But when things start to click, it’s like you stop caring. If you walk into an audition and act like you don’t give a toss whether you get the part, you strangely find out it makes them want it all the more. So yeah, I think it’s better not to be too hung up on it all.
It’s almost like a relationship
Exactly, it’s like human nature. When you realize you actually want to be with that person, and human instincts is affection, but that makes you kind of back off (laughs). So you got to be cool, but it’s kind of difficult.
Do a lot of girls hit on you?
(Laughs)Not really. I mean, when I was on Skins and that was out, I was introduced the notion that when you’re on television a little bit, girls kind of come to you a little bit more, and it’s kind of hard to get your head around for an awkward teenage boy, but that wore off pretty quickly. I mean, in the Americas, it’s more normal to go on a lot of dates, and go on dates with different people that you don’t even know that well, like ‘let’s go get some drinks and get to know each other a little bit better.’ And I do awful in those situations, so I tend to try to get close to people and become friends with them before I end up with them.
Yeah, that usually ends up better. How did you feel when your character on Skins died?
It was weird, because between seasons one and two, the producers had one-on-one meetings with the main characters, telling them what their part was going to contain of, and for some reason, I couldn’t organize mine. I was the last one to have it, only because we couldn’t find a time that was suitable for both parties. So the cast had already been told about it, but the producers had told them not to tell me, because they wanted to make sure it came from them. But obviously, they all told me right away, so I knew it was coming. And initially, I was quite pissed, because I had had so much fun doing it, and that I wasn’t going to be part of the gang, that they would just continue without me. But knowing that their plan was to recycle the whole cast anyway, so I thought we’re all leaving anyway, and what better way to go out. It was so emotional, I mean, death. I was actually really pleased, because I thought it was the right thing to do. The series is about being a certain age, and for us, professionally, as well, because we all had such a good time doing it that it would have been hard to turn down a third series. So it’s been better for all of us, so we could go on to do other stuff and not be type-casted.
Shirt, Samsøe & Samsøe.Trousers; Carhartt. Trainers, Saucony.
So, going from Skins to Game of Thrones, Skins was a big production but Game of Thrones is a huge production, does it affect the way you approach your acting?
It doesn’t really affect the approach to your work itself, but it just takes longer for it to settle, being such a huge production and knowing the number of crewmembers and all the people behind the camera. It can be quite nerve-wrecking. I had never experienced something like that before. There were so many more crewmembers on Game of Thrones than there were on Skins, but I think it settled. The amazing thing is in a few months you do get used to it and the pressure. It’s hard to be over lost by any situation, because it’s almost as big as it gets, you know, a bunch of Hollywood producers with five million dollars an episode. It’s a really nice feeling to be comfortable and being a part of something so massive.
I imagine the security is really tight; do people try to sneak on set?
Yeah, I mean, because the book is so popular, so even before we started shooting the show, there was this huge fan base of people just waiting for it to come out. They keep security pretty tight.
How many days a week do you work out, or are you just naturally muscular?
(Laughs) I wish. I wish I was naturally muscular, I was actually really surprised I got the part, because at the point for casting, I realized it required muscular characters with thick black [hair], but I was 5’9”, skinny, brown hair, and I was like, ‘yeah, I’m not going to get this part,’ but amazingly they came my way, and they were like, ‘hit the gym in the meantime.’ It wasn’t something I had really been that into before, but someone needs goals to work towards… A lot of people are health fitness obsessed. I was at a fine line between that, so I’ve been trying to get away from that, to be honest. I’m really enjoying it now. The industry requires you to be in better shape or at least more polished, but it makes you feel good about yourself. It helps to gain confidence and all, so I’m glad it got me off my ass and got me at the gym (laughs).
Yeah, you look good. You recently finished MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT, is it hard to do a movie with a lot of special effects?
No, a lot is we got away with it quite lightly, we have big emotion reaction machines. I don’t find that to be easy quite honestly but gigantic, but the thing is the film is a big action adventure film, but actually, it was a love story. This is more of a war movie than anything. Most of [it is] character-based, and most of the scenes are interactions with each other.
You have an American accent in the film.
Yeah I do. We play a bunch of soldiers who sign up for the U.S. Army to head up and rip the eara of monsters. So, we had to shoot first in Detroit and their lives there and their accents. That was amazing. I mean until I knew we were going there, I didn’t think v bu then looking at the financial situation it’s at now, it’s quite sad. It’s not the place you get to visit. So yeah, the accent itself… it was great to have the opportunity to do an American accent. A lot of Americans that say a British you can nail the accent, so that might get more jobs.
Is it hard to do an American accent?
You know, the hardest thing with your dialect, you use your tongues a lot. We kind of got this lazy way of speaking, so you don’t even think about it like words. Like ‘honorary,’ it’s hard to get your words around that in an American accent. We got three American actors. So the main sect of the movie, we got a week before we start acting, we started talking in American accents, so we were used to it.
Does it feel weird?
Yeah, it’s weird whenever I was calling back home, I would try to go back to my accent, but it was weird. And weirdly enough, I was watching a documentary, this woman woke up one day, and she started talking with this thing, almost like she was Chinese. She had a stroke in her sleep, and it completely affected the way she spoke, and [her husband] felt like he lost his wife. It’s kind of the same thing; voice can change everything.
An actor, your voice is the name of the game. If a friend is watching something, and they say they forgot it was me, that’s great.
Is there anyone in particular who really inspired you to act or that you emulate?
Well there’s a lot I admire. I’ve always been fan of Michael Sheen, who completely transforms himself for different roles. Christian Bale and Michael Fassbender, strong male actors again. There’s no vanity, you know. I know a lot of actors, not a lot, but you know, a lot that are concerned about themselves on screen, but it should not be about how you appear. Oh, Leonardo DiCaprio, his incredible performances. And there’s a British actor Olivia Colman who was in a lot of comedy work in the UK and doing incredibly intense performances.
I like that you mention vanity, Like when actors don’t have vanity, they can really encompass the character. If you have vanity, you become self-conscious about being someone else.
Yeah, well the thing is, if you’re in it for the money and worried about anything to you as a person and not the character in the play, that can really hinder the performance. Sometimes you get phenomenal performances out of children, ‘cause they don’t have those vanities and concerns yet like teenagers. Then they get like that, and their performances aren’t necessarily as good. Like Johnny Harris, he’s great ‘cause he’s certain to get himself into the right mindset. If a friend comes, he’s like ‘what’s John doing,’ and the second time, he doesn’t notice it. He does what he has to do to get in the right mindset. You need to just stop caring and if you believe in it, everyone else will believe in it. Just believe it without a shred of doubt. Just go for it. I love that and I think that could go to any aspect of life.
Have you ever had a crazy fan experience?
Yeah, there was in Scandinavia a Danish girl who would send me crazy videos via Twitter first through mine and then a local newspaper where I grew up and then to everyone I’ve ever interacted with on Twitter and my ex’s mom.
Yeah but she was obsessed with talking to a webcam, and she would say she thought I looked nice, and would I like to go on a date with her. It was quite funny but hard to respond to and quite interesting.
Ok now time for some shotgun questions. Do you use MAC or PC?
Mac. I’m a big fan of Apple.
Boxers or briefs?
Umm I like boxer briefs..yeah lol.
Do you like guac or salsa?
Whiskey or vodka?
Oh ahhh straight whiskey, in a mixer vodka
Indie or major film?
Make out with Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston
Ooooh ummm…Jolie. But I’d rather marry Jennifer Aniston…