Who are Maz Kanata and Poe Dameron? We find out in this exclusive interview with Oscar Issac & Lupita Nyong’o. Post sponsored by Disney. All opinions are my own
Oscar Issac & Lupita Nyong’o Interview for Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Who Are Maz & Poe?
Dude, people will be heading to the theaters TONIGHT for Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Crazy that the long awaited day is here, right? Having now seen the movie myself, I definitely take a different perspective in editing my interviews. One of the most intriguing was our exclusive Oscar Issac & Lupita Nyong’o interview. An Oscar winning actress and a two time Golden Globe nominated actor, you knew you had talent in the room. Who are Maz Kanata and Poe Dameron? There was so little that we knew about these new Star Wars characters going into this session. So what can they tell us about Maz and Poe? Why are they important to the Star Wars story?
Though they are not a couple, I had to say that these two looked stunning together. I immediately felt under dressed. Restraint and yet excitement in their voices, it was really incredible to hear how their personal Star Wars stories translated into their characters.
What can you tell us about your characters?
Lupita: I can tell you that my character’s name is Maz Kanata and she is a pirate and owns a bar.
Oscar: 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 fighting a fighter jet and getting into these dog fights and be so close to the edge of death and that definitely influences how he operates in the world.
What’s it like stepping into and becoming part of the most iconic series probably of all time? Did you grow up with the Star Wars movies?
Lupita: I was born into Star Wars. I feel it was a very normal part of my childhood. It would come on public holidays on the national television. We only had two channels, so Star Wars was on. And everybody watched it and everybody was familiar with it because it was all there was to watch on TV. And we all loved it and so it was just a very normal comfortable, cozy part of my imaginative folklore. And it wasn’t until being cast in it that I realized what it meant on a mega level to the world and how big the fan base is, how dedicated, how enthusiastic people are about this world that George Lucas created. I felt 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 these were very expansive sets and there was so much detail taken into the creation of every single thing, the textures, 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.
Oscar: The first movie I ever saw in the theatre was Return of the Jedi, amazingly. It’s pretty crazy so now that I’ve done this one I’m gonna stop doing movies now ‘cause I feel like I’m really into a symmetry. Yeah, it definitely changed my mind, my life. It kind of blew my little kid brain. Yeah, I was a huge fan ever since and my family were very big fans and every time a new film would come out we’d throw themed parties and memorize the fight scenes to a T and terrorize my family with them. And so for me Star Wars always represented and meant quite literally coming together as a family and having a great time and it was an excuse to do that. But 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 anyone’s real reality and then suddenly to actually be asked to join that and not only be in it but to contribute something and create a new character which it really was that. 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. So it really did feel like creating something. It’s kind of hard to process because you start and especially now, you really feel that receding of all the water ‘cause the tsunami’s about to hit. That’s kind of what this moment is really where it’s just about to crest over. And so yes, it’s not just a film. It’s a cultural phenomenon and it’s just hard to process.
What was the first thing that you did when you found out that you actually got the part?
Lupita: I took out my suitcase. Yeah, ‘cause I did. I really did. I got my suitcase.
Oscar: Here we go….
Lupita: Time to pack! I literally found out like two days before I needed to be in London so I had to pack.
Oscar: That’s amazing. I was in a hotel room in London, so I just blasted the Star Wars theme and I grabbed the shampoo bottle and started using it like an X-Wing. That’s what I did.
Are you gonna start collecting yourself? Your toys aren’t out yet [referring to Lupita]
Lupita: I know. I know. I can’t wait, yeah!
Oscar: I have a very small apartment so I can’t get too much stuff, but I am funneling things to the family. Yes, yes. Like sheets. There’s a cardboard cutout. There’s a Go-GURT.
Oscar: You can drink yogurt out of my head. [LAUGHTER]
Lupita: That’s not true!
Oscar: And I’m an emoji on Twitter. Sheets. I’m on a seat, like a beach chair type of thing. Like a beach chair and right next to the [hand motions] my face is right next to the butt area.
Oscar: It’s a little disrespectful. [LAUGHTER]
What was the audition process like?
Oscar: I went in and I auditioned. I met J.J. And then a few weeks later I went in and I read with John and I took some pictures next to Daisy. Just wanna make sure I wasn’t too decrepit looking. Apparently I am, next to the sunshine. And then I did a couple of scenes. Then that moment when I found out at the hotel, that was about an hour later when I went home.
Lupita: So I met J.J. to audition for something that I believe may have been Star Wars [during] the week of the Oscars when I was nominated for an Oscar. So I was in quite a whirlwind and I don’t really remember much about that audition. Then a few months after the Oscars I was in Morocco and I received a call from J.J. saying “This is the character I’m thinking. She’s CGI, are you interested?” And I said yes; I would love to see the script. So they flew someone to Morocco with the script for me to read, and I read it over about two, two and a half hours, and I was immediately intrigued by it. Motion capture was something that I was interested in doing because I think it offers the actor an unique opportunity to play something that’s not limited by your physical circumstance and especially after playing Patsy who was SOOO much about my physical circumstances. I wanted to get as far away from that as possible so that I’m not 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. So I was very interested, and a few days later, I got the call from my agent that I should pack up.
How adorable is Oscar Issac singing about Star Wars?! He might be tad excited about his hero debut
What was it like to see your character for the first time?
Oscar: It’s strange. It’s again 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 understanding what the world is because it’s one thing to see it all put together. I was being affected as a viewer and then also 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 affects the thing. So there’s so much going on that it’s a very trippy moment.
Lupita: When I signed on to play Maz, they were still developing the character and her role in the film and what she was going to look like and all that. They welcomed me into that conversation which was really cool to see we’re 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 time. And then to finally see the film and to see what became of her and somehow it’s me but it’s definitely not me; it’s bizarre. I’ve never seen myself like that in another body all together. So it was just as confusing and bizarre and titillating. Then you see the whole film as well and it’s overwhelming. I mean it’s overwhelming, and it’s beauty. My take away from seeing the film was that it is a seamless. It felt to me like a seamless continuation of the Star Wars saga and because what they’ve done is they have kept the integrity of the world that George Lucas created and somehow they have managed to integrate all this new technology and these new story lines and they 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.
What’s next for you?
Oscar: I’ll go back. I have to finish filming a movie called The Promise that I’m doing. Shooting it in Spain. The film takes place in the beginning of World War One in Turkey and I play an Armenian doctor in it. So yeah, I’m finishing that up.
Lupita: 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 very excited about that. It’s gonna be the first play on Broadway that is written by a woman, directed by a woman and starring just women. So that’s a great milestone. And then I have the Jungle Book coming out in April and Queen of Katwe coming out soon.
Have you been following along my #StarWarsEvent journey? Catch up on all of the exclusive Star Wars: The Force Awakens press events here!
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review | Safe for Kids? (no spoilers)
- Exclusive Harrison Ford Interview
- Exclusive Daisy Ridley Interview
- Exclusive John Boyega Interview
- Exclusive Kathleen Kennedy Interview
- Photo Tour of the Star Wars Global Press Event
Are you excited to meet the new characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?
This post is sponsored by Disney. I received an all-inclusive press trip in exchange for this posting. All Star Wars loving opinions are my own. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for more Disney movie updates!