Fame and fortune can either destroy you and all those around you, as we often read in the tabloids, or it can be kinda fun. In the case of Jason Momoa, it’s fun.
The Hollywood hunk has met with huge success in the movies, starring, as you no-doubt know, as the villain in the latest Fast & Furious movie, as the title character in Aquaman 1 and 2, and in Dune, Justice League, Batman v Superman, and many other hit movies, not to mention TV shows Game of Thrones and Baywatch.
When you’re in that many big hits, they pay you a lot of money—and you get famous. In some cases, as we said, that results in depravation and ruin, but not always. They say if you win the lottery, whatever character traits you have are simply magnified a million times. So if you were basically a good person before, you’ll still be good after. If you were a petty, psycho nutjob, well…
When fame and fortune came to Momoa, he didn’t waste it on depravation. He used it to pursue his dreams and passions—the ones he had before the fame and fortune. That is what we see in the new series On the Roam, Momoa’s latest endeavor available now on Max (formerly called HBO Max).
“Jason is like a big artist in this body—he’s like an artist trapped in a wrestler’s body,” says co-director and longtime friend Brian Mendoza.
The eight-part series covers the breadth of Momoa’s great loves, from photography and skateboarding to guitars and metalworking. But this isn’t Guitarweek—it’s Autoweek—so we’ll look at the two episodes that have to do with wheels: motorcycles.
Momoa has always had an interest in motorcycles, the 1936 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead in particular. More specifically, a hill-climbing variant of the ’36 he calls a DAH. His goal is to restore or recreate six of them. His journey toward that goal is what we see in two episodes of On the Roam.
“I had this crazy idea to take this one very rare bike, the DAH, take it apart and make three (more) of ‘em,” he says in the first segment, where the goal is just four DAHs. “This hasn’t happened since probably the 1930s.”
These are not just motorcycles to Momoa.
“These bikes, they’re like paintings,” he says. “They’re these incredible works of art. And they’ve just been sitting there.”
But not enough of them are sitting there to make the four he wants to race in the dirt with his friends, nor the total of six he wants to take with those same friends on “an epic road trip.” So he has the originals scanned and uses the scans to create the rest. And it works.
At the end of the first motorcycle episode we see Mamoa and his buddies racing the four DAHs on a dirt track. There is dust in the air, the bikes roar about in super slo-mo detail, and there is a lot of hugging. Momoa is a hugger.
Some critics, even our own staff chopper-rider Wesley Wren, thinks the show is a little “contrived.” Maybe there is some contrivance, but what part of Hollywood is completely free of that, is genuine in every scene? And Momoa certainly comes across as genuinely warm, especially when he meets his heroes and makes new friends to ride with. The dust in the air in slo-mo? Was that tossed up by production assistants?
“No,” Mendoza assured us. “We’d have to go in and pack (the dirt down). We had to shoot early in the morning because of the temperature. It probably would have been easier if it was more packed down but when you shoot with light like that, dust becomes so much more apparent than if you were to shoot the other direction.”
Plus, “We both love backlit images. We both love dust,” Mendoza said.
So it’s a highly stylized approach to dirt-biking.
The second of the hour-long motorcycle segments delves a little deeper into the builders who are going to make the final two motorcycles, Jeremiah Armenta and Max Schaaf. It’s even more of a documentary, incorporating long interviews and establishing backgrounds for each character and both bikes. It’s a story of redemption and rebirth through motorcycles. It’s believable. Even moreso than the first one, which was also a good story.
And then, there they are: all the bikes, all firing, each with exposed rocker arms whappity-whap-whapping away.
“Riding with the six ‘36s, at dawn, it was a beautiful thing,” Momoa says. “Having all your friends build them, and customize them, it’s having your wildest dreams come true. It was extremely special.”
And the process, for both Armenta and Schaaf in particular, was cathartic.
“It takes a long time for some of us to feel comfortable in our own skin, and to believe in who we are,” said Schaaf. “And that has been the journey.”
Motorcycles as redemption.
The team has hopes of doing another series of documentary episodes, after the eight that are available now, though nothing is nailed down for sure on that. They plan to do something on cars.
The rest of the segments in this first release cover more of Momoa’s heroes, from photographers to metalsmiths. It’s a somewhat enthralling series that kind of makes you want to hang around with Momoa and his buddies. Or maybe hang out with your own crew of buds.
“Taking something that’s never been ridden since the ‘30s, and taking four of them and racing them...,” Momoa philosophizes. “They’ve never even had four of them together, ever, to race. It’s so cool and so much fun. I hope people get inspired by that and go, ‘Yeah, that (stuff’s) possible. Is that possible? Let’s go do it. Let’s try.”
So watch and be inspired, and maybe go out and pursue your own dreams. In slo-mo.