Sure, you loved Game of Thrones’ Khal Drogo. But at the end of the day, everyone’s favorite Dothraki warrior only really had a few things going for him—namely, that perpetually glistening upper body and his silent, terrifying intensity. (Okay, and some truly great eyeliner.)
Since exiting GoT in 2011, actor Jason Momoa has been busy proving that he can do more than grunt and kill—by acting, directing (both a feature and a commercial for the clothing brand Carhartt), producing and, yes, speaking English while fully clothed. In June, word broke that Momoa had reportedly snagged the role of Aquaman in DC’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as a possible solo movie. (The casting has yet to be officially confirmed—but it’s worth noting that Momoa has been a lifeguard, a surfer, a Baywatch actor, and a marine biology major.) Momoa’s directing debut, Road to Paloma, premiered at the Portland Film Festival this week; he also starred in the film and brought it to the big screen with his own production company, Pride of Gypsies.
From self-produced indie passion projects to studio superhero franchises, Momoa is shaping up to be a serious player in Hollywood—and a more formidable force than Khal Drogo ever was. EW chatted with him about his new film and what’s coming next.
Road to Paloma explores the issue of Native American reservations, where legal loopholes allow non-natives to commit crimes like rape without any consequences. Why did you want to make a film about this?
The biggest thing is that I’m a father, and a husband, and a son, and a grandson. I’ve had the best group of women in my life—and if the law didn’t take care of them, what would you do? It’s one of those injustices that are happening right now, and to bring awareness to it is really what we wanted to do. My cowriter Robert [Homer Mollohan] found that 86 percent of the reported rapes were committed by non-natives—and that’s just reported. All of those cannot be taken to task in federal court, so they all get tossed out. And then as an actor and a director, what a great story to tell. We wanted to make a movie that wasn’t just about the revenge of it, or the chase. We wanted to make it about a man saying goodbye to his life.
Now that you’ve been behind the camera, do you think you’ll continue to act or direct—or both?
At the end of the day I love storytelling. There are roles that you do for money, and then there’s the ones that you have to do for your soul. There were just not enough things coming across my desk that were artistic enough, that I felt like I want my kids to see. I am an artist, and I was raised by artists. I want my kids to know that their father is proud of doing what he loves to do.vSo we started our own production company, named Pride of Gypsies. I have so many talented friends, and we were just like, “Sh–, let’s just go do it. Why do I have to wait for some sh—y script to come across my desk that I really don’t want to do?” Sitting by a fire telling a great story is really what it comes down to. You don’t need all these explosions and 3D and this and that.
What’s it like to work with so many of your friends?
I grew up in Iowa and on the smallest island in Hawaii, where your bosses care about you, they care about your family—you actually gave a sh– about going to work. And I like to translate that over to what I do. It can still get hard, but as long as you’re having fun and you love the people that are around you, I love that. It’s a family, and everyone’s invested into it.
Do you ever miss being on the Game of Thrones set, being around all those people you love?
Oh yeah. I’m really close with Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff], Emiliam [Clarke], so I see them all the time. The door is always open.
Do you ever miss playing Khal Drogo, or wish you hadn’t been killed off?
[Laughs] No, it had to happen. But it’s definitely one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. It was a beautiful challenge and he was amazing—and on to the next.
So, what’s next?
I love the show I’m on right now, The Red Road. I just started Season 2. I get to speak English and wear clothes, so I’m pretty stoked. The next movie I’m making is a period piece and a drama, and it’s set in Kauai in the early 1800s. I don’t want to rush it. There’s a lot of good things happening right now, and I just need to wait for my name to get a little bigger. I’m just going to go practice my craft and do stuff that I want to do.
Why did you want to get into making commercials?
The problem with doing movies is it just takes so long. I want that instant gratification. I had talked to my partners and I was like, “What are the companies that we love?” I don’t want to get an agent to go and tell me how to get in there. I don’t want to just go like, “Hey I want to direct commercials,” and go do, you know, f–king shampoo ads or something like that.
Finally, can you confirm or deny that you’ve been cast as a certain trident-wielding superhero?
Well, I’m really excited for it [Batman vs. Superman] to come out in 2016, I’ll tell you that much. I’m really excited to see what is happening in that world.