Here in America, we just don’t have the same kind of consistent problem with films and television showing depictions of blue-collar Americans, or so called “working class” Americans. When Chris Pratt tried to make that argument months ago, he was shouted down… mostly because he was basically saying “but what about uneducated white men, what about US?” Like, dude, you have the country, the presidency, the media, most of the film roles and 90% of films are directed towards non-college-educated white men.
It’s different in the UK, where posh actors have been on a steady rise over the past decade, or past two decades. The working-class British actors – the Michael Caines, the Sean Beans, the Idris Elbas – are steadily being replaced by an array of pale, private-school-educated thespians with impeccable credentials and family estates in the country. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne soak up all the work and there just isn’t a lot of stuff being written for non-posh blokes. Which brings me to Gendry! Gendry’s real name is Joe Dempsie, and he’s from a working class, non-posh background. In a new interview, Joe talks about what it’s like for him as an actor these days. Some highlights:
He began studying acting at the age of 13 at his mum’s suggestion: “I wanted to watch football for a living. I was going to try to be a sports journalist.” With parents who worked in the social care and education systems, Dempsie didn’t have acting in its blood, nor is he from a privileged background.
The disparity between the opportunities given to posh actors versus working class actors: “There’s more that can be done. Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne or Tom Hiddleston – they’re all great actors in their own right. It’s not their fault. But we seem to have, in the past 10 years, been making a lot of films and TV that seems to be geared towards stories about privilege. Some of them are done incredibly well but some of them really aren’t. I still think we can tell far more working class stories. I miss the mid-1990s to the early 2000s where a lot of films were about working class people. They didn’t have tiny budgets. The Full Monty, one of our biggest success stories, East is East, Brassed Off – I feel like those films have disappeared from the landscape. You can’t just leave it to Shane, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.”
A little shade for Hiddles: “As a working class actor you really do have to fight to be given a range of roles. I think Jack O’Connell is one of the most exciting actors out there. They were looking for a Bond: would Jack get a look in? I’d much rather watch him than Tom Hiddleston. There needs to be more open mindedness.”
He didn’t really work his Game of Thrones stardom: “I didn’t really make the most of that opportunity at the time. I didn’t hot-foot it straight over to LA and start banging on doors and auditioning endlessly. I stayed here and concentrated on the stuff that was being made here. I’m still in the position where I have to audition for everything I do and there have been months where work’s been hard to come by.”
He doesn’t want to live in LA: “In between auditions or when things aren’t going so well you must be surrounded by billboards for shows you didn’t get. F–k that. It’s not a great recipe for sanity.”
“I think Jack O’Connell is one of the most exciting actors out there. They were looking for a Bond: would Jack get a look in? I’d much rather watch him than Tom Hiddleston.” You know what? I wouldn’t hate that either – Jack O’Connell would be more in line with the Daniel Craig-style 007 too, more rough-and-tumble. Plus, Jack is…um, a better actor than Tom Hiddleston. Yeah, I said it. Anyway, I’m pleased to learn that my beloved Gendry is actually a thoughtful class warrior intent on changing the British film and television industry to make it more welcoming for working class stories. Good for him!
Photos courtesy of WENN.