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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Emily Swallow Talks Her Role as The Armorer, The Mandalorian Season 2, Iron Man Influences, and Inspiring Fans

by @holocronJosh and @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

Star Wars Holocron spoke exclusively with The Armorer herself Emily Swallow to discuss her role in The Mandalorian, the upcoming season, and more.

Swallow’s character became an instant favorite immediately after she was introduced in the pilot of the acclaimed Disney+ series. Fans were delighted to hear the voice of The Armorer once again in the trailer for the show’s second season, premiering later this month on October 30. Swallow discussed her hope that fans will respond to season two in a similarly positive way as season one:

“I hope that they’re gonna fall in love with it just as they did the first season. The difficulty of a second season of anything is that they have more specific expectations because they’ve already seen something. So I’m really hoping that fans go into it with an open mind like they did for the first season and are ready to go for the ride.”

A key component of the second season will be Din Djarin’s quest to deliver the Child to his people. Swallow’s voice is heard in last month’s trailer as she references the Jedi, a word that is also heard in the first season. However, Swallow revealed that The Armorer didn’t originally use the word Jedi in the finale of Season One:

“I was recording all of my dialogue as I was in the suit. It wasn’t added later. But you always have to go back and do a little bit of looping and ADR in case some things don’t come out clearly. I didn’t use the word ‘Jedi’ when we first filmed that scene in the last episode. And then Dave [Filoni] and Jon [Favreau] felt that it wasn’t specific enough. When I was in my ADR session and they told me they were going to change it to Jedi, I got so excited because that word carries so much.”

One of The Armorer’s most remembered moments from the first season features Swallow’s character crafting Din’s armor. Swallow recalls creator and executive producer Jon Favreau’s intent to have those scenes be reminiscent of Tony Stark building his Iron Man suit in the first MCU film:

“I remember when we were shooting [the armor crafting scenes], Jon said he wanted them to have the same feel as the sequences in Iron Man. As soon as he said that, I knew I was in good hands because that was just so exciting in those movies when he’s making his armor. It’s shot so beautifully.”

Given the nature of Mandalorians and the prevalence of helmets in their culture, the voices of these characters takes on added importance. Swallow talked about how she crafted the voice for the role, along with the challenges of playing a masked character:

“It was such a fun challenge to approach a masked character, which I had gotten to do for theater before but never for the camera. It started with the audition, because my understanding is that they were originally seeing British women in their 50’s and 60’s, and the casting associate suggested that I do a few takes with a British accent. Then Jon [Favreau] really liked that because it sets her apart from everyone else. So that’s how [her voice] came to be.”

Swallow went on to describe the way in which The Armorer’s movement played into the voice of the character:

“The rest of her voice was really informed so much by the movement. She was described to me as a Zen leader of this group of people. So to me that meant that her movements could be very simple. She could be very grounded and she’s someone who carries her authority with ease, so I felt like that ease would come across in her voice. And that seemed to work. On a practical level, technically it was really hard to see in that helmet because I have tinted lenses and the set that I was working in, the Armorer’s set, was very dimly lit, so it wound up being great that I didn’t have to move around quickly or make any sudden moves, of course until the stormtroopers tick her off. It meant that I had to have a lot of breath and I had to take my time. She strikes me as someone who’s very patient, in a world where everyone else is getting really reactive and the Mandalorian’s are all freaked out because they had to be in hiding for so long. So all those things seemed to serve her as a leader. It just made sense to me on an intellectual level, but also felt right the more I lived in that. We were all finding the language of movement of these Mandalorians together during the first couple of episode that we shot. We learned a lot about how extraneous movements can be really distracting on camera because you often can’t see a person’s entire body in a shot, so you have to be more mindful of every different part of your body is moving. So it was a fun challenge because I’ve never gotten to anything like that in TV. It was definitely informed by training I’d had in theater with mask work and just trying to get my voice really connected to my body.”

In particular, Jon Favreau suggested samurai movies from directors like Akira Kurosawa to land on the movement of the character:

“I had a conversation with Jon a few days before we started filming and he was referencing Kurosawa and samurai warriors and that economy of movement and that simplicity. Plus, the importance of honor in that world. So I went to rewatch some Kurosawa and having those images in my mind was really helpful. In a situation like that where I haven’t gotten a lot of specifics, I like to have a lot of images in my brain and have some different things to draw from so that when I get to set and have those conversations, I can get more specific.”

As Swallow mentions, many of the cast members were given limited background for their character due to the secretive nature of the show. Swallow details how she was unaware of her character’s look until she was being fitted for the outfit:

“I’ve never been part of a project that was so tightly guarded. I knew very little leading up to it. One of my first glimpses of the character I was playing was when I went in for a costume fitting and they were taking all these measurements and these body casts so they can create this armor. I hadn’t seen any sketches or images or anything yet. And I started to ask them about it and at some point somebody said, ‘Wait a minute, you haven’t seen any of it?’ and I said no. They were like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ So they showed me the sketches of this incredible armor and that was definitely a huge piece that gave me a lot of information. And I knew too that the look of the costume would tell so much of the story.”

Despite not knowing a great deal about the role beforehand, Swallow still had many conversations with Favreau and Filoni, which she recalls fondly:

“That to me is the best part of performing is when you get to join your ideas with the directors and other actors and you get to see the set and it just starts melding together.”

Star Wars has a long standing tradition of characters appearing across a variety of different mediums, recently demonstrated by Forest Whitaker reprising his role as Saw Gerrera in Rebels and Jedi: Fallen Order following his appearance in Rogue One. When asked if this would be of interest, Swallow was enthusiastic at the prospect of playing the character again:

“Being able to play any character in the Star Wars universe is a dream come true. But playing the Armorer has just been such a gift for me. Getting to embody a character like that who is so wise and has so much patience and is so trusting that things will work out. That’s something I need in my daily life! (Laughs) Also, just seeing how much she inspires the fans. In particular, I get so excited when I hear about little girls who want to be The Armorer for Halloween and all these different cosplayers who are making Armorer costumes. It’s such a thrill and a gift so I would absolutely do it in any medium. I’ve done a little bit of motion capture work for video games. I’d be down for a video game, I’d be down for a voice over, I’d be down for The Mandalorian on ice! (Laughs)”

The Armorer continues Star Wars’ history of complex, predominant female characters, dating back to Leia Organa in 1977’s A New Hope. Swallow talked about what Leia and, in general, Star Wars means to her:

“I grew up with Leia. I grew up wanting to be her. I had all these Ewok adventures in my back yard. I tried to do the Leia hair and failed miserably. Star Wars has just always been a part of my life. It doesn’t make sense to have a world without it.”

Swallow recounted some of the challenges of acting while wearing a helmet and expressed her hope that a blooper reel showcasing some of these challenges will be released one day:

“I hope that they release a blooper reel of Mandalorians in between takes because there was plenty of bumping heads. I was amazed at how those welding sequences and the forging sequences came together, because there were plenty of moments when I was dropping things or I was trying to pick something up but I couldn’t. It was anything but graceful (Laughs).”

From insights regarding the behind the scenes mechanics of The Mandalorian to specifics about how The Armorer’s performance was crafted, Emily Swallow underscored the incredible level of detail and effort that goes into creating the show. Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for more coverage of The Mandalorian Season 2 leading up to its debut on October 30!

Emily Swallow headshot by Diana Ragland

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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Star Wars Holocron Blog

REVIEW: Star Wars: Squadrons – Single Player

by @holocronJosh and @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

Since 1977, it’s been the dream of many Star Wars fans to hop into the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter and feel what it’s like to take part in a dogfight as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader did in A New Hope and so many others have since. Star Wars: Squadrons, the newest Star Wars game from EA and developed by Motive Studios, follows in the footsteps of games like Rogue Squadron and Starfighter in delivering immersive, entertaining ship gameplay in the Star Wars universe. Released on Xbox One, PS4, and PC, Squadrons is unique in that it can be played in VR, adding a whole different dimension to the flying experience. This is our review of Squadrons’ single player experience.

Story

Squadrons’ single player campaign is a 6-8 hour adventure set after the events of Return of the Jedi, in which the New Republic is emerging from the ashes of the Empire. Players assume the role of fighters in two squadrons: the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron and the Empire’s Titan Squadron, with missions flipping back and forth between the two sides. Avoiding spoilers, the campaign is largely centered around the New Republic’s development of a weapon and the Empire’s efforts to stop it. The plot features Javes, an Imperial defector, who, along with Vanguard Squadron, protect a new capital ship from Kerrill and Titan Squadron.

Squadrons’ story is serviceable, but doesn’t deliver anything novel to Star Wars, especially when compared to EA’s most recent effort with Jedi: Fallen Order. Unlike Cal Kestis and the other Fallen Order characters, Squadrons’ characters are more superficially developed through inconsequential backstories and conversations delivered to our protagonist. These conversations have little, if any, impact on the story itself and vary greatly in terms of their engagement and entertainment value. Several characters in the game, such as Shen, have much potential, but the game does little to make them fully fleshed out people. That being said, Squadrons is full of great references to broader canon that Star Wars fans will love, including appearances from Rae Sloane and Hera Syndulla. Tying back to the game’s story, it was a missed opportunity to not have the 2 squadrons cross paths more directly in the game, although it’s cool to see one mission with one squadron pick up where the last mission with the other squadron left off.

Squadrons still delivers an entertaining, somewhat mediocre story that is made better by flipping back and forth between control of the New Republic and immersive, nuanced gameplay.

Gameplay

Indeed, relative to its narrative, Squadrons excels when it comes to its ship combat. Considerably more nuanced than Battlefront 2’s ship gameplay, but purposefully not as detailed as something like Microsoft Flight Simulator, Squadrons strikes a healthy balance between an arcade style game and a flight sim game. In large part, Squadron’s single player mode really feels like a training exercise in preparation for the game’s multiplayer mode, orienting players to the complex mechanics of flight combat. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily as the basics are relatively straightforward to master, but undertaking some of the more subtle maneuvers of ship combat require more practice and skill.

Players on each side are given the choice of four ships, each of which have unique abilities, but, intelligently, were designed to have similar cockpit controls, which makes trying different ships to be a smoother process. A really neat feature of the game is the ability to disable the HUD entirely, forcing players to rely solely on the cockpit buttons and switches before them. This sort of option, while making the game considerably more difficult, makes an already immersive game even more immersive. Speaking of immersive, Squadrons is exclusively played in first-person, which may be an issue for some fans of Battlefront 2 used to playing ship combat in third-person. However, this option really cements the developers’ efforts to situate players in the cockpit of these iconic Star Wars ships and make players feel like they’re actually in the dogfight, an experience that is furthered by playing the game in VR. That may be an understatement – Squadrons goes to a whole other level of entertainment and immersion when playing with VR technology. The visuals are stunning and the scope of view is jaw dropping, making you really feel like you’re in a Star Wars movie. The game also supports joystick controllers, but we were not able to try this option yet.

Squadrons’ missions are largely repetitive, but there’s enough variability to keep things engaging throughout the duration of the campaign. Also, the ship combat is just that much fun (and difficult) that it makes the campaign enjoyable and challenging throughout.

Overall Impressions

Due to the nature of the game’s story, Squadrons’ gameplay could make or break the game. Luckily for Star Wars fans, the gameplay is immersive, fun, and exhilarating from start to finish. The gameplay may take some getting used to, especially for those more used to arcade style games, but Squadrons’ ability to replicate the experience of being in the cockpit of a fighter is like none other. Stay tuned to our review of Squadrons’ multiplayer mode in the next week!

Score: 8/10

Images courtesy of EA & Lucasfilm

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What’s New in Star Wars – October 2020

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_Holocron

The New Republic and the Galactic Empire going head to head in ship combat. Rey, Finn, and Poe’s activities prior to The Rise of Skywalker. A journey into Vader’s castle. And, of course, the continued adventures of Din Djarin and The Child. October is host to an array of exciting Star Wars projects and is easily one of the most anticipated months for Star Wars this year given the release of a new video game and the start of The Mandalorian’s second season. Here’s an overview of what’s new in Star Wars this month. It’s important to note that, due to the disruptions to publishing caused by COVID-19, the following projects are tentatively set to release this month.

October 2 – Star Wars: Squadrons

Star Wars has returned to the world of gaming with Star Wars: Squadrons, made by Motive Studios for EA. The game’s plot takes place after the Battle of Endor and centers on two fighter squadrons: the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron, and the Galactic Empire’s Titan Squadron. In the game, “two pilots will shape the balance of power in the galaxy.”  Part of the plot deals with the New Republic’s Project Starhawk, which the Empire has gotten wind of, sending spies to deal with it.” As well as multiplayer, there will also be a campaign on release. Many established characters, such as Hera from Rebels, are set to appear. The entire game will be playable in VR. 

October 6 – Star Wars Origami 2: 34 More Projects from a Galaxy Far, Far Away….

There have been a variety of fun Star Wars books published under Disney. Chris Alexander’s Star Wars Origami 2 is set to be no different, and looks to be an exciting interactive book. 

October 7 – Star Wars 7

The next edition of the Star Wars main line will release on October 7. Written by Charles Soule, a frequent author of Star Wars publishing, Princess Leia, Moff Tarkin, and more will appear again as tensions rise in a galaxy far, far away. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “SHE WILL HAVE REVENGE! COMMANDER ELLIAN ZAHRA has been tasked by the terrifying DARTH VADER with the job of tracking down the remnants of the REBEL FLEET, scattered since the BATTLE OF HOTH. From the bridge of her flagship the TARKIN’S WILL, she hunts the galaxy, eradicating all resistance, her secret goal to destroy LEIA ORGANA. But why such hate for the PRINCESS OF ALDERAAN? The truth…will be REVEALED!”

October 7 – Star Wars Adventures 1

Delayed from last month, Star Wars Adventures 1 is the first issue of a new, monthly series featuring stories about two fan favorite Star Wars characters. In this first issue, set in between the events of The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, Rey, Finn, and Poe travel to a remote planet to continue Rey’s Jedi training, but soon meet trouble when they encounter First Order forces. The other story in this issue will center around Darth Vader.

October 13 – Star Wars: Fascinating Facts

Also delayed from last month, Pablo Hidalgo delivers another reference book with Star Wars: Fascinating Facts, detailing tons of fun facts about the nine films in the Skywalker saga. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Star Wars: Fascinating Facts is a compendium of hundreds of little-known facts about all nine episodes in the Skywalker Saga—from behind-the-scenes on-set tidbits to stories about how the tale of Star Wars was created. Profiles of important characters and early drafts of scripts show what might have been, details of how famous scenes were filmed, and other firsthand accounts from cast and crew members.”

October 13 – Star Wars Adventures Vol. 10: Driving Force

Volume 10 of Star Wars Adventures collects issues 24-36 from the series of comics directed toward middle-school aged children. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “With hotshot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron captured by pirates, it’s up to BB-8–and Rapier Squadron–to save the day! Then, in this story set before A New Hope, Princess Leia Organa faces the most challenging task of her young life: teaching Amilyn Holdo how to drive a speeder! But both learn an important lesson after finding themselves in the dangerous lower levels of Coruscant. And finally, witness one of the many lessons Rey learned from Luke Skywalker during her time on Ahch-To.”

October 14 – Darth Vader 6

Greg Pak’s Darth Vader series continues with the first of the new ‘Into the Fire’ arc. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “THE PUNISHMENT! DARTH VADER failed to turn his son, Luke Skywalker, to the dark side of the Force. No…Luke was too weak to join his father in overthrowing EMPEROR PALPATINE. Vader sought revenge against those who hid Luke from him for all of these years…and in doing so nearly betrayed his master. It did not go unnoticed by Palpatine… time for Vader’s next lesson.”

October 20 – Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Vol. 1

The manga of Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan finally releases in English this month after its debut in Japan late last year. The manga is beautifully illustrated by Haruichi, enriching Claudia Gray’s already great tale. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “The never-before-told story of how young Leia Organa comes to join the rebellion against the evil Empire. A young Princess Leia spends her days learning the ways of politics, aiding those in need and preparing for the traditional ceremony in which she declares her intention to one day rule Alderaan. But as Leia prepares herself to be named the heir of the throne, she becomes aware of the growing distance between her and her parents, who behind closed doors are leaders of the newly formed rebellion. Upon learning her parents’ secrets, Leia must now make a choice between her responsibility to the people of Alderaan and her responsibility to save a galaxy crushed by the rule of the Empire.”

October 20 – Star Wars: The Lightsaber Collection

With teases regularly being dropped over the last few weeks, Daniel Wallace’s upcoming lightsaber guidebook has been on the radar for a lot of Star Wars fans recently. Illustrated by  Lukasz Liszko and Ryan Valle, this guidebook will showcase brand new looks at some of the Star Wars saga’s most iconic lightsabers and their wielders. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Star Wars: The Lightsaber Collection is a comprehensive visual guide exploring the iconic and legendary lightsabers found within the Star Wars galaxy, featuring fan-favorite hilts from the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, comics, novels, and video games. Own the definitive lightsaber guide. This book features the hilts of characters such as Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Kylo Ren, Rey, Ahsoka Tano, and more. Learn about the creation and history of lightsabers from all of Star Wars, including Darth Maul’s double-bladed saber and the Darksaber.Discover never before seen art and illustrations. Featuring photo-realistic renders of lightsabers from Star Wars animation and comics, including Ezra Bridger’s blaster-saber hybrid, the Grand Inquisitor’s spinning blades, and a new lightsaber from The High Republic, this book is a must-have for Star Wars fans.”

October 20 – The Star Wars Book: Expand your knowledge of a galaxy far, far away

Pablo Hidalgo and company return with another reference book, this time offering a comprehensive examination of the franchise with new stills and essays from the saga. The book is divided into several main domains: galaxy, science and technology, the Force, the Skywalkers, galactic governments and their dissidents, and galactic denizens.

October 20 – Star Wars A Jedi, You Will Be

The 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back is celebrated with a new children’s picture book narrated by Yoda himself, written by Preeti Chhibber.

October 21 – Bounty Hunters 6

Ethan Sacks’ wildly entertaining Bounty Hunters series continues with more adventures of Valance and company. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “With precious cargo and a price on his head, VALANCE must go to the only person in the galaxy he can trust. But the UNBROKEN CLAN has sent a deadly and unique pair of bounty hunters after him. No one in the galaxy can escape the combined cunning of 4-LOM and ZUCKUSS!!!”

October 21 – Star Wars Adventures 2

Despite the delays to this series, the second issue of the Star Wars Adventures comic series is also set to drop this month, further chronicling the events between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. 

October 21 – Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle

One of October’s more interesting projects is this one-shot comic written by Cavan Scott and illustrated by Derek Charm, Nicoletta Baldari, Nick Brokenshire, and Francesco Francavilla. Set in the aftermath of the fall of the Empire, this comic follows two boys who seek out to destroy Vader’s castle. 

October 27 – This is the Way

Little Golden Books’ collaboration with Star Wars continues with “This is the Way,” a new story focusing on Din Djarin, The Child (Baby Yoda), and more! 

October 28 – Doctor Aphra 5

Alyssa Wong’s Doctor Aphra series continues with the fifth issue of the current run illustrated by Marika Cresta. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “POWER TO RULE THE GALAXY? RONEN TAGGE has the legendary RINGS OF VAALE. Will he destroy the priceless artifacts or fall to their temptation? If they truly give him the power to rival the EMPEROR, what hope do APHRA and crew have to stop him?”

October 30 – The Mandalorian Season Two

And last, but certainly not least, the new season of The Mandalorian debuts (cue Ludwig Göransson’s score). Despite a whole host of casting rumors, very little is officially known about the next adventure of Din Djarin and The Child, although the trailer suggests the show will continue where the first season left off. Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for reviews, news, trivia, behind the scenes images, shots, quotes, parallels, and more from the new season!

For reference, a condensed list of upcoming projects in October without descriptions is included below:

October 2 – Star Wars: Squadrons  

October 6 – Star Wars Origami 2: 34 More Projects from a Galaxy Far, Far Away….   

October 7 – Star Wars 7   

October 7 – Star Wars Adventures 1   

October 13 – Star Wars: Fascinating Facts   

October 13 – Star Wars Adventures Vol. 10: Driving Force   

October 14 – Darth Vader 6   

October 20 – Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Vol. 1  

October 20 – Star Wars: The Lightsaber Collection   

October 20 – The Star Wars Book: Expand your knowledge of a galaxy far, far away   

October 20 – Star Wars A Jedi, You Will Be   

October 21 – Bounty Hunters 6   

October 21 – Star Wars Adventures 2   

October 21 – Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle   

October 27 – This is the Way   

October 28 – Doctor Aphra 5   

October 30 – The Mandalorian Season Two