ON THE ROAM Director Brian Andrew Mendoza On Making Jason Momoa’s New Docuseries (Exclusive)

All eight episodes of Jason Momoa’s exciting new docuseries On The Roam are now streaming on Max, and to learn more about the making of the new show, we were able to sit down with director Brian Andrew Mendoza (Sweet Girl) to talk about the season and his decades-long friendship with the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Fast X star. 

We get into the intricacies of how they brought this season to life, and how the team overcame the challenges presented by the pandemic. He also tells me about which episodes moved them the most, the very authentic reactions, Jason’s impact on people, and a whole lot more. 

Watch our full interview with star Brian Andrew Mendoza below and/or keep scrolling to read the full transcript! Plus, please remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more exclusive content!

ROHAN: Even though Jason Momoa is this huge movie star, there’s also something so genuine and relatable about him. In the show, it really feels like he makes everyone around him feel very comfortable. As his longtime friend and business partner, how would you describe him?

BRIAN: Energetic, charismatic. I hate using the word authentic, but he is. I’ve known Jason for almost twenty years, and he’s the same person I met twenty years ago. Obviously, his life’s changed drastically since when I met him, but he really is just the same person, down to earth, and he’s just got so much energy and he has so many ideas, and I think that comes across in the show. We really wanted, like the way we shot the show was very cinema verite, we like jump out, we jump out of cars, and literally, like on the second episode, Todd Hido, we never met him in person before, we just jumped out of the car and started filming and gave him a heads up that we were coming to the door, and, so, you’re seeing Jason really as he is. Anybody who knows Jason that watches this show, I think goes, wow, that’s Jason, that’s not produced, that’s not fabricated in any way.

ROHAN: On this show, you’re working with a lot of regular people that aren’t actors. What were some things you and Jason were doing to make everyone comfortable in front of the camera so that they could share their stories?

BRIAN: You have to treat it as a relationship that you’re forming and a friendship, not as this sort of transaction like, hey, we’re coming in to shoot something for you. We really wanted to hang out, spend a lot of time with these people, especially the people that we didn’t know, get to know them, and I think that they’ve got to trust you rather than like just saying, gey, we’re gonna come shoot for three hours and then bye and then we’ll show you the show, you know, like, we really wanted people to feel trusted, and I think some of the moments that people in the series that really opened up to us was not, I think, through them wanting to share their story more than us wanting to pull that story out. Does that make sense? They really, I think, felt comfortable with us in sharing that and hopefully, felt like you guys will be able to shepherd these moments and not make them feel like we just tried to get something emotional out of it or not. With Neil, especially in the forgers episode, me and Jason were sitting behind the camera, and he opened up about his life and his mother, and that was one of those moments that like we weren’t, we didn’t even go there trying to ask him that question, and he just, I think, felt comfortable enough to tell more of his story, and felt comfortable that we could take his story and bring it to the masses, and we would do it justice.

ROHAN: Out of the eight episodes, was there one that moved you or Jason the most?

BRIAN: I think, Neil and Jeremiah, and Michael Hayes, who’s in the episode that comes out next week. We had known Michael Hayes, and we wanted to do justice to his story and tell him he’s the best guitarist you’ve never heard of, he’s just insanely talented. But, there’s an emotion, there’s a side to his story of, you know, struggles. He’s a musician that hasn’t ever reached that sort of pinnacle point that I think a lot of people hope to reach when they get into music, but he loves the art. He loves the craft. He’s not going to go do anything else, he’s still playing gigs. He’s got a family, and I think, with this show, we really wanted to highlight that a lot of these people that that we went to capture, they’re doing it for the love of the work. They’re doing it for, at the end of the day, having that satisfaction of what they created during that day, and in our world now, we move so fast, a lot of jobs don’t require to look back and go, what did I make today? A lot of our jobs now are like, okay, what did I not get done today, and what do I have to do tomorrow, and these people were really – almost everybody in the show is really great about protecting their time, and being able to look back at the day and going like I built that part of an engine, or that piece of the guitar I made, and that truly made them happy and satisfied, and it’s something we don’t see very much in jobs these days, but those people, they created that for themselves. They really wanted to, that’s how they want to live their lives.

ROHAN: Some of the episodes feature pretty lengthy time jumps, so I was curious how long did this season take to produce? Were you shooting any episodes concurrently?

BRIAN: Yeah, probably, so it took about four years from start to finish, and a lot of that was the pandemic. So, what happened was the pandemic happened, so we couldn’t do anything, and then, when the world started to open up again, all of these jobs that Jason was supposed to be doing now had to figure out how to condense the time and work. He just then got front loaded with doing two seasons of See back-to-back, so even though, we could start shooting again, and being around people, we couldn’t actually shoot Jason because he wasn’t available. And, then when he would become available, we had slivers of time that we could then be like, okay, let’s go shoot him, and then he’ll have to go again and be a part of that next film, and just the scheduling conflict and the pandemic were the two that were just created to go and then, some of these projects, it helped because they just take time. In one of our episodes, that comes out in two weeks, is about a 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom that we put an electric engine in, and I mean, that was something that’s never been done before and took a while for those people to work on it and build it, and, I think that was helpful too. Hopefully though, it’s not going to take another four years when we do another season.

ROHAN: You and Jason have obviously worked together a lot, but for this project, you also added Damien Bray as the cinematographer. What was it about his style that made him the best person for this job?

BRIAN: Well, he’s with Jason all the time. Our production team was literally four people, including Jason. It was Jason, myself, Damien – both Damien and I ran camera – and then, we had Mainei Kinimaka, who’s Jason’s cousin and who was just doing everything from helping coordinate stuff to even running sound. And like with Damian, he has a really great eye and we wanted to give him this opportunity because he’s been around Jason for so long, been around us, but, you know, someone that really knows how – Damian is really great at being able to jump out of the vehicle and find good frames and find good light without having to fabricate it or add a light over here or not, because when you’re on the move, it really comes down to composition. It comes down to lighting, and having the cameras that are light enough to be able to do that. So, there’s a lot of those conversations with Damien and just our core team of how do we capture this, how do we make sure that this looks the way we want it and we all just have a really like huge appreciation of visuals, which is why like episode two with Todd Hido, we really wanted to focus on, so it’s just always trying to find that angle always moving. I think even that’s why the cameras, you know, in the middle of this, if someone’s talking, we didn’t have like a good angle, we’d move and like where the other camera would stay just to like so we can always keep finding that that angle, whereas I think, traditionally, if you were shooting two people talking, you know, the camera operators would be afraid to move because they don’t want to mess up or end up missing something, and we’ve actually leaned into the camera moving or us adjusting because it felt more real, because it was.

ROHAN: There are so many of Jason’s interests explored in this show, from photography to accessories to guitars and cars, were there any ideas you weren’t able to fit into this season? Or maybe something you’ve discussed for season two?

BRIAN: We have like, and I don’t want to ruin it, but yes, we actually shot a few things. We have famous musicians that didn’t make the cut. We have famous artists – and I shouldn’t say didn’t make the cut, we just didn’t have time to finish their stories. We started off with shooting certain people, and we had like the first half of the story, but we weren’t able to coordinate schedules, mostly because of Jason to be able to get back, so we do want to be able to carry those over into a season two, if we get the chance to be able to tell those stories, because I think people would love to see him and see those people.

ROHAN: Jason is obviously this big movie star, who has been a leading man multiple times, but he seems very willing to take a back seat in the series and let this other guys take center stage. Was that something you guys discussed or was it more of an in the moment kind of thing where you and Jason both could feel the story going one way and him taking a step back?

BRIAN: I mean, yeah, we definitely didn’t set out to highlight Jason. I mean, his character and who he is comes out across, but it wasn’t something that we wanted to like, hey, let’s specifically show a side of Jason, it was more of like, let’s just be true with Jason, we don’t want to ever show something that seems fake of him, and I think because of that, truthfully, he really does have this massive love for the people that we were working with, and I think he wants to showcase it. He really wants people to know about. I mean, if you follow him on Instagram, he’s always sort of promoting other people’s work, wanting them to, especially if he works with them, for those artists to be able to, you know, like with Judah Kyle. He made these special rings for Aquaman, and Jason’s like, that’s awesome. Hopefully, you can take those and sell and make money as an artist off of that. I think Jason really wants to support, I mean, we all want to support these artists and because it’s tough, doing that kind of work.

ROHAN: Since this isn’t a feature film or anything and everything is very raw and real, what was your sort of crew on this project? Was it just the four of you?

BRIAN: It really is just Damien, I, Jason and Mainei. In episode one, I think, specifically, we cut to the cut, we have the camera pan over to Mainei and she claps her hand to sync the audio, and we wanted it to just really kind of show like the sort of down and dirty that the show feels like. Sometimes, we’d be like when we went to a location, because we want to make the show look good. We might go like, hey, when’s the light look good in your shop. There’s some stuff in Texas and the latest episode where you can see the sun coming back like through the shop. We definitely would plan but we never like pre-scouted anything, we never went and said like, oh, hey, it was more of just asking the people before we showed up. Hey, when’s the light look good in your shop, we’ll show up then. Then, the support of every person that we went to. They were always great, where if it was their family member making dinner, because we would hang out after shooting. I mean, they took care of us as well. It was just really familial.

ROHAN: I know you and Jason have known each other and been working together for a long time. How did you initially connect and what led to Pride of Gypsies and everything you’re doing today?

BRIAN: We were friends for a couple of years, and then he wanted to take control of his career, and he wanted to get into directing and I was a cinematographer. I’d love to shoot at the time. I mean, I still do, and so, we did a short film together, and that led to Road to Paloma, and so, we went out and with like a group of eight people, our friends and we made the film Road to Paloma, where he directed it, I shot it, we both produced it, and it was just a really great, I mean, experience. I lived on his property in a ‘69 Airstream for two years without like electricity. I mean, it was like one of those sort of dharma vagabond-esque things. Jason and I are like yin and yang, he’ll say like, I’m the more introverted quiet one, he’s the one that’s really loud. We see a lot alike. Like Todd Hido, you know. When we first met, my inspirations, were like Saul Leiter, and Bruce Davidson and he was introducing me to Todd Hido. And, we both like just really sort of formed an artistic bond, that then we’re on the same parallel path and went on to do like Carhartt, and got into commercials and then, went back to do TV with Frontier and then, Sweet Girl. So, we’ve been sort of jumping around in all these different pockets of, I guess, entertainment and advertising of wherever we’re able to feel like we’ve got the canvas to share the art that we want to tell.

ROHAN: Awesome, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. I saw that quick look at Chief of War in one of the episodes, can’t wait to check that out!

BRIAN: Thank you so much. I can’t wait for people to see Chief of War. I’ll say it’s nothing like anything that’s been out there on TV, or even out there in the world, and everybody that worked on it just put so much passion and so much love into the project, and I think it came through immensely. So, thanks for your time, Rohan. I really appreciate it.

ON THE ROAM is an eight-part cinematic docuseries following Jason Momoa as he travels the country chasing art, adventure, and friendship through the lens of craftsmanship.

On The Roam is now streaming on Max!