Jason Momoa: One of the toughest actors in the business is a big softie

Actor Jason Momoa attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Mad Max: Fury Road" at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 7, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Story highlights

  • Actor Jason Momoa talks about his new role on Netflix's "Frontier"
  • The actor also talks about how his Aquaman role came to be and his "SNL" dream

(CNN)Jason Momoa is the type of guy who will talk about throwing a tomahawk one minute and the next, admit he always does the dirty dishes at his wife's request. He'll talk about the beauty of naked branches in the winter while a daunting, blood-covered rubber apron -- a prop, he later explained -- hangs above his head. He'll show you his handcrafted knife collection and later confess his aversion to hunting for pure sport.

"I'm a walking contradiction," he joked to CNN in a recent interview.
The truth is, Momoa knows movie and TV audiences don't really know a lot about the real him. But they will soon.
Best known for his role as hulking Dothraki leader Khal Drogo on "Game of Thrones," Momoa is in the midst of a huge -- and very busy -- chapter in his career. It includes two movies in which he takes on the role of water-dwelling superhero Aquaman, a new series on Netflix called "Frontier," and even some work behind the scenes. (Momoa produced and co-wrote his first feature, "Road to Paloma," in 2014 and he directs commercials for workwear clothing maker Carhartt.)
"I bit off a lot," he said of juggling filming "Frontier" with his "Justice League" commitment. "I bit off a whole lot this year, too. But I'll just keep chewing it."
Jason Momoa and the cast of Netflix's 'Frontier'
His desire to do so comes from a few places -- but mainly it's the storyteller in him and his desire to explore new types of characters.
In "Frontier," which is available for streaming on Netflix now after having aired first in Canada, he plays Declan Harp, a half-Irish and half-native who has a dark past that fuels his thirst for revenge. It's a character with whom Momoa immediately connected.
"I could play Harp with my eyes closed," he said.
He convinced executive producers Brad Peyton and Jeff Fierson of the same by inviting him to his Los Angeles home where, in Momoa's words, they "cooked some meat and threw some tomahawks."
"They were like, 'Oh my God, you're perfect for this role,'" he said with a laugh.
Filming the series was far from easy.
Sure, they battled "tornado-style snowstorms" and fiercely cold winds while in production in Newfoundland. But Momoa, raised in Iowa, didn't mind that too much. He actually likes the cold, he said. ("You wouldn't know that from any of my roles because I'm always f---ing naked, but I do.") But the real challenge was emotional.
About halfway through the season, Momoa's character must endure emotional and physical torture in scenes that pushed the actor to his edge.
"It's f---ed up but it's fun as an actor to go to those places because obviously I'd never want to go to those places [in real life]," he said. "It's just such an amazing, meaty role that I fell in love with."
Momoa said viewers who enjoyed his work on Sundance TV's indie drama "Red Road" are likely to see the value in a story like "Frontier." Playing the brute with a deep soul comes naturally to the actor.
"I'm a big softie," he said. "I was raised by a single mother. I was raised by a woman. I'm a strong alpha male but sensitive. I can access my f--king feelings."
That's not an act either. In a recent piece he did for Carhartt, Momoa speaks in depth about his upbringing, his children with wife Lisa Bonet, and his views on art.
He's quite sentimental, too. A shed located on his property is filled with bits and pieces from his life -- a tattered broken swing from his childhood playground, his grandfather's boots from the Korean War. He finds inspiration in them, as an actor and a craftsman, he said.
That side of him is something he wishes people knew more about, he said. In that way, he admitted, his time on "Game of Thrones" may have actually got him off on the wrong foot in the business.
"It actually didn't help me; it kinda hurt me," he said. "I couldn't get a job to save my life. That's why I wrote 'Road to Paloma.' That got into Sundance and got into that scene and that's how I got the role in 'The Red Road.' I couldn't feed my family."
Well, "Game of Thrones" wasn't all that bad.
It was enough to catch the attention of director Zack Snyder, who went on to direct "Justice League."
Initially, Snyder had approached Momoa about playing Batman, a role the actor said he never expected to come to fruition.
"I was like, 'Dude, this is going to go to some white boy...This isn't going to work.'" he said.
Snyder asked him to tape an audition anyway. So he did.
Jason Momoa as Aquaman.
"I taped it in here," Momoa said, sitting in his shed. "I just pretended like Batman was killed by some thug and some thug put on that suit and took it into his own hands and got a little bit dirtier than probably Batman would've. I played it completely opposite."
The producers loved it, but it wasn't right for Batman, who they needed to be older. Snyder had something else in mind, however.
"I thought I was going to play some f--king villain," Momoa said.
Aquaman made a brief cameo in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," but the character's real debut will take place in "Justice League." Momoa will begin training for the Aquaman standalone film in February.
"He's an amazing character, if you think about it. He walks in both worlds," he said. "I'd love to tell you all the cool s--t that's going to happen. I think it will be really good."
It's all happening for Momoa. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have goals.
One of them is to appear on what he calls his "favorite show" -- "Saturday Night Live."
"I love comedy," he said. "I'd love to do lots and lots and lots of comedies."
When the idea of one day hosting comes up, Momoa lit up.
"F--k any award. That is hands down, when I'll say I made it," he said. "Mrs. Bonet? Check. Boom. Yes. Healthy babies? Check. 'Saturday Night Live'? Yes. Done. I can die."