With the Sochi Winter Olympics in the books, TV can finally get back to the business of giving fans new episodes and brand new shows to check out. There are quite a few interesting new offerings hitting screens over the next few weeks, but the very best is easily SundanceTV’s new six-episode scripted series The Red Road. Starring Game of Thrones’s Jason Momoa, Martin Henderson, Tom Sizemore, and Boardwalk Empire‘s Julianne Nicholson, the show blurs the line between right and wrong, and provides an inside glimpse into the destructive lives of those living in the Ramapo Mountains that border New York and New Jersey. Rolling Stone sat down with Momoa to discuss the show, why it was so challenging for him, and his directorial debut Road to Paloma.
How did you end up getting involved with SundanceTV and The Red Road?
I just auditioned. I read the script and fell in love with it. I was familiar with [writer/producer] Aaron Guzikowski, so I was really excited to meet him. I just tried to prove to them that there are a lot of things in The Red Road that I haven’t done as an actor. I had to get them to trust me.
You said in a previous interview that The Red Road was “the most challenging thing” you’ve ever done. Why?
I don’t want to give too much away because there are a lot of twists and turns in the show, but you once you get towards the end…I’ve done some pretty horrible things. It’s just been a rollercoaster with some challenging scenes. Also, my character’s mom left him at a young age and when they get reunited he just wants family and community. He wants to be hugged by his mother.
Let’s be honest though: You have ripped out a man’s throat before.
[Laughs] I have! And that’s what was really exciting to me about The Red Road. There’s action in this, but I’m not at the forefront driving it; Martin [Henderson] really is. That’s fun for me because I’m kind of the go-to guy to do action or stunts. I find that very fun and I love playing those warrior roles, but this project just has a really super-sensitive alpha male thing that I like.
You get to work a lot in The Red Road with Tom Sizemore. This is a guy that’s been through his fare share of issues, played out in the public eye. What was it like to work with him?
Amazing. I had the greatest time with him. I was really stoked when I was hired because I was wondering who would play my tough father and berate me. I was thinking of all these different older actors and then they told me it was Tom Sizemore and I thought, “My God, that’s perfect.” He’s got that myth about him. He’s the sweetest guy. I had the greatest scenes with him. He’s super supportive, constantly running lines, and very available. He’s been through so much and he’s so open that he’s not afraid to fall on his face. He doesn’t stop pushing, so it really helps you to do what you need to do. He makes it effortless, and it’s really, really fun to be around that.
Is the Khal Drogo role what really launched you into the mainstream?
Yeah, for sure. Drogo obviously got me Conan the Barbarian and that definitely launched me into the mainstream. I was just out on a trip to Joshua Tree and we got spotted a couple times to take pictures with fans. My kids are always like, “Why do people always want to take pictures with you?” and I’m like, “Because I’m your Dada and you’re my daughter. That’s why.” It’s definitely mostly because of Game of Thrones.
You have a lot of movie projects coming up. What are you most excited for people to see?
My heart and soul is in Road to Paloma and that comes out this Summer. I spent a good two years writing it with some buddies of mine and we shot it for next to nothing—about $600,000—and all the music is from my buddies. We traveled in five different states and it has a really meaningful story to it. I’m excited for people to see that.
What’s the difference between Jason the director and Jason the actor?
I’m just kind of ADD anyway. The reason why I wanted to direct is because there are personal stories that I want to tell, but also because I love every part of movie making—from the wardrobe to the set decoration to cinematography. I created the soundtrack with my buddy, and I just love the score. I love every part of it. When you’re just an actor, you do your role and then you’re in your trailer. It’s not as hands on as when you’re directing. You live and breathe it. When I’m acting, you kind of let go of it. Sometimes it does well, like Game of Thrones, and sometimes it doesn’t do as well. You’re definitely more involved as the director.
You get to bring out your inner movie geek.
You really do. Both of my parents are painters. What I love about that, or just being a musician and making a song, is that it’s yours. You paint something and it’s yours. It’s your heart up on the wall. Even though filmmaking is a collaborative process, the person that’s going to be blamed the most is the director. You have to fight a lot of battles but, at the same time, you get to make your art. When it’s up there, that’s you up there. That’s me up there.