Jason Momoa Talks Max’s ‘On The Roam’ & His Dream Collab With Guinness

The “Aquaman” star opens up about his love of bikes, beer and the people who make them.

(Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty Images)

You might’ve first seen the chiseled physique of Jason Momoa combing the Hawaiian sand as Jason Ioane on Baywatch. Or if you’re a sci-fi/fantasy zealot, perhaps it was in Stargate Atlantis, or resurrecting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic Conan the Barbarian character. But most likely you first discovered Momoa as Khal Drogo, the ruthless and impeccably mascaraed liege of the Dothraki on Game of Thrones.

Since that career-making turn the life-loving actor has exploded across countless cinematic universes, taking on marquee roles in Fast X, Dune and most famously Aquaman as one of the most enjoyable characters in all the DC Universe. Now he’s simply known as action megastar Jason Momoa, of course.

When he’s not duking it out with Dominic Toretto on a flaming bridge or saving Atlantis from the surface world, via his On the Roam series Momoa dedicates his downtime to shining a light on American craftsmen and artisans who move his poet heart. We recently spoke with the actor about these various missions, from how he conceived his acclaimed Max show to directing passion projects with brands he’s organically connected with.

What does the word Ohana mean to you, and how has that grown to include these craftsmen in your life?

Well, Ohana is “family,” and I guess there’s just people who come into your life that inspire you; they support you whether they’re family or not. Generally they’re obviously not true blood family, but it feels like that. So I call them Ohana. I just cherish the most important thing: We inspire and teach each other.

I realized I follow and meet a lot of artisans on Instagram, so being able to bring attention to them, there’s power in that. And if you find something cool, share it, and if it’s something from their heart, share it. So it’s just what I do. And then it made a huge impact, and it feels special.

Your On the Roam show essentially does the same thing—shines a light on unknown American artisans. Was that the inspiration?

There’s so many things I always wanted to learn, and I’m never going to be able to learn it all. I think an interesting thing about being an actor is, “Well, I’m going to play this character—I don’t know how to use this weapon, or I don’t know that certain craft.” But you get a crash course over a weekend, and you get to meet with someone who’s an ace in whatever skill set that is. So being an actor you have to become something very quickly. You may get good at it, but you’ll never be as good as this person, your teacher, your sensei is. But it’s a look into all these different styles and lives, and that’s the amazing thing about acting—you get to study life. I think I just have always been curious about certain things, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Where do you think that came from?

I was raised by a woman. It was me and my mom and my grandmother against the world, and my mom gave me stuff that I could never get from a father. And there’s a lot of stuff that my mom couldn’t give me that I could get from an uncle or something like that, but I didn’t have from my dad. And my dad also gave me things when I saw him that were completely different than what a dad would be like in Iowa [where I was raised].

My dad was Hawaiian and I learned many things in the ocean, but I also missed a lot of things that I still wanted to learn. The big thing that maybe started for me was being on set and just sitting around not doing stuff for hours on end. I’m like, “What do I want to learn? What do I want to do? Should I learn a language?”

I wanted to learn guitar, so I dove into the blues. We have a short time on this planet, so it’s like being able to get out there and do things that you love to do—you should go and research those things and share them. And I think that’s just who I am, I’m very curious. And I love the things that I love. I mean, it’s not for everyone. This is my life and these are the things that I want to bring attention to. And there’s so many more.

But the hard thing about the show is going, “What are people going to like?” And at a certain point you just got to say, “Well, I don’t know. I’m just going to do me.” And then they’re either going to like it or not, but that’s scary. And then you hope for the best.

That kind of exposes you.

It was a big weird feeling to do something like that because it’s not hiding behind a character. You’re really putting yourself out there.

Speaking of learning new skills as an actor, while on set are you always watching the director? Have you always wanted to be one?

Yeah, I think Stargate Atlantis really kicked it off. It was pretty much college for me. So I spent four years on that show, nine months [a year], 22 episodes, every day. You know the crew inside and out, everyone’s family, you see directors come through, you see storylines come through and you get a chance to hone a lot of crafts. And I decided to write my own story.

Then through that I met friends and actors that I wanted to be with, a lot of people who were not getting work and not doing the things they wanted to be doing. So we created Pride of Gypsies [production company, in 2010], which is loosely based around actors and artists who were willing to go out and make projects together. We come from different backgrounds of snowboarding and skateboarding, and so we were nimble, just staying very light. So Pride of Gypsies kind of formed into [my new production company] On the Roam.

But it’s fun being on all these huge sets, too. Right now I’m on Minecraft; you do Aquaman and Dune, they’re massive. For instance when I came to do Dune, we were hired to do a short about what it would be like being Duncan Idaho landing on Arrakis. And my crew went out and shot [behind-the-scenes footage], and the times that we weren’t filming we put together this beautiful trailer that we shot in one day, from 10 to 3 and then at night. We edited it quickly and showed it to [director] Denis [Villeneuve] and [cinematographer] Greig [Fraser] the next day, and they were stoked. They were like, “Wow, when did you do this?!” And we’re like, “Yesterday.”

Denis has been wanting to shoot this movie his whole life and he has everything planned out, and so he was like, “I love it, Jason. It’s so free.” This is my idol; this is one of my favorite directors in the world. So me and Greig just went out and grabbed a couple extras, and we went and shot some extra stuff in these off-hours, when it’s not the right light, etc. We went and played in the shade, and those shots ended up making it in the movie. It was this huge reward to inspire; it kind of recharges you. And so I wanted to base Pride of Gypsies on it’s not just me, it’s the people I surround myself with.

Is that how the Guinness project came about?

So when I’m doing Guinness, it’s my best friend. And who I wrote it with was another fucking best friend, who was the creative director for Carhartt. So after Road to Paloma, which I directed, we went straight to the things that we love the most—Carhartt, Guinness, Harley-Davidson, all these different brands that I can speak from my heart and make a story for them. And bow down to work for them because I love the brands! So we always wanted to do a Guinness commercial, using a small crew. That’s how I like to work— having maybe six people and they all wear 10 hats.

What’s the advantage to having small crews?

When I’m doing a movie I like to keep it small, intimate. We study the light, make sure we’re keeping the footprint low and quality high, and you keep the budget down by doing that. I have a way of how I want to maneuver through filmmaking with On the Roam and Pride of Gypsies that is a little bit different. And I just enjoy that. It was also pretty cool to finally work for the greatest company I could ever work for, Guinness.

Who else have you worked with?

I also knocked on Carhartt’s door. I’ve done tons of commercials for them. Harley-Davidson, tons. I’m an ambassador for them. These are the people that I love, the companies that I adore. Being able to shoot something for them and being able to make something that’s funny—going out during St. Paddy’s Day, shooting with my mother, shooting through my lens in my eye with all my friends— it is it. If I put it on a dream list, I mean that’s top five of all-time dreams to work for this company. And it’s just so much in my blood; it’s more than the people who work there. I just love it, and so it’s a big honor.

With a lot of celebrity collaborations, it’s just about the money. But I know from a mutual friend that when you’re filming in Auckland you constantly have a keg of Guinness on tap. Same working with Carhartt or Harley-Davidson, they’re brands you’re passionate about.

That’s something that I definitely value. I called up my friend, we wrote this idea, we pitched it to Guinness, they loved it and we built it out from there. I did it when I was on [the upcoming Apple TV+ mini-series] Chief of War. I needed to shoot it down here while I’m in New Zealand. It looks amazing. It looks like the city we wanted to build.

What was the inspiration for the concept?

I am Irish; most people don’t know that about me. My mom’s got Irish in her, which would probably be somewhere around 2 to 5 percent for me. So it’s funny, but it’s not about that; it’s the spirit. It’s that I love this brand; I love this product. I love showing people Guinness; I love watching them drink their first pint and they’re like, “Oh, my God, I didn’t know it tasted like that!” I’m like, ‘It’s fucking great!'”

More than anything I love the idea of sitting down and just sharing time. When I’m having a Guinness there’s no fucking TVs around. I’m sitting there with human communication, we’re talking. When you experience it in Ireland at the mothership, the Irish are the best. It’s the way they tell stories, and you just sit there and just be together. It’s a different thing; it’s not beer to me. It’s not like going to slam a cold one, and then going to a bar. It’s sharing time together, and I love that.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Maxim magazine.