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‘Game of Thrones’ Actor on Character’s Surprise Return: ‘It Feels Kind of Perfect’

SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen Season 7 Episode 5 of “Game of Thrones,” titled “Eastwatch”

This week’s “Game of Thrones” not only saw Ser Jorah Mormont return to the service of Daenerys Targaryen, but another fan favorite made a long-awaited return as well.

Gendry, the blacksmith and bastard son of King Robert Baratheon, gets tracked down in King’s Landing by Ser Davos and signs up to join Jon Snow on his journey beyond The Wall to capture a wight. The last time we saw Gendry, played by Joe Dempsie, Davos had set him rowing a boat from Dragonstone to avoid being killed by Stannis and Melisandre in the end of Season 3.

Variety spoke with Dempsie about his return to the show, getting “spoiler trained,” and how he has stayed a fan in the years since his departure. Read the full interview below.

How does it feel having been away from the show for so long and now coming back so close to the end?

It feels kind of perfect from a personal point of view. I can’t speak for everyone but I think most actors in the show, if you ask them what they want for their character … I think the majority of us would say, ‘I just want a part to play in the end game.’ So hopefully by staying out of harm’s way for three seasons, I hopefully get to survive a bit longer.

Have you been keeping up with the show since your last appearance?

I have. It’s been really nice. The first three seasons, I became a big fan of the show. So not being in it for three, it was nice watching the new seasons come out as a fan. And the cast are all so spoiler trained that even if you were just hanging out with them in London somewhere and asked them an off the cuff question, they would say, ‘Do you want to know what we’ve been filming?’ So I would keep myself purposefully in the dark about what to expect in the new seasons.

You mentioned being “spoiler trained.” What has your experience been with that?

That was one of the main differences in going back in this year. It’s just the small practical things they have to do to make sure that nothing gets out. A filming schedule is a rarely spotted thing. If you can get your hands on it you have to kind of devour it then give it back. We don’t really know the scenes we’re shooting until the week before. The call sheets are all sort of coded, so your character name is something completely different. Unless you had the key you’d have no idea which characters are in scenes with which other characters. Then just other things like, you get given a set of sides in the morning — which is like the script for what you’re shooting that day. You have to sign for them and then make sure you give them back in the end of the day or someone gets in trouble.

There was that infamous picture of you arriving in the Belfast airport last year before filming, which tipped people off Gendry would be returning. What was your reaction when you saw that? 

That day, that was me traveling to Belfast for my first meeting about Season 7 … It just happened to be an unusually hot September day in London. I remember thinking as I left for the airport, ‘Is it a bit uncouth to show up for rehearsals in shorts and flip flops?’ But it was so hot I couldn’t even contemplate putting jeans on so I decided just to go for it … I’d been on Irish soil for 15 minutes, very conscious of the fact that if people spot me there might be an issue. I was walking through the arrivals area and I just looked to the side and there’s this guy there with his camera phone. I thought, ‘Maybe I misread that situation.’ Then I woke up the next morning to a bunch of messages on my phone. One of them was a link to a Vanity Fair article. I think by that point it had gone to every major entertainment publication there is.

What’s been your favorite storyline to watch since leaving the show?

That’s an interesting one. I always liked to follow what’s going on with Maisie, so Arya’s storyline. The fact she spent such a considerable amount of time with The Hound was great because he’s also one of my favorite characters. I like the Ramsay Bolton storyline too. I think that one of the things ‘Thrones’ does really well is create villains you love to hate and they’re played by actors who are so gifted and talented. The force of the vitriol people feel for these characters are so strong. When they do get their just desserts it’s kind of bittersweet because you realize what an incredible performance it was.

Finally, who do you think should end up on the Iron Throne?

I think Tyrion should, really. Not if you’re looking at sort of birthrights or family trees and all that, but I just think as a character he is constantly surprising you. He’s a favorite for a number of reasons, not just for his witty one-liners. He’s a genuinely compassionate person because of the life he has lived. Even though he was born into a family of privilege, he’s not had an easy life at all. I would like to think that makes him a pretty good leader.

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