'We took a few knocks this time around... it's par for the course'
Thriller Deep State returns to Fox for series two, with Joe Dempsie back as secret agent Harry Clarke. Georgia Humphreys reports
Joe Dempsie is explaining how the cast and crew of Deep State went a little bit "bonkers" while on location for the second series. For four weeks, they filmed in the desert, staying in a "Fawlty Towers-type" hotel in Morocco and there were no other guests but people working on the show.
"Remember my existential question about Ian Beale?" the Game of Thrones actor (31) quips to his co-stars next to him. "Ian Beale has been in EastEnders since it started. He's been in it for 30 to 35 years; he's spent more time as Ian Beale than Adam Woodyatt. So, is he now Ian Beale?"
Yes, we were also bemused by this turn in the conversation. But the fact that Dempsie shares this memory is a sign of how chatty, likeable and down to earth he is - especially as he's laughing at himself as he tells the story.
Filming in such an isolated location for a month did actually make it easier for the star, who was born in Liverpool, but grew up in Nottingham, to get into character as gifted MI6 agent Harry Clarke.
"It created a tunnel vision mentality," he elaborates. "There wasn't really any other option, apart from going to work, coming home, getting some food, maybe having a beer, looking at all your scenes for the next day, getting to bed and repeating the cycle."
Series one of Deep State starred Mark Strong as Max Easton - Harry's dad - a former spy drawn into a covert intelligence war.
This series there's no Strong, but new cast members include US star Walton Goggins as an ex-CIA operative. Meanwhile, the plot promises to be just as gripping; it delves into the politics of the deep state in sub-Saharan Africa, where there's a scramble to plunder its natural resources.
"We were told the other day that six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa," notes Dempsie. "So, it's no surprise that the guise of helping this country fight the war on terror, America slowly, slowly moving in, trying to have a presence in countries that happen to be rich in a lot of minerals they require to keep their countries going - it doesn't take a genius to work it out."
He continues: "That information hasn't been that freely available, it hasn't been in the news cycle, whereas with season one we were dealing with the Middle East that has been in the news almost constantly for the past nearly 20 years. This is something new, that we don't hear a lot about."
The question of why this is a character he enjoys playing is put to Dempsie.
"I quite like Harry's stubbornness, in a way," he says. "I think that, regardless of whether you agree with his decisions at various points or not, there's an element of principle to each of them.
"It doesn't mean that he can't change his mind, but I think that he feels like everything he does is for a reason. He might not always be right, but his intentions are normally pure."
Playing a spy obviously meant some interesting training: "How to handle weapons, how to move through a room - the kind of stuff you want to look second nature, as it would be if you had been through the training programmes that these people go through."
It's a challenging role physically - when asked if he was put through the wringer a bit more this season, Dempsie responds with an enthusiastic "hell yeah".
"We took a few knocks this time round," he admits. "There are always accidents, it's par for the course.
"But it was good to feel trusted to do the majority of the stunts yourself. Whether you can actually do them or not is another matter."
He and co-star Karima McAdams, who plays Leyla Toumi, discuss which was the scariest stunt and settle on one they filmed in Cape Town.
It involved a big, slippery wall; there was corrugated iron they had to jump on and the top of the wall had glass and spikes on it.
There must have been times when Dempsie thought to himself, 'Why did I agree to do this stunt?'
"Yeah!" he exclaims, but still grinning widely. "And also, we've got stuff to complete. The schedule on Deep State is so packed out, you don't really have that much time to get stuff wrong over and over again."
Dempsie has had many notable roles since first hitting our screens (in drama Peak Practice), including the lovable Chris Miles in hit E4 teen drama Skins and Channel 4's This Is England '86.
And there's a good chance you'll have heard of another show he can currently be seen in.
HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones, which has become arguably the biggest TV show in the world, is in its eighth and final season, and sees Dempsie play skilled blacksmith Gendry.
Luckily, filming that and Deep State fit together perfectly.
"I finished on Thrones end of May last year and then I had that amazing tropical summer in London with the World Cup - got to watch the whole World Cup - and then I came and started on Deep State."
When I meet Dempsie, he's just come out of a "mad week" doing Press in New York for Game of Thrones and he's jetting off to the premiere in Belfast the next day.
It's been such a whirlwind time that he admits the series being over for good hasn't fully sunk in yet.
"It's the people I'm going to miss," he confides sincerely. "It's like leaving school - there's people you know you're going to see again, you know you're going to stay friends with. You've just got to make the effort now."
Deep State, Fox, Thursday, 9pm