Everywhere I look, all I see is Michael Huisman. On Game of Thrones, there he is as Daario Naharis – swashbuckling adventurer and wooer of the queen of dragons. One immensely popular show though does not suffice for Huisman. The Dutch actor, since transitioning to the U.S. from Amsterdam, has appeared in a bevy of shows ranging from Treme to Orphan Black to Nashville. Now Huisman takes the leap into cinemas, costarring opposite Blake Lively in the romance The Age of Adaline.
In the picture, Huisman plays the world’s greatest guy: Ellis Jones – a handsome multi-millionaire philanthropist. Nobody else even stands a chance. Typically romances are founded on the dilemma of two competing suitors. Should the male or female lead go off and live ‘happily ever after’ with [Option A] or [Option B]? In The Age of Adaline, there is no [Option B]. Either Lively chooses to be with Huisman or she chooses to be with no one. Perhaps this is the ultimate testament to Huisman’s rugged appeal: a suitor – so self-evidently perfect, why bother even having another compete against him?
In the following interview with Michiel Huisman, he discusses finding the time to appear on every hit TV show of the past two years, looking to Cary Grant for help with his role in Adaline and his future on Game of Thrones. For all this and more, read below…
MICHAEL HUISMAN: Yes.
What’s your takeaway on junkets?
HUISMAN: It’s pretty crazy; it’s been hard.
What’s the most difficult thing about a junket?
HUISMAN: I think repeating yourself, which is funny, because I’m an actor. I’m always repeating myself. You never just do a scene once, you do it an insane amount of times.
How did you deviate your answers for the same questions over and over again?
HUISMAN: What made it harder is that Blake [Lively] and I were doing [interviews] together. Because I think if I would have been by myself, I would have probably been okay with keeping them the same a little bit. It’s a little embarrassing when you’re right next to each other, so we would have to change it up a little bit.
Well, you’ve done a ton of stuff. It feels like you’re in everything nowadays: Games of Thrones, Orphan Black, this movie [The Age of Adaline], The Invitation... Where do you find the time to do all this?
HUISMAN: Thanks. I don’t know. Last year when I shot this movie, The Age of Adaline, it was a little crazy how everything fell into place. It was really a puzzle to get all these projects in. But I’d say the thing is you’re always building your career, for lack of a better term. All of a sudden I feel like I’m getting to the point where there’s a little bit of momentum and you want to build on that, you want to use that. I feel like this is the time to work and shoot and hopefully portray a big array of characters. The time to relax comes later.
What type of projects do you tend to look for in particular?
HUISMAN: The Age of Adaline was very special because it marks for me the first male lead on a proper Hollywood production. Since then, I shot The Invitation, like you mentioned, which was the complete opposite of this romantic story. And back to Games of Thrones. During our hiatus I just shot a movie in Australia that we’re about to finish in New York next week called 2:22. It’s a completely different story. It’s kind of romantic but it’s absolutely a thriller. I’m about to start another project in a couple of weeks that hasn’t been announced yet that is a very different kind of story. [It] takes place during the start of the First World War around 1914. I just love telling good stories. That’s what you try to do. You read a script and you’re [like] ‘Yeah I like the story; I would watch this’. That’s how I pick them I guess.
What’s the preparation process for becoming the male romantic lead? Do you look at particular performances? Other male romantic leads?
HUISMAN: Age of Adaline has an old-timey feel to it because Adaline is this old soul, an old character in a sense. So I think in terms of style or class of this character, I kind of without really trying to draw a comparison, I watched a couple of Cary Grant movies.
What do you glean from watching Cary Grant work?
HUISMAN: I think he’s so manly, so masculine, and at the same time not afraid to be kind of vulnerable and clumsy and funny too. I think that’s something I take from that.
What do people recognize you from? Do people come up to you, like Game of Thrones fans or Nashville fans? Do you tend to get recognized more nowadays?
HUISMAN: Of course. But I’m always surprised. You would think it’s Game of Thrones because it’s the biggest, most popular show, but sometimes someone comes up to me and I try to guess, like ‘oh, it’s Nashville’. But typically it’s [actually] Treme.
What was that transition like, going from Amsterdam to here, from foreign films to U.S. cinemas?
HUISMAN: It was a big change. And a leap of faith because I had a career [but] I had decided I was going to say goodbye to it. I wanted to change the game a little bit. I really wanted to try here or maybe do something else with my life. I needed a change. For me, Treme gave me the opportunity to really do that and ground whatever I was going do, because it was not just a project that took a month. We shot for three and a half, four years. I made New Orleans my home. Although the show was not a huge success, it was very well regarded and kind of helped me to get my footing and take the next step.
What was your experience in New Orleans like?
HUISMAN: I kind of in a weird way felt like I was coming home, which is funny because it’s so different from where I’m from, from Amsterdam. I guess the only thing they share is that they’re both below sea level.
[Laughs] That’s a good point. I think the first thing I saw you in actually was Black Book, the [Paul] Verhoeven film. What was it like working with him?
HUISMAN: It was very exciting, and he’s a super passionate filmmaker. He’s an icon internationally, but in the Netherlands, he made a movie called Turkish Story. That’s an epic movie, and an epic book too. I don’t know how kids nowadays feel about it, but when I grew up, we were like fourteen, fifteen, you had to read that book. To be able to work with a filmmaker like him, it was a pleasure.
Going back to Age of Adaline, it’s grounded in ‘magical realism’. Acting within that genre, do you try to adjust your performance for the particular genre?
HUISMAN: Not at all, no, I don’t think so… First of all, it plays more for Blake. This question would kind of be…I would be curious to see how she answers to the question. But I kind of always felt like the magical elements to the story, the fact that Adaline doesn’t age anymore after a bizarre accident, we kind of have to accept that. And if we’ve done our job right then the audience just accepts that. I think it’s our duty to then ground the story and just tell this story about people and how they fall in love and find it and end up together hopefully.
The movie strikes me as being pro-aging and anti-immortality which seems like a very un-Hollywood like message…
HUISMAN: Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s kind of an anti-Hollywood premise. It’s one of the things I really loved about the story. It sounds so weird, but I’m totally pro-aging. If you look at the film industry, it’s so funny how it’s so much more accepted that actors begin their prime in their forties or fifties, and for women it’s so different. I think it’s time to change that. Aging is a beautiful thing.
I think one of my favorite moments in the movie is the flower bit, where you try to give [an extra] flower after [Blake] refuses them. That’s such a nice little moment. Is that something that was improvised? Because it feels so [off-the-cuff]…
HUISMAN: [Laughs] I don’t think it was in the script. It might have been improvised, yeah.
Do you tend to do that a lot? Do you find these little moments that you can add in?
HUISMAN: I guess so. I’ll keep an eye out for it from now on. But I think once everything is in place, once you’ve kind of wrapped your head around the story and the character, it’s very liberating and you can start doing things like you would do. So you’re standing there with your flowers for example and she just brushes you off and you’re standing there with your flowers and somebody passes you and you’re like ‘there you go.’ I don’t remember whether it was in the script or if it came up in the moment, but ideally you feel so free in the scene that you allow yourself to do stuff like that.
You share scenes here with so many great actors, like Ellen Burstyn, Harrison Ford, and Kathy Baker. What do you learn from watching them work?
HUISMAN: I think that working with them I realized that they’re so passionate about telling good stories. I had a lot of stuff with Harrison Ford, who plays my dad in this movie, and I realized it doesn’t matter the size of the budget or whether it’s Stars Wars or a movie like The Age of Adaline. It’s all about passion, and he just went for it all the way. I was very happy to be a part of that.
Looking towards Game of Thrones, how many episodes are you in this season potentially?
HUISMAN: A lot, yeah.
Now that the show’s deviating and surpassing the books, do you have any idea where Daario goes from here?
Do you like not knowing?
HUISMAN: Yeah. I feel like I owe it to the writers. I trust them. These guys are so great and they’re so talented. They know what they’re doing. All I know is that I’m a warrior in Game of Thrones where all men must die, so it might happen at one point. But I feel like they’re going to take the story where they think they need to go, so I’ll wait and I’ll gladly do whatever they write.
The Age of Adaline is now in theaters.