FAULT Magazine chats ‘Dothraki’ with the Khal himself, ‘Joe Naufahu’


Joe Naufahu is a handsome, muscular ex-professional rugby player and now a professional actor on Game of Thrones working opposite Emilia Clarke. Give yourself a minute to overcome the jealousy that is surging through your veins. If you follow rugby, you may recognise him from his time at the Glasgow Warriors, but now he is most familiar from his role as Khal Moro in the sixth season of Game of Thrones, so even his acting roles are unreasonably cool. I’m sorry, I promised to squash the jealousy, but what makes it all worse is that Joe is a level-headed and personable guy. I suspect Game of Thrones will be the first of many big roles for Joe and I was keen to know what working on such a titan of a show was like.


Let’s get straight to it. You’re in the new series of Game of Thrones which, at this point, is tantamount to impossible to be unaware of. What attracted you to this show in particular?

If I were to be more specific it would probably be the characters in the show. They inspired me to want to be in the show. Some of the situations in the show and the way the characters react, things they say and do just make you want to be a part of it and inject your own performance. Things you would never be able to say and do in real life, that right there is the good stuff. Stuff that makes it more juicy and interesting. The game changers!

Your character is Khal Moro is a sort of chieftain of the Dothraki. How would you describe Khal Moro?

He’s the big dog amongst the Khals. He hasn’t lost a battle so therefore he has nothing to prove. His deeds speak for themselves. So he isn’t afraid to show his lighter side and is fairly tolerant of his followers. He enjoys a joke and a laugh as much as the next Dothraki. But at the same time is fiercely loyal and he stands by his word. He does not back down.


Although the Dothraki are, on the surface, portrayed as a horde of savages, they have far more depth than that. Did you find that you related with your character?

Yeah, they have layers and it was nice to be able to play some of those layers. I think it makes them more interesting and definitely more human. If I trust you I will treat you like family. I’ll do anything for you. Sometimes that can backfire but you have to live life that way sometimes. When it hits the payoff is worth it.



Conversely, which characteristic(s) of Khal Moro did you find the least relatable?

It would have to be his view on women. I could never treat women the way the Khals do. For starters my Mum would kick my butt then so would my sisters. I’m a gentleman and chivalry is not dead!


Preparing for a role usually requires research. However, the fantasy genre must make that somewhat more difficult. What preparation did you do in order to make your performance of Khal Moro convincing?

I read up as much as I could find on the Dothraki tribe which consisted first and foremost of hitting University of Google — haha. You’ll be amazed at what you can find! I wanted to keep it fresh though at the same time and put my own spin on the performance and not be too tied in to what watchers had already seen. I would have to say though that learning the Dothraki language was where I focused most of my preparation time. I knew on set there would be no room for second guessing so I really did the prep work.


The Dothraki are a physical bunch, which as an ex-professional rugby player, must not be completely alien to you. Nevertheless, did you have to undergo any special training or fitness regimes for the part?

I have done films and shows before where I had to put a bit of size on but Dothraki weren’t bodybuilders and so I trained accordingly. They were men of the land. They hunted, rode horses, had rampant sex, and fought vicious battles… on a daily basis. I run a gym in NZ and although we don’t do any of the daily Dothraki activities I’ve just mentioned, unfortunate as that may seem, we do train in a very functional way. Meaning lots of bodyweight and natural movements and using more unconventional equipment, stuff life sledgehammers and ropes and kettlebells. So these natural movements we use and the patterns that we train in, pretty much simulate the lifestyle of a Dothraki warrior. I did also manage to get out and do some horse riding which was a lot of fun. They are such beautiful animals.

Game of Thrones is populated with recognisable faces, in particular the Mother of Dragons and Queen of the Internet, Emilia Clarke. What was it like working so closely with her?

I  had a great time working with Emilia. Consummate professional but still able to have a laugh when the timing allowed. She was awesome on set, very generous all the time, and made me feel so comfortable. It was definitely the thing my friends back home envied the most about me getting the role.


Game of Thrones is a huge achievement for any actor and puts you in front of an enormous audience. Ideally, where would you like your acting career to go next?

I’d love to get my teeth stuck into something gritty and dark where I can really build some layers in a character. I’m a huge fan of The Wire, True Detective, Walking Dead, Luther… love those shows. So something like that would be amazing. Other than that, I think it’s every kids dream to be a super hero isn’t it?! I’m sure there’s space for more characters in the Marvel and DC universes!


What projects have you got coming up that we should keep an eye out for?

I’ve just made the move to LA and settling into life here so it’s a work in progress. I’ve got some projects that I’m developing with my older brother who is a writer/director but I’m still working on locking down my next gig here in the States. I’m constantly on the grind and I can’t wait to get stuck into my next role.


What is your FAULT?

None of it! I blame tequila — haha.


Words:Robert Baggs

Photography: Ted Sun

Styling: Angel Terrazas 

Grooming: Christina Guerra @Celestine Agency for Baxter of California

Photo Assistant: Tia Hollingsworth