In this loud pub in Central London's Soho, Michiel Huisman might be the only man not shouting. As the striking actor settles into a corner booth, surveying the sea of rowdies, he mutters in his slightly Dutch-accented English, "How will we hear each other?" He orders a glass of rosé wine and ponders the menu. "I eat everything, unlike most f—ing actors," he says with a grin. Huisman has just come from dubbing lines for The Age of Adaline, a film out this month that will cement Huisman's status as a Hollywood heartthrob. In this follow-up to last year's well-received Wild, in which he steamed up Reese Witherspoon's tent, he plays Ellis Jones, a man so dashing he lures an immortal woman (Adaline Bowman, played by Blake Lively) into mortality. But if he's débuting as a silver-screen leading man, Huisman has had a long run smoldering on the small one. His recurring roles as Sonny on HBO's Treme, as Cal on the hit sci-fi show Orphan Black, and as Liam McGuinnis on Nashville have turned Huisman into something of an old hand at the TV game. And that was before he starred as Daario Naharis in the behemoth that is Game of Thrones.
Not only is Huisman the quietest man at the pub, he's also the best dressed. He's quickly mastered the fashion demands that accompany stardom. Huisman is wearing a luxuriously soft gray marled sweater, which he sheepishly admits was a gift he received after appearing opposite supermodel Gisele Bündchen in the latest Chanel No. 5 perfume campaign. "One minute the casting director was checking my availability, the next I'm being flown out to work with Baz Luhrmann," he says, rubbing the ruffled beard that gives his handsome looks a rugged quality. "It was a blast."
Looking over your résumé, I wonder if there has ever been a TV show you haven't appeared on. I went from Treme for four seasons, which filmed about eight months of the year, to Nashville. Treme is gritty, raw. Nashville is country music and glamour. I'm lucky because in Nashville, I got to collaborate with one of the best actresses on TV, Connie Britton.
And now Game of Thrones. Yes, now Daario on Game of Thrones. When you work on a show that's already so well established, it can be hard not to think about that when you take on the role. But with Game of Thrones, once you're on set, the cast is so professional; everyone is about the work and the story. Then you go home and think, Oh my god, I just shot a scene in Game of Thrones!
Is it true that you lied about being able to play piano to get the Treme job? I did. I lied. But the thing is, I had musical experience. I played guitar in a band in the Netherlands and under my own name for years. We did typical singer-songwriter, pop-rock stuff. So I had a foundation to work on. But I wouldn't recommend trying to learn piano in two months if you have no experience. My wife [fellow actress Tara Elders, whom Huisman married in 2008] and I have a home in New Orleans now. When we go back, I head out to the bars and play in bands, but I can only pull off boogie-woogie and blues. It drives my wife crazy. The other day she packed me off to my daughter's piano teacher to learn something classical. You know what I learned? "Jingle Bells."
What's it like being married to an actress? The best way to describe it is that we share everything. She helps me with every decision I have to make about work; she reads scripts and runs lines with me. So when I achieve something, I feel like it is our success, not mine alone.
How did you meet? Our first kiss was onscreen. In 2003, I did a Dutch movie called Phileine Says Sorry. The scene was pretty horrible, actually. I played Phileine's boyfriend, an actor named Max. In the film I do an avant-garde version of Romeo and Juliet with lots of nudity. Phileine shows up at the première with her friend Lala, played by my wife. But to shoot that scene took a week—a week of being bare-naked on that stage—knowing that this beautiful girl was sitting there in the audience watching me. Awful. But I guess it all worked out in the end.
You've been acting since you were a kid. Is it something you always knew you wanted to pursue? I once made the mistake of saying I was a child actor. It's technically true, but it sounds so ... wrong, you know? The best thing about it that I remember was that I worked with a dog called Pepper. He was one of the dogs who played Benji in the films from the 1980s, and I loved him so much. The animal handler was like, "You know he's about to retire. You could take him." I did. He was one cool dog.
In the very rare moments when you're not working, how do you relax? When we have time off, we go back to the Netherlands, where we have a 19th-century farmhouse outside Amsterdam. What I really like to do is use my hands. I'm pretty bad at home improvements, but I like to fix stuff around the house. With an old farmhouse there's endless opportunity. I love tools. I just bought a Makita drill with lithium batteries. I don't know what that means or why that's good, but I love it. I might get a tool belt, but I don't want to push it just yet.