Q&A With Joe Dempsie (Harry Clarke) Of Fox’s ‘Deep State’

Pictured: Joe Dempsie as Harry Clarke in DEEP STATE.
© Fox Networks Group, Europe & Africa

Can you tell us what it is about Leyla and Harry that keeps drawing them back together?

I think for Harry what it is that draws him back to Leyla is the crux of Season 2, for him. When we see him at the start of Season 2, he’s living in Bamako, in Mali. He’s working for a private security firm. After the events at the end of Season 1, he’s checked out. He’s sold out and he’s cashing in and he’s living in this quite gauche, ostentatious villa, which isn’t really him. He really is not interested in anything.

Then Leyla shows up and says we have a responsibility to help Aicha (portrayed by Lily Banda) out who is in trouble. She assumes Harry is going to go and join her on this mission but he’s not. He’s harbouring a lot of resentment towards her but against his better judgement he is dragged along on this wild goose chase to try and recover Aicha and it’s all because of Leyla.

Speaking of Leyla, she is a powerful force throughout this show. How does that affect Harry’s journey?

It’s an obvious thing to say, because woman are over half the population, but I think it’s essential in all stories that women are present, prominent, and important. DEEP STATE is an example of that. In terms of Harry’s journey through the show, his key emotional touchstones are women. The reality is, if you watch the show closely, Harry spends most of his time getting saved by Leyla. He would have been dead about four times if it wasn’t for her.

Can you summarise Season 1 and your character for us?

Season 1 was a journey through the world of geopolitics and espionage. At the start Harry was fairly new to the game. The show explored who is really pulling the strings and the uneasy relationship between big business and geopolitics. For Harry, the curtain was pulled back and he saw how things really work. I think it shook him to his core. Along the way he was reunited with his estranged father.

Harry is a young man trying to find his way through life and trying to make sense of the world. He has a few hang-ups. He feels like he’s been abandoned by the people that he loves and that he’s formed attachments with. He becomes disillusioned with the world that he had chosen to inhabit.

Season 2 picks up where that left off. It’s the aftermath but because we have this split timeline, you get to go back to before Season 1, where Harry and Leyla meet for the first time and we’re being propelled along at breakneck speed by this unfolding narrative.

Is it difficult playing these two different time periods. Do you get confused?

Playing the two different timelines is trickier in the lead up to a day’s filming than it is on the day. I think by the time you get on set you’ve made sure that you know where you are within the story. The show forces the viewer to keep up with it. It forces a viewer to pay attention and it’s the same for the actors. The split timeline, our past narrative, rather than being confusing to watch, will make everything make much more sense. The past informs the present.

Can you talk about working on a second season with the showrunner, Matthew Parkhill.

I so enjoy working with him. From day one I could just tell how passionate he was about this. The energy that he brings to set everyday as a director is mind boggling. He knows the story inside out. It’s thoroughly, thoroughly researched. Any crew member will tell you that he is the captain of the ship, but he is so aware of what a team effort it requires to make a show like this. Everyone just loves working for him. He is our fearless leader and we’ll follow him pretty much anywhere he wants to take us.

A lot of the crew are the same people that you had last season. That is a testament to the fact that you all not only enjoy working together but that you have a respect for each other, because you’ve all come back.

Yes, that’s testament to Matthew and to the production company Endor and to the atmosphere that they have created. People wanted to come back and do Season 2. Season 1 wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a holiday. It was a hard slog, but everyone still wanted to come back for more.

Have you become more politically aware by doing this show?

I think that’s one of the elements of DEEP STATE that I really dig. I learn new things with every script I open that Matthew’s written.

Do you see any parallels between the show and revelations we hear every day in the news?

Yes there are parallels. The difficulty of making a show like this in the current climate, is how do you make political drama more enthralling or more shocking, more revelatory than just turning on the BBC or CNN? You want to surprise people. You want to shock people and real life is currently more shocking than some drama shows.

Do you believe there is a deep state?

It’s a tricky question to answer. I think conspiracy theories becoming
mainstream are a very dangerous thing because they can be used to deflect attention from other crimes and injustices that governments may be carrying out.

How much of yourself do you bring to Harry Clarke? Do you see any similarities between the two of you?

I think Harry and I are similar in a few ways. We can both be very stubborn. I share his pride. I share, at times, his sense of hopelessness that we see at the beginning of Season 2. I also think we share a moral compass. We both have a yearning for truth and justice. No matter how jaded I can get, my drive will always eventually win out and I will find a way to make a difference, just like Harry.

In preparing for the role, did you talk to any experts or do any research?

In our stunt team from last year, there were a few ex-special forces, and they spent quite a bit of time with us before we started shooting, getting us familiar with the moves. If you’re playing someone who is highly trained physically, you’ve only got a matter of days to make things that should be second nature to your character, look second nature. That’s something that I don’t know about and that I needed to be taught.

I didn’t really feel like I needed to mime anyone else’s brain, or talk to someone. When we meet Harry in Season 1 he is relatively new, as he is in the past timeline for Season 2. I don’t feel like he’s seen loads of terrible things at that point. The audience are seeing the world through Harry’s eyes a lot of the time. He is the young idealist. I can just experience all that with him.

If you could play any other character in the show, who would it be?

I think I would pick Aminata Sissoko! I think I would love to rock some of those African prints she wears. She’s sassy!

I would also love to play a character like Nathan Miller because he becomes something of the adversary of Harry and Leyla. He’s not the bad guy. The lines between good and bad are often blurred for him. Nathan is ‘good men do bad things’ and I think that’s fascinating.

Have you had a favourite scene that you’ve shot or are you looking forward to one that you are going to shoot?

I really like the scene on the tarmac at Bamako airport in episode 4. Harry has been biting his tongue for four episodes and he finally just explodes and it was nice to play that.

Read more about Deep State season 2

Q&A with Walton Goggins (Nathan Miller)

Q&A With Karima McAdams (Leyla Toumi)

Q&A With Matthew Parkhill (Co-Creator, Writer, Showrunner, Director – Eps 1, 2, 7, 8)

DEEP STATE 2 will broadcast on FOX Africa on Wednesdays at 20:45 CAT, from 15 May.

Published by Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB, Andrew has worked full time in the film industry since the early 2000's. He has trained as an actor, completing his LAMDA Gold Medal, and attending many courses in Cape Town acting studios, with masterclasses with some of the international industries top directors, producers and filmmakers. Working as an actor and armourer in the film and television industry have given Andrew a great balance of skills across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry. Catch him on Twitter: twitter.com/andrewgerm_za And IMDb: www.imdb.com/name/nm5390453/

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