If you watch Game of Thrones, you know him as Khal Drogo. If you watched Stargate: Atlantis, you know him as Ronon Dex. If you watched North Shore, you know him as Frankie Seau. And if you watched Baywatch (hey, we're not here to judge you) circa 1999-2001, you know him as Jason Ioane.
At 34, Jason Momoa, Native Hawaiian, is what you'd call a veteran TV actor; he also seems to be a man on the brink. That's mainly due to his central role in The Red Road, a drama that will premiere on the Sundance Channel on February 27. In the series, he plays Phillip Kopus, an ex-con who has ties to two worlds: a New York town where a sheriff is trying to maintain order and Kopus' tribe, the Ramapo, who live on the New York/New Jersey border.
"Fantasy and sci-fi is fun, and there are no limitations in those worlds. But when this came along, like Drogo, I knew this was for me," Momoa told THR. "There's a lot in my personal life that I want to explore, and I wasn't raised as this guy. … This is the most challenging thing I've ever done."
The Red Road is just the Sundance Channel's second foray into scripted drama, so there are risks involved — risks that the stars of Mad Men and Breaking Bad took when they signed on to original scripted dramas on AMC (a sister network of Sundance). That said, Momoa is reaping praise from his colleagues. Actor Tom Sizemore invoked one of the greats in an interview with THR, saying that Momoa "reminds me a little bit of Marlon Brando with his size [Momoa is 6'4"] and his nimbleness of emotion. Jason is going to be a enormous star if he does everything right."
Bridget Carpenter, a producer and writer on The Red Road whose credits include Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, told Entertainment Weekly that Momoa is "the best actor I’ve ever worked with. … He’s a soulful and deeply prepared actor and this is the finest work I’ve seen him do. It’s unbelievable."
Momoa's other current projets include a horror film, Wolves, and Road to Paloma. The latter represents Momoa's feature debut as a writer, director and producer. Adding to the glow that Momoa is currently emanating is the persistent rumor (which he's denied) that he has been picked to play Aquaman in the sequel to Man of Steel.
Here's the trailer for The Red Road: