War may be coming to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” but not everyone’s Season 2 journey will center on the battle for the Iron Throne. In the case of Maisie Williams’ Arya Stark, her path begins with a simple mission – survival.
After watching her father, Ned Stark (Sean Bean), get beheaded under King Joffrey’s orders, she was quickly and quietly whisked away by Yoren of the Night’s Watch, who chopped off her hair, told her to pretend she’s a boy, and placed with the gang of miscreants from King’s Landing he was taking North for service on The Wall.
But as she attempts to hide her identity and stay alive in Season 2, an intriguing new face is set to cross her path – the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar, played by the handsome Tom Wlaschiha.
The icy-blue eyed German, who last fall starred in the World War II-inspired fictional drama “Resistance” (alongside Michael Sheen), hadn’t heard of “GOT” when he first put his audition on tape from Berlin.
“I said, ‘That’s really weird — a character who talks of himself in the third person,’” he laughs during a phone call with AccessHollywod.com, reflecting on his initial brief for Jaqen, who enters the drama as an enigma. “I had no idea what to make of this.”
That audition turned into a Belfast set meeting with director Alan Taylor and the producers, who screened for the chiseled actor a few episodes of Season 1 in the spare hours he had before his European air hop back home. And watching the show got the German star hooked.
“I said, ‘Wow! I have to get this part!’” he recalls. “I was really happy that it worked out.”
The Red Priestess, Melisandre, may have racked up the column inches, but Jaqen is just as intriguing. And, in the latest installment in AccessHollywood.com’s “GOT” Season 2 countdown interview series, Tom hints at what’s in store when he uses his bewitching charm on the likes of the young Stark in disguise.
AccessHollywood.com: First things first — do you know how to say your character’s name?
Tom Wlaschiha: (Laughs) Well, the decision was a bit up to me, actually.
Access: That’s hilarious.
Tom: Well, we discussed it. David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], the producers, they asked me how I would pronounce it and I told them I’d say Jaqen (editor’s note: sounds like Jack-in) and they were fine with it.
Access: How great it was your call. There are so many characters in the books with names you’ve never heard spoken before.
Tom: I know, and written it looks a bit weird and you don’t really know how to pronounce it at first. And he’s a strange and mysterious character, so I thought his name might sound strange and mysterious as well.
Access: So at the beginning of Season 2, tell us about Jaqen – is he a good guy or a bad guy?
Tom: I think the great thing about Jaqen is he’s very [ambiguous] as a character, and you don’t really know… That’s what’s great about ‘Game of Thrones’ – all the characters are not portrayed in a cliche [way]. They’re not cliches, they’re all human. They have positive sides to them and negative sides, so certainly Jaqen… we don’t really know where he comes from or, if he has a secret agenda, what that is.
Access: How important is Jaqen to Arya’s story as we see her in Season 2?
Tom: At the beginning, Arya doesn’t trust him at all because he’s a convict, he’s being taken to The Wall as a prisoner and then something attracts her to him.
Access: Now your character is supposed to look a bit different. Tell me about the costume and of course, the hair…
Tom: They did an awesome job. I had to go to makeup and costume rehearsals a few times before we actually started shooting and both departments did such an incredible job in choosing costumes. Basically, I’m wearing several layers of — I don’t know what it is — it’s old rags, and stuff like torn shirts, but it’s really an incredible costume. And the wig? Well… I’ve read a lot of discussions on websites about the wig, because in the books it’s clearly two colors — the grey or white and red. A lot of people are very concerned that might look ridiculous in real life, but I think they did an incredible job – [the] makeup people. I thought it [looked] perfectly natural. The last time I had long hair, I was 24. That’s quite a while ago, so it felt good to have long hair again.
Access: And hopefully they washed those clothes.
Tom: I’m sure they did. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t really have cared because it helps to play the character, for me. I don’t think in medieval ages everything was clean.
Access: What was it like working with Maisie Williams (Arya)? She’s so talented.
Tom: She’s great. I mean, it’s incredible. Everything seems to come really natural with her. You don’t have the impression — I mean how old is she?… I think she’s 14 now and she’s totally cool and doesn’t seem to be nervous. [She] just does her stuff and delivers perfectly.
Access: And she’s around all these boys too, holding her own.
Tom: I think she likes that (laughs).
Access: The town you’re actually from, I’m going to butcher the name… Dohna?
Tom: Yeah, Dohna. That’s a very small place. It’s near Dresden.
Access: I read that it’s very old. Did growing up in a historic place make ‘GOT’ more interesting for you?
Tom: (Laughs) Well, the place that I grew up in, it certainly is quite old, it also was completely destroyed during the war. They’re rebuilding parts of it now, but I really like all kinds of historic films and books because it gives you the opportunity to really dive into another time period. I got to wear a wig and ride on horses and use weapons. Yeah, it’s a bit like a fairytale, and most of the time, you play characters that are very close to who you are in real life and this kind of book gives you totally different opportunities.
Access: How many books have you actually read?
Tom: I’ve read the first two books… I have to read a few other things in between, but I’ll definitely read 3, 4 and 5…. When I first saw the books, I thought, ‘Oh my God. 1,000 pages each, I’m never going to make it through,’ and then I think I made it through a book in 2 days, 3 days. It’s such a page turner. You just can’t put it away.
Access: As a man who speaks many languages, did you read it in your native language or…
Tom: No, no, no, I read it in English. If possible I like to read the books in the language they were written.
Access: That’s so fascinating that you speak so many languages.
Tom: But that was kind of the only thing that interested me in school. I grew up in East Germany, so we had to learn Russian in school… everybody hated it. I never thought it would come in handy…. And being an actor, I’ve been able to use it quite a bit.
Access: You said you went on the Internet. Do you visit the fan sites or is there a secret Tom Twitter account you use to do find out information?
Tom: No, I just did some research when I read the books and I wanted to find out more and I came upon all those fan sites and I just read a little bit. I didn’t want to be [too influenced] by anything… I wanted to get my own impression of the books and to have my own imagination and fantasies about the part.
Access: Has anyone who is a ‘GOT’ fan recognized you yet?
Tom: No, not so far, but I’ve been amazed… I moved to London half-a-year ago, and I’ve seen so many people read the books on the tube and on planes, it’s unbelievable. For a while, there didn’t seem to be other books around (laughs). I kept seeing people read ‘Game of Thrones.’ It’s amazing.
Access: So you recently finished a German comedy – what is it called?
Tom: The German comedy is called ‘Frisch Gepresst’ (laughs), which translates as ‘Freshly Squeezed.’ It’s a comedy about a girl, between two guys. Basically, she’s pregnant. She doesn’t really know who’s the father. It was a fun film to shoot. And it’s going to come out at the end of August in Germany.
Access: Do you have time to do other things now?
Tom: I’m going back to do a few days on ‘Rush’ with Ron Howard now… It’s very exciting
Access: What are you doing in his film?
Tom: I’m playing a race driver called Harald Ertl… a competitor of Niki Lauda.
Access: Boys toys, you get to drive some cars I would imagine?
Tom: I hope I will!
“Game of Thrones” Season 2 premieres April 1 at 9 PM on HBO.