When See arrives on November 1, 2019 as one of Apple’s first offerings on its new streaming service, fans may expect star Jason Momoa to deliver the same type of strong and swarthy performance he’s known for from his roles in Game of Thrones and Aquaman, but they will be pleased to find that the actor has unplumbed depths to explore as Baba Voss, the leader of a post-apocalyptic tribe in a world where everyone is blind. Although the series certainly has elements of Momoa’s earlier work, he assured journalists at a recent junket that this role is a welcome departure, both in the challenge of his many action scenes in which he fights blind and in the intimacy and closeness that would be second nature to a culture without vision.
“Well, the first time I got the script, let’s just say, this has only happened twice in my life: once is when I read Game of Thrones, and two, was when I read this,” says Momoa, referring to when he heard about See and his proposed role in it. “I was on a train from Cornwall to London, just wrapping a show I was doing, and my agent sent it through. He said, ‘I want you to play this role. Check it out.’ I read it, and I was with all my best friends that I’d hired on this other show, so I was literally with the best of the best in my life as actors. And I read it, because we had a long train ride, and I just read it out loud, which was the first time I’ve ever read it out loud. And all my friends were riveted. I actually called [my agent] Bryant after about page five and was like, ‘Get me in… this is mine. No one’s going to beat me. This is my role!”
Momoa is very much aware that the inevitable comparisons will be drawn between his character Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and Baba Voss in See. “When you look at this on the page, it’s like, ‘Here’s Jason dressed in fur, lots of weapons!’ and I’ve done that pretty much my whole career,” he says. “And I’ve been trying to do things where I smile, and people like me and I can have relationships. And so this was perfect because [with] Drogo, there was never a fight scene in Game of Thrones. It was great writing, but there was never that moment where you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to see what he goes into, but then I also want to see when he has a kid. What’s he going to be like?’ You saw him with Daenerys for a second.”
Things will be different in See, Momoa assures us. “I hate comparing things, but the thing is, I didn’t get to exercise all the things that I’m capable of doing,” he says of his Game of Thrones role. “I am a father. My two children, they’re almost teenagers… and I’m married for 14 years. [In See we explore] what it’s like to be a father… what it’s like to lose everything, and he can’t keep his family together. Obviously it’s impaired, and he’s crumbling inside trying to keep his family together and survive this gnarly world. And that’s just beautiful… But I really, really, really, really love this role because I got to exercise all these beautiful things inside of me as an actor that I’ve never been able to do before.”
One reason there are more emotional turns in See is that the characters must interact in much closer proximity to each other because of their blindness, and this intimacy is quite evident in scenes between Baba Voss and his wife Maghra, played by Hera Helmar. “Since we have no vision, I don’t know what she looks like,” Momoa tells us. “There’s just a beautiful moment where we sat there and it was just like literally going off the sense of smell. And it became a very beautiful, sensitive — I wouldn’t say sexy, but it’s a very intimate scene. And it’s probably the most intimate I’ve had without — you know. You don’t have to take your clothes off or any of that stuff; it’s just down to the touch and the smells of your woman.”
Momoa found it refreshing as an actor to be able to play to his fellow actors rather than to the camera in See. “It’s really beautiful! I felt like I could hide myself in something that’s more painful and not play it like the camera needs to see it,” he says. “We understand what’s going on just by the body movements. And you can just tell in the energy and what you’re holding… By removing one’s vision, you can really sense someone’s energy and where they are, and you really tune into that. We give off a lot that we just are completely desensitized to with our vision.”
Of course, that change in performance made it difficult for Momoa once he left See production to work on Denis Villeneuve’s Dune remake. “I flew straight to Jordan and was in a scene with Javier [Bardem] and Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaacs and had to make eye contact… where I didn’t have to do that for seven months,” Momoa says. “Not looking at someone where I could just do whatever I want to and speak and look anywhere I want to, and no one could tell me what to do. And I’m like, ‘I have to communicate with you and look at you!’ With the best of the best? It was a bitch! Denis was like, ‘Great job!’ but I was sweating!”
Momoa will make his debut as Baba Voss, the war chief of the Alkenny tribe, in See on the November 1, 2019 service premiere of Apple TV+.
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Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and coordinates interviews for The Fourth Wall podcast.