Casual viewers of Stargate Atlantis may see Ronon Dex as “the muscle,” who says little and is always ready for a fight. While that much is true, fans who have come to know the character over the years know that he also has lots of heart.
This spring GateWorld’s editors paid a visit to actor Jason Momoa, always kicking back in between takes on the set of Stargate Atlantis with his guitar. We caught up on his physical battles, and learned that the pre-season cutting off of his heavy dreadlocks was only the beginning of his trials. Jason talks about shooting the upcoming season, most notably the Ronon-heavy episode “Broken Ties.” Finally, he tells us how he feels about Ronon’s new romantic possibility.
GateWorld: It’s good to see you again!
Jason Momoa: Yeah! You guys stoked to be up here?
GW: It’s really cool. It’s once a year, we come up here. And have a blast. How about you? Tell us a little bit about what you did on hiatus.
JM:: Surfed. Surfed with Joe [Flanigan]. We went to Hawaii, a little boys trip to Hawaii. We went to Maui for a week to go surfing. What else did I do? Raised my family. Worked. Weed-eating.
GW: How’s the new …?
JM: Family life is good. She’s good. Spent time with my family, went to Hawaii for a month. Rachel [Luttrell] surprised me. She was over there.
JM: Yeah … I heard someone calling out my name and I was like, “Oh, s***. It was a girl’s voice. I was like, “Oh, man. What did I do?” So I look over and no one’s there. I’m like, “Alright …” So I keep walking and I hear “Jason! Jason!” I look up and there’s Rachel in Hawaii. We didn’t plan it out, but it was nice that we hung out there. [Our] babies swimming in the ocean together. It was nice. Otherwise, that’s it. It’s good to be back, though. It’s nice to come back. It’s a little unfortunate I don’t have hair now.
GW: Yeah! Tell us about that. You said they had to sew them in?
JM: Sew them in. It took nine hours. A little over nine hours. Painful. I had it sewn in for like four days.
GW: Sewn in by the scalp?
JM: Yeah. I grew my hair out when I cut them out … and they braid it. And then they sewed my old dreads back in. And it looked great. It just took a long time. And it was just … to go from no hair to that much weight. They’re about five pounds.
GW: Was that painful to walk around with?
JM: Oh, yeah. Just super painful. I started getting sores on my head. It’s just pulling all of the hairs out of your scalp. So it’s just super sensitive. You can’t lay in it, you can’t fall asleep. Cause every way you lay, it’s just … And I thought I could take it. Because of how many years I’ve had it. I’m like, “Oh, I can handle three episodes!” I couldn’t handle the first day of work.
GW: So you can’t shoot with them and then take them off at the end of the day?
JM: Well, the first episode … I went into John Smith[‘s office] and I was like, “I can’t do this. You’re going to have to figure out another way.” And he was super cool about it. Everyone was awesome. I was literally, if it came down to getting dismissed, I was like — physically, I can’t [do this].
It was weird because normally you can deal with a certain uncomfortable-ness. I’ve never really had that thing. But it’s kind of like somebody tattooing you non-stop. There’s an annoying pain that just grows and grows and grows. And it was just brutal. So they were really cool about it.
They were like, “We’ll cut it off if you can make it through the rest of the day.” And we put my stunt wig on. Glen Ennis, my stunt double, whenever he does something, we have this wig. It’s not a very good wig, because you’re not supposed to see his face anyways. It’s basically just supposed to be some hair coming off of him.
We left the front eight dreads, so it looked kind of stupid, but there were eight dreads in the front that were lighter…and then all my hair was spiky. So that was ridiculous. I did that for two episodes. I was walking around the floor with a lot of hats. These lighter dreads were in the front so they weren’t as bad, and then we’d push the wig up to that, and then pull the hair over.
I think the whole episode — of the first and second [episodes] — is basically stunt wig. Except for maybe a day of real hair. And then we cut them out for the second episode. And then we had a master wig made. So the beginning of “Broken Ties” is all this wig.
GW: That’s what you’re wearing now?
JM: Looks real, huh?
GW: Yeah, it does. I didn’t notice.
JM: It’s great.
GW: Is that your hair?
JM: There is some of my hair in there, but it’s sewn in to make it look more like my hair. Because when it came to us, it was really clean and kind of dark. By the end of the season, it’ll be perfect. Because its got to get dirty and used.
GW: So you’re going to continue to wear the wig throughout the year?
JM: Yeah. SCI FI won’t let me cut it.
JM: Until it comes to a point where it’s going to hurt my neck. That’s one reason why I wanted to cut it. It’s going to get to a point where physically I’m going to have to cut this thing off. Because it weighs just as much as the other one.
The whole point of cutting it was to get rid of that. But it’s nice that I can go home at night and not have it. It takes 40 minutes in the morning (to put it on).
GW: So all of Season Five?
JM: This whole season is all wig. It’s funny … all the aliens have wigs.
GW: So that scene in “Broken Ties” where he gets them cut is not going to happen?
JM: No. I was hoping for it, but SCI FI said no. Which is funny, because they didn’t want Ronon to have dreads in the first place. So it just goes to show you … the tastes change.
OK, whatever. You think I can’t play this character without the hair? But it’s fine for this season. OK, I’ll do it. It cost them $10,000 for this wig. I’ll wear it. As long as nothing medically happens with my neck. Then it comes into that whole thing — if it starts hurting me.
I had it for seven years, and they were getting pretty heavy. Because I have to do stunts where I’m whipping my hair everywhere, and it’s causing me whiplash. I wake up the next morning and I’m having minor neck problems. I don’t want that.
GW: Tell us a little bit about “Broken Ties.”
JM: It’s awesome! It’s probably the best episode — the hardest thing as an actor [for me] to do. Because even though not a lot is scripted, for Ronon there’s not a lot of dialogue. It’s his looks and a lot of pain that he goes through. Just a lot of pain.
The fight was great. We worked really hard on it. I almost feel sorry for Mark Dacascos [“Tyre”]. He’s great to work with. We have really good chemistry together. I feel bad for him because we spent four days training with it, and two and a half hours of shooting. So we kind of got screwed on the whole fight. And the fight in my opinion came out really crappy.
GW: Last year’s fight?
JM: No, this year’s. Because once again, we didn’t have time to shoot it. It’s ten pounds of “shoot” in a five pound bag. It’s like we’re stuck, and we have to shoot a lot of stuff. And fight scenes take a lot of time. It’s just something that should have been done second unit.
It just sucks because you put a lot of time and effort into something. It was a big fight. It goes from swords to guns to hand-to-hand. To get a really good fight, you have to cover it properly. It sucks because the director didn’t have time. Because we didn’t have time.
I’m sure the fans will love it. On a personal level, it’s a little unfulfilling. Not when you put that much time and effort into it.
GW: Character-wise, do you think it’s a good one for Ronon?
JM: Character, it’s great. There’s a lot of pain. I get to play a heroin addict times ten. I’ve never gotten to play that kind of role before, where I have to be all jacked up and hopped up. The most that anyone’s ever been hopped up. So I’ve got to dig deep in my imagination what it would be like — that pain, to have every muscle ache and every fiber inside of me just screaming, on fire, just boiling. And actually having to cry for someone to kill me.
Just to the point where he’s like, “Just f***ing kill me. Get this over with.” And then not. So it was pretty heavy. And I spent a big part of the day … it was the greatest acting experience I’ve had so far. The end of the episode — I don’t want to revisit it ever again. It was a pretty dark place to go to.
GW: Last year, you told us you thought it would be awesome if Ronon got to go “Dark Side.”
JM: It was! That was funny, because it was so quick. It’s hard because we normally make a problem and then we solve it within the episode. Unless it’s a two-parter. It would be nice to eventually switch over for a while. But it’s such a very small … there’s a lot of stuff in that episode. And so it’s very small. And what we decided to do was not make it too dark.
As far as the Dark Side, I find really [that] is when he’s recovering. You really see this different side to him. But it would have been nice to cut the hair off and see a whole different character for … maybe go a couple episodes with the dark side of the character.
GW: That would be interesting. The hair goes off and his personality changes, too.
JM: Yeah, well — who knows?
GW: It could be a real good metaphor.
JM: Samson! [Laughter]
GW: What about Robert Picardo and what he adds to the show? And his interactions with Ronon and his character?
JM: It’s good. It’s basically like the last three characters that came in. It’s Weir. It’s Carter. He doesn’t like authority. He doesn’t like anyone except for Sheppard and Teyla, you know?
I think, definitely, so far this season — what I’ve read — he gets a little bit more into a relationship. He gets a little bit more vulnerability coming out of him — a lot more — with Keller. The thing with McKay, where I’m really going to show my …
GW: A little love triangle going on?
JM: Supposedly, that’s going on. But I’m like, “That’s so weird.” We need to get another woman in. Me and McKay should not be fighting over the same woman. But whatever.
GW: Do you think Keller is Ronon’s type?
JM: No, but I’m going to play it that way. I think if there was a mix of her and Rachel — Teyla — there would be something there. But personally as an actor, I think it’s just a way to add a little conflict.
GW: There was a line in “Quarantine” about how she reminded him of …
JM: My wife. Yeah, I don’t know. I think it needs to be more of Ronon and Sheppard fighting over a woman. That would be more fun. Because me and McKay aren’t friends in the first place. It’s a mutual respect, but we love-hate each other. I don’t want to say I love … but I care for Sheppard. He’s my best friend. So that would make it a little more interesting.
GW: “Tracker” is coming up…
JM: I’m ready. I don’t know too much. All I know is there’s another Runner. And I’m going to save Keller and find out that he [the Runner] is doing it for a good purpose. But still, I’m trying to beat his ass for beating his ass’s sake!
But I can’t wait to read that one, because Carl Binder’s wrote that one. I really love Carl’s stuff.
GW: Are you happy with the scripts coming out of the office this year?
JM: I am. I absolutely am. The first one was great. Me and Joe had a pretty crazy time in it. You couldn’t describe it as like a 9/11 thing: we’re just trapped. Crumbled buildings. Head to toe with ash, mud, blood. It was just pretty intense. And with our own personal experiences going on in there, and trapped in there, I guess it came out really, really nice.
I’m really happy with “Broken Ties.” We’ve got some new aliens that look really, really cool. I don’t think they’re planning on bringing them back any time soon, but they look fantastic.
“Whispers” is a bunch of hot chicks with Paul McGillion and Joe Flanigan. Which originally I heard, when they first started the season, they’re like, “Oh, yeah! It’s going to be a great episode. It’s you, Joe Flanigan, and all these hot chicks!”
I’m like “OK, cool, right on.” And then they moved it to Paul. Paulie’s my boy. God bless him. Those two are going to be in hog heaven.
GW: Are you glad to have him back for a little while?
JM: Oh, yeah. I love having Paul back. He’s definitely one of my best friends. So yeah, that will be nice.
GW: Are you guys still having fun on set?
JM: Always. And off! Off, yeah. I live with Flanigan.
GW: You do?
JM: Yeah, we’re pretty tight. We don’t get on each other’s nerves too much.
GW: A lot of little ones running around that house.
JM: Nah. He doesn’t have his family up here. And my family is just up here visiting. They’re hoteling it right now. Rock-and-rolling it.