'Aquaman': From sand to surf, how Baywatch hunk Jason Momoa became DC's new hope

Momoa, i.e. Khal Drogo, in HBO’s ‘GoT,’ the brutal ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ and now the demi-god of Atlantis, actually has a leaner past as Jason Ioane in ‘Baywatch’

DC has some of the most bada** superheroes of all time. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Arrow, The Flash, you name it. If we are being totally honest, Aquaman has, historically, not been one of them – before Jason Momoa brought him to life on the big screen - and his powers have often been considered “lame” by some comic book fans. 

Some of the biggest set of geeks TV has seen – the guys of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ - even bickered about not wanting to be Aquaman for a New Year's Eve bash. They have brought the superhero into many a debate, with Raj (Kunal Nayyar) saying at one point, "Oh, please, we all know I’m the friend you call when you have no other options. If we were the Justice League, I’d be Aquaman."

This is no longer the case though, and if anyone could give this DC character a bada** revamp, it would have obviously been Momoa, and that is exactly what he did by taking on the role in ‘Justice League.’ Now, his film is releasing December 14, and Aquaman is more popular than ever before, even becoming the beacon of hope for the DC's cinematic universe, which is not doing all that great thanks to the mediocre performances of 'Suicide Squad' and 'Justice League.'

Momoa, who for the younger audiences is best known as an embodiment of masculinity, Khal Drogo, in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones,’ or the brutal ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ and now the demi-god of Atlantis, actually has a leaner past, as Jason Ioane in ‘Baywatch.’ A tattoo-less Momoa was a perfect blend of surfer dude and boy next door that made most of us weak in the knees. 

The Hawaiian was barely 20 when he became Hawaii's Model of the Year in 1999 and then went on to host the Miss Teen Hawaii contest. It was around the same time that the still baby-faced Momoa beat thousands of wannabe ‘Baywatch Hawaii’ actors in Honolulu and became Jason Iaone, the youngest lifeguard on the show.

The show catapulted his career and popularity, making him one of the most watched rising stars at the time. He went on to do give amazing performances in movies and TV shows such as ‘North Shore’ (2004–2005), ‘Johnson Family Vacation’ (2004), and ‘Stargate: Atlantis’ (2005–2009). In ‘Stargate: Atlantis’ Momoa played Ronon Dex, a character the actor considers to be the Atlantis version of Chewbacca. He was occasionally called “Chewy” by Col. Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) on the show.

When he started on the show, the Sci Fi Channel was not very keen on Momoa keeping his long 6-pound dreadlocks. However, his look became so iconic on the show, when the actor decided to chop them off, he was contractually obligated to sew them on to his head for at least the first three episodes of season 4, till Ronon cut his hair off in the episode titled ‘Broken Ties.’ 

In fact, during the course of this show, Momoa went through quite a bit of physical transformation, including chopping his locks and getting tattoos, which again made for a cumbersome time for the make-up artists, who had to cover them up for Ronan. The tribal tattoo on his left forearm, was especially difficult to cover, because of which his character was given a tattoo.

Post this, Momoa had projects here and there, but the one that really caught everyone’s attention was that of Conan the Barbarian in the 2011 film named after his character. The remake of the 1982 film by the same name saw the Hawaiian actor adding 10 pounds of muscle to his 215-pound frame after undergoing an intense six-week training program at a stunt and martial arts academy in Los Angeles. At the time he was still only finalizing negotiations for the film.

‘Conan the Barbarian’ was the turning point in Momoa’s career that gave him the reputation as the buff hunk that we know today. In fact, it is this film that reportedly gained him the role of Khal Drogo on ‘GoT.’ 

“When I read that Khal Drogo role, I was blown away. I couldn't believe it was happening, I had to have that role. I was like, ‘Nobody is going to take that role from me,’” he said regarding his first impression of the role. For his ‘Game of Thrones’ audition Momoa allegedly performed Ka Mate haka, a very intimidating Māori war dance which is traditionally performed on the battlefield. This intimidated the showrunners enough to cast him as the leader of Dothraki warriors.

Momoa backed up Khal Drogo with yet another intimidating character – a character he made intimidating, rather – Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. Unlike Drogo, though, Arthur knows how to have a little bit of fun and be irreverent when the time calls for it. However, the workouts did not get any simpler.

The king of Atlantis, has a swimmer’s physique and Momoa’s vitals – 6ft 4in, 108kg, a 50-inch chest and 19-inch biceps – are more impressive than they have ever been. Momoa, who gets into the grind for his roles, has been vocal about hating the monotony of gym life, preferring instead to be engaged in outdoor activities. 

“It’s very hard sometimes to just work out. It’s monotonous and you can get stuck in a rut. I get bored, so I do a lot more boxing, surfing, climbing – I do the things I love to do when I’m not training for a role. When I have to change my body type, then we just switch it up. Doing a lot more weights for size; a lot more cardio for definition,” he has stated. 

Regardless of regimen, Momoa has not only embodied the Atlantis superhero, but has also managed to make the demi-god cool. From sand to surf, we have loved all versions of Momoa, but it is his first solo movie as 'Aquaman,' releasing December 21, that we are all most looking forward to watching.