Jason Momoa has seen his fair share of exotic locations during his time as a TV star. He’s ridden horses across the plains of Essos on Game of Thrones, explored the alien realms of the Pegasus Galaxy on Stargate: Atlantis, and is currently navigating difficult terrain in the Ramapo Mountains on The Red Road, which begins its second season SundanceTV on Apr. 2 at 10 p.m. But no backdrop has been as lush as the Hawaiian landscapes that greeted him when he joined the cast of Baywatch: Hawaii back in 1999. The then-model and was all of 19 when he shot his first scenes and his youthful bravado (and inexperience) shows in the above clip, which marked his introduction to the show.
Momoa was one of many new faces that climbed aboard Baywatch during that season. The show was ten years old at that point, and the original L.A. beaches were looking a little long in the tooth. So series mastermind and star David Hasselhoff a.k.a. The Hoff pulled up stakes and moved production to Hawaii, welcoming Brooke Burns, Michael Bergin, Brandy Ledford and Momoa as the new class of lifeguards.
A Hawaiian native, Momoa got to keep his first name on the show, playing the youngest lifeguard Jason Ioane. But his character’s background was quite different, moving away from Hawaii at a young age to live in Texas with his single mother following his father’s disappearance. Back in Hawaii at last, Jason entered the series with a chip on his shoulder, but eventually calmed down after fining a new father figure in wise man Ko Lani, and a new family working with Mitch Buchannon and his red-suited life-saving team.
He also found lots of action and adventure, whether it was searching for sunken treasure or saving a ditzy photographer from an underwater grave.
But it wasn’t all aquatic derring-do; Baywatch: Hawaii required Momoa to get in touch with his feelings, like the episode where he became a sharks’ rights activist after seeing the toll inflicted upon the creatures by shark hunters. And, in this scene, he throws himself wholeheartedly into a fundraising campaign to save the local training center. To prove his dedication to the cause, he unleashes his singing voice upon the assembled crowd.
His Baywatch love life was active as well. In this clip from the 2003 TV movie, Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding—which united both generations of Baywatch cast members—Jason comforts half-Japanese, half-Hawaiian girlfriend Kekoa as she contemplates seeing her ex again. As if she needs reminding that she traded up.
Hawaiian Wedding was the final gasp of the Baywatch franchise, airing two years after Baywatch: Hawaii’s 2001 series finale. It also marked Momoa’s liberation from the series, though it took him a little while to get back to the mainland. In 2004, he and his fellow ex-Baywatcher, Brooke Burns, were part of Fox’s short-lived primetime soap, North Shore, which filmed on location in O’ahu. Reflecting on his Baywatch experience with Entertainment Weekly, Momoa had mostly nice things to say. “I had the time of my life. I was 19. It was fun. I fell in love with acting because of it, but it was sort of the hardest thing because people think you’re from Baywatch. And you’re like, “’Dude, I’m not f-cking anything like Baywatch, buddy.’” No…when you talk like that, you actually sound a lot more like Khal Drogo.
The Red Road premieres Apr. 2 at 10 p.m. on SundanceTV