Tag Archives: Sequel Trilogy Stories

Tim Rose – His Star Wars Story

Star Wars as a saga has numerous characters who have left lasting impressions on us, the fans. However, there are some you could show to non-Star Wars fans and they would likely recognise them due to the cult fame they achieve. One such character was portrayed by our guest, Tim Rose.

Tim was responsible for bringing Admiral Ackbar to life in Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Tim was also the puppeteer of the awesome Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb in Return of the Jedi and fellow Mon Calamari, Shollan, in Rogue One. Basically, Tim has left an indelible mark on Star Wars history.

It’s a trap! I waited two paragraphs to write that – it was worth the wait. Yes, Ackbar is also responsible for a very famous internet meme, but as with all interviews on this site this story is about Tim, his journey and how he looks back on it all now. So, on we go to cover The Muppets, Guantanamo Bay torture techniques and disliking your writer’s choices of cosplay…

Welcome Tim!

Right so the long number on my card is…

I won’t start with that; I normally save it for the end! How are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?

I haven’t really noticed any difference. About 17 years ago I had to move out of London or I’d have ended up in jail for a road rage incident. I moved out to the countryside and bought a Victorian hackney coach driver’s house. It’s got paths through leading to a barn where the old owners would keep the coach and horses, and that’s where I set up my workshop. Lockdown or not my commute is past the raspberries and up to the workshop.

Starting at the very beginning, what was your motivation to get into the Film and TV industry?

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I started university, I’d enjoyed my art classes and I had done a bit of drawing and writing but I didn’t really know how to apply any of that. At university I started to go to drama classes, and I liked it, but I didn’t enjoy the applause at the end. Anyway, we started doing renaissance fairs and while doing the fairs I decided to do a Punch and Judy show.

I discovered that with puppetry I could sculpt; I could write scripts; I could draw and perform. I could do all the things that I loved without giving anything up, so from that point I stuck with the puppets. The main guy on our TV sets at the time was Jim Henson and The Muppets Show. I used to sit in front of the screen and work out how he was doing it. After a year or so when I left university, I managed to get a job with Jim, which is why I’m in England now because this is where Jim did all of his work.

I suppose there is no avoiding that Star Wars has been a massive part of your life, but when you first got into it how did you feel at that point in your career?

I’d been working with The Muppets and I already knew George Lucas because he was always coming around to see what Jim was up to. What I actually loved the most was starting from a design concept and carrying it on all the way through to performance with the actual creature that I’d built myself. The only two places to do that were The Muppets or Industrial Light & Magic or Lucasfilm. When I got a job at Lucasfilm, I was very happy because I’d worked at the two best places to do what I wanted to do.

Going straight to the two companies that were ideal for you is quite something! Is it something that came naturally to you?

Although I have a university degree, I got my job because of what my father taught me when I was playing on his workshop floor. My dad was into models and radio-controlled airplanes and so I always knew about building things from scratch.

I always joke that if you were to put a label on me, which in school they try to do, I would have been labelled dyslexic. When it came to being a designer, my brain shot off in five directions at once and I actually came up with a lot of really original ideas because I was putting things together in a way no one had ever thought of before. Was being dyslexic a problem or was it an asset? Ultimately, I think it was quite a good asset!

When I worked on The Muppets they were starting to develop the robot side of the puppets to make them more technical. It always amuses me that everyone knows the word animatronics, but do you know where the word came from? I do not. Jim was American but did all of his work in Britain and at the time the film industry was going through a bit of a nosedive, yet they didn’t want anyone coming in taking their jobs from abroad. Jim was told that what he needed to do was give them a job title that doesn’t exist in England, so they called us ‘Animatronics Designers’ and we didn’t displace anyone because no one had that title in the UK…because we made the name up! It was a title that needed to be made though.

What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars, the one you look back on most fondly yourself?

I was just the right age that when the very first Star Wars movie came out, me and my buddies were teenagers. We would sit in the back of the cinema and pretend to fly X-Wings. We watched it over and over again. Two movies later, I’m saying good morning to Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, walking past the Millennium Falcon to go into my own spaceship – every day of it was fabulous. I don’t have a favourite story. I enjoyed the entire process from beginning to end.

That’s still a good answer! I think if I were in your shoes it would be hard to choose one story…

What is fabulous about movies that you’ve worked on is that when you watch a scene, you don’t just see that scene in front of you. Your mind can see the camera guy, the sound guy, the lighting guy, the boom operator and you know it brings back the memory of the whole situation and the experience, not just that bit of film footage. It’s a really nice special thing about being on movies.

You’ve featured in the original trilogy and the new trilogy. For you, was there a different feel when you returned as Admiral Ackbar?

Entirely different! I wasn’t alone but I was heavily involved in creating the original Admiral Ackbar. There were two versions of him. There was the full body suit and a hand puppet head. Servos hadn’t gotten small enough, and because we hadn’t fully utilized how to use them a lot of the full body suits had cable-controlled heads, which is what Ackbar’s head was. With a person in there it doesn’t leave a lot of room for the mechanics, so I built a second version which was a hand puppet where I puppeteer the mouth and that left room in the rest of the head for the eyes to move. It allowed you to have a more animated character.

In the new movies I’ve got my carbon fibre helmet on, I’ve got 38 servos around my head, all chirping like budgies, and I don’t have full control of the performance anymore. I was much more personally involved in the original one.

You of course were the puppeteer for Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb also. Did you prefer the puppeteering side of it? Or does a character’s performance come through no matter how you are performing it?

I was at a convention in Australia. We had finished filming The Force Awakens but it hadn’t come out yet. I couldn’t talk about it even though everyone wanted to, so I decided to talk about what it’s like being in a full body suit costume. I realised what we put up with was not dissimilar to the torture techniques used at Guantanamo Bay, ha-ha. When you start sweating in there it’s a bit like waterboarding because the scrim in front of your face gets blocked with sweat; you get full-on sensory deprivation and your whole body goes over 100 degrees…

You are making it sound very appealing!

What’s enjoyable is creating the character and seeing what you’ve created. From that aspect, Salacious Crumb was much more enjoyable as he was just a hand puppet. I could put him on and just walk around and entertain the crew with him, ad-lib and joke.

Puppets introduce me to parts of myself I didn’t know existed. I’ve always considered myself to be quite a nice guy but Salacious was a right little bastard and when I had him on, I became a right little bastard too, ha-ha. I guess you, Mr Dressed-In-The-Carbon-Outfit, know the story with Harrison Ford? I do indeed. That took place when the carbonite scene was going on and so the second I saw you in that photo I thought, “That’s it I’m not doing this.” Ha-ha! I still react quite strongly to seeing any references to the carbonite scene.

I’ll make sure I don’t trigger any bad memories! Ackbar was voiced by Erik Bauersfeld, who sadly is no longer with us. When you are acting as a character with a different voice, do you work together much, or are they separate processes?

With Jim Henson, the two most crucial things for the life of any character were good eye focus and spot on mouth syncing. If you heard that character talking you had to believe those words were coming out of his mouth.

I found out from Mark Dobson, who did Salacious, and Erik, who did Ackbar, that neither of them were shown my performance when they did their voiceovers. When Ackbar says “It’s a trap!” his mouth isn’t in sync with the words even though when I did it, it was spot on.

Most people don’t notice. I was trying to sound like a man in his fifties but I obviously wasn’t at the time. It needed that final bit, the mature voice to sell the character. What I love about the puppet characters is not one of them is done by a single character; they are all a group effort to create something that’s better than the sum of the parts.

Do you look back on playing the character fondly now?

From a convention point of view, one of the big things for guys like David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) is they’ve always had to contend with that they weren’t the only guy to wear the costume. As time has gone on, at least I can say I was the only person to play Admiral Ackbar.

That’s true, there can’t be many people who can claim they are the only character in those suits…

I said to fans at the time, they are going to want a younger guy who can do it not an old man who needs to go for a pee. That actually did happen in Rogue One…I was Shollan in that one. We had gone for six hours solid without a pause break, and my character held up his claw and said, “I’m sorry but the old man has to pee,” and at that point we got a break.

I have BB8 to thank for coming back as Ackbar. The person doing BB8 was Brian Herring and we first worked together on Spitting Image in the 80s. When they were doing The Force Awakens he was in charge of getting the performers for the characters and he kindly said, “Tim’s not dead yet, he should do Ackbar.” I was at a convention in Australia and he asked me to sign something so I could talk to him. It was an NDA from Disney and he asked if I wanted to be Ackbar again and I said, “Of course I do!”

The next thing I did was pump up the tyres on my bike because as I’ve already said…full body suits. At my age you could die in there, ha-ha!

I’ve seen you at a couple of conventions and you seem to still get a lot of joy from meeting the fans. Does it bother you to be known for Star Wars, or is it something that you still get enjoyment from?

It just shows what a good actor I am, ha-ha. That’s not true!

I hit my mid-life crisis…why didn’t I listen to my mother and become an architect instead of running away to the circus and all that. CG was coming in and work was getting less and less. It was really when I started doing the conventions and meeting all the people that we had quite an amazing long-term effect on that I fully appreciated that I hadn’t been wasting my time after all. I’ve gotten to go to so many parts of the world. I used to travel all over the world making the movies. Now I travel all over the world talking about them…

You can check out more of Tim’s stories on his official website as well as purchase official autographs by clicking this link.

Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Paul Warren – His Star Wars Story

“I like that Wookie,” to quote Maz Kanata, as she pines for good old Chewie. But here’s a question, would Maz have been so keen on our favourite walking carpet if he had followed his original design?

In The Force Awakens we are introduced to a creature named Varmik, a Hassk thug brought to life by our guest, Paul Warren. Varmik is an interesting character as was he was based on 1975 Chewbacca concept art by Ralph McQuarrie.  The legendary status of McQuarrie’s design and illustration work was a motivator for director JJ Abrams to bring Varmik to life in the movie.

Impressive character back story aside, we are here to learn about Paul’s Star Wars story. It’s the usual stuff, doubling as Harry Potter in Order of the Phoenix, playing a skinny Captain America, Zombie in World War Z, young Magneto in X-Men: First-Class…

Okay, so it’s not the usual stuff…it’s a great story and one that’s bound to carry Paul on to even bigger things. Anything else? No? Let’s get into it…

Thanks for talking us through your Star Wars story, Paul. How are you keeping at the moment?

Hello! Well, all my work for the year has been cancelled due to corona virus, so it’s been incredibly difficult, as it has been for many people. Having your income and industry wiped out overnight is very surreal.

It’s very stressful for all at the moment! For someone with your experience, in your position how do you de-risk in your career and make sure there are other sources of income?

It’s a good question. As jobbing actors we would normally do other work between film jobs in tough times. Something like bar work or sometimes maybe a signing convention somewhere in the world. That is obviously not an option now. I’m still trying to figure it out, but yes, it’s very tough times for all.

We should get onto some lighter topics… You got into film initially by appearing in Children of Men, which is a seriously underrated film by the way, and doubling for Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter. How did that take you all the way into the Star Wars galaxy?

Children of Men turned out to be a very gruelling yet incredible experience. It was my first film and I had no idea that the very long and cold shooting days were unusually tougher than most films. It was a very technical film, which required everyone to be on their game. It was pretty intense on set, but Alfonso Cuaron is a master filmmaker, so being able to watch him direct everyday was a free film class in itself.

I was on the film for a few months, networking and getting to know people in the industry. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was creating opportunities for my future career. One job just seemed to lead to the next and before I knew it, I was given mostly creature work. The more I did the more I was getting known for it.

And looking at your journey into Star Wars, I noticed you’ve got a very interesting credit to your name. You were also “Skinny Steve Rogers” in Captain America: The First Avenger, is that right? That must have been quite an unusual role to get!

I was one of them, yes. It was very cool to be a small part of a very big visual effect.

The main double was Leander Deeny. I was skinny Steve in the pre-production VFX tests. I was also on set as a visual reference for the recruitment scene, along with Leander, who was the body double for the remainder of the film.

Due to The Force Awakens being the triumphant return of Star Wars, there was obviously a lot of excitement for those involved. Were you a fan of the films yourself growing up?

I was around four when the original film came out. I’ve been a fan of Star Wars pretty much my whole life, so when I got the call to go in and talk with the creature department on The Force Awakens, I almost lost my mind ha-ha!

I get a buzz from the stories hearing about how actors and performers discovered what roles they were going to get in the film, and I can only imagine what that feels like. How did you find out who your character was going to be?

I had no idea who I was playing until Neal Scanlan (Star Wars CFX supervisor) pulled out a Ralph McQuarrie book and was showing me the cantina alien painting from 1975. I’m a massive fan of McQuarrie’s work and I had that picture on my wall at home!  Neal explained that JJ Abrams really loved it and wanted to bring the character to life in the film. So that’s what we did on the day; we tried to bring the painting to life in that steady cam shot into Maz’s castle.

What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars?

The day I was shooting my Varmik movement for the steady cam shot was the day Mark Hamill and Kenny Baker were on set to watch. That was very exciting and nerve-racking! At one-point Mark came over to chat. He was just as lovely as you would hope, and he loves all the alien stuff. He would visit often to geek out. We spoke about how the animatronic head worked, how I was providing the movement and a puppeteer was operating the facial expressions remotely. He was genuinely fascinated by how it all worked.

Mark came to the creature department on the The Last Jedi, too. There is a scene in the documentary ‘The Director and the Jedi’ on the Blu-ray where Peter, one of our creature performer pals, is apologising to Mark for not knowing it was him (Mark Hamill portrayed tiny casino drunk, Dobbu Scay, in The Last Jedi). What you don’t see is that shortly before that, Mark was talking with Peter and I just off the set. Peter hadn’t even realised it was Mark the whole time as he was inside his creature costume and could hardly see or hear a thing! He couldn’t believe it after when I told him it was Mark Hamill. 

How did you feel personally playing Varmik in that scene?

A little bit of everything, actually. Mainly I’m focused on trying to give the director what he wants, to deliver a performance that fits his vision. That’s what my job is essentially. That said, I was smiling a lot inside the creature head throughout most of the shoot.

Varmik must have been a cool character to be given for a fan of the films. He’s based on the original Chewbacca designs and, the crowning glory, he has his own action figure. Do you feel close to the character now?

Varmik was very cool to portray. I had a copy of the 1976 production image it’s based on signed by Ralph McQuarrie on my wall before I worked on Stars Wars. It’s almost as if it was meant to be…

It might sound silly to some people, but one of the things that I feel is a major accomplishment as a creature performer is playing a character that was made into a toy. There is an action figure and a Funko pop currently. I love all that stuff.

Does Star Wars top the other roles you’ve had to date?

It’s definitely going to be a tough one to beat.

When you got called back for The Last Jedi to be a Dowager alien, did returning have a different feel or the same levels of excitement?

I was honoured and flattered that I was asked back to portray another character. It was a slightly different challenge for me this time. I was inside the large creature in my normal clothes, puppeteering her head and movement from the inside.

Daisy Beattie remote puppeteered the creature’s pet pug ‘Gary’ from behind the set with Chris Clarke, who was remote operating the dowager’s face. It was hard work, but a lot of fun working as a team to bring her to life. Meeting Rian Johnson was also a highlight. He’s a lovely guy and a brilliant director.

How do you feel about your experience so far with the Star Wars galaxy and the appreciation you get from Star Wars fans?

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to quite a lot of comic cons. Overall everyone has been so nice. I love travelling around the world and chatting with people about the films. The ones that don’t like The Last Jedi have no problem telling you that, ha-ha! I think The Last Jedi is a masterpiece. I think it’s a beautiful and brilliant film and deserves more love…

Couldn’t agree more, and thanks, Paul, for your time talking to us. Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Miltos Yerolemou – His Star Wars Story

What do we say to the God of Death? We’ll figure it out, we’ll use Force! Wait, that’s not how the Force works…

You are not reading wrongly folks, we have ourselves a real crossover in this Star Wars Story as we are joined by Syrio Forel, Jedi to Arya Stark, the Padawan in Game of Thrones, and part of the Maz Kanata scene in The Force Awakens that jumps us straight into a whole new bunch of weird and wonderful characters in the sequel trilogy.

Miltos Yerolemou shot to fame in Game of Thrones Season 1 as master swordfighter Syrio Forel before joining Star Wars for a part that was sadly cut down quite a lot, but awesome nonetheless. Miltos joins us to go through his Star Wars Story as we chat through talking to droids, being wowed by animatronics and yes of course, Mr Syrio Forel because we shouldn’t forget, the First Sword of Braavos does not run!

Welcome Miltos, delighted to speak to you! I am keen to talk to you about Star Wars obviously but there’s a show you were involved in that it would be silly of me to not talk about. Are you happy about the legendary status Syrio Forel has achieved with Game of Thrones fans?

Always much better to play people cooler than yourself! There’s no doubt about it that the people who taught Arya Stark are the ones who are influential to her story, being there right at the beginning feels really good.

We had no idea what that show was going to be when we were filming that first season. We knew HBO was making it and that had such a fantastic reputation to make really good work, but most of us in that first season hadn’t read the books yet so I went to Waterstones to buy it ahead of my audition as I wanted to take it seriously. My first introduction to seeing how big it may be was seeing it was number one in the fantasy and science fiction section.

It was such a long audition process and I think they kind of saw every actor in the UK! Of course, as an actor you feel proud. A lot of the time you do a lot of stuff that no one will end up caring about but suddenly when you do something that excites people, you see its lasting legacy and its effect on the fans; that makes you feel very proud.

Miltos, alive in Star Wars, not so alive in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones almost has as many fan theories as Star Wars and there’s a lot regarding the fact that you aren’t even dead. So Miltos, let’s clear it up, are you dead?

I’m pretty sure I’m dead, as dead as the dead characters in Star Wars! I always talk about Syrio in an over-blown way. I see him like Obi-Wan Kenobi in that he started the protagonist’s story off and they carry on following the path that you set them out on.

The ambiguity of what happened with Syrio Forel was really deliberate. I spoke to George R.R. Martin about it and the echo of the teaching where she says the lines over and over again in the books, that teaching is very similar to Obi Wan and his lasting presence with Luke Skywalker.

Well that sets us up to talk about Star Wars quite well! Following Game of Thrones, along came a part in The Force Awakens. How did that happen for you?

Nina Gold was casting it and she did the casting for Game of Thrones. I was in America at the time touring Midsummer Night’s Dream and my agent called up and said Nina had sent my tape off to J.J. Abrams because he was looking for character actors to play space pirates.

I didn’t really audition to be honest, but it was two weeks at Pinewood – that was all I knew. It was done under incredible secrecy, sitting in a trailer with your name and a made-up character name, no scripts and going having your costume fitting. Initially it was exciting but after a couple of weeks it was so frustrating and you are thinking, “What on earth am I going to be doing?” and no one told you until you showed up to do your shooting.

When you get to see the design of your character that is just the best day. You’ve been sat with this idea of being involved in something without knowing anything about it and then you know what you are going to look like at the very least. You are looked at like a mannequin, this character has orange plasters on his fingers and across his nose, and he’s got this tube going up his nose, and I remember being told, “We don’t have to do the tube up the nose,” and I said, “Are you kidding? That’s the best thing about the design!”

Your character was called “Bar Patron” which is very unusual in Star Wars to not get a complicated alien name; he should have a name! Did he get one?

They probably saw the rushes and wondered who the hell I was! I’m not sure why he never got a name to be honest.

You probably remember a really big monster (Grummgar). A gangster kind of dude who was an animatronic creation and the whole scene was supposed to be that I would have a fight with him; I was going to ask for my money and he was going to have a go at me.

In the end we ran out of time to do it and it never got shot the way J.J. wanted to shoot it. There’s a very brief scene of me trying to have an argument with him as Finn (John Boyega) is leaving, and that’s the only bit we got of it. We were running out of time and of course we weren’t the principal part of the story at that point. J.J. wanted us involved and we were not supposed to be extras, we were supposed to be there playing characters, so he was really frustrated that we ran out of time.

That scene needs to turn up in The Mandalorian or Obi Wan or something! What would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars?

J.J. told me he wanted me to stand in front of this gangster and I hadn’t seen this animatronic monster before. J.J. said, “You say something and he says something…in fact he’s not going to say anything at all because we are going to dub it later.” There are three guys inside operating it so we didn’t rehearse it.

I hadn’t even seen it move I just thought it was going to be still but then “Action” is called and it starts picking up a glass of brandy to drink it and gargling away. I’m staring at it going, “Oh my god, that’s amazing!” and then I hear “Cut, cut, cut…you are supposed to be having an argument can you do something quite demonstrative” and I said, “I just hadn’t seen it before, that’s amazing,” to which he says, “Yeah, yeah yeah…I know, let’s do it again.” It was all so rushed!

Every time the animatronic paused and it was time to start it would just start moving again. It was one of those ridiculous moments where you realise why acting is difficult with monsters.

Miltos vs Grummgar, the fight we never knew we needed

It was really great being on set. You’ve got people inside tiny droids, practical animatronics, the whole bar was built with hundreds of people in there. I couldn’t tell what droids had people in them…I just felt like a child, not believing any of these amazing creations.

At one point I was having a conversation with a droid thinking there was someone inside it, the guys behind were operating it and making it respond to me and completely hoodwinked me!

That kind of explains why Bar Patrons get so mad about Droids in Star Wars! Are you a Star Wars fan yourself?

Yeah, me and my partner Holly are huge fans of Star Wars. She’s been to Star Wars Celebration and met Carrie Fisher dressed as Hoth Leia. She has the most beautiful photo of them together. On the sad day when Carrie Fisher died someone from the BBC found the photo of them together and she ended up going on BBC Radio Four to talk about it with Anthony Daniels; that’s her claim to fame now.

Clearly you need Star Trek, maybe Walking Dead or Westworld on your CV, but you aren’t far short of being an ultimate convention all-rounder! As an actor in Game of Thrones and Star Wars do you get drawn to that genre easily or does it make you want to diversify?

I really like science fiction. I got really excited as there was a part on Foundations on Apple TV and I went up for that but sadly it didn’t go anywhere and I was so gutted, I really wanted to walk round a studio pretending I was in space.

I just want to work with really cool people, directors and writers who I really admire. I like the variety and being challenged to something outside of my comfort zone.

Where can fans meet you next or what can they see you in next?

I’ve got a cool part coming up in the sequel to The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Samuel L. Jackson where I play an Italian Mafiosi who gets his henchmen to try and kill him, but as you can imagine it doesn’t go according to plan.

Working with Samuel L. Jackson I feel like I can retire now…being called a “Motherf***er” by him, that’s a bucket list item ticked off! That’s out this year if the cinemas open again!

A pleasure to hear from Miltos, it was great to hear his stories! All Star Wars Stories will not be ending with Mace Windu swearing at them, I’m afraid that’s not something we can guarantee, but we do look forward to seeing Miltos when the cinemas open up to us again.

Keep checking back for more Star Wars Stories and until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

Katy Kartwheel – Her Star Wars Story

You guys really have it bad for Their Star Wars Stories, don’t you? Well it’s mutual, trust me.

It’s a dark time for the world and there’s a need for good, positive stories. The story of Katy Kartwheel is just that. With not one but three appearances in Star Wars films, Katy is certainly well placed to tell her story but little did we know how amazing it would be. A story of chasing your ambitions and following your own path takes Katy from dreams of the circus to homelessness to an advertisement that would change her life, culminating in the creature performance role of Rio in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Her name is indeed Rio and she dances on the…er…cargo wagon…

It’s probably better that Katy tells the story from here on out so let’s get right to it! Katy thanks for agreeing to talk to us and I’m excited for you to share your Star Wars story. Before we get started on Star Wars, I’ve read the personal section on your website and frankly, it’s amazing, so can you share your journey from becoming homeless to the travelling circus to Star Wars?

I became homeless in a way because I was searching for the circus. At 17 straight after school I was in an office job and I wasn’t happy so I went to see a careers advisor and we went through what I liked, including drama and gymnastics, and she found this circus course so I enrolled.

Things didn’t work out. I ended up on the streets and it wasn’t as simple as just popping back home, so I chose to stay in a homeless shelter for a while to get myself back on my feet again. The most amazing thing happened where I was in this shelter and I saw an advertisement for one person to run away to the circus. It was fate.

I was the only person who applied and then went travelling with them and learned with them. The whole experience was like a light for me. I then worked with some circus schools and companies and one of them was Aircraft Circus. They really helped me get to a good level of performing. It was the director there who called me one day saying there is a movie looking for a short stilt walker; I didn’t know what the movie was. I ended up in a warehouse walking around on stilts, and there were some conceptual designs for the character which turned out to be HURID-327 in The Force Awakens.

Apart from the Bollywood film (Jab Tak Hai Jaan) The Force Awakens was your first experience in a movie, is that right?

Yeah that’s right, the Bollywood part was just a little thing but I ended up interacting with the King of Bollywood (Shahrukh Khan), who I’d never known about before. I went in as an extra but there were a lot of girls screaming “It’s really him!” He’s a huge personality!

So virtually no film experience to then end up in Star Wars via the circus. Do you feel lucky in terms of how it has all worked out?

I don’t think it came from nowhere but I feel really lucky of course, there are certain things I wanted to achieve in my life and I really worked hard to get there. I just wanted to make it, put all my effort into getting to where I wanted to be. You know what life’s like, sometimes it gets in the way of living out your passion and your dreams.

I suppose we should talk about Star Wars! What was your personal feeling when you got the role in as HURID-327 in The Force Awakens?

I was taken aback; I was trying to be cool about it and take it in my stride. I couldn’t tell anyone anyway and it was all very hush hush. To be honest it wasn’t until I saw it on the screen at the cinema when I was like, “This is massive!” Even though it was just six seconds and you can’t tell it was me, it’s still a big achievement!

I know you say it’s only six seconds but that moment in The Force Awakens is one of the first moments in the film that you get to see a new world, and HURID-327 is the first unusual character that you see on that world and starts off a feeling that we are about to see something very different. Knowing your journey, how did working in the circus help with your work on Star Wars?

Doing creature performance is very hard. I was top of my fitness level at the time and I knew how to endure physical work over and over. Mentally it was hard. I wasn’t used to being in an enclosed space being pushed somewhere. That was a big challenge for me, not knowing how each day was going to be.

How do you feel about creature performance? From the previous interviews on this site it seems it’s much more technical and respected than many people think…

I knew nothing about it before doing it! You are sweating buckets in a costume and you have to act the action out, I had no idea about the art behind it. It’s a privilege and an honour to do it. You do a lot of movement work, working out the physicality of the character and there are a lot of technicalities there. I was an Ahch-To caretaker in The Last Jedi. Mark Jones was puppeteering me on that one in Ireland. Mark was in total control of me, my eyes, mouth and occasionally messed with me while I was moving around to which I thought, “I’ll get him for that,” but it takes an hour to get out of the costume so I never got him!

Personally, what would you say is your best story from working on Star Wars?

Learning how to be Rio in Solo, it must be that. Going in initially I had to rehearse on a scaffold frame, so I was in my element swinging around, which was very similar to the circus. We were coming up with all this creative stuff and then one day going, “Wow, they built the hauler,” which moved around, and I’m in costume – it was a proper stunt! I had cameras all around me and I even had a helicopter pilot come in and teach me how to fly convincingly as I wasn’t really doing that. Rio was quite fun as I could use his feet and swing around, that was my best memory.

Let’s talk more about Rio! I’m a massive fan of Solo and Rio was an incredible character. His movements and mannerisms made him more endearing, so how do you manage to convey all that? I’m assuming it involves a lot of motion capture?

There were motion capture spots on me and the face is CGI but obviously I don’t have four arms…no I grew two extra arms for the part! The top two arms are CGI, I had big shoulder joints where the next two arms should be which really restricted my movement, actually, because my arm could only go back a certain way. I had Rio’s little belly and they gave me a bit of a bottom. It was this awesome intergalactic onesie, the kind of thing I would have gone out raving in a long time ago!

Katy on location for Solo: A Star Wars Story

There was another moment I remember where Rio is cooking dinner for Han, Chewie, Val and Beckett, which was really intimate. They were saying their dialogue but I was also doing it in that scene for continuity reasons when Dave Chapman was not around. Doing that with these incredible actors, you could feel the atmosphere. I was given vision for that scene and they had eye holes cut out because Rio was juggling a lot with pots and pans, which is very difficult to do if you can’t see!

It sounds like you have a lot of belief in yourself. Would younger you believe that you’d be working with the likes of Jon Favreau, Woody Harrelson and Alden Ehrenreich?

Do you know what that’s a really good question as my initial reaction is no, but really thinking about it the answer is yes, I would believe it, because if I didn’t believe that then I’d have spent my life being really frustrated that I hadn’t done something that I knew I could do. I think I did imagine being with Woody Harrelson once, but I was always passionate about circus work and movies and thought “Do you know what, I could do that.”

You run your own business teaching the skills you’ve learned now, right?

It’s a bit of a nine to five yes, my fall back is my passion which is not a bad place to be and I do what I really love to do – workshops,  events, festivals – and I perform on my aerial rig doing trapeze and silks and things like that. I like to get my customers, friends and family involved too, which is really nice.

What does the future look like for you, Katy?

At the moment I’m just trying to be the best circus performer that I can be. I’ve been teaching quite a lot, which I couldn’t do when I was doing Star Wars. I’m also a mum and I’m doing a psychology degree, so I’m not doing anything else for now. I’m sure something amazing like Star Wars will come again at the right time.

What a highly motivational Star Wars story that was! We thank Katy for her time and look forward to seeing her in future roles! Until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.

I have spoken.

Keith De’Winter – His Star Wars Story

We meet again at last readers! Following on from our first Star Wars story with Andrew Lawden from The Phantom Menace, we return for the next Rancor-size helping of knowledge from our galaxy far, far, away.

We started with a guest from the beginning of the Star Wars saga so it’s completely logical that we now jump to the final trilogy and a guest who is quite literally a Tour De’Force Awakens.

Our guest is a creature performer who has one of the most fabulous journeys into Star Wars that you may ever read. He’s been forever immortalised as an action figure for his role as Resistance technician Goss Toowers in The Force Awakens, and shamefully not made into an action figure for The Last Jedi roles as hotel-concierge-casino-dweller Terrib Igmusk and an Ahch-To’ Caretaker.

Welcome to the Star Wars story of Keith De’Winter! Sadly, Keith’s story relies on not spoiling much of it in this introduction but (Spoiler alert!) we should probably start with a super dee-duper dinosaur named Barney…

Keith, thanks so much for spending time with us, you said your journey into Star Wars is an unusual one, can you share it with us?

Well this is how I got involved in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this is my Directors Version! Do you remember Barney the Dinosaur? [Your interviewer excitedly nods] I got the gig to do a Barney the Dinosaur show in Saudi Arabia and completed the contract stage but unfortunately it hit problems and was cancelled.

That year went by and my agent asked me to do it again the following year and it turned out the choreographer for the show was Paul Kasey (Multiple Doctor Who and Star Wars roles) and I’m just in awe. I remember at one point he said to me in passing, “Well you know what it’s like to work on Doctor Who don’t you?” and I said “I’ve never worked on Doctor Who.” He complimented me saying I was really good and we moved on.

Anyway, I got home from that and time passed, my agent was based in Pinewood studios for a while and said casting had been in and they are interested in me to play a creature. She couldn’t tell me what film but asked me if I was interested, I quickly answered yes.

At the time I knew it was Star Wars as that was the only big film about to go into Production but that was it. I got taken to Pinewood after a few months’ wait and I was in this reception area surrounded by all these posters and I’m still wondering what the audition is going to be! I’m sat there and I hear a recognisable voice, Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt in The Force Awakens) is walking by and I’m trying to be dead cool about it, eventually I’m taken through to the creature department.

Brian (Herring, BB-8 puppeteer) asks if I have ever had a head cast done before, I said no and before I know it I’ve got Nivea cream all over my face, they are putting all this gunk all over me and they say if anything is uncomfortable thumbs down otherwise thumbs up and I thought to myself, this thumb is never going down!

I then met Luke Fisher, a talented concept designer who shows me all these drawings, he explained this creature was someone who fuelled the Millennium Falcon and X-Wings and I’m thinking “this is great, but I don’t know what he’s showing me all this for!” and I still don’t know what this audition is going to be but I really want this! I then have more pictures done where I’m holding a mask of this creature that Luke had shown me, Goss, then Brian comes to me and takes me to see Neil Scanlan.

“That creature” in action fixing up an X-Wing

Just before we got in the lift Brian turns to me and says, “Welcome to Star Wars”.

“Am I playing that creature?” I said and he replied “When you come recommended of course we want you on board” and it turns out from the Barney the Dinosaur role, Paul Kasey had recommended me, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I went upstairs and I see people putting hair into Chewbacca’s costume, I see a box with a droid in it that they tell me is “the next big thing” and they tell me they will be in touch for fittings and I went to my car, sat down and I screamed my head off I think.

Were you a fan of Star Wars before all this then?

Absolutely massive fan, Han Solo was my hero and I went to see Star Wars with my mates when we were kids and we didn’t know much about it at the time but we came out of it and we played Star Wars, each of us as different characters.

As everyone knows now George Lucas originally said it was going to be a nine-film story and to be sat here having been in it is just amazing, I still pinch myself.

An amazing journey especially with the passion you have! I know that you’ve been successful, otherwise I wouldn’t be sat here, but listening to you the whole time you were telling that story I was thinking, “I hope he gets the job at the end!” I’m glad you did! From your perspective, what is your best story from working on Star Wars?

I got to not just meet Carrie Fisher but my first day on set was filming with Carrie and my last day was with her too. It’s great how much of it was practical sets and not computerised, there’s obviously some green screen but to have practical sets was amazing. Carrie Fisher’s at one end playing her part and I’m in the background programming a droid.

Behind the scenes look at the Ahch-To’ Caretakers

Anyway, during rehearsals Neil (Scanlan) told us we had a special guest watching us and I thought to myself it didn’t really matter, I couldn’t see anything out of Goss’s head! It was Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), I could hear him, but I couldn’t see him and when my head was taken off Anthony was looking straight at me. He came over, shook my hand and said, “That was marvellous!” C-3PO said I was marvellous…

On our first day of rehearsing we were told that Harrison Ford had broken his leg and so we had to delay certain scenes. We obviously had a bit of a break due to Harrison’s injury so when we came back a couple of months later it was to shoot the external sets, as Harrison was there too, and that’s when I saw the Millennium Falcon for the first time and that was a spectacle to see. My job was repairs on the aircraft, the first appearance of Goss Toowers is when the Millennium Falcon lands, and I have a little fuel canister to refuel it.

During my breaks from filming I could watch via a monitor and headset. I had the beauty of watching the others perform and it was lovely seeing Carrie and Harrison together, the chemistry they had it was amazing. I will always revert to The Force Awakens when I think about Star Wars, playing a character that’s now very dear to me, plus I’ve made so many wonderful friends.

What a brilliant story! Important matters now though Keith as we need to discuss action figure versions of you. Goss Toowers is an action figure, does that excite you and how many of those do you own?

It’s amazing, I’ve got a whole bedroom full of them! No, it’s hard to get hold of them now, I picked up four of them that I have at home. I have one that is dear to me that my daughter bought for me and she also gave me the Lego figure which you couldn’t get unless you bought the Poe Dameron set, those are special.

I’ve always wanted to ask, are you gifted the figures, or do you need to go and purchase yourself as yourself?

I’m sick and tired of the gifts I get sent! No sadly I had to get them myself, I don’t expect that to be honest.

Terrib Igmusk, we haven’t mentioned him very much but he’s the character you play in The Last Jedi and seems to not have an action figure! Should we start a campaign for that?

No, he doesn’t, I think you need to start the campaign right now! The male Ahch-To’ Caretakers I played don’t have a figure either actually. There’s a POP figure but that’s a female but fans still want you to sign them, but my ‘Salty Old Seadog’ isn’t available, maybe one day…

Terrib Igmusk, contemplating his lack of action figure between takes

Challenge accepted; your campaign is coming! What are your hopes for the future in this galaxy far, far away?

I would love to be a part of any Star Wars projects coming up obviously. The Mandalorian looks beautifully shot. I’d love to be a part of anything and you have to make sure that you don’t take it personally if you don’t get called up. I didn’t get the opportunity to be in Rise of Skywalker but there was a focus on the core characters in that film. Anyway, I get enjoyment from watching my Star Wars friends in these things now too!

On that wonderful note, we say goodbye to Keith for now but fear not, your writer has the deepest commitment and the most serious mind and won’t keep you waiting long. Until the next time, I’ll be there for you…Cassian said I had to.