Finn Jones’ final moment as Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers and brother to Margaery (Natalie Dormer), on Game of Thrones was a dramatic one. Broken from months of imprisonment, Loras begs for atonement from the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) before a crowd of onlookers. The only one missing from the trial: Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who has set a trap for all those at the Great Sept, killing them all in a massive explosion. Just like that, the Tyrells and the High Sparrow, as well as a number of other characters, were killed off the show in the season six finale.
While fans were shocked by the moment, reacting live on social media, Jones was nonplussed by his character’s death. “I’ve been doing this for six years and I was ready to move on,” he tells ET by phone. “The Tyrells were never meant to stick around until the end. It was good they went out the way they did.” By the time the finale aired in June, the 28-year-old actor was three months into filming Marvel’s Iron Fist, the next incarnation of The Defenders series, which started shooting in New York City in April.
“I was cut off from the world, in that respect,” Jones says in early December, while on a break from shooting the crossover season of The Defenders, which unites the worlds of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. (Iron Fist premieres on Netflix on Mar. 17, 2017, followed by The Defenders later in the year.) “I had my head pretty much in work mode.”
In fact, Jones first became aware of Iron Fist on his last day on the Game of Thrones set. After he wrapped a scene with Eugene Simon, who played Lancel Lannister, and said his goodbyes to creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, Jones was off to the airport, where while he was waiting for his flight to London he received an email to audition. “In hindsight, it seems crazy how lined up it was,” Jones says. “That was my last day -- it was a really nice last day.”
Referred to by the code name Kick, Jones initially thought the show had something to do with football (“I don’t really like football”), before realizing the audition was for one of Marvel’s superheroes. Upon reading the character description of Danny Rand, a billionaire Buddhist monk and martial arts expert with the ability to conjure the powers of the Iron Fist, Jones’ apprehension quickly turned into excitement. “The more I read it, the more it deeply sunk into me. At that moment, I was like, ‘F**k, this is the one,’” he says.
Already a practitioner of meditation -- he does it at least once a day, twice if there’s time during filming -- and interested in Buddhist philosophy, Danny was a natural fit for Jones. But it was it was the fact that he wasn’t like the rest of the superheroes out there that really piqued his interest. “I find that superheroes are very macho and it’s all about them smashing up stuff,” he says. “Whereas Danny has these inner, powerful energies.”
Of course, that didn’t mean preparation was all about finding inner nirvana. The actor went through intense physical training, learning the arts of kung fu, wushu and tai chi prior to filming. “It’s been quite transformative, to be quite honest,” he admits, adding that a strict diet and exercise plan that have “shaped up everything” for him. Gone are his days of pizza and beer, spending 13 to 14 hours on set between shooting, stunt rehearsals and learning choreography. “Now, it’s all celery sticks and green juices -- laughs -- well, not all the time. But it’s been a big shift. I think it’s paying off.”
By the time he appeared at the Game of Thrones premiere party in April, his physical transformation was topped off with shaggy hair and a beard. It was one of the few times this year he emerged from Marvel’s world to return to that of Game of Thrones, only formally returning once more in November for one of HBO’s pop-up events in Chicago to celebrate the home release of the sixth season. (The final event on Friday, Dec. 9 at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood features Dean-Charles Chapman, who played Tommen Baratheon.) “It’s fun to go back,” he says, enjoying interacting with fans and discussing theories.
So much so that a couple of episodes into the sixth season, Jones found himself giving an impromptu Q&A with fans when he popped into a bar around the corner from his apartment that was playing an episode of Game of Thrones. “I’m walking past and I hear this voice coming from inside,” he says, realizing it was Pryce as the High Sparrow, before slipping in the back to watch. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool. People are glued to this sh*t.’ I jumped on stage at the end and surprised everyone … Now, I get free food and drink at that pub for life.”
Too bad he’s on such a strict diet.