EXCLUSIVE: The Refreshingly Honest Truth of Jason Momoa

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Photo: Getty Images

Could this be the new frontier for Jason Momoa? Underneath his tough exterior and towering presence -- he stands tall at 6-foot-4 and is literally built like a monster truck -- is a family man unafraid of being frank and refreshingly real about his place in Hollywood.

Momoa has had his share of stardom over the years (he was Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, after all), but it’s a Canadian drama that’s breathing new life into the model-turned-actor. In Netflix’s Frontier, available on Friday, Jan. 20, Momoa plays Irish-Native American outlaw Declan Harp, who violently campaigns to breach the Hudson Bay Company’s monopoly on the fur trade in Canada.

For the 37-year-old Hawaii native, Declan remains “the hardest” role he’s ever played in his career (and that includes Aquaman). Not the most physically challenging per se, the character’s troubled past and tragic family sacrifice was emotionally taxing for Momoa, who is stepfather to Zoe Kravitz and father to two young children, daughter Lola and son Nakola-Wolf, with wife Lisa Bonet

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“There is a lot of pretty horrific stuff that happens, and I don’t usually get those kinds of characters who get to go to those places,” Momoa reflects during a recent chat with ET over the phone. “Being a father and a husband, and when you find out my character has lost that and it’s the reason he is the way he is, [and] when you find out how it was done to his family, it’s a pretty horrific moment that I don’t even want to visit. ‘How do I prepare for this, because I don’t even want to f***ing think about this being a dad.’”

The moment he’s referring to takes place in the penultimate episode of Frontier’s six-episode first season, where his character is brutally tortured as truths come to light about his heartbreaking loss. (The second season has already been filmed.) If there is a silver lining to enduring the emotional pain, it’s that it’s done through the guise of a fictional character, though Momoa understands the strange dichotomy of reality and fiction.

“It serves as a protection for your real life, because it’d be hard to come out of that stuff sometimes,” he concedes. “It was amazing to go there. Obviously, I don’t want to live in that headspace. It’d be pretty horrible to be in that headspace for a long time.”

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Momoa had a hand in developing Declan to a place he felt best suited his desires and strengths as an actor (“I had a list of things that I wanted to play and do”), working hand in hand with co-creator Peter Blackie to evolve the character into something more.

“I love being able to play the action, adventure, his sadistic humor. I love playing a character that I can disappear into for a month and a half, go shoot six episodes [of] while I’m shooting eight, nine months on Justice League. That’s why I loved [The] Red Road,” Momoa demurs, nonchalantly referencing the anticipated big-screen DC superhero team-up and his little-seen Sundance TV series. “I hope to continue it on and as an actor I just want to keep growing.” 

Photo: Netflix

Though Momoa made his debut as Aquaman in a brief Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice cameo, there’s an unassuming quality to how he speaks about the upcoming blockbusters that’s a bit surprising.

“I’ve never been on a big movie before. I did Batman v Superman for one or two days. I just experienced Justice League, which is the biggest thing I’ve ever done -- it’s beyond, it’s nothing to be compared to,” Momoa says, almost unaware that his life could see swift changes in a few months when promotion around Justice League reaches a groundswell. “I only know what being on Frontier is like. I know all my crew. I play hockey with them. I love the food up there. I can take my kids up there; on Christmas once, we went skating. It’s kind of a f**king no-brainer.”

He may look like a superhero and play one in the movies now, but Momoa believes his life as a husband and father won’t be dramatically different once Justice League and his standalone film, Aquaman, hit theaters. If there’s any hint that that aspect of his life is diverging, he intends on making sure it won’t.

“I look at my friends who have been in those movies and their lives haven’t changed too much,” Momoa says. “As far as roles and work [go], I hope great things come. I’ve led a career of having to take work to see my family, over picking and choosing, instead of ‘I need food on the table and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the mortgage.’”

“I’ll still be the same, as long as people are respectful,” he adds. “All I’m pretty protective about is my children, and if anyone f**ks with my children -- I’m sure most people can understand that. I can really care less about myself, I just want to always stay papa to them. They don’t see that version of me and I like that -- I like being able to keep it so I’m just papa bear.”