With those white-streaked red locks — and that penchant for speaking in the third person — Jaqen H’ghar has stood out as one of the most unique characters in “Game of Thrones” Season 2.
And playing the fascinating assassin in Arya Stark’s life has prompted an unusual reaction from German actor Tom Wlaschiha’s friends – compliments in Jaqen speak.
“I laughed,” Tom told AccessHollywood.com of seeing compliments like, “A man did a great job in that episode.” “I had a lot of emails and a lot of comments on Facebook [from] people talking to me in the third person.”
It’s a fine reaction that indicates the impact of the character who first entered the series caged in mystery, and a testament to the German’s talents. Throughout the season, he’s brought a subtlety to a role that — in the wrong person’s hands — could have ended up over the top.
“I tried to do as little as possible, because I was kind of aware of the dangers in portraying a character who has a weird way of talking, and who looks kind of weird and who has magical abilities,” Tom told Access of what went into nailing the part. “I kind of thought, if I overdo it, then it’d be too much… so I just tried to downplay it and kind of think the things that I’m saying.
“I had no idea how it would turn out… I tried to play with Maisie [Williams, who plays Arya] and fortunately that’s worked out really well and I’m really happy with the reactions I’ve been getting,” he added.
As fans of George R.R. Martin’s books know, the “GOT” Season 2 finale is titled “Valar Morghulis,” a catchphrase of sorts from Jaqen. Despite Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie exiting Harrenhal in Episode 8, Tom’s mysterious character returns in Sunday’s highly-anticipated closer.
“Jaqen, obviously, [is] in the final episode and has a few magic tricks,” Tom hinted.
“I think Jaqen’s got kind of attached to Arya and he knew from the beginning that she’d be a good candidate to be taught by him, so he offers to be her teacher,” he added, careful not to spoil Sunday’s twists and turns.
Just as Jaqen got attached to Arya, loyal “GOT” fans have grown attached to Tom thanks to his work throughout the season.
Following Sunday’s episode, Tom has a role, racing it out in Ron Howard’s 2013-due “Rush,” alongside Chris Hemsworth.
His 2011 film, “Resistance,” is also continuing to cross the globe, hitting the Munich Film Festival next month.
It’s an exciting time for the actor, although his path to Hollywood wasn’t a linear course. Tom’s early life was spent in Dohna, near Dresden, in then East Germany, behind the Wall.
“Sometimes it still seems unreal just to board a plane and fly to America, because that’s something that I’d always dreamed of, but I was completely sure would never happen, and sometimes, when I think about that, it still feels a bit unreal,” he said.
It was during his early teen years – before the Wall came down – that the idea to become an actor first emerged.
“I always knew that I wanted to do something artistic, or the other option would have been a journalist, but in order to become a journalist in East Germany you’d have to do a lot of politics, because you’d have to be loyal to the state and to the government, and so I didn’t want to do that because [it]… was not my thing,” Tom told Access.
“At some point, when I was 14 or 15, the idea crossed my mind to become an actor… I hadn’t been to the theater much… When I grew up, we had one TV channel, which was sufficient,” he laughed. “I don’t have the feeling I missed out on something. But, I don’t know, actually, where it came from.“
Making the decision led to teasing from his classmates, after his “when I grow up” goal was written down in an public classroom book while he was still in school. Undeterred by the taunts, a teenage Tom wrote letters to drama schools in East Germany and one invited him down for a few yearly visits.
The experiences of those trips cemented the young man’s goal, and after passing the entrance exam to the acting school, he began his thespian journey.
And the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, opened up the door to more possibilities, professionally.
“For me, the fall of the Wall came at the exact right time because, I mean, I was 17, basically I hadn’t missed anything, unlike the generation of my parents, who were deprived of a lot of things. They couldn’t travel and they couldn’t really get ahead in their professional careers. So for me, it was perfect timing,” he reflected. “Today, I’m really happy that I grew up in East Germany and kind of was able to witness both systems, because it wasn’t all dark and horrible. I mean, I had a very happy childhood, it was just a political system that made people unfree.”
Tom’s early hard work has paid off, and in addition to a host of roles in his native Germany, he’s been steadily building a resume of English-speaking films, including 2001’s “Enemy At the Gates” (with Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes), and 2008’s “Valkyrie” (with Tom Cruise).
Most recently, he starred in the 2011 British film, “Resistance,” alongside Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen, based on Owen Sheers’ novel, which imagines a 1944 occupation of a village in Wales by German soldiers.
“It was a very emotional project for me,” Tom said. “It was a very intense work, especially with Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen. It’s really an actor’s film… It’s a very poetic and quiet movie and that’s what I really loved… I’m really happy that it’s screening at the Munich Film Fest at the end of June, so I’m gonna go there for a few Q&As and stuff. I’m really excited.”
Catch Tom in “Valar Morghulis,” the final episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 2, Sunday at 9 PM on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash