Photography by Bjorn Iooss | Styling by Ms Gaelle Paul
Words By Mr Mike Hodgkinson
As things stand, if Mr Michiel Huisman is to be remembered for only one role it would surely be his plum assignment as the lover of the Mother of Dragons. By landing the role of mercenary Daario Naharis on season four of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Dutch actor has been required to do his lascivious best with Ms Emilia Clarke’s character, Daenerys Targaryen. At one stroke, by acting out such a popular nerd-boy fantasy, he simultaneously announced himself in spectacular fashion and unleashed the green-eyed monster in us all.
On the back of that enviable exposure, Mr Huisman is currently riding a wave of Hollywood momentum. Later this year we’ll see him with Ms Reese Witherspoon in Wild, to be followed early in 2015 by a leading role, as Ms Blake Lively’s love interest, in The Age of Adaline.
While it may seem to anyone born outside the Netherlands that he pretty much came out of nowhere, the record shows he’s been putting in a regular and honest showbiz shift for a couple of decades. He began acting pre-teen and cut his teeth in Dutch TV movies before sidelining into music as guitarist/ lead singer with the millennial pop-rock band Fontane.
I had about a month and a half to learn the piano. I played for six hours a day, straight, on a crappy keyboard. My wife went nuts. It was like banging my head against a wall.
The break that launched his international career came about when – in a gamble of stunning bravado – he convinced the producers of another excellent HBO series, Treme, that he could play the piano where no such ability existed, only to appear on cue, at the designated hour, with the necessary talent in place. No Faustian bargain was required, only insane hard work.
“I had about a month and a half before we started shooting the first scene in which I’m playing a song,” Mr Huisman, 32, tells MR PORTER in Los Angeles. “So I played for six hours a day, straight, on a crappy keyboard, just to get my left and right hands to do what I wanted them to do. My wife went nuts. It was like banging my head against a wall until, all of a sudden, it felt like the wall was not there any more. It’s one of the cool things about being an actor, I think, to get the opportunity to do that kind of stuff.”
Now resident in his adopted home city of New Orleans (where Treme is set), Mr Huisman spends much of his time living out of suitcases, and has just returned to the US from shooting sprees in Belfast and Croatia for Game of Thrones.
Right from the outset, his arrival on the no-holds-barred fantasy drama posed a couple of stiff challenges. First, by taking the established part of Naharis, he became a drafted-in replacement for English actor Mr Ed Skrein (who left GoT to supersede Mr Jason Statham in The Transporter franchise), and so faced a battle for the loyalty of fans already invested in the character. (“What happened to Daario Naharis?” asked The Daily Beast.)
Second, as the Mother of Dragons’ prime suitor, he was required to deploy the full force of his dark charm and sex appeal, or face derision, if not outright fan hostility. On both counts, it appears, Mr Huisman has succeeded handsomely.
“What I try to do is not worry too much about the critique and really trust in our producers and writers. I admire them; I think they’re really good. With something that’s so popular and so highly anticipated there’s always going to be people thinking that we’re making the wrong choices – but there are a lot of people who think we’re making the right choices.”
Mr Huisman clearly has confidence not just in those around him but also in his own abilities – even ones he might have to speed-learn before he arrives on set. We’ll wager that there’s much more up his sleeve than the key to Daenerys Targaryen’s boudoir.
Game of Thrones season four is currently on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK