EXCLUSIVE: How 'Game of Thrones' Star Finn Jones' Last Day on Set Led Him to 'Iron Fist'

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The actor who played Loras Tyrell on the HBO series opens up to ET about landing the title role on 'Marvel's Iron Fist.'

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
, 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.”

MORE: How 'The Defenders' Will Be Different From 'The Avengers'

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.

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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

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.” 

MORE: Angela Bassett Is Latest (and Greatest) to Join Marvel's 'Black Panther'

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.