Game of Thrones’ Tom Wlaschiha on Faceless Men and What It Means to Be No One

Photo: Gisela Schober/Getty Images

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

When Arya crossed the Narrow Sea, she hoped to find her old assassin pal Jaqen H'ghar, he who gave her an iron coin and the magic words for a passage to Braavos. But knocking on the House of Black and White's doors got her nowhere. ("No one here by that name," she’s told.) Now we know that Jaqen was just messing with her — or was he? "A man is not Jaqen H'ghar," he tells her, after swapping his previous face for the one we recognize. Actor Tom Wlaschiha chatted with Vulture about his not-so-secret return to the show, whom Arya should have killed in season two, and what he thinks about that master-swordfighter Syrio Forel theory.

What was it like coming back to the show after all these years away?
It's amazing! I hadn't expected it. I mean, I always had a little bit of hope, but I didn't know. I read the books — the first two books at least — and I started to read some fan theories, and then it got too complicated too quickly. But even though it's a big change [from the books], the story isn't going to change. Jaqen is going to be a teacher to Arya, and he's obviously always had some secret. He's a bit of a magician, and there's some stuff that he does that Arya can't quite grasp in the beginning. So we will see some nice little surprises.

What can you tell us about fan theories, such as the one about Jaqen H'ghar and Syrio Forel, Arya’s former teacher, being the same person?
I haven't been online researching the theories lately, but three years ago, when I was first on the show, I did. But then you spend hours and hours on the internet, and there's no end to it! [Laughs.] You want to know if I believe Jaqen is Syrio? I have no idea! I don't think so, but I couldn't give you any good reasons why not. They both certainly have a different function in the story for Arya. They both teach her important things, over a certain period of time. I think it would be too easy. I don't think they're the same. But who knows? Syrio's face could be underneath Jaqen's face. We don't know. Jaqen is no one.

So in your mind, who is Jaqen H'ghar? And what does it mean to be "no one," then?
That's a very interesting question, because we don't know who or what he is. Jaqen H'ghar has my face, and this is also something we're finding out this season, he's trying to teach Arya to become "no one." So it's basically, [laughs] we don't know who or what is behind my face, or the other faces that the Faceless Men can put on. He has motives that he doesn't always show. With Arya, he wants something of her, but he doesn't tell her what that is, and she has to figure it out. But the ultimate question — who is Jaqen? — has yet to answered.

And what does it mean to be no one? I don't know. [Laughs.] To me, in a practical sense, it is like Jaqen is saying to Arya, "Become the perfect actor." To leave her identity behind. For her to be able to take on a whole different persona, and not be recognizable, in order to get ahead with what she wants. That's what actors try to do.

When you last worked with Maisie Williams, she was a child ...
It's a real pleasure acting with her.  When I walked into the green room on our very first day, Maisie was sitting there playing my favorite game at the time on her phone, and we then had an ongoing competition all season long. Thankfully, we were called to set once in a while, otherwise we'd probably still be sitting there, trying to beat each other's records! But she's an absolute pro, three years ago as much as now. It's really amazing how she pulls it off. It's really hard to find someone that age who can move so comfortably in front of a camera, and it seems so easy for her. I would have been shell-shocked in front of a camera when I was her age. The gift her role gives her is that it allows her to grow with it. Arya learns a lot this season, but she also makes conscious choices, when three years ago, she was all impulsive. She could have ended the series right there by naming the right three names for Jaqen to kill!

What would have been the right three names? Who would you have suggested?
I think HBO would have been very unhappy if she picked the right names! The show would have ended right there.  [Laughs.] Back in season two, to start with, she could have named Tywin. She could have named Joffrey. And Cersei, for instance. Killing the Lannisters would have turned the story in a whole different direction! But me, I'm very peaceful. I don't think murder is the right means of getting what you want. It always catches up with you, one way or the other.

Well, you look peaceful. Your new costume makes you look like Jesus.
And talk like Jesus sometimes! The only thing I haven't done is walk on water, but who knows? My Roman sandals need to be featured at some point.