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Exclusive: Joe Naufahu, Game of Thrones' New Khal

gameofthronesiconGame of Thrones is back with a new character for season six: Khal Moro, leader of the khalasar that has captured Daenerys.  The laid-back Dothraki is played by New Zealand native Joe Naufahu, who couldn’t be more thrilled to be on the show. Naufahu recently made time to speak with Scifi Vision about his role and what lies in store for Khal Moro.

A former professional rugby player, Naufahu retired from the sport a decade ago after a serious knee injury. Feeling down, he took a suggestion from his brother. "My brother is a writer and a director," he explained, "and when I got injured he knew I was going through a pretty bad period. He reached out and he said, 'Why don’t you give acting a crack? You’ve been through a lot of stuff and you’ve got a lot of material from your life, experiences that you can use.' "

Joe Naufahu
Photographer: Irvin Rivera
Phoro Asst.: Phil Limprasertwong
Styling: Tyler McDaniel / Grooming: Bethany Garita
Hair: Genevieve Gian
Ten years later, Naufahu loves working in film and television. "I’ve found the same sort of buzz from acting that I got when I was playing rugby," he said. "So it was an easy option for me because it saved me. It got me out of the hole that I was in.

"I run a gym as well so I’ve got another life and I’ve got a couple of little ones that take up most of my time. But I love acting. I love the endorphins and the vibe, the buzz that it gives me when I do it."

Naufahu is a longtime GoT fan and is clearly delighted to find himself working on the show. "I used to sit and watch it and I would say, 'I’d love to be on that show, man, it’s so cool.' And to get a phone call and be told that you’re going to be on it, that was a pretty special moment."

His parents, on the other hand, had never heard of the global blockbuster. In recent interviews, Naufahu has often spoken of how his father thought it was a game show. And even after watching the early seasons, Naufahu's mother still didn't grasp what her son had signed on for.

"My mom didn’t understand the size of the role, she thought I was an extra," he explained, laughing. "We went to the premiere and at the end my mom said, 'Oh, that was good son, you had some lines. You were actually one of the main guys.' And I was like, 'Oh man, mom, please don’t say that out loud.' "

Joe NaufahuHis character, Khal Moro, has yet to appear in George R.R. Martin’s novels, so even Naufahu knows little about him.

"People’s perception is that I’m replacing Drogo," he said, "but it’s really not like that at all. He’s a very different character, he’s definitely not replacing Drogo by any stretch of the imagination."

Compared to Khal Drogo, for example, Moro is a very chilled-out khal.

"That’s a good way to put it," Naufahu agreed. "He’s secure in his power, he has a little more of a relaxed manner around his crew. He’s comfortable, he doesn’t have to show his power. He’s got a bit of a sense of humor and he enjoys playing up to them as well, even when he gets shut down."

Like most of the GoT cast, Naufahu was tight lipped about the storyline. What’s in store for Khal Moro, we asked, if he continues to hold the Mother of Dragons against her will?

"It’s ride or die. It’s her way or the highway, I suppose, and we’ll just have to see whether he goes with it.

"Anyone that gets into the ring with Dany has got their hands full because she’s such an unknown quantity. She’s got so many weapons at her disposal. And he doesn’t know [who she is], he doesn’t know the queen of whatever. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t give a damn about any of this stuff.

Joe Naufahu"All he knows is that he’s got to stand by the code that he knows, which is don’t mess with another khal’s widow. That’s the bro code.

"He’s in a protecting mode at the moment," Naufau reminded us, recounting how Khal Moro promised Dany that neither he nor his men would touch her. "But it’s only because he can’t have her, so no one else can. Conveniently for him there is a Dothraki tradition that he can stand by and say this is why I’m doing it, not because I got rejected."

And in her current situation, that’s about the best Dany can hope for.  "For a Dothraki to say I’m going to protect you, that’s a pretty good result," said Naufahu. "So we’ll see if he continues to be that way towards her. We’ll have to wait and see."

courtesy HBONaufahu also hinted that Daenerys might not get back to Meereen anytime soon. "You might get to see some other Dothraki come into the spotlight a little bit. It’s all about getting Dany to Vaes Dothrak now. That is the main focus of her journey at the moment and it’s about what happens when we get her there.

"It’s coming to a bit of a crossroads in that storyline. So you’ll just have to sit tight for a little bit and see where it goes."

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