Finally, after all this time of not knowing who his father was, Gendry discovered on last Sunday's Game of Thrones what the audience has known all along: He is the bastard son of the late King Robert Baratheon. (And technically, more of an heir to the throne than the incest-bred Joffrey.) "Haven't you ever wondered where your strength came from?" Melisandre asked Gendry as they sailed past King's Landing. "Your talent for fighting? Why do you think the Gold Cloaks wanted you?" Of course, she's not looking for Gendry to take the Iron Throne — she's a Stannis supporter — and when she tells Gendry "there is power in a king's blood," she's thinking about her own supply. Joe Dempsie, who plays Gendry, chatted with Vulture about who he thinks should be king, Arya-Gendry shipping, and fans who write songs.
Even if you were a reader of the books, you might still be surprised by Gendry's story line. It seems like he's been merged with Edric Storm now.
Yeah! Do you like that they've strayed from the Gendry story line? It must be nice for you guys to be wrong-footed sometimes, and not know precisely where it's going to go at various stages. I think it's a testament to Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff], that they know which story lines are sacred and which ones can be played with, to make it more interesting. And it's great for me, obviously, because I get more to do. There wasn't that much high drama when it came to Gendry in the books, but on TV there is, so I'm happy.
What do you make of the Arya-Gendry shippers? The people who pine for a relationship between the two of them, because of their chemistry on the show?
I think it's that thing where everyone always has their first crush, and I think Gendry is Arya's first crush, so I'd imagine it's young girls, young women who are keen on this happening. It's a romantic idea, and it's a nostalgic idea as well, but I don't know if it's plausible for the story line. I think it's far more interesting whether or not they will ever meet again. They make a pretty good team in the various situations they've found themselves in, but whether or not that will be of significance down the line when it comes to the endgame, who knows?
Do you geek out with any of your castmates about the various theories? You hang out a lot with Kit Harington [who plays Jon Snow] and Alfie Allen [who play Theon], and they're big on that.
On occasion, we do. There's a big difference between your theory in your ideal world — "Gendry becomes the ruler, he comes back and takes the Iron Throne!" — and the more likely ones. For me, there's something about Jon Snow and his arc, and I don't know his true parentage, but I have an idea — I really don't want to say who — and there's something about the way it's been set up that makes me think he's destined for something really great. I envision Jon Snow ending up on the Iron Throne. I don't get that many people who spot me as they do Kit, because there's no mistaking Kit Harington's flowing locks. I think it's a Samson thing with Kit. Without his hair, he would be a very different man.
What's been the most over-the-top fan response you've had?
I got this first video from a Danish fan, asking if I'd go on a date with her. I was very tickled by it, but I didn't quite know how to respond. And then within a week or two, she'd basically sent the video to everyone I'd ever interacted with on Twitter, which included my ex-girlfriend's mum! And then her videos started getting more and more elaborate. I mean, I have to say, there's part of me that was very impressed with it, because she had a good sense of humor, and it was all a bit tongue-in-cheek, and she was cool. I didn't know what to do with it, other than show it to my friends, and the guys on Game of Thrones thought it was absolutely amazing. She wrote a song about me, and that had never happened before.
Was it any good?
Do I think it would have been a hit? Would I have downloaded it on iTunes if it wasn't about me? Maybe. The second video starts with her at a piano, just playing a few opening chords, and going, "Come on Joe, don't be scared, it's our love," and then this backing chorus of singers appeared from under the frame to sing my name, so there was a lot of orchestration. It's flattering, but a little bit weird at the same time.
Should we be worried for Gendry? The preview for the next episode doesn't bode well for him, yet we can't assume that he gets Edric Storm's fate. And he seems pretty mesmerized by Melisandre.
Yes! Be very worried. I think Gendry's of an age where he's had a crush on a woman before, but he's never been with a woman in that sense before, and there's something about the way she looks and her demeanor and the things she's saying to him ... she's being very seductive. And as much as he tries to act like he's not bothered by it, there must be identity issues there, not knowing who his father was, and he massively craved an insight into that, and so she's feeding him these nuggets to reel him in. That's a very powerful force for Gendry, and hard to resist. It's not power he wants, but answers — and curiosity killed the cat.
So if Gendry survives, if he ever were king like your theory goes, what kind of king would he be?
I think he would be a great king! He's not sophisticated but he's got street smarts. And there's a real compassion to him as well as a rough-around-the-edges nobility. Plus, anyone would be better than Joffrey. [Laughs] Jesus! I'd rather have a White Walker on the throne than Joffrey!