[This interview contains a revelation from the second episode of Game of Thrones season 5]: Sunday’s Game of Thrones featured the return of a character who hasn’t been glimpsed on the series in years: Jaqen H’ghar, the Faceless Man assassin who helped Arya escape from the Lannisters’ confinement in season 2, is now back to train Arya in the mysterious ways of his death-centric religious order. Below, German actor Tom Wlaschiha spoke to us about his return to the HBO fantasy drama—and how often random fans tell him “Valar Morghulis.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have any idea you were going to come back and when did you find out?
TOM WLASCHIHA: I had faint hopes. But you know with Game of Thrones, you rarely get what you’re hoping for. When I got the call I was really happy.
You arguably have the most easily replaceable role because Jaqen literally changes faces. Getting that call must have been a nice compliment to your previous work on the show.
Yeah, I take it as a compliment.
What can you tell us about your role this season?
What was important to me was when we left Arya at the end of season 2, you could almost get the impression [Arya and Jaqen H’ghar] were friends. Even though they had little [conflicts], like with her naming him, they had a very friendly vibe. I thought it would be fun to start the new season with a different vibe. Even though she’s found him, she’s grown up and is much more conscious in her choices. So he is going to teach her, as promised, but he is not going to make it easy for her. We will learn different sides of Jaqen and how the whole group at the House works. It’s also an amazing set, the detail is really mind blowing.
The Faceless Men assassins are pretty mysterious. How would you explain what they are?
The Faceless Men are a somewhat religious sect and they worship the Many-Faced God—it was a bit confusing for me at times. There are many deities and I never figured some out. Some of the Faceless Men work as assassins and will kill people for a very high price. But they’re not common killers. They also are able to hand out the gift of death to people who are sick, or in need. It’s like the ultimate merciful gift. And what I like about the House of Black and White and Faceless Men is they’re both outside of things. For them, everybody is equal. It doesn’t matter if somebody is powerful or poor. They have a gift to give and they will give it regardless of who that person is.
Do you think he actually cares about Arya? Or is she just a recruit?
He definitely cares about Arya. But the question is: If he’s hiding it and why is he hiding it? Is it part of a bigger plan? And we still don’t know why he surfaced in first place. He was a prisoner in King’s Landing. Why was he there? Was it all part of a bigger plan and, if so, who is behind it? I like that his character is so mysterious.
You do realize that two decades from now you’re going to be in a Starbucks and the barista is going to say to you: “A man orders a cup of coffee.” It’s never going to go away.
It has happened. Thankfully not too often. In Berlin, where I am at the moment, they’re way too cool [too approach him]. I’ve had people walk up to me and say “Valar Morghulis,” and I’m amazed because I look so different from my character.
What was the oddest fan encounter?
I had this guy at the subway in London at the other end of the carriage make his way toward me, looking at me. And I was thinking that I must know him for somewhere. He came up and treated me like an old friend. It turned out he just wanted to tell me “Valar Morghulis.”