Michiel Huisman: ‘Nudity? Someone’s gotta do it!’
Best known for rebalancing the naked gender divide in Game Of Thrones, Michiel Huisman is now headed for the post-war Channel Islands in a cinematic love story
chances are, you’ve probably seen a lot of Michiel Huisman. Having been a child actor in his native Netherlands, he hit our screens via big Netflix produce ( Orphan Black), HBO fare ( Treme), quirky cinema ( The Age Of Adaline) and even as protagonist of a Chanel No 5 advert directed by Baz Luhrmann (starring Gisele Bündchen). But it was his role as Daenerys Targaryen’s warrior suitor, Daario Naharis, in Game Of Thrones – and his headline-grabbing nude scenes – that propelled him fully into the public consciousness. This year alone he has six projects hitting our screens.
Speaking from Atlanta, where he’s filming a new show, The Haunting Of Hill House, for Netflix, Michiel ( pronounced ‘Mekeel’) is keen to move on from fronting up to full-frontal controversy. ‘Someone’s gotta do it. I think it’s much more prevalent in European cinema – definitely in Dutch cinema.’ But we suggest his taking the heat off Emilia Clarke’s frequent bum shots might be tantamount to a worthy contribution to Hollywood’s feminist levelling. ‘At the end of the day, it’s just my job,’ he laughs. ‘But I’m now just gonna shut up, because otherwise people are gonna be like, “Hey, so what else did he do?”’
Despite his growing profile, the realisation that acting is ‘just my job’ is something borne out of having a daughter (Hazel, 10) with fellow Dutch actor Tara Elders, 38. ‘Before Tara and I had a child, I don’t think I had such a sense of purpose or direction. And all of a sudden, I understood that I was an actor not only because I love making movies, but also because it’s how I can provide for my family. I like that grounding.’ Fatherhood seems as if it is something that comes naturally to the 36-year-old. It also forms a large part of his role in new heartwarming romantic drama The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, directed by Four Weddings And A Funeral’s Mike Newell. He stars opposite Lily James’s Juliet, an author visiting the island post-wwii to meet a book club started during the Nazi occupation. Michiel plays Dawsey, a man raising a young girl following the disappearance of her mother after she spoke out against the regime. ‘I had a lot of scenes with this wonderful little girl and I wouldn’t even know if I would be able to do that if I didn’t have that experience as a father,’ he says.
Dawsey is one of three men in Juliet’s life and yet Michiel’s main challenge was not seduction, or even mastering an authentic Guernsey twang, but corralling pigs as a farmer. ‘It took months and months of rehearsing!’ he jokes. ‘Dawsey has a special connection with animals. So, we were shooting it in a very intimate way, camera really close, and it was just the pig, the camera, and myself. Mike was saying, “Get closer, I’m not getting it,” and I was like, “My god, do you see how big this animal is?”’
Dawsey is a man who’s attracted to strong, defiant women – something that seems to be a theme across Michiel’s work. He’s played the sensitive philanthropist love interest to Blake Lively’s ageless heroine in The Age Of Adaline, the brooding music producer to feisty country star Rayna James in Nashville and the Mother of Dragons’ personal swordsman – all roles highlighting the intricacies and frailties of masculine emotion. The parts he chooses seem suited to these #Metoo times, in which women are uniting to condemn toxic masculinity. ‘I really appreciate you saying that, and I’m going to take that compliment,’ he says. ‘It’s not something I’m doing consciously. But in light of everything that’s happening now, I think [these characters are] great. And I’m so happy that in some way I’m part of that.’
And he is an engaged campaigner – taking to the streets for the Women’s March and regularly posting feminist slogans on his Instagram. ‘I’m just trying to show respect for women. All I can do is show my support. I live with two strong women – my wife and my daughter.’ And it’s a time for change – especially as a European living in America. ‘ There’s a lot happening in the world right now and it’s time to speak out.’
And one thing he’s a keen to speak out on is his ambassadorship for Save the Children, especially their work with the Syrian and Ugandan refugee crises. ‘Both are places I have visited, and met people in programs run by Save the Children. So, whenever I can, I try to use the platform social media gives me to support that.’
But his main social media output is as a passionate photographer. With an Instagram feed awash with gorgeously shot, often black-and-white stills, he shoots on analogue cameras and develops the photos himself. ‘ When I use a digital camera, I have less fun – I check the screen and it takes away that excitement of seeing it two weeks after you’ve forgotten what you’ve shot.’
We notice that Michiel’s images appear on the IMDB page for another upcoming film, The Red Sea Diving Resort. Has he turned his hand to playing on-set photographer, as well as lead? ‘I want to find a balance between sharing stuff and protecting my privacy and my family. So, sharing my work seems like the logical thing to do. But I need to make sure I don’t share too soon. When you’re saying, “Your pictures are the only ones from Diving Resort online,” I’m thinking, “Oops!”’ Somehow, though, we think the producers might find it in their heart to forgive him. Those shots are excellent. And he is one of the good guys.
Campaigner, avid amateur photographer, hot warrior (right), and Guernsey farmer (far right): Michiel Huisman