"The Red Road" is a family affair in more ways than one. First, it is the story of two families -- the Van Der Veens, who are part of a small tribe of Indians living in the mountains of New Jersey, and the Jensens, who live in a neighboring blue-collar town.
It wasn't their first time. Momoa previously had directed the former "Cosby" star in the indie film "Road to Paolma," which he says is responsible for getting him the starring role in "The Red Road," but funnily enough, the big guy -- Momoa is 6 feet 4 inches -- was nervous.
"It is nerve-wracking, because it is us, but it is not us, but it is definitely fun working opposite your partner," he says. Later he admits, "My whole goal is I don't want to suck in front of my wife."
But Bonet had a totally different outlook on the experience, saying, "…he gets really nervous and I feel safe in his presence."
In the premiere episode, the lives of the aforementioned two families collide when Police Officer Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) is investigating the disappearance of a missing NYU student who was last seen up in the neighboring Lenape Mountains – home to a federally unrecognized tribe of Native Americans. With centuries of bad history already existing between these two communities, and locals remaining silent, Harold finds himself with little to go on. Further complicating matters is the unexpected arrival of Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa), a dangerous member of the tribe who has returned to the area to set up an illicit drug operation after a decades-long absence.
"Kopus is a bad man, and then you also find another layer, where he wants to be in the community and fall in love," Momoa says. "This is the third phase of his life. He was abandoned when he was young, raised by a drunk father, he probably committed some serious crimes and was a bad kid, and now he has come back after six years of being in prison. He has, obviously, had a lot of time to think about what he wants to do. The guy was sucker punched in life. There are definitive moments in life where you can change and he definitely got sideswiped. "
The action continues from there with a big shocker in Episode 4, and it was that kind of storytelling that drew Momoa back to series TV.
I had been on shows ["Baywatch," "North Shore," "Stargate: Atlantis"] that went for years and years and I was not ready for that again until they sat down and had the meeting and they told me the bible, and I went, 'Absolutely.' To do six to ten episodes with quality writing and be able to go direct my own things, and if a movie comes along, sure, I want to act. I want to do really good work."
While waiting to see if "The Red Road" gets a second season pickup, Momoa, who is Hawaiian rather than American Indian, is directing commercials, preparing for his next feature film, which he calls his "Braveheart" or "Dances with Wolves." It will be based on a true story, set in Hawaii, with a budget in the neighborhood of $15 million, which is why he has it on hold until he makes enough of name for himself to easily get the funding.
"A lot of people don't know enough about me," he says, with a laugh. "I met some of my favorite 'SNL' characters and they freak out, saying 'We love you and we didn't even know you speak English.' I'm, 'I grew up in Iowa.' They were like, 'We thought you were a foreign dude.'"
"The Red Road" premieres on the Sundance TV on Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. "Road to Paloma" will open in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on July 11 before its VOD release on July 15.