Dempsey Bryk On Being ‘Willow’s Very Own ‘Damsel In Distress’ & Airk’s Journey Ahead (Exclusive)

'Willow' breakout Dempsey Bryk talks Airk's romantic nature, exploring a matriarchal society, being inspired by Dylan O'Brien, and more.

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The newest chapter of Willow revolves around finding Prince Airk, the prince of Tir Asleen and the son of Queen Sorsha and Madmartigan. In the first episode of the Disney+ series, Airk is kidnapped, setting off a quest led by twin sister Kit to get him back. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Dempsey Bryk about what Airk’s journey outside of the walls of his privileged life could mean for the character.

Dempsey Bryk
Dempsey Bryk and Ruby Cruz in ‘Willow.’ (Lucasfilm)

“When we meet Airk, he’s very much a genuine, sweet, kind-hearted person. That’s really who he is almost entirely. He exists as a person who just wants to make everybody happy,” Dempsey said. “He is also very romantic and falls in love very quickly and very often. So knowing that and then the fact that he goes missing and is kidnapped, I feel like that was the thing that was fascinating to me. I hope it will be for the audience as well because you have that person who’s so genuine and so pure and kind, almost comedically, so and then having them exposed to really, really harsh conditions… what was fascinating to me was basically the question of: does that love and kindness persist? Does it break? And to me, I think that’s kind of the question of the character.”

Prior to his kidnapping, Airk lived a life of luxury with very few worries, while that’s never been the case for his twin. While Airk hasn’t had “all that many responsibilities,” Dempsey noted that “Kit feels the exact opposite of that. They’re polar opposites, and in that way, I think a lot is a lot more is expected of her. This society is matriarchal in that it is queens becoming queens. Airk really doesn’t have anything expected of him versus Kit. She’s very much the antithesis of that, and I think she really feels it.”

The actor raved over how showrunner Jon Kasdan and the creative team “did a really good job of challenging traditional archetypes, especially in fantasy.” In a surprising role reversal, Dempsey pointed out that Airk is “basically the damsel in distress. I think I lost the job when I said that I hadn’t watched Willow and got it back when I said, ‘Oh, so I’m the damsel in distress in my interview with Jon.’ And that very much is the case. It is fascinating to be able to explore roles that I would not traditionally have been privy to. But also, it’s really great because Jon creates three-dimensional characters anyway. I was never bored and never felt one-dimensional. I feel like everyone has something unique to do. I think that fantasy fans will also find it fascinating because I think that you can see what the tropes would be, and then they’re subverted. I think it feels fresh because of that. It definitely felt fresh to act.”

Dempsey Bryk
Dempsey Bryk at the ‘Willow’ premiere. (CAROLINE BREHMAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

While filming Willow, Dempsey channeled major Tom Holland energy when it came to spoilers. “They are so secretive. I have to put a pin in this because I got a lot of trouble the first week,” Dempsey admitted. ” I got in trouble with Disney security, with publicity, that by the end of the first week of boot camp, they had taken my name off my trailer and put on ‘TMZ reporter’ because they thought spoilers were an inevitability.”

Willow is definitely going to be action-packed all throughout the season, and Dempsey revealed that he took on more training than was expected of him. “I begged them to let me. I would ask on days that I had off. For certain periods, I would have lots of days off because my character and other characters were in different pathways, so I would just come into the studio, not be shooting, and the stunt team would be there. They would just train me,” Dempsey explained. “They were the best stunt team in the world it feels like because they were just so knowledgeable. They did train me every single day basically the entire year, and a lot of that then we could utilize.”

He added, “I can’t articulate enough how grateful I was for that experience because it was a dream come true. It’s like a dream that I think, even if you’re not cognizant of or conscious of it, every kid leaves a superhero movie punching their friends and jumping into oncoming traffic.”

The actor admitted that he’s “always dreamed” of doing his own stunts, which stems from seeing Dylan O’Brien in a Maze Runner movie. “He’s running down a hallway and slides under a door that’s closing. What a great stunt, and I remember being 14 and being like, ’That just seems fun. I just want to do that,'” Dempsey said. “And then working Jon is a full circle moment. Jon’s first movie was with Dylan O’Brien before he went off to do any of those things. When I was talking to Jon, I pointed out that moment. He was like, ‘I know that moment.'”

Dempsey Bryk
Dempsey Bryk and Ellie Bamber in ‘Willow.’ (Lucasfilm)

Dempsey teased that there will be “lots of romance” for fans to look forward to amidst all the thrills and action. “It’s something to juxtapose the fantasy with because that’s human. And that’s it. Everyone recognizes romance,” the actor told HollywoodLife. “Everybody knows that’s the human experience. The thing that’s also interesting about fantasy is that it is taking an internal human experience and externalizing it, so the demons, the monsters, all those things, become literal manifestations of the things that we actually have to confront as humans, but in a much more abstract way. I think that’s why fantasy is interesting because you could just see yourself clearer through this weird, foggy, magical land.” New episodes of Willow premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.

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