Outtakes: Momoa hits the ‘Road’ again
BY MIKE GORDON / firstname.lastname@example.org
The menacing scowl that made Jason Momoa a star is on full display these days, and — furrowed brow notwithstanding — the Hawaii-born actor couldn’t be happier. Looking mean never felt so good.
Momoa returns to the small screen Thursday when SundanceTV unveils the second season of “The Red Road,” a dark drama about an American Indian (Momoa) whose return home from prison in the first season signaled a clash of cultures.
Momoa, who plays Phillip Kopus, glowers from a black-and-white image on the DVD press screener, and if you’ve been following superhero fandom, you’ll recognize that face: It’s Aquaman, the trident-wielding DC Comics hero.
Although Momoa denied it for months, he was director Zack Snyder’s choice to play the undersea king in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) and “The Justice League Part 1″ (2017). Momoa will also star in “Aquaman” (2018), which Snyder is not directing. When Snyder posted the first photo of Aquaman on Twitter in February, it was pure Momoa menace.
And side by side, Kopus and Aquaman look like twins, right down to their pose.
The comparison made Momoa laugh as he talked Wednesday about the projects while driving to pick up his children from school in Topanga, Calif.
“Maybe it’s my face, I don’t know,” he said in a cellphone call. “I’m just trying to put food on the table.”
“The Red Road,” created by writer Aaron Guzikowski (“Contraband,” “Prisoners”), follows two communities in New Jersey: the small town of Walpole and the Lenape Tribe, which lives nearby. The series plays out through the stories of Momoa’s Kopus and town sheriff Harold Jensen, played by Martin Henderson (“Devil’s Knot,” “The Ring” and “Smokin’ Aces”).
The first season, which like the second was six episodes, introduced the dark and moody Kopus, whose criminal urges battle with his sense of right and wrong. The season ended with Kopus and Jensen narrowly surviving a shootout.
Momoa’s role was an emotional roller coaster, but the 35-year-old actor said he asked Guzikowski for exactly that.
“I said, ‘Man, just give me everything you got, just break me,'” Momoa said. “When I asked for that, I did not expect what I got. He was like, ‘I am going to break Momoa.'”
Without being specific, Momoa said the new season takes his character to places he has never experienced in real life — from a man seeking revenge to a man feeling shame.
“It’s literally going from one side of the spectrum of emotions to the other within seconds,” he said. “And then staying in that depressing state was extremely hard as an actor. Personally I have never gone through such trials quite like that in my life. And I hope I never do.”
Momoa has been a steadily working actor since joining the cast of “Baywatch: Hawaii” in 1999. His visibility increased dramatically in the last four years with a role as Khal Drogo, the brutal horse-riding warlord in HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones,” and the title role in the film remake of “Conan the Barbarian.” But his “Thrones” character died in the first season, and “Conan” died at the box office.
“I wouldn’t have predicted any of this,” Momoa said. “It went a really weird way after ‘Game of Thrones.’ It helped and hurt me as much any show. You play a character who doesn’t speak English and people don’t think you speak English.”
To counter that, Momoa directed his own film, “Road to Paloma,” which he released last year.
“That helped save my career and get me back on track for stuff I really want to do, like drama and hopefully, someday, comedy,” Momoa said.
His role as Aquaman will keep him busy for the next four to five years, but he doesn’t know what he will be asked to bring to the role.
“We’re so far away from ‘Justice League’ that anything I say doesn’t mean anything,” Momoa said. “You know about as much as I do about what I’ll look like.”
There’s no script yet, no news. Just that look.
“The Red Road” will air at 4 p.m. Thursdays on Sundance.
Mike Gordon covers film and television in Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter. Read his weekly “Outtakes” column Sundays in the Star-Advertiser.