It’s lunchtime in Los Angeles on a Tuesday when Jason Momoa, star of Sundance TV’s “The Red Road,” reaches across the table and picks up AccessHollywood.com’s recorder.
“I love my wife,” he says purposefully into the mic, as his spouse and co-star Lisa Bonet, who is seated beside him, breaks into a grin and laughs. “She’s amazing and the show’s amazing too.”
That show — from creator Aaron Guzikowski (he wrote the Hugh Jackman box office hit “Prisoners”) — looks into the life of two different families. There’s the Van Der Veens, members of an unrecognized Native American tribe (of which Jason’s character, Phillip Kopus, is a part), and the Jensens, a family with dark secrets, living in nearby.
“[Being a part of a] contemporary piece about a native, being a native… [It] was awesome to play someone that his own tribe doesn’t like him,” Jason said of Phillip, who returns home after being incarcerated, to a frosty reception. “I think everyone’s been an outcast in some way and you turn away from your home, but you come back to your roots.”
Returning home puts Jason’s Phillip into conflict — and, into a very uneasy partnership — with Martin Henderson’s Deputy Harold Jensen, following a premiere twist involving Harold’s wife, Jean (Julianne Nicholson). Once the pilot sets things up, there’s a hell of a lot of tension on the table, allowing Jason to show off his acting chops.
“I turned down some pretty big thing ‘cause I wanted to spend more time in acting and not just like… I’m kind of the go-to guy for action. So I was really excited there wasn’t a lot of action. There is, but not like, ‘I’m just doing this, I’ve got my shirt off and I’ve got a sword in my hand,’” Jason explained during Tuesday’s lunch with TV writers. “It’s like, I need to do [this kind of thing]… that’s why I spent… a year and a half before that just doing [my independent film ‘Road to Paloma’]. Wrote it, directed it, produced it, and starred in it. I was like, ‘I gotta get a shift.’”
As thrilling as his role was on “Thrones,” it’s easy to see why he wanted to make a different artistic mark. After the sucess of the HBO series, Jason said he had celebrities sharing with him how much they were fans of the drama, some of whom took his Khal Drogo part a little too seriously.
“It’s really fun ‘cause I met a lot people, like amazing comedians and people on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ that like — they’re are like idols to me — I go up to them and they’re like, ‘I love you!’ I’m like, ‘I love you!’ [They’re] like, ‘Holy sh**! You speak English.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I was acting! I was raised in Iowa! And they’re like, ‘What?’”
After “Thrones” (which he briefly returned to in a Season 2 cameo), Jason hit the big screen in “Conan.”
More recently was the aforementioned “Road to Paloma,” which paired him up with wife Lisa.
Having enjoyed the independent filmmaking process, coming back to television for “The Red Road” came down to story and character, Jason said.
“It’s really just material. I was talking about [how much I like] ‘True Detective.’ I’m like, ‘Game of Thrones’ — I got hooked on that, just going like, ‘This is f***ing amazing. It’s a 10 hour movie.’ When I read this, I’m like, ‘Aaron Guzikowski!’ … ‘Prisoners’ was amazing to me. It was like the new ‘Se7en,’ to me,” Jason said. “And it’s great writing and it’s a great character. It fit really well with me. … When I read for Drogo, I was like, ‘Can I get it?’ This, I was like, I had these things inside of me that I had never played before.”
“The Red Road” premieres Thursday, February 27 at 9 PM ET/PT on Sundance TV.
-- Jolie Lash