Meet the Newest Chewbacca
Like many fans of the “Star Wars” series, one of our favorite characters is cute, furry, an expert pilot and one hell of a fighter. His name? Chewbacca.
If you’ve had the opportunity to see the new “Star Wars" films, “Rogue One” or “The Force Awakens,” you are probably just excited as we are about the upcoming film “Episode VIII,” expected to hit theaters in late 2017. Leading up to this weekend’s Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con, we had the opportunity to interview the newest actor playing our beloved Wookie in the film.
Joonas Suotamo was first seen playing Chewbacca in “The Force Awakens” as a double for Peter Mayhew. Mayhew, the original Chewbacca (who is now 72), stands at a whopping 7-foot-2-inches, and has reportedly been experiencing issues with his knees. Although representatives of the film have confirmed that Mayhew will be in costume for the upcoming eighth episode of the landmark franchise, Suotamo has taken on an increasingly crucial role as his acting double.
So who is this tall, handsome young man walking around as our favorite furry character? We had the opportunity to find out a little bit more, straight from the Wookie’s mouth.
The newest Chewbacca on the "Star Wars" scene stands at approximately 6-feet-10-inches and was born in Finland. How did Suotamo come to acquire this exciting role?
A couple of weeks after submitting a videotape to casting, they asked me to fly to London to see Nina Gold. When I got there I had to do this caveman-type performance to, I guess, show that I could play an emotional mime character. That was the point I sort of knew it was going to be Chewie's role — also, the pictures of Chewie on the wall helped!
In addition to being an aspiring actor, Suotamo is a talented athlete who played basketball at Pennsylvania State University for the Nittany Lions. Though he does not play anymore, he said that basketball opened his life up to a new realm of possibilities.
I knew I wanted to be a part of making the [Star Wars] films since I went to college; there was not really much hesitation there. I will always be grateful for basketball because it has made possible so many things, and taught me so much about life in general. As of now I don't play basketball regularly, but instead I try to visit the gym regularly and work out on my own as much as possible.
Something we’ve always wanted to know about the character: how much of the Wookie’s call is automated compared to how much is actually practiced on set with the cameras rolling? Newie Chewie clued us in.
It's a mix of both. The Chewbacca voice that you you hear in the films is a mix of various animal noises–a bear, for example. But since I tried to do the sound on set as much as possible, I’m thinking now some of my voice might have remained in the final film as well.
Suotamo was not even born at the release of the franchise’s first film, “Episode IV: A New Hope.” Don’t we all wish we could be a part of creating one of the greatest sci-fi films ever created, even if it means being dressed in the iconic hot-hairy suit? Working on set with the star-studded cast of the Star Wars crew, and in London at the time of this interview, we asked Suotamo about his experience thus far.
I had a good relationship with everyone in the film, and I've stayed in touch with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega as well as people from the crew. I think it’s a blessing to have such a friendly cast and crew working in these films, as it makes life much easier for everybody involved. You're glad to sweat and suffer in a hot hair suit through it all because of all these great people.
Feeling the sting of envy yet?
With such a colorful cast of characters, it’s hard to pin down a favorite among them — especially if you’re in that number! But we wanted to know anyway: who is Suotamo’s all-time favorite Star Wars character?
I find all the characters in the saga to be interesting in their own human ways; for example, I loved Rogue One's characters, particularly Jyn and K2SO. When I was a kid I used to want to be Luke Skywalker, but in recent years I've grown to like one particular hairy character in the saga over the others. You might have heard of him…
He’s easy to love, that’s for sure. But with so many Star Wars legacy characters on the scene at this event, we wondered who Suotamo was most looking forward to running into this weekend.
I heard that there will be some Star Wars guests in attendance, right? It’s gonna be great to see Peter Mayhew again. I'm also excited to meet Ray Park, as I loved Darth Maul in Episode I.
Add them to our fan checklist of stars to meet! On the eve of Wizard World Comic Con, there are sure to be many excited Star Wars fans eager to meet the man behind the Wookie this weekend in New Orleans–and the feeling is mutual.
I am very excited to see New Orleans for the first time, in the movies I've seen it has always been shown as so lively and fun. So a big thank you to Wizard World for making it possible!
Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con is taking place on Jan. 6, 7 and 8, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. General admission tickets range from $45 to $80 for one- to three-day passes. Joonas Suotamo is scheduled to appear on all three days.