Jason Momoa has become one of the most recognizable stars in the world due to his work on the HBO series Game of Thrones, and DC superhero movies like Justice League and the upcoming Aquaman. But before all that, Momoa was just an actor looking for his big break following roles in Baywatch and Conan the Barbarian.
He found that break in the character of Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones.
For his audition, Momoa came in and did the Haka, a traditional dance that has origins in the Māori culture. The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team has made the Haka part of their pre-game routine, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson used it in a scene in the Fate of the Furious to help pump up his daughter’s soccer team (watch that here.)
The Game of Thrones production team was so impressed by Momoa’s Haka in his audition that he landed the role of Khal Drogo on the series. In an interview with the New York Times, Momoa described his thought process during the audition.
“On Game of Thrones, [Drogo] doesn’t say much. So how do you convey him? There’s nothing in the script. So I said: ‘I have this idea. Is it O.K. to do [a dance] before the audition?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, sure.’ Then I did the Haka. It was challenging to do the audition afterward — I couldn’t stop my heart from beating. The first time I did it, they were very scared. But then they wanted me to come back in so they could put it on tape.”
Here’s a look at Momoa’s audition:
While starring on the show, Momoa did such a good job of speaking the Dothraki language as Drogo that some people didn’t even realize he was American. “People didn’t think I spoke English,” he told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
The role helped make Momoa known worldwide, and led to his casting as Aquaman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In his December 2018 Men’s Journal cover story, Momoa spoke about the connection he felt playing Aquaman.
“It’s probably the character I’ve played that’s most like me,” Momoa said. “Like him, I grew up a huge outsider. I was just with my mother, he was just with his father, and I know what that’s like, not having a parent around.”
Aquaman will be released on December 21, 2018.
Game of Thrones Season 8—the final season of the series—will start airing in April 2019 on HBO.