New Worlds Joe Dempsie Q&A

Skins and Game of Thrones star Joe Dempsie joined his co-stars for a Q&A about new historical drama mini-series New Worlds. Joe plays Ned Hawkins a young man living in the aftermath of the English Civil War, caught up in brutal struggles in both England and the untamed new territory of Massachusetts.

Q. New Worlds has a lot of different themes and subtexts, what does your character specifically represent and bring to the series?

To be honest one of the things that really drew me to the script initially was the fact that Ned as a character throughout the course of the series goes on the longest journey, for lack of a less drama school term. He becomes the moral compass of the piece. You saw in episode one there the seeds of doubt starting to be planted in his mind. He’s very much being groomed to take over his father’s company as the biggest landowner in Massachusetts’s. As most men do at that age he thinks his father’s infallible and absolutely doing the work of god. That starts to chance as the series progresses he begins to question whether the enclosure of Indian land is the right thing to do and he gets involved in the revolutionary cause in England as well. He’s active, he gets about. He’s constantly being taught new things and people are constantly being taught the reality of things. In episode one it’s Goff in America and then in episode two it’s Abe in England. It’s a real education for Ned

Q. It’s an action packed series what was that like?

I managed to hit myself on the head with my own gun, which takes some doing. I couldn’t do it again if I tried. Doing the action stuff is always a real test of your metal in a way. It’s always fun for about half hours then you’re just looking forward to sitting in a well lit room again saying words to another actor. So much of the moral ambiguity of the series is in the conversations, so for me in a way I found the dialogue a lot more interesting.

The pistols are quite long and heavy. So if you’re trying to hold someone up your hands end up shaking after a while. When I went for my training I was told that there might be like a second delay when you pull a trigger before the gun actually fires because of the charges and how they work. So I asked if in theory that means if someone shot at you back then you actually had time to move out the way. I was told yes, but it would have been ungentlemanly to move out of the way.

Q. How did you feel about your hairstyle?

I was quite happy when I was told I was going to be wearing a wig because that meant I get to keep my real hair how I like it. I’d spent the year constantly getting my head shaved for parts. I looked like a bit of a nutter. Then on the first day of actual filming it was really manic and they were trying to glue my own hair out of the way of this wig. The makeup designer just turned to me and asked “How attached are you to your hair?”  I knew what she was acting so I said just do it. So within about five minutes I was bald again. I either had too much hair or not enough.

Q. Do you think people will see parallels between the evens in the show and what is happening in the world today?

Things never actually seem to change for a long enough period of time. The interesting thing when we were filming this was that it was about the same time of the uprising in Egypt and that was an interesting parallel to draw. It highlighted the difference between the Britain that we see now and the Britain you see in New Worlds. You saw what was going on in Egypt and what we filmed in New World and you wondered whether that sort of thing would be possible in Britain now. Whenever any historical drama series tries to address some sort of social issue it’s amazing how there’s always some parallel to draw with what’s going on today. In modern screenplay’s it’s very rare that you play men of conviction that have beliefs and then go and do something about it! The closest thing we have these days to someone like Abe Goff is Russell Brand. All you can do is go n news night really you can’t shoot people.

Q. The show is great fun to watch was it as much fun to make given some of the serious subject matter?

I’ve never been on a shoot that’s experienced that experienced quite so many obstacles and difficulties. But the crew and the people put together for it just clicked. It made it seem like it wasn’t hard work at all even though I’m sure the producers would tell you it was.

Q. Do you think the show will make a younger audience want to engage in politics more?

You’d always like to think so. It looks beautiful and It’s a great story, the characters are very interesting characters anyway. For me though the political message is always going to be the most important in the show. So yeah you really hope that young people are going to engage with it.

Q. Do you think the show is going to have a strong appeal for an American audience as well?

I think it’s something Americas might well find interesting. It might also be a distant enough part of their history that they might not find it as hard to engage with as something like 12 Years A Slave which has been quite hard for some parts of American society to confront. But I suppose I’m not that aware of how that period of History has been taught, you’d assume that everyone knows the basic details at least.

Q. Has the project made you personally more politically aware or motivated?

I’ve always been quite interested in politics, but for me New Worlds was more about history. I actually had to study Oliver Cromwell for my history A Level, so for me it was like going back to school. That’s what grabbed my attention most, although is quite natural really for actors to like History because it’s essentially just storytelling.

Q. Did you have fun with your costume?

We had a really warm summer at the time we were filming and I thought it was going to be great. But then I had four weeks standing in a field in the West Country wearing shirt which is essentially a big old bed sheet wrapped around, then a waistcoat a jacket, a cloak and a big ginger wig! I started getting really hot!

Be sure to check out our other posts for the rest of the Q&A and what the rest of the talented young cast had to say. 

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