Up Close & Personal With Lupita Nyong’o and Oscar Isaac #StarWarsEvent
“I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes. I know your eyes.”- Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Being in a room with Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o and two time Golden Globe nominee Oscar Isaac you’re immediately struck by their quiet ease and confidence with themselves. But despite the experience both of these acclaimed actors bring to their roles in Star Wars:The Force Awakens, they still both exude the same giddiness and excitement that is the common denominator within the entire cast, whether it’s their first time on the screen, or have been part of the Star Wars saga since its inception.
Both know that they are on cusp of being a part of something greater than they have ever known, but at the same time, both can also appreciate and savor the moment as the lifelong Star Wars fans that they are. We sat down with both to find out a little bit more about their roles in the 7th chapter of the Star Wars story.
About Their Characters:
Actually Lupita’s much guarded character has been hiding in plain sight all along as it was recently revealed that she is indeed the voice that can be heard in the TV spot for the movie that you hear say “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes. I know your eyes.” “I can tell you that my character’s name is Maz Kanata. She was a pirate for a long time. She’s lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole for about a century, and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe. Her history won’t be explored in The Force Awakens, but instead will be coming out in other venues.”
Oscar’s character, Poe Dameron, on the other hand, has been front and center since the first reveals about the movie were made. “I can say that Poe Dameron is a pilot, not a pirate and he is committed to the resistance and to defeating the first order. He believes in the Force and he can be a little reckless in wanting to prove that he is a leader and a hero. I think he also has that swagger and confidence that comes from people that can soar above everyone else and do all these things at once like flying a fighter jet and getting into these dog fights and being so close to the edge of death. That definitely influences how he operates in the world.”
On stepping into and becoming part of the most iconic series probably of all time and did they grow up with the Star Wars movies:
Lupita shared “I was born into Star Wars. I feel it was a very normal part of my childhood. Although I was born in Mexico City when my father was a visiting lecturer there, I was actually raised in Kenya where my parents were from and where my father served as a Senator. It would come on public holidays and it was on the national television. We only had two channels and it was Star Wars that was on. Everybody watched it and everybody was familiar with it because it was all there was to watch on TV. We all loved it and so it was just a very normal, comfortable, cozy part of my imaginative folklore. It wasn’t until being cast in it that I realized what it meant on a meta level to the world and how big the fan base is, how dedicated, how enthusiastic people are about this world that George Lucas created. It dawned on me for the first time I think, stepping onto the actual set that I was a part of it because I looked around and there were these very expansive sets. There was so much detail taken into the creation of every single thing, the textures, and the colors. You really did feel like you were on another planet and I think that was the time when I realized wow, I’m a part of something that has and will continue to go down in history.”
For Oscar, the road to Star Wars was slightly different. “The first movie I ever saw in the theatre was Return of the Jedi amazingly enough. It’s pretty crazy so now that I’ve done this one I’m going to stop doing movies now because I feel like I’m really into a symmetry. It definitely changed my life. Return of the Jedi kind of blew my little kid brain. I was a huge fan ever since and my family were very big fans as well. Every time a new film would come out we’d throw themed parties and memorize the fight scenes to a tee and terrorize my family with them. For me Star Wars always represented and meant quite literally the coming together as a family and having a great time and it was an excuse to do just that. Yet at the same time it’s like that thing where there’s this ownership over it and there’s an intimate relationship with it and then also it just is something completely outside of my or anyone’s real reality. Suddenly to actually be asked to join that and not only be in it but to contribute something and create a new character to be a part of it was an evolution. The character changed so much from what originally was there when J.J. and I first met to what ultimately ends up on screen. It really did feel like creating something. It’s kind of hard to process because you start and especially now, you really feel the receding of all the water because the tsunami’s about to hit. That’s kind of what this moment really is all about- where the water is just about to crest over. So yes, it’s not just a film. It’s a cultural phenomenon and it’s just hard to process.”
Advice that Oscar received about stepping into the Star Wars universe:
“I didn’t get too much advice about it. I mean for me it was less about advice and I guess it was self-advice just to try to do what I was hired to do which is not worry about that stuff so much and just try to make an interesting, compelling, hopefully truthful character and not get too overwhelmed with all the other stuff around it.”
On the audition process:
Both experienced vastly different auditions. For Oscar, it went relatively quickly. “ I went in and I auditioned. I first met with J.J. and then a few weeks later I went in and I read with John and I took some pictures next to Daisy. I think they just wanted to make sure I wasn’t too decrepit looking. Apparently I am, next to the sunshine. I did a couple of scenes and went back to the hotel and it was within an hour later that I found out I had the part. It all happened pretty quickly.”
For Lupita, because of the nature of her character, the process was different. “I met J.J. to audition for something that I believed may have been Star Wars the week of the Oscars when I was nominated for an Academy Award so I was in quite a whirlwind. I don’t really remember much about that audition. It was a few months after the Oscars and I was in Morocco and I received a call from J.J. saying this is the character I’m thinking of. She’s CGI, are you interested? And of course I said yes and that I would love to see the script. They actually flew someone to Morocco with the script for me to read and I read it over about two, two and a half hours I had and I was immediately intrigued by it. Motion capture was something that I was interested in doing because I think it offers the actor a unique opportunity to play something that’s not limited by your physical circumstance, especially after playing Patsy in ’12 Years A Slave’ who was so much about my physical circumstances. I wanted to get as far away from that as possible so that I wasn’t trying to second that experience at all and I can learn something and be in a completely new turf and for me motion capture was that. I was very interested and a few days later I got the call from my agent that I should pack up.”
On seeing their characters for the first time:
For Lupita, “When I signed on to play Maz she was still going through a lot and they were still developing the character and her role in the film and what she was going to look like. They welcomed me into that conversation which was really cool to see especially when we were at the early stages of her and how she’s evolved over time because she’s CGI. They’ve been working on her for a long, long time. To finally see the film and to see what became of her and somehow I’m — it’s me but it’s definitely not me it’s bizarre. I’ve never seen myself like that in another body all together. It was just as confusing and bizarre and, titillating like ‘Oh my God, there I go.’ When you see the whole film it’s overwhelming and it’s beautiful. My take away from seeing the film was that it is seamless. It felt to me like a seamless continuation of the Star Wars saga. What they have done is that they’ve kept the integrity of the world that George Lucas created and somehow they have managed to integrate all this new technology and these new storylines and they just work effortlessly together. It’s a beautiful, visual experience and a moving story and I think the fans that the franchise already has will be very happy and I think the new fans will be equally thrilled by this amazingly creative world.”
And for Oscar? “It’s strange. It’s difficult to process. It’s a lot of mixed emotions because you’re seeing it as a fan. You’re seeing the new thing. You’re exhilarated by that. You’re finally understanding what the world is because you’re finally seeing it all put together. So you’re being — I was being affected as a viewer and then also by the memories of what shooting was like and what takes were used and what takes were not used and what was moved to another place and how it affected the entire thing. There’s so much going on that it’s a very trippy moment.”
What’s next for the actors?
Oscar is already on to his next project. “I’ll be going back to finish filming a movie called ‘The Promise’ which is shooting in Spain. The film takes place in the beginning of World War One in Turkey and I play an Armenian doctor so that’s where I’m heading to.”
However for Lupita, her career with Disney is continuing on. “I just finished a play called ‘Eclipse’ that is by Dania Gurira who is an actress on the ‘Walking Dead’. She plays Michonee and we just finished that at the Public Theatre in New York and we’re moving to Broadway in February so I’m very excited about that. It is the first play on Broadway that is written by a woman, directed by a woman and starring just women so that is a great milestone. And then I have the ‘Jungle Book’ coming out in April and ‘Queen of Katwe’ also coming out soon.”
Lupita Nyong’o and Oscar Isaac may be seasoned, award-winning actors but when it comes to Star Wars: The Force Awakens it’s clear to see that at the end of the day, they’re just as excited as any fan for the next chapter in the Star Wars saga and so are we.
What secrets did Harrison Ford reveal? Find out that and much more in our exclusive interview with him.
What did Daisy Ridley reveal about her very first movie role ever? Find out here in our interview with her.
How did John Boyega feel about being a part of the Star Wars phenomenon? Check out our interview with the man that brings Finn to life.
Want to know what it was like to be a part of the top secret Star War Global Press Day? Read all about the experience here.
Who’s sitting down for a interview next? Come back tomorrow when we bring you the man of the hour, the writer, director, producer and self professed super fan- J.J. Abrams
There’s Been An Awakening…
When a ruthless prince rises to power and threatens galactic peace, a runaway soldier, an uncongenial scavenger, and a hot shot pilot find their fates intertwined as they embark on a journey to find the most powerful warrior in the galaxy.
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens Tomorrow!
Disclosure: I have been invited by Disney to cover this media event. All material and expenses for this event have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios but all opinions my own.