THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT is the newest live-action series entry in the STAR WARS franchise. New episodes of the seven-part first season debut weekly on Disney+.
Boba Fett, as all STAR WARS aficionados know, is the enigmatic, helmeted bounty hunter (originally played by the late Jeremy Bulloch) who captured Han Solo in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and then was apparently killed by a Sarlacc in THE RETURN OF THE JEDI.
In THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, created by Disney+ by Jon Favreau (who co-created Disney+’s other live-action STAR WARS series, THE MANDALORIAN), we learn how Boba Fett, now played by Temuera Morrison, survived the Sarlacc. Now Boba has a bigger payday than bounties in mind. Partnered with mercenary warrior Fennec Shand, played by Ming-Na Wen, our protagonist intends to take over the desert world of Tatooine.
New Zealand actor Morrison had previously played Boba Fett in THE MANDALORIAN, and voiced the character in videogames. Before that, he portrayed Boba’s father, Jango Fett, in STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES, and not-Fett-relative Captain Cody in STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH. In the DC film universe, Morrison portrays Aquaman’s dad, Tom Curry. Morrison’s starring role in 1994’s ONCE WERE WARRIORS, about contemporary Maori people in New Zealand, paved the way for his prolific career in international films and television.
Like Morrison, Wen had originated her BOOK character on THE MANDALORIAN, as well as voicing Fennec Shand in Disney+’s animated STAR WARS series THE BAD BATCH. In 2020, Wen wrapped up her seven years on MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. as non-nonsense kickass Agent Melinda May. Born in Macau, Wen moved to New York with her family at age four. Major roles have included being a series regular on E.R. and STARGATE: UNIVERSE, as well as providing the speaking voice for Disney’s title heroine in MULAN (she had an onscreen cameo in the live-action remake).
Morrison and Wen join in on a Zoom call arranged by Disney+ for the Television Critics Association Winter 2022 press tour to read us into THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT.
Did either actor have expectations when they were first offered THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT? “We’re in a wonderful position now,” Morrison says. “We work so hard putting this thing together, and we were dealing mostly with the daily schedule and getting through each day filming. Because that was tough enough with the COVID restrictions and all the time that took up with testing and airing out the [soundstage] – it had to be aired for seventy minutes.
So,” Morrison continues, “I didn’t really have expectations, but I just really trust in Jon and [executive producer] Dave [Filoni] and their writing. I just wanted to be good. And I made the most of that opportunity when I appeared in THE MANDALORIAN. I had in the back of my mind, this could lead to some more, or possibly a show like THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, which it did. But yeah, I’m honored, very fortunate, and I’m very lucky that the fans received us both well. And to be part of this journey has just been a fantastic opportunity. Also gives new life to my career in these mature years.”
Wen laughs and assures him, “You have many, many, many, many more, Tem. You have so many more years.”
Morrison seems convinced. “All right. We’re going to do the musical.”
Wen says for her, “It was all a big surprise.”
Since Disney now owns both the Marvel and STAR WARS franchises, does Wen know if there was any interdepartmental discussion that led to her casting as Fennec Shand? “They’re two different projects. As far as how one related to the other, I don’t think so, but I am so grateful that I learned so much stunt fighting in MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. that it really lent itself to me being able to be Fennec as well as I can play her. All those years of training definitely has provided a great deal of advantages. So, very grateful to Disney. Mickey Mouse has really done a lot for my career.”
Does Wen see any similarities between Fennec Shand and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent May? “The similarities are that, yes, they’re both female badasses, and they’re skilled and fearless. And they’re played by me, so that’s a similarity. The difference is that one is a complete mercenary and an assassin, and the other one, Agent May, abides by many, many rules, and killing people for the fun of it or for a job is not one of them. In fact, Agent May doesn’t like guns, and obviously, Fennec does.”
Fennec Shand doesn’t have much previous experience with partnership. What does she think of Fett’s leadership style?
“Fennec has less patience,” Wen replies. “Boba Fett’s gone through an incredible life experience, living with the Tuskens and learning their ways and being part of a real family. And [Fennec] is someone who isused to just being a loner, and getting things done, and not questioning her choices. And so, there are some stumbling blocks while they’re trying to learn diplomacy. Boba and Fennec respect each other very much, so there’s a lot of give and take. And he kind of reins her in on set in real life, right, Tem?”
“Yeah, well, you’re the brains, I’m the brawn,” Morrison opines. “And I think just like Ming-Na answered. She’s got to speak for me, because I’m the silent, quiet kind. So, Ming-Na’s there to do all my talking and be diplomatic. But yeah, it’s a wonderful relationship. It grows through the series, as well. So, yeah, we have our playful moments where we have to discuss things and learn from one another, and learn that sometimes the gung-ho way is not really going to work. Sometimes it takes a little bit more what Ming-Na has.”
“Finesse, right?” Wen suggests.
“I like that,” Morrison says. “Finesse.”
Not only is filmmaker Robert Rodriguez an executive producer and director on THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, but he brought in one of his favorite collaborators, actor Danny Trejo, to guest-star on an episode as a Sarlacc keeper. Wen and Morrison were both delighted.
“Oh, I was such a massive Danny Trejo fan,” Wen enthuses. “It was inevitable [that he’d be in the series], being that it was a Robert Rodriguez project. And Danny is the coolest human being. He has the heart of a warrior, and the personality of a teddy bear.”
“Yes, he is a warrior,” Morrison agrees. “Danny and I go way back to the movie SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS. We were pirates trying to catch Harrison Ford and Anne Heche. Actually, [Trejo’s appearance in THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT] was kept a bit of a surprise, because I didn’t know until he got there that day for filming. He’s got that great face, great texture, great voice … And he’s got some great stories, too. So, we had a great time together. And I think Robert puts him in all his movies, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Wen affirms. “I think [Trejo] is sort of [Rodriguez’s] muse. I want to be somebody’s muse like that.”
Wen is a lifelong fan of both STAR WARS and science fiction/fantasy. “I was definitely president of my science fiction club back in high school. And this is just – a calling, let’s put it that was. The Force was with me because I was so connected and moved and responded so vividly and strongly to the character of Luke Skywalker trying to figure out his life, and his dreams, and what his potentials were. For a little Chinese girl growing up and wanting to be an actor back in those days in America, it was not a thing that my parents wanted for me, for sure, and not a thing that was an easy profession to go into. So, the culmination of this show, being on THE MANDALORIAN, and being here with Tem on THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, it’s truly the American dream.”
Morrison had less early experience with the STAR WARS universe, he acknowledges. “Ming-Na knew a lot more of the intimate details and the history of the saga. I’m not one of those kind [of experts], so I rely a lot on people around me. Really, I made a lot of it up while I was getting the makeup test done. I must give credit to Brian Sipe and Jamie [Kelman] and Alexei [Dmitriew], all my makeup team. We actually had about eight versions of this journey that Boba had to go on. I’m looking in the mirror while they’re doing the makeup, and I’m trying to find the character being reflected to me as the makeup was being applied. I wanted to bring a little bi more energy, a little bit more what we call in our language,” Morrison uses the Maori word for what he means. “Those are the things that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
“And so, yeah, I just wanted to make sure I was a little bit better, because it was twenty years ago when I played Jango Fett. I just remember having so much fun on that in Sydney back in the year 2000. And I thought, ‘Well, here’s a great opportunity to get stuck in.’ I draw a lot of people around me, the makeup people, people like Diego [Mariscal], who’s our [dolly] grip while we were shooting. These people are really fan-based technicians as well, so having them on my side and there on the day, I was always tapping into their knowledge.
“So, it was a combined effort along with Dave and Jon and Robert. They all had their notes for every day. Every scene that we came across, ‘What’s Boba doing here? What does he want? Okay let’s do this to the best of my ability and move on.’ We shot seven episodes all over the place, so it was quite higgledy-piggledy in a way.” Expressing concern that he may not be answering the question that was asked, Morrison turns on his Zoom screen to Wen. “Ming-Na, say something, please.”
Wen laughs. “You do that to me on set, too.” But she’s happy to talk about the filmmaking process. “It was really amazing, because I’m used to doing a TV show where we do one episode, and then we finish that, and we do the next one, and there’s some clarity [in terms of the episode’s internal timeline] and continuity. With this, because especially Boba Fett, he goes through such an incredible journey, it was very important to make sure [of the continuity] from day to day. One day, we could be shooting the finale, and the next day, we’re going back to Episode 1.”
Morrison wound up contributing to THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT’s depiction of the burial practices of Tusken Raiders. “The Tusken are the indigenous of the sands of Tatooine, and it was creating a little bit more history about their own culture. I was pulling from my own [Maori] culture in a way, too, in terms of the ceremonies, and preparing the warrior, and preparing the weapon and things like that.”
“It gave great honor, though, right?” Wen observes. “Because we knew so little about the Tuskens. It really gave them an incredible back story, I felt. I wasn’t there for Tem in shooting those scenes, I only read it. And to see it visually, and how you guys worked out those dance moves and making the weaponry of the staff, I thought all those elements really enriched who the Tuskens were.”
“I think for me, it was like a family,” Morrison elaborates. “I don’t think Boba had experience a family dynamic before, [like] the young Tuskens, the old Tuskens. And just that whole family, what we call,” he uses a Maori term, “the family and the land, of course, protecting the land. Those are the two things in my own culture here in New Zealand,” he uses another Maori phrase, “land and women, we will survive. So I brought a little bit of those elements to the Tusken family.”
Both Morrison and Wen say there’s still a slight sense of disbelief in finding themselves the leads in a STAR WARS TV series. Morrison relates, “I remember [playing] Jango Fett way back then, and I was having so much fun. I was actually working on a TV detective show at the same time. I was able to go over to STAR WARS, do a couple of scenes there, go back to the TV show, and finish that, and then go back to STAR WARS.
“But I never in my wildest dreams thought about playing Boba Fett or anything like that. It wasn’t until I started hearing about THE MANDALORIAN – I was going, ‘Oh, gee, that sounds interesting.’ THE MANDALORIAN brings you into the bounty hunter world, so yeah, it was just amazing. Twenty years later, and I must thank George [Lucas, original creator of the STAR WARS universe] for making me Jango Fett. And since Boba is the clone son of Jango, somebody at a meeting must have said, ‘Well, he’s got to look like Jango.’ And fortunately for me, [the face] was still intact. A little older, but yeah, just so lucky. And we had a lot of fun, too, so it was just great news all around. It was just such a buzz to get the word, ‘Hey, we’re going to make a show, and you’re going to be working with Ming-Na.’ And we were actually pinching ourselves.”
“We are,” Wen affirms. “We did.”
Morrison teases his colleague, “I remember there was one day on set, Ming-Na is going, ‘Isn’t this THE MANDALORIAN?’ I’m saying, ‘No, it’s not THE MANDALORIAN. This is our show, Ming-Na, you and me, you and I’.”
“I’m always the last to know,” Wen laments playfully.
Morrison resumes, more seriously, “So, we both got a wonderful, uplifting kind of feeling, but with a sense of responsibility, so I think we did okay. Now, we’re really sitting back and enjoying the fruits of our hard work. I’m enjoying it, sitting down with my family … and yeah, really taking it all in.”
“It’s a gift,” Wen agrees.
“I’ll watch it again and again,” Morrison says.
“Well,” Wen points out, “that’s the great thing about streaming, isn’t it, that you can go back and watch it again and again, on Disney+. It’s my new favorite streaming platform, it really is. Because,” she concludes with a laugh, “we’re on it.”
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Interview with THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT actors Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen