On the SundanceTV drama series The Red Road, lines will be crossed when tragedy forces two men – a mesmerizing ex-con named Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) and an embattled local police officer named Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) – to face the secrets of their past. As these two men find themselves increasingly compromised by one another, the lives of both, and everyone around them, quickly unravel.
While at a luncheon with the cast, to promote and discuss the new show, actor Jason Momoa talked about how he came to The Red Road, what it’s been like to work with his wife Lisa Bonet, who’s also his co-star, playing a less clear-cut villain, just how crazy things will get by the end of this season, and that he has no idea how they’ll get out of the corner they’ve been placed in, if they do get a second season. He also talked about how directing his first feature film, Road to Paloma, has changed him, the challenging experience of directing his wife, that he’d love to direct an episode of the show, when he’s looking to direct his next film, why his audition as Drax the Destroyer for Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the most fun experiences he’s had, why he hasn’t been in one of the superhero films he’s been rumored to be involved with yet, and how he would definitely be up for returning to do another Game of Thrones cameo. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
JASON MOMOA: No. I directed a film last year, that comes out in July, and they saw me in that. I played a Native American character in that, and we sent it in to Sundance. It’s called Road to Paloma, and [Lisa] played my love interest in the movie. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life ‘cause it’s very close to us. And then, as I was getting the role on the show, (executive producer) Bridget [Carpenter] came up to us and was like, “We have this character who’s a lawyer. We would love Lisa to play the role.” We looked at it and it was completely opposite of what we had just played. We never thought we’d work together again. It wasn’t like I said, “I’m only doing this with my wife.” But, it was great because it’s the opposite of what we played in the movie. And she really dug it and wanted to do it. It’s definitely fun, working across from your partner.
What has it been like to work with your wife?
MOMOA: It’s all right. No, it’s an honor. In this business, we have to travel so far away from our families. We have two children, so if we can work together, that’s awesome. Before I met her, it was a dream to work with her.
Initially, Kopus seems to be the villain, but as things play out, will that be less clear cut?
MOMOA: That’s the thing that attracted me to Kopus. It’s like those bad influences, growing up, who you are attracted to. They have a charm, but they’re also dangerous, and you don’t know how dangerous they are. Kopus brings Junior under his wing, and it’s safe, but it’s also extremely dangerous. You want to be enticing and bring people in, but at the same time, you’re a savage. He’s a bad man. But then, you find out another layer and realizes he just wants community and love. His own mother abandoned him, a long time ago. This is the third stage of his life. He was abandoned when he was young and raised by a drunk father. He probably committed some serious crimes, and was a bad kid who hated his mother. Now, he’s back after six years in prison and he’s obviously had a lot of time to think about what he wants to do. This guy was sucker-punched in life. Some people we know in our lives come up to a crossroads, and they could go left or right, and then end up in a totally different place. There are those definitive moments in our lives where you could change a little bit. He definitely got sideswiped. He could have been like Harold. He could have been a good guy with a family and kids. Some people have truly been done wrong in this life, and you’re going to find that out.
MOMOA: That’s the thing. How far would you go to protect your family? I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m a grandson, and I’m a husband. If someone were to hurt the women in my life and the law didn’t take care of it, what would I do? Pretty awful things. With that are the repercussions of that. Even if you’re a cop, you’re a family man, and if something happens to your children and your wife, what are you going to do? You live by the law, but at the same time, if life sucker punches you, what the fuck do you do? That’s what these people are going through.
Do you think they both did the right thing?
MOMOA: You know what? It’s human survival. A wolf is not bad for eating and tearing apart something, if it’s for survival. It doesn’t do it to be menacing. These two men are doing what they’re doing to survive under the circumstances.
After six years in jail, Kopus couldn’t think of a single legitimate way to make money?
MOMOA: There’s no drama in legitimate. He’s definitely a bad seed.
It seems as though this season is building up to such a huge explosion.
MOMOA: At the end of Episode 4, you’ll be shocked. At the end of Episode 5, you’ll be speechless. At the end of Episode 6, you’ll go, “Holy shit!” When I read it, I was like, “Wow!” Episodes 5 and 6 are on fire. If you thought Episode 4 was something, wait until you see the end of the whole thing.
What would you like to see happen in Season 2?
MOMOA: The truth of it is that I don’t know how the fuck we’re going to get out of the situation that we’re in, at the end of Episode 6. I try to get something out of [Aaron ] Guzikowski all the time, but he’s a stone wall. He won’t let me know. But, the way it ends is pretty gnarly. You’ll be like, “Damn, that’s a finale!”
MOMOA: You know, I’ve been on shows that went for years and years and years, and I was not ready for that again, until I sat down and had the meeting and the told me the bible for what the show would be. Then I said, “Absolutely!” To do six to 10 episodes of high-quality writing, and then be able to go direct my own things, and do a movie, if it comes along, sure. I just want to act and do good work, and it’s great work to do.
Do you feel like directing has changed you, as an actor?
MOMOA: It has. You know what’s it’s changed is my appreciate for the art form of making cinema. I don’t want to act as much as I want to tell stories. I want to be a part of the whole collective and pull all of the pieces together. That’s what I love about directing. Sometimes when I’m directing, I wish I was back in my trailer, not doing shit and just learning my lines. And then, when I’m acting, I wish I was out there, being a part of it and making it. It’s all on your name to do that. It’s your vision. You’re going to get slandered for your work, and I like that. As an actor, it’s so hard. I’d rather direct than act. I don’t want to just play the same thing. But with The Red Road, no one has ever seen me like that. No one really even knows that I smile, have a personality and have a sense of humor.
What was it like to direct your wife in Road to Paloma?
MOMOA: That was a motherfucker. It was a very hard scene to shoot. She didn’t think so, but it was. It was effortless and we got it in 15 minutes, but it was like trying to capture the first time we met, and yet have it be three times that. It was all the things we weren’t saying, and we had to capture it in the perfect light. I didn’t want to reshoot it. It’s hard to get those real, true, beautiful moments.
Do you find yourself seeking out directors that you want to work with, as an actor, to learn from, as a director?
MOMOA: I would love to, but I just don’t think they like me yet or trust me. A lot of people don’t know enough about me. When I meet people who freak out about Game of Thrones, they don’t even know that I can speak English. They think I’m some foreign dude. That’s why I’m not getting jobs. At some time, I would like to meet some of those directors. I don’t really push myself upon people. I don’t have that. When it meets and things fall in line, it’s meant to happen. It’s happened that way. I just try to do my best and do my work, and then it falls in line.
What would you want people to know about you?
MOMOA: That’s why I wrote and directed a movie, and it will be out there and have its path. People who know me, know who I am. It will come as it’s going to come.
Would you like to direct an episode of The Red Road in Season 2?
MOMOA: Yeah, sure. I’d love to direct one of these. For right now, I’d like to tell stories that I want to tell. I haven’t wanted to use someone else’s material yet, but I would with the show. It’s become an integral enough part of me now, that I could definitely tell a story in this.
When will you direct your next film?
MOMOA: It’s going to be a little bit. We’re doing commercials right now because the next one is kind of big. It’s about a $15 or $20 million period piece set in Hawaii. It’s very much my Braveheart or Dances with Wolves. It’s a true story. Jack London did a story about it. It’s something that’s going to need some more money. This show and the next couple of movies I have coming out will help raise that, so I don’t have to work as hard to get the minimal amount of money that I need. The first thing I did was very low budget. So, it will probably be a couple of years. I’ll be able to get the money that I want without having to beg. It will be a little easier. It’s also a very poetic film, so I’m testing a lot of things out with commercials.
MOMOA: Yeah, but nothing that you can see yet. Soon. Within the year. And Road to Paloma comes out on July 15th. People can check the trailer out soon. There’s a teaser trailer out right now. It’s got Lisa Bonet, Sarah Shahi, Michael Raymond James, and Wes Studi, who plays my dad. It’s a Native American story about the rapes that were happening on the Native American reservations. There’s a law that non-natives can come onto the reservation and commit crimes, and most of it is rape, and tribal law can’t prosecute them. Even if you’re married to a Native lady and you beat her, they can arrest you, but you can’t be prosecuted. You have to go to federal court. Tribal law has their own laws. It’s a free-for-all for sickos and rapists. It’s horrific.
The whole story is based around the aftermath of what happens to my mother. Wes Studi is a tribal officer, and my mother is raped and beaten and in a coma. This guy is arrested and he has to go to federal court, and they release him. I take it into my own hands and kill the man, and then it’s six months later. When the movie opens up, it’s about the repercussions. Basically, he’s either going to jail, he’s going to die, or he’s going to be on the run, so it’s him on the run. So, it’s a road movie. We shot it in five different states, and I shot it on a 5D. It’s a story about a man saying goodbye to his life. He can never fall in love again, but he meets this woman at this crossroads. They’re meant for each other, but he has to leave her. And he meets this guy who had everything and lost everything, and it’s these two guys. You find out why the FBI is tracking him down, to his own demise. It was amazing. It’s a beautiful road movie that most people won’t see. It will be at a theater in L.A., and a theater in New York on July 11th, and then on VOD on July 15th. I’m extremely excited about it.
Did you work with a Native American advisor?
MOMOA: On both [projects]. I worked with someone directly on the reservation in Needles for Road to Paloma, and we did a lot of traditional things. We did the language, the pottery, and a lot of things that were really based within the tribe. For The Red Road, my character doesn’t give a shit about his tribe, but I went there and wanted them to know that it’s going to find him and that it will meld together, at some point.
Your name has been brought up for Guardians of the Galaxy and the Man of Steel sequel. Whether it’s all rumor or not, is that something you’re interested in doing? Do you want to do a role like that?
MOMOA: I don’t really have any limitations for what I want to do, as an actor. There’s a lot that I want to do. I think Guardians was perfectly cast. Dave [Bautista] is perfect for the role of Drax. It didn’t really fit for me because I’ve done so many things where I don’t say much, I’m colored up, and I have my shirt off again. I made a conscious choice to turn down some movies that were action-based, so that I could direct Road to Paloma and show that side. I took no money to make art, but my woman backed me up on it and I want my children to see their father happy. It’s not that it wasn’t a good role, it just wasn’t the right thing. I was on Stargate: Atlantis for four years, playing a similar character called Ronon, who was an alien that didn’t say much and grunted. I’ve been there and done that. Whether people have seen it or not, you want to stretch. And then, while I waited, I got The Red Road, and I’d never gotten anything like that. There are tons of things I’d love to do. I want to do comedy. It’s not that I don’t want to play a superhero, but I got to play Conan and Drogo. I don’t want to play a superhero. Drogo may not be Superman, but it is a phenomenal role. I didn’t want to get typecast. Drogo is an exceptional character. Conan is iconic. Whether it does good or not, you just try to elevate it to the next level. But sure, if there was a character that I thought was right, the pay is way better for that.
Is there a superhero or comic book character that you’d love to play?
MOMOA: Sure, but if I told you, then you’d put it into the world. There definitely are. Absolutely! I was a huge comic book fan, and I still am. I’m not going to tell you the ones I collect because then you’d know.
MOMOA: One of the most fun auditions I’ve ever done in my life was for him, doing that role. He’s phenomenal. He’s gonna kill it. He’s gonna to be amazing. It’s a whole Han Solo vibe. It’s great. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal movie. I’m glad that he is the lead in that. He’s funny as hell. He can improv and act circles around me. He’s really fantastic.
Would you ever return for another cameo in Game of Thrones?
MOMOA: Yeah. David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are like family. So, when the moment calls for it, they know that I’m there and would do anything for them. I want to do something with Emilia [Clarke] that’s contemporary. I would love that.
The Red Road airs on Thursday nights on SundanceTV.