At some point, Jason Momoa and his alter ego Aquaman will probably square off against that bastion of DC villainy, the Legion of Doom.
When it happens, it will represent a conflict of interest for Momoa, who as a young man was a member of a self-styled Legion of Doom. Although his was a hockey version.
Momoa played youth hockey in Iowa, where he and his buddies were big Flyers fans (they even called their team the Flyers) and modeled their play after the so-called Legion of Doom line that from 1995 to 1997 featured Eric Lindros, John LeClair, and Mikael Renberg.
“For some reason, they were just my team. I had an affinity for those guys. Their size, their tenacity, the way they went about it, the way they went after it,” said Momoa, doing press for his new standalone Aquaman movie, out Friday, Dec. 21.
“Part of it is, I think they changed the game. They were big boys who moved fast, and I was just super-inspired by that. Even though I wasn’t big at the time, I was on my way, and I really looked up to those guys and modeled my game after them,” he said. Legion of Doom players averaged 6 feet, 2 inches and weighed 220 pounds. Momoa is 6 feet, 4 inches and muscular, and when he turned to acting, he found roles that emphasized his physique — a stint on Baywatch, a Conan reboot, and his breakthrough role as Khal Drogo, the laconic barbarian warlord in Game of Thrones.
Momoa, 39, who is married to former Cosby Show star Lisa Bonet, embraces the fact that he’s become associated with roles that project physical authority and says there’s an art to it. It’s not just about being big, he said, but about projecting a certain assured self-confidence.
“I spent a lot of time watching old westerns with my mom. I was raised by a single mother, and I was lucky she had a love of old cinema, and classic cinema. I loved watching Brando, and I was particularly a huge fan of Lee Marvin,” said Momoa.
He remembers being enthralled by Emperor of the North, and he admired Marvin’s unaffected grit and toughness, attributes he’s sought to emulate during his career, which led him to enter the DC universe as Aquaman, and to the ongoing Netflix show Frontier, in which he plays a fur trapper in the Canadian wilderness in the 1700s.
Netflix just streamed the third season. “I directed one episode and wrote a big speech, and I cowrote some other stuff. That’s what I’m starting to do more of — contribute, put more of myself in the things that I do,” he said.
In doing so, he’s heeding the advice he received from a fellow actor.
“I’m not a big name dropper, but I had a chance to sit down and talk with Michael Fassbender, and we got into a discussion about superhero movies, and he’s done a few, like X-Men and Jonah Hex. And he’s had some successes and some failures, and he told me no matter how they turn out, they’re going to have your name on them. So put yourself into it. Make sure there’s something of you in there,” Momoa said.
So with Aquaman, that’s what he did.
“On this one, I did things in a different way, and I think I’ve made him more my own. Certainly, I feel more of a connection to him because I added more of my own personality, so there’s a rascally element, an endearing element, to the character, even if the situation is serious,” he said.
And the situation is conceptually very serious: Aquaman positions the title character (human alias: Arthur) as the son of a human (Temuera Morrison) and the fugitive queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) who disappears after his birth. As potential heir to Atlantis' throne, he finds himself in the middle of an undersea civil war and the linchpin of a potentially larger conflict between Altanteans and land-dwelling humans.
Most of the action is underwater, involving armies of sharks, whales, squids, and Altanteans (including Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, and Patrick Wilson). Momoa, who’s in that scrum somewhere, has not seen the movie and is not entirely sure what to expect when he does.
“All they tell you is that you’re riding something. You don’t really know whether it’ s a seahorse or a shark or whatever. I haven’t seen the finished product. The first time will be at the premiere, with my kids,” he said.
“It’s really all about using the imagination. You just got to commit, and trust that the director’s vision is going to be realized,” he said. “I mean, they showed us some drawings — this is what you’re going to be riding, but you never know, and you just have to not be afraid to look silly. And I’m not. I’m not afraid to look like an ass and fall on my face. That’s like 90 percent of acting.”
At the same time, he likes shooting on location and drawing inspiration from the elements. Momoa keeps gushing about Frontier, which is set in Canada but shot in Scotland. It’s a show, he says, that places the actors right in the elements.
“I like being down there in the mud and the blood and the beer. And that’s how it was. A small crew in the middle of nowhere, just having a blast,” said Momoa.
Next, he’s about to embark on an eight-episode sci-fi epic called See for Apple’s streaming service. It’s written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders), and directed by Francis Lawrence of the Hunger Games franchise.
“It’s the best-written thing I’ve done. And the kind of world-building they’re talking about is amazing,” said Momoa, who’ll star as warrior leader and guardian of the only two sighted children in a world that has lost the ability to see.
“I think it’s my last warrior, though, for awhile,” Momoa said. “I’ve done all there is to do on that front. I’ve done as well as I can do, and I feel like there’s nothing left for me. Time to try something new.”