Jason Momoa may have burst into our consciousness playing a forbidding, ruthless, shirt-averse warrior on Game of Thrones, but in real life…
Unlike Khal Drogo, Momoa was already a fully domesticated family man, dedicated to the lady in his life and their children, no taming necessary. Though he still tends to skip the shirt on occasion.
But such is the way for the actor, who hails from Honolulu and whose first major TV role was on Baywatch. Seriously, what’s a “shirt”?
“It’s more comfortable for me,” Momoa quipped to E! News at Comic-Con last month.
And though his lack of availability might have crushed a few GoT fans who thought they were discovering some new untapped source of hopes and dreams, the reality is so aw-worthy, the disappointment proved fleeting. Momoa, who’s celebrating his 39th birthday Wednesday, has been happily squared away with Lisa Bonet since 2005—and their love story, while under the radar for years, is epic. Sun and stars, moon of my life, the whole production.
Though Bonet was frequently referred to as his wife beforehand, and Momoa never made any effort to correct the assumption, the couple actually just got legally married last October, quietly swapping vows at the Topanga, Calif., home they share with their daughter, Lola Iolani Momoa, and son, Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa, as well as many animals and no television.
But these two go back. Or at least Momoa does. Way, way back.
“Ever since I was 8 years old and I saw her on TV, I was like, ‘Mommy, I want that one!'” Momoa shared on The Late Late Show last year, revealing that his crush on Bonet blossomed when she was on The Cosby Show. “I’m like, ‘I’m going to stalk you for the rest of my life and I’m going to get you.’ I am a full-fledged stalker. I didn’t tell her that until we had two babies—otherwise, I’d be creepy and weird. I’ve always wanted to meet her. She was a queen, always.”
When he was about 26 and just beginning what would be a four-season run on Stargate: Atlantis, fate brought them together one night at the same L.A. jazz club.
“We just happened to be at the right place, right time, mutual friends,” Momoa said. “I actually had dreaded my hair almost for her.” Like, by coincidence?
“I had huge dreadlocks, she had dreadlocks. I literally turned around, I was with my best friend, and I see her and I’m just like”—he paused, recalling the struggle to keep a straight, chill face. “She goes, you know, ‘I’m Lisa.’ I was like, I turned around to my friend and was like, [teen girl shriek of excitement]. I had f–king fireworks going off inside me, man!”
He didn’t have a car, so, “I convinced her to take me home, ’cause I was living in a hotel.” But first they stopped at the 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood, where Bonet ordered a Guinness—which happens to be Momoa’s favorite.
“That was it,” he said. “We had Guinness and grits and, you know, the rest is history.”
Of course, a little bit of history preceded Momoa’s arrival in Bonet’s life.
The actress and model is also mom to Zoë Kravitz, her daughter with ex-husband Lenny Kravitz, whom Bonet met at a concert in 1986 when she was 19, eloped to Las Vegas with in 1987 and welcomed daughter Zoë Kravitz with in 1988.
“One day I turned around and I looked at him and I knew, that was my man,” Bonet said on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1989.
“Zoë’s mom and I were incredibly and deeply in love. It was a magical relationship and magical time in my life,” Kravitz said in 2013 on Oprah’s Master Class. “She really helped to bring out the best in me and inspired me. We were very young and it was wonderful and we had Zoë. I see now what it was all about. It was really all about bringing this beautiful, child to the planet and also sharing the love that we had.”
Which is great, because otherwise it would’ve been about whirlwind romance and heartbreak.
“We were too young, we were babies,” Kravitz also recalled. “Our marriage was not based on reality.”
Bonet’s unraveling marriage, fueled by Kravitz’s rock-star ways run amok, coincided with her exiting The Cosby Show in 1991—when Bonet’s character Denise and her husband Martin (Joseph C. Phillips) went abroad, leaving Olivia (Raven-Symoné) with grandparents Cliff and Claire and the rest of the Huxtable family in New York.
They didn’t finalize the divorce until 1993, but an April 21, 1991, New York Times review of Kravitz’s album Mama Said mentioned that he “recently broke up with his wife.” The track “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over,” the artist’s first top 10 hit, was one of many songs on the album inspired by Bonet, written when Kravitz was in the throes of having second thoughts about splitting up for good.
“That’s life, that’s love, it’s reality, it’s relationships,” Kravitz said on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1991 when the album was brand new. “As long as we’re living and breathing, you don’t know what the next move’s gonna be.”
He remembered on VH1’s Behind the Music in 1999, “That album was a big haze, man, ’cause Lisa and I had split, and it was a very heavy time.”
After their split, Bonet changed her name to Lilakoi Moon. (There was a hard-to-shake rumor floating around for years that she then had a secret child with her yoga instructor boyfriend Bryan Kest, but that was finally debunked about 11 years ago.)
“My heart was blown open from just loving someone so much,” Bonet told Vibe in 1999. “It also deepened my desire to heal myself—you know, not wanting to pass on the less-than-positive ‘family heirlooms’ that get passed down. I can honestly say it accelerated my growth and my desire to be here and to participate in a loving, conscious way on this planet.”
She had recently filmed small but compelling roles in the movies Enemy of the State and High Fidelity, and she didn’t sound concerned about becoming less famous than she was in the 1980s. “There’s not a lot out there, and what is out there has to be really interesting to make me want to leave my life, which is really precious to me,” Bonet said. “My desire to participate in the business is not to make more crap so I’m really content. I have a desire to create more film, more beauty, more art, more love – but I don’t feel desperate. I mean, for me it’s not about creating or building a career anymore, you know?”
Talking to Net-a-Porter’s Porter magazine earlier this year, Bonet again referred to breakup grief as an undesirable “heirloom.” She remembered going through “a very accelerated time, spiritually and intellectually,” because she didn’t want to pass the “fresh wound of a divorce” onto her daughter.
“I think there are probably times when these thresholds can either sink you,” Bonet said, “or you can see who you are and rise and dust yourself off.”
When she was 11, Zoë went to live with her dad in Miami full time—which was fodder for tabloids but which Zoe described to Complex years later as her mother wanting “to give me an opportunity to be a normal kid.”
With their little girl now a grown-up actress and singer who stars in HBO’s critically acclaimed Big Little Lies (with her dad’s ex-girlfriend Nicole Kidman), Bonet and Kravitz have long since made amends.
“Zoë’s mom and I now are best friends,” Kravitz said on Master Class. “It’s interesting because that’s how the relationship started. But it makes you feel really good when you can do that. When we’re all together now—her man, her kids, Zoë, me—we’re all together and we’re one big, happy family. It’s beautiful and it just shows you what can be done.”
“Her man” being, of course, Jason Momoa, who is also close with Zoë and was recently all aglow with Instagram-pride over his stepdaughter’s turn in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and he told E! News at Comic-Con that she was “amazing” in Big Little Lies.
“My dad and my step-dad get along really well, and my dad loves and is close with my [step]brother and sister. It’s really beautiful,” Zoë told Ocean Drive in 2015. “As long as everyone can be in the same room together, and have love for each other, it’s totally healthy.”
“It’s full-on family love,” Bonet echoed the sentiment, still going strong several years later, in Porter.
While he was doing press at Comic-Con last month, Momoa was sporting a massive turquoise necklace, a real statement piece that he said was a wedding present from Bonet.
“I can’t say it was full-on from the moment we saw each other, but we have been together from the day that we met,” Bonet told Porter. Recalling their famous first impromptu date over Guinness and grits, she said, “In that moment, love came and it came big, and he did not run as I think a lot of men do. He basically picked me up and threw me over his shoulder, caveman style!”
In 2008, Bonet returned to TV in the short-lived Life on Mars, and she credited Momoa with helping her prepare emotionally to get back in the game.
“To have my face reinstated in minds and homes once a week was an intense decision,” she told People. “I’m a shy person. I don’t know if it’s in my DNA to share with the world…Having a mate has given me that feeling of safety. Jason is the love of my life. He’s everything I hoped would come.”
Like Kravitz, Momoa wasn’t a big star when she first met him—but so far, so good since his name has become more of the household variety.
“What’s cool about Jason is that he’s an alpha male who stands for love and family,” Bonet told Porter. “And to circle back to my own wounds, having an absent father, then to be fully met by a man of that stature, is really incredible. Jason embodies a rare form of masculinity in this day and age—he’s a leader; he’s generous. Just in terms of charisma, physique, the right use of power, responsibility, work ethic, you can go down the line.”
That work ethic helped lead him from Baywatch and Star Trek: Atlantis to starring in a reboot of Conan the Barbarian and becoming one of the most iconic Game of Throne characters despite only surviving for a season.
Chatting with Conan O’Brienabout playing the hyper-aggressive Khal Drogo on GoT, Momoa quipped, “I tried it on my wife, it didn’t work that way.” He did get to call the shots, however, on the set of his 2014 passion project Road to Paloma, a revenge drama he wrote, directed and starred in, and in which he shared a romantic scene with Bonet, who was appearing in her first movie in almost a decade.
“That was a motherf–ker,” Momoa told Collider in 2014, referring to the love scene in the film. “It was a very hard scene to shoot. She didn’t think so, but it was. It was effortless and we got it in 15 minutes, but it was like trying to capture the first time we met, and yet have it be three times that. It was all the things we weren’t saying, and we had to capture it in the perfect light. I didn’t want to reshoot it. It’s hard to get those real, true, beautiful moments.”
“That was a lot of years of our life that went into that film,” Bonet said during a lunch at Sundance in 2014, according to Zap2It.
“[The role] required me to be very shy—she makes me shy and…she’s the only one that can really do that,” Momoa also told E! News at the time. “I just don’t want to suck in front of my wife. I don’t want to be bad,” he added, smiling. “I want her to like me and love me and continue to do that.”
That collaboration then led to them both starring in the Sundance series The Red Road. Momoa had the law-and-disorder series lined up, and after they submitted Road to Paloma to the Sundance Film Festival, the show’s executive producer approached Bonet to play a lawyer on the show.
“We looked at it and it was completely opposite of what we had just played,” Momoa told Collider. “We never thought we’d work together again. It wasn’t like I said, I’m only doing this with my wife.’ But, it was great because it’s the opposite of what we played in the movie. And she really dug it and wanted to do it. It’s definitely fun, working across from your partner.”
Pressed further, he quipped, “It’s all right.” Then, more seriously, “No, it’s an honor [working with Bonet]. In this business, we have to travel so far away from our families. We have two children, so if we can work together, that’s awesome. Before I met her, it was a dream to work with her.”
Bonet told Zap2It, “[The network was] like, ‘We don’t normally like husbands and wives working together,’ but they really enjoyed our chemistries, so it was super flattering too.”
Since then, Bonet has appeared on Girls and Ray Donovan, and Momoa starred in the Netflix series Frontier and joined the DC Universe. He’s now top-lining his own superhero movie, Aquaman, which is due out Dec. 21. And while over the years Bonet has stayed eerily similar-looking to her 19-year-old Cosby Show self, Momoa has added what looks like an entire extra musculature to what was an already chiseled frame.
His now 50-inch chest and 19-inch biceps took shape thanks to intense weight lifting (for bulk) and cardio (for definition), but the man is still going to enjoy his pints of Guinness.
Again recalling that magical moment when Bonet ordered his favorite beer, he gushed to Men’s Health this year, “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m with a woman who ordered a Guinness. I love her.’ When I got to know her, she was the woman of my dreams.”
He also remarked, when the subject of too many beers came up, “I think I’d be in a whole worse place if I didn’t have a beautiful wife and children. I’m very thankful for my family. They keep me in the sky but they also keep me grounded.”
Daughter Lola, 11, was born in July 2007 and son Nakoa-Wolf followed in December 2008. Bonet says that Momoa has suggested they relocate to his native Hawaii or somewhere even further away, like New Zealand, but she told Porter that, while the idea of Costa Rica intrigues her, she’s “not quite ready to disappear completely!”
“When I’m by myself, I’m really cool and nice to everyone, but then the whole paparazzi thing? If you see me with my kids, I change,” Momoa told Esquire last year. “I just want them not to deal with that. I’m just Papa to them. We don’t watch TV. We haven’t even seen Star Wars yet.” When he shot Aquaman in Australia for six months, the whole family went with him.
While still based in La La Land, Momoa makes sure the kids get plenty of outdoor time, rock climbing, camping, fishing, paddleboarding and skateboarding among the activities they’ve been up to this summer. And though promoting Aquaman is only going to take up more of the actor’s time as the year goes on, he and Bonet steal away for adult time too. In April they were in San Francisco for a Cartier-hosted party with the likes of Jeremy Renner, Idris Elba, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Paul and Bonet’s Ray Donovan co-star Liev Schreiber.
Asked at the Justice League premiere in November if they felt like newlyweds, the recently married Momoa grew mock-deadly serious, as Bonet burst into giggles, and informed E! News, “Oh, yeah. If I weren’t on camera right now, I would tell you.” He cocked an eyebrow. “But oh yeah. Seriously. Big time.”
Always a good idea, to make sure your wife has a smile on her face.
Bonet said that, while she had already thought of him as her husband, she did feel different now that she was officially married. “Definitely,” Momoa agreed. “I never thought I would but…I plan on being with her for the rest of my life. But it’s just that moment where,” he gestured taking it up a notch, “let’s go to the next level. ‘I’ll be here your whole life.'”