With a towering presence and muscular physique along with a deep, powerful voice, Jason Momoa often plays warriors and distinctly tough fighters. He’s most known for his rugged Game of Thrones character, Khal Drogo, the Dothraki leader. Last year, the Hawaiian native appeared as Aquaman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And he will continue portraying the water-dwelling superhero in Aquaman to be released next year.

The star continues to pack his schedule as he portrays the part-Irish, part-Native American outlaw Declan Harp in the Netflix series Frontier. He told CNN, “I could play Harp with my eyes closed,” as he felt an immediate connection with the burly fur trader. While shooting in severe weather conditions in Newfoundland, his character must endure physical and emotional torture.

With all this in mind, it’s not surprising to hear Momoa be described as “one of the toughest actors in the business.” But recently, the star is revealing a much softer side of himself. Brian Andrew Mendoza’s documentary short, Canvas of My Life, serves as both an intimate portrait of Jason Momoa’s life as well as a heartfelt advertisement for Carhartt pants. The video explores precious moments of Momoa’s personal life with an emphasis on celebrating him as a father. It was shot in Hawaii with Momoa’s family members, and reveals the skills that he cultivated while growing up, and which eventually led him to Hollywood–even though he never imagined he’d become an actor.

Born in Iowa, Momoa was raised by a strong single mother who he credits for cultivating a love of the arts, music, and introducing him to rock climbing and skateboarding. Skateboarding, he says, “gave birth to a style for me.”

Rock climbing, he says, “made me face my fears and doubts, explore the impossible, problem solve through movement. I learned to trust my hands and my feet. I found balance. And I found my passion.” According to WebMD, you can’t really do “rock climbing light,” because even relatively easy routes require a whole-body effort and intense concentration. Super-tough routes push climbers to the limit.

As a young adult, Momoa’s fitness level along with his good looks lead to him winning Hawaii’s Model of the Year. And it wasn’t long before he landed a lead role out of thousands of hopefuls playing Jason Ioane in Baywatch Hawaii. When the show ended, Momoa’s passion to climb inspired him to travel extensively across the globe for the next couple of years. “I wanted to see the world climbing…I wanted to get out, explore it all,” he says.

Eventually, he describes the point in his life when he came to a crossroads: “Acting cornered me….For an anxious young man [acting] finally allowed me to be anything I wanted to be. The wonder lust gave way to direction of purpose.”

Seeing the value of the skills he learned as a child Momoa, in turn, now exposes his children to these same activities in hopes of teaching them life lessons. “If I teach them to climb, then they can push themselves to the limits; gracefully move through fear and doubt,” he narrates in the video.

What skills led you to acting?

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