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Hawaii-born actor Jason Momoa’s role in ‘Aquaman’ parallels his own upbringing

Hawaii-born actor Jason Momoa’s role in ‘Aquaman’ parallels his own upbringing
Video by Dennis Oda / [email protected]


    Jason Momoa stated he’s embracing his role as a “brown superhero” in “Aquaman.” “I cannot believe that I’m going to be representing something on such a high level in such a large movie, and it’s an honor,” Momoa stated.


    At left, throughout an August go to to Hawaii, Momoa educated underwater with youths from the Junior Lifeguard program in Makaha.

  • DENNIS ODA / [email protected]

    Joseph Momoa, father of Jason Momoa, paddled a crusing canoe in waters off Ko Olina on Friday. Momoa runs excursions with Hawaiian Ocean Adventures at Disney’s Aulani resort. Steering behind him is Makamae Roman. Jason Momoa spent his summers in Hawaii with his father.

  • It’s becoming that Jason Momoa is catapulting to worldwide stardom in a film titled “Aquaman.”

    Just like the comedian guide superhero he portrays in the Warner Bros. DC Prolonged Universe blockbuster that opens right here Friday, the Hawaii-born actor is a real waterman who discovered the methods of the ocean from his ohana and a close-knit community of mentors.

    Additionally like his half-human, big-screen alter ego, Momoa, 39, is a product of two distinct and vastly totally different cultures.

    Momoa’s mom, Coni, is from Norwalk, Iowa, and his father, Joseph, from Nanakuli. The couple separated when Momoa was an toddler, and he was raised by his mother in her house state and spent his summers in Hawaii beginning at age 12.

    “I was born in Hawaii. I’m basically from Waianae, Nanakuli, the west side, Makaha, you know what I mean? My dad grew up in a Quonset hut on Hakimo Road,” stated Momoa in a telephone interview from New York. “I might spend my summers there and it was very, very totally different rising up in Nanakuli, which is gorgeous, with probably the most loving household, with all my cousins there, as a result of there’s not too many white individuals down there. However my mother made it over there in the ’70s and met a tremendous Hawaiian household and had me.


    >> “Aquaman” (2018): Title role in Warner Bros.’ DC Prolonged Universe movie collection.
    >> “Frontier” (2016-2018): Starring role as 18th-century outlaw fur trapper Declan Harp in Netflix collection.
    >> “Justice League” (2017): Co-stars as Arthur Curry/Aquaman alongside Batman, Marvel Lady and different DC superheroes.
    >> “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016): Audiences catch first glimpse of Momoa as Aquaman.
    >> “The Red Road” (2014-2015): Co-stars as Native American drug vendor Phillip Kopus in Sundance TV collection.
    >> “Road to Paloma” (2012): Co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in movie a few Native American on the run after avenging his mom’s dying.
    >> “Game of Thrones” (2011-2012): Main role as tribal warlord Khal Drogo in HBO collection.
    >> “Conan the Barbarian” (2011): Remake of 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
    >> “Stargate: Atlantis” (2005-2009): Performed dreadlocked alien Ronon Dex in Sci-Fi Channel collection.
    >> “North Shore” (2004-2005): Role as bartender Frankie Seau in Fox TV drama shot in Hawaii.
    >> “Baywatch: Hawaii” (1999-2001): Role as lifeguard Jason Ioane in Hawaii-filmed syndicated collection.

    “That marriage by no means made it however she got here house to a really, very white household in a spot referred to as Iowa, the place it’s superior.

    “I love the Midwest, and it’s the same people (as in Hawaii) — people who don’t want to leave their land, who are very content where they’re at. They take great pride in being farmers. It’s the same thing; it’s people who love being where they’re from, but there’s just not a lot of diversity,” he stated.

    “And with no diversity you definitely have a singular view of what the world is and you’re not accepting of what it’s like somewhere else … so I can understand what it’s like to be from two different worlds.”

    Momoa’s “Aquaman” follows on the barefoot heels of Disney’s 2016 animated hit “Moana,” which provided moviegoers a extra genuine image of Polynesian tradition and lore whereas propelling its lead characters, Moana (voiced by Mililani teen Auli‘i Cravalho) and the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson, who is a component Samoan), into mainstream popular culture.

    As with the “Moana” protagonists, Momoa’s likeness is displaying up on every little thing from action-toy figures, Halloween costumes and Hallmark ornaments to a newly unveiled wax determine on the Madame Tussaud’s attraction in Orlando, Fla.

    That two of Hollywood’s largest film stars — Johnson and now Momoa — are of Polynesian descent just isn’t misplaced on the Hawaii actor. In Momoa’s case, he’s redefining for newer generations a longtime comedian e-book character who first appeared in the 1940s as a healthful, blond Caucasian.

    Momoa’s scruffy, muscle-­sure model is wrapped in traditional-style tattoos impressed by the actor’s own mano, or sharktooth, markings. The film, directed by James Wan, offers different flashes of Momoa’s Polynesian heritage, particularly in Arthur Curry/Aquaman’s interactions with his father, portrayed by Maori actor Temuera Morrison.

    The 6-foot-Four Momoa, who lives in Topanga, Calif., with his spouse, actress Lisa Bonet (referred to as “Lilikoi” by her Hawaii ohana), and their two youngsters, Lola, 11, and Nakoa-Wolf, 10, stated he’s embracing his role as a “brown superhero.”

    “It’s going to be 2019 here in a second, and we’ve never had one,” he stated. “I think it’s just kinda cool for anywhere — from Malaysia to Singapore to China to Japan to South America, Chile, Mexico — there’s some brown skins out there and there’s mixed race, and I cannot believe that I’m going to be representing something on such a high level in such a large movie, and it’s an honor.”

    Watermen as mentors

    Momoa’s own role fashions have been a part of his prolonged household comprising a few of Hawaii’s prime watermen and surfers, together with the famed Keaulana clan. One of many first members in Oahu’s Junior Lifeguard program, Momoa recollects assembly Sonny Garcia, Kelly Slater and his different browsing heroes throughout his summer time visits.

    “From a tadpole to Aquaman, that’s Jason,” stated Makaha’s Brian Keaulana, 57, who enjoys a profession as an in-demand stuntman and second-unit director.

    “He was bred for that part. That’s the whole thing, his whole upbringing to where he’s at now. And it’s not just the film, it’s the man himself, with his wife and ohana. When you talk about being rich, it’s not just rich in money, it’s rich in the family values that we share. That’s why we all live west side; the way we’ve been brought up with ‘village values’ — it takes a village to raise a child.”

    Those that knew him from his summers right here say they don’t seem to be stunned by his success. Lots of them inspired the good-looking, genial Momoa to pursue modeling and appearing after he moved again to Hawaii as a younger man.

    “You knew when he started with the movies he was destined for it all. He’s just a natural,” stated Titus Kinimaka, 65, who Momoa named as one other of his influences. “If you give him a hat to put on, he turns into that individual. He is aware of how one can play the role.

    “He’s actually a real big teddy bear. He’s just the most awesome guy to hang around with. Everyone in Hawaii just loves him so much. We’re so proud of him.”

    Kinimaka, who owns a browsing faculty in Hanalei, stated, “He spent a lot of time in the water here in Hawaii. He developed into a pretty substantial waterman.” He’s additionally a talented rock climber.

    Keaulana stated Momoa “always excelled no matter what he did: acting, swimming, even training.” He stated he inspired Momoa to take a free-diving course to organize for his role in “Aquaman.” Afterward, the trainer informed Keaulana, “Wow, this guy’s not acting.”

    “His father is a great waterman himself. He sails canoes, paddles, surfs, hydrofoils — he was just out this morning,” Keaulana stated final week.

    Studying to be Hawaiian

    Joseph Momoa, 63, nonetheless lives in Nanakuli, working with college students at Ka Waihona o Ka Na‘auao Public Charter School in Waianae and running sailing canoe tours with Hawaiian Ocean Adventures at Disney’s Aulani resort in Ko Olina. A modest, soft-­spoken man, the elder Momoa stated he’s by no means earlier than commented publicly about his well-known offspring.

    Joseph Momoa stated he visited Iowa when Jason was a boy, and even stayed for prolonged durations “to see if I can deal with it, however it’s very exhausting for a Hawaiian man. I defined to him when he received older that it’s onerous for a Hawaii boy to go up there on the mainland, you get so homesick.

    “His mom is awesome. I’m so proud of her hanging strong and teaching him things you don’t learn much about here in Hawaii,” he stated.

    In Iowa, Momoa additionally discovered he was Native American on his mom’s aspect, in addition to German and Irish. “My son has both Indian and Polynesian bloodlines. Hoo-hoo!” his father beamed.

    When the youthful Momoa, an solely youngster, lastly acquired to satisfy his Hawaiian household at age 12, “he was stoked,” his father stated. “‘Dad, this belongs to me?’ Yeah, you’re Hawaiian, that is your house, that is the place you have been born.

    “I think it’s almost the story of Aquaman. When his mom has to leave him and jumps back in the water, that’s me, I have to leave my son. Oh my god, that’s a flashback.”

    As a lot as his teenage son needed to stay and attend faculty in Hawaii, Joseph Momoa stated he pushed him to get an schooling on the mainland and reap the benefits of different alternatives which may not be out there to him in Hawaii.

    “I told him, you need to go and gain all this knowledge, and when you graduate you can come back here any time you want. Hawaii is always here. This is a place to rest, a place to gather your mind.”

    In the course of the summers that adopted, “he learned how to be Hawaiian,” Joseph Momoa stated.

    “Throughout his life I taught him what aloha means, how to … never be higher than anyone else. It’s a simple thing I could teach him but he took it with him. I told him the cameraman, the grip man, chefs, the people that clean your rooms, these are the true people, so you need to stay near them and give them the time of day and respect, and trust me, everything will come good.”

    He additionally discovered from his father and mentors to like the ocean and the significance of honing his water expertise. These classes caught, the actor stated, and fueled his curiosity in his Pacific heritage and the surroundings.

    “Even when I was a kid in Iowa I took marine biology courses so I could do that as a profession, that was my passion for the ocean. I think that’s just from being Hawaiian,” Momoa stated.

    At age 19, after launching a modeling profession right here, Momoa was forged in the syndicated TV collection “Baywatch Hawaii.” Different TV and film roles adopted. Earlier than his present star flip as Aquaman, Momoa was greatest referred to as the ruthless tribal warlord Khal Drogo in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

    With his film profession now in full swing, Momoa stated he isn’t capable of go to household and associates on Oahu and Kauai as typically as he’d like. However when he does, “Ho, first thing is go Zippy’s. That’s tradition, that is 100 percent tradition,” he stated, emphatically.

    And when he’s on the west aspect, it’s grind time at Hannara Restaurant.

    “Every time he pops over here, he calls and says, ‘Hey, cuz, we go eat breakfast,’” Keaulana stated. “He orders half the menu. However the great point is that our group is tremendous respectful. They actually offer you your area. They’ll wait till you’re completed consuming earlier than they arrive over and introduce themselves.

    “It’s different down this side. Everybody has a lot more aloha.”

    Following up successful

    With “Aquaman” scoring $179 million up to now on the abroad field workplace, Warner Bros. is already speaking a few sequel. Within the meantime, Momoa stays busy with different tasks, together with his starring role as 18th-century outlaw fur dealer Declan Harp in the Netflix motion collection “Frontier,” which launched its third season Nov. 23.

    Momoa will play one other fearless warrior, Baba Voss, in Apple’s new sci-fi collection “See” that has began filming in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was introduced to star in the film adaptation of the “Just Cause” online game.

    One other of his film tasks has a working title of “The Last Manhunt,” which Momoa described as “a Native American Romeo and Juliet story” set in 1908. The movie options Kinimaka’s daughter, 21-year-old surfer and mannequin Mainei Kinimaka.

    Momoa stated he’s hoping to parlay “Aquaman’s” box-office success into backing for his ardour tasks. For the final six or seven years, the actor has been engaged on a script with writing companion Thomas Pa‘a Sibbett about Hawaiian outlaw people hero Koolau, a paniolo and professional marksman who contracted leprosy, and his devoted spouse Piilani.

    In defiance of a authorities order banishing leprosy sufferers to the distant Kalaupapa settlement on Molokai, the couple fled to Kalalau Valley on Kauai. When troops have been despatched to seize him, Koolau killed a deputy sheriff and two troopers. After he died, Piilani buried her husband in secret earlier than leaving the valley.

    “The focus is on Piilani,” Momoa stated. “It’s completed, I simply want ‘Aquaman’ to be an enormous success to make one thing like this as a result of it offers with the lady’s story, it’s a interval piece, it offers with leprosy, what’s happening with our authorities, it offers with the overthrow of the dominion.

    “There’s a lot of things that are against us to raise the money to make something like that happen, so I need ‘Aquaman’ to get to that level” of blockbuster success.

    “Aquaman” can most definitely anticipate a rousing welcome from native followers. Momoa has by no means been shy about sharing his Polynesian roots. He opened his Dec. eight internet hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” with an exuberant “alooooha!” and broke right into a Maori haka struggle chant on the purple carpet on the Los Angeles premiere of his new film Thursday.

    Momoa stated he’s planning a personal screening of “Aquaman” with household and associates in Hawaii this week.

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