Joe Dempsie, the actor behind Gendry on Game of Thrones, knows he only has himself to blame for those rowing jokes.

King Robert’s bastard son disappeared in season 3 of the hit HBO fantasy, last seen in a rowboat making his way to King’s Landing. So when Dempsie fired off a tweet after season 4 ended — “still rowin’” — the meme spread like, well, wildfire.

“It became my daily life,” he tells EW with a laugh, ahead of Thrones’ much anticipated eighth and final season. “There was no escaping it.”

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss promised Dempsie that they planned to bring Gendry back, but as seasons passed, he wondered whether it would really happen — until he got the call for season 7. “It almost felt like a new job because the influence and the impact of the show changed so much over those years,” he explains. “It was like getting a call out of the blue, saying, ‘Hey, so do you fancy stepping into the biggest TV show on the planet?’”

Returning to Westeros also brought new challenges: Season 7 found Gendry venturing north of the Wall with his new warhammer, and the stunt team told him to build his strength by practicing with a real hammer. He did — only to be handed a fake foam hammer when he got to set.

“I spent probably three months like a psychopath in my garden, swinging a sledgehammer around,” he says, laughing. “So I was the strongest I’ve ever been, trying to make a foam hammer look heavy.” Hey, it beats rowing.

Watch the video above from EW and The Take for more on Gendry. Game of Thrones returns April 14 on HBO.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'

  • TV Show
  • 8
  • 73
  • TV-MA
  • David Benioff
  • D.B. Weiss
  • HBO
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