Finn Jones life sparkles with a charmed quality, an extraordinary example of being in the right place at the right time— and—at the risk of sounding cliche, following your inner compass. Adventurous and exuberant as the characters he portrays, Finn Jones is light on his feet, chest wide open, and charges down the sidewalk. A glitter of gold from his sunglasses is the only touch of flash. Since Jones graduated from drama school in London, he’s been on a direct path to stardom, ascending fast and with ease through British television and blossoming onto the international stage as Loras Tyrell, the Knight of the Flowers on HBO’s megahit series Game of Thrones. Following suit, in barely the blink of an eye, he landed his first leading role in not one but two shows—Marvel’s Iron Fist and The Defenders on Netflix. All before he hit the age of thirty.
“Circumstantially things have always lined up, that’s been on my side, but I’ve never been complacent. There’s always a fire because I never know what’s going to happen next. Rather than be hindered by that, I’ve allowed it to be a positive driving force.”
Born in London, Jones and his sister were adopted by his father, a former police officer and his mother, who works in foster care. His adoption was an experience that instilled a curiosity about the world and his connection to it. Acting is not a profession that one tends to enter into casually. There is often a definitive moment, a choice to embark upon that path, but for Jones it was a lingering question.
“I always asked myself why I became an actor. It was just innately in me,” he says. “My parents never did it, it wasn’t like I particularly looked up to other actors, none of my friends were actors. But here’s a crazy story...recently I found out more information as to who my parents were. I was looking through photographs of my grandparents and saw a photo of my grandmother. It was the first time I recognized myself in someone else; I thought that would happen when I had kids. As it turns out, my grandmother was an actress. And I had a deep sense that’s where it came from.”
Jones didn’t know at the start why he was drawn to performing; it was an instinct that set him forth. Little did he realize that his pursuit of acting was aligned with a deeper quest— to know his true identity— which led him back to where he came from. It’s a cyclical story; a going and a return, reminiscent of the Hero’s Journey outlined by Joseph Campbell in his seminal work, A Hero With A Thousand Faces: “And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence.”
In the book, Campbell lays out the three life paths: the village, the wasteland and the journey. The village is the road paved nice and smooth by our society and culture. Get a job, get married, have kids, retire in Florida. It’s a path that has been laid out already; secure and safe. The hero, on the other hand, is often on the fringes of society and feels called to find his own way in the world. For Jones, the call to diverge from the common path arrived at his graduation ceremony from drama school. “The head teacher of acting was giving his final speech and his last line was: remember when you go out there, you’re not just actors, you’re rogues and vagabonds. That’s always stood with me. Yes I am an actor, but first I’m a rogue and vagabond. We’re all cowboys doing this.”
A rebel, a renegade, going against the grain, Jones set forth on a new path. He knew where he was going but not necessarily how he’d get there, proving that “not all who wander are lost,” a quote from fellow adventurer, J.R.R. Tolkien. Wanderers often make those who choose manicured pathways nervous because the risk of failure is too frightening a notion. Wanderers in the Tolkienian sense are not lost souls aimlessly loitering in the forest. They are active in their search, driven by a motivation that’s difficult to explain because it’s a feeling not a fact.
“I do believe there is something bigger driving us. Whatever that is,” he says. Brimming with possibility and belief, it’s no wonder Jones then gravitated into the fantastical and epic world of Game of Thrones. When casting the pilot, GOT producers had an intuitive approach. They didn’t bring in actors for specific roles. Instead, they auditioned them for multiple roles to see where they fit. “I was seen for Jon Snow, got down to one of the last rounds, then for Rob Starke.” Although Jones wasn’t cast in those roles, the show still wanted him. “After they filmed the pilot, they brought me in for Loras Tyrell.”
With a dash of flair and delicacy he played Loras Tyrell, the dazzling and skilled Knight of the Flowers, for six years. “Three seasons in, even though I was on the biggest show in the world, I still had to work at a bar to pay my rent. For years, I’d film GOT then go to LA for pilot season.”
When his time on Game of Thrones came to an end, Jones took a leap of faith where others might have taken a systematic approach. He bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, vowing to stay until he found the role that would give him the chance to make his mark. “You gotta put yourself in situations of risk. It brings out that dynamic desire—that thing. If success was easy, you wouldn’t have that desire.” Just so happens—that his first audition landed him the lead on Iron Fist. He shakes his head in disbelief. “My life is weird,” he exclaims, flashing his piercingly bright green eyes. “I hate speaking about myself, but hearing it back now, how everything happened with such flow, it’s been incredible and I’m so grateful.”
Lounging in patio chairs at a shabby but cool outdoor radio station/café in Brooklyn, he is slightly uncomfortable being interviewed, preferring to ask questions and swap stories. He listens with intent, comes across more like an old friend than a stranger or celebrity. Reminiscing, he points to a spot near the fence covered in vines. “They used to have hammocks hanging, and I would come here everyday and learn my lines.” Wearing a loose button-down shirt over a white-tank top and jeans, he appears closer to Romeo from Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet than the warrior Iron Fist. Jones is a play of opposites and indeed what attracts him to his roles is the duality that exists within himself and the characters he portrays. No person or character is one note. Our personalities are riddled with contradictions and surprises that are at times both harmonious and dissonant.
Jones’ creativity, for example, extends well beyond acting. “I fucking love music,” he switches color as he throws down his music prowess. He is a huge music fanatic who mixes and collects across genres, as evidenced by his Instagram stories filled with vinyl moments. “I’ve always found passion and guidance through music.” He lights up when talking about the 3,000+ record collection he recently inherited from a painter friend who needed to make room in his studio. His friends are as eclectic as his taste in music, some of whom haunt this local Brooklyn spot. He spends a moment with one spinning in the booth behind us, and a tall, dark and handsome foreigner in a button-down flamingos printed shirt (or was it parrots?) saunters over to us and invites him to a party. “He’s an amazing painter,” Jones smiles as the mysterious flamingoed man walks away. He excitedly lists some of the records in his gem pile. “A good Cerrone record, Love in C Minor, a 15-minute track. A Donna Summer EP called Love Trilogy which is beautiful. The new LCD Soundsystem record is amazing...and the War on Drugs is, too.”
The great affair now is to move—and move Jones has. He’s traveled the world to film and to promote the wide-reaching shows he’s been a part of. He’s left his native London to pursue a career in Los Angeles and now Jones calls New York home. When he was shooting the first season of Iron Fist, he experienced his first “New York moment” -- flying over all of Manhattan in a helicopter. He remembers looking around and suddenly wondering, “how did I end up here?”
Travel is now a way of life for Jones, whose curious mind constantly searches for opportunities to enlarge his perspective. “I recently went to Gili Air a tiny island in Indonesia. There aren’t any cars, there’s a local Muslim community there. It’s amazing! You can take a boat from Bali to three little islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Gili Air—that’s paradise. There’s a coral reef around it that’s dead,” he sighs, “it’s sad. You go to these wonderful places and see they’re dying.” Now that he is living in the United States, Jones is being called to the open road. “I’ve been to most cities but what I really want to do is a road trip.”
This call to adventure echoes back to his roots. “My parents used to say, ‘we don’t care what you do as long as you’re happy.’ They gave me permission to follow my bliss. It’s not just acting, it’s music and travelling. I read A Hero with a Thousand Faces when I was 24. It helped me to focus and understand what I was doing. The Hero’s Journey is deep within our consciousness, a jewel of our genetic make-up. I wholly believe if you have this thing inside of you and follow it with absolute passion and belief— doors will open. They have in my case.”
For those who haven’t read A Hero with a Thousand Faces—it’s incredibly inspiring, but you know the story already. From Star Wars to The Matrix, countless stories have followed this structure. It’s about the journey to become a hero, a potential that lies in each and every one of us. The hero diverges from the common path and into the unknown, where no one would dare go, and in coming out on the other side, shows us that another way is possible. It’s a journey that takes grit and guts and heart, so it’s no surprise that Jones attracts roles where heroism is a fundamental component to the overarching story.
That drew him to Danny Rand, the young orphan who becomes the Iron Fist. “I love his optimism and belief in his destiny but in the beginning, he’s not a superhero. He is naive, insecure and flawed. He really spoke to my heart.”
From Los Angeles, he re-located to New York City to begin filming the first season of Iron Fist and The Defenders. Thrust into Netflix’s MCU, the schedule was grueling, a year of shooting two shows back-to-back for sixteen to eighteen hour days. “We film everywhere, but Greenpoint is our base. It’s very low key, not glamorous in the slightest. Marvel isn’t what people think it is.” As a young boy, the Iron Fist is raised and trained by warrior monks to be a martial arts master, who then attains the nearly impossible feat of becoming the immortal weapon. In the first season, Jones hardly had fifteen minutes to learn the heavy and intricate fight choreography before shooting a scene but no matter how well-equipped the hero might be, there’s no telling what lies ahead and there’s no turning back. It’s a road full of twists and turns, trials and tribulations that will test the hero to his core.
“Danny’s first phase of growth took place over the two shows. The Iron Fist struggles to come to terms with his responsibility as a hero because he’s got all these issues to address. Abandonment issues, issues of acceptance. By the time we get to The Defenders, he needs help. He meets this group of superheroes. They’re all older, have more life experience than he does and he learns from them.”
With the help of guides and mentors, he is strengthened in his resolve but there comes a point when the hero must undergo a metamorphosis. By entering into the belly of the whale, the world begins to close in around him. There is no way out by external means. It is only by going inward that the hero finds strength— from within— to emerge, centered and ready for the next phase.
With a renewed perspective and the help of those he has met, Jones’ transformation is well underway. “I never found place or home in London and here weirdly, New York’s becoming home. And I say weirdly because I never imagined myself being here. I was resistant for a bit but it’s home for now. Nothing is forever. It’s like that saying— ‘you can’t step in the same river twice.’” As the quote from Heraclitus implies, everything is in a constant state of change; the river and the man. But now with his feet planted and a place to call home, Jones—like Danny— is growing, acclimating to a new life, and taking charge of his role. He stays calm and collected, knowing he’ll be the Iron Fist for a while, as he was Loras Tyrell.
“On Game of Thrones, I played that character for six years. This character I’ve played for a year, and god knows how long I’ll be playing him for, but often when I play these characters, we meld into each other. Not in a conscious way, but in a magical way. Like things in my life will mirror what’s happening in Danny’s life, for example… so I try to be aware of that as much as possible.”
The synchronicity between the Iron Fist and Jones marks a definitive shift in Season II. Danny and Jones together are not the same boy who stomped down the streets of Manhattan barefoot and bright-eyed. They understand that the road ahead will be long, with new challenges to face and enriching experiences full of surprise and delight. “It’s different now for Season II. We have a new writing team and showrunner,” Jones reveals. “I’m so energized by them. Everyone who works for Marvel is amazing. But it’s a corporation so creatively they have a different objective. From my standpoint as an artist, it’s about being more vocal. When
I first started, I was learning the ropes. I’m going to LA in October so I can pitch ideas, hear what they’ve got in store for the character. What’s nice about that is it parallels Danny’s own journey, stepping up to the plate, taking responsibility for himself. Moving into the second season, we’ll see him really move forward in his role as a superhero. As an actor, I feel like I’m doing that as well.”
Freshly back from a world press tour, Jones has plunged into rigorous training for the second season and he finds it empowering. It shows in the way he carries himself. “I see my personal trainer three times a week, I’m in the dojo three times a week doing kung-fu, tai chi, and I’m doing meditation and yoga.” Jones doesn’t have much free time even though he isn’t currently shooting. He is as committed to embodying the role of the Iron Fist as Danny is. As he’s done his whole life, Jones forges ahead. He lives in the moment and takes the time to appreciate the life he’s built, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking about the future. Jones plants ideas like seeds and patiently watches them grow.
We live in a world where time is a lost commodity. We rush about from day-to-day, working hard to achieve our goals. In the end, it isn’t a thing that drives us, which is why many people who “have it all” are unhappy. It’s a feeling rather that propels us forward, not any object of desire. With each step, we make our way. The experience and pleasure expands in length as well as depth by embracing that.
Strolling through the adjacent park, Jones takes the time to appreciate a small pleasure like the end of an afternoon in New York City. He is still a youth navigating through this world, but he is charged with a burgeoning maturity that is ripe with self-awareness. Jones is quietly certain of what he wants next, but just like the hero who is guided by his own inner compass, the direction is often unexpected. He nods and looks up at the sky as if it were a canvas or a blank page. “Love,” he says with an impish smile. “I feel like I got my career down, I got this. Now I want to manifest love and family.”
Photographer: Matt Licari
Groomer: Jessi Butterfield
Stylist: Anthony Pedraza
Creative Director: Katie McGehee
Writer: Maria Mocerino