Who Are Maz And Poe? An Interview With Lupita Nyongn’o And Oscar Isaac About Star Wars The Force Awakens

It’s opening day! Do you have your tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet? We have ours, and I can’t wait to see it! Today I am sharing an interview with one of the most mysterious characters from the movie, Maz, and a resistance pilot, Poe Dameron, better known as Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyongn’o and Oscar Isaac. 

Why is Maz so mysterious? Because although she is played by the gorgeous Lupita Nyongn’o, no one knows for sure what she looks like — until they see the movie. All we know about the CG character is that she is a pirate and a bar owner — that’s it. Even while interviewing Lupita Nyongn’o, that’s all she could tell us. Maz may be Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ best kept secret. You can’t even buy Maz toys yet. (As I understand the release of Maz and other “spoiler toys” will come in the weeks following the movie opening. Yet another reason to see the movie early!)

Lupita Nyong'o Oscar Issac Star Wars
Without sharing any movie detaials, these Star Wars newcomers told us what it was like to take their place in Star Wars history. 

Lupita Nyongn’o And Oscar Isaac

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, 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. 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 times? Did you grow up with the Star Wars movies?

Lupita: I was born into Star Wars. 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. 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. I felt it dawned on me for the first time stepping onto the actual set that I was a part of it, because I looked around and these were these 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 theater was Return of the Jedi, amazingly. It’s pretty crazy. So now that I’ve done this one I’m going to stop doing movies now. It definitely changed my life. It kind of blew my little kid brain, and 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. 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.

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, especially now. You really feel that receding of all the water because the tsunami’s about to hit. You know, that’s kind of what this moment is really where it’s 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.

Poe Star Wars
What’s the best advice you received about stepping into the Star Wars universe?

Oscar: 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.

What was the first thing that you did when you found out that you got the part?

Lupita: I took out my suitcase. I really did. I got my suitcase. 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.

What was the audition process like?

Oscar: I went in and I auditioned. I met JJ. And then a few weeks later I went in and I read with John and I took pictures, took some pictures next to Daisy. Then I did a couple of scenes and then that moment when I found out at the hotel, that was about an hour later when I went home. It was nice. Pretty quickly.

Lupita: I met J.J. to audition for something that I believe may have been Star Wars 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. A few months after that, 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 and a half hours and I was immediately intrigued by it and 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 and especially after playing Patsy who was so 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. And so I was very interested and a few days later I got the call from my agent that I should pack up.

Finn Poe Star Wars
What was it like to see your character for the first time?

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 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, and they welcomed me into that conversation which was really cool to see 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, 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 altogether.

And 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 felt to me like a seamless continuation of the Star Wars saga. 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 storylines and they work effortlessly together. It’s a, 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, 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 going 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.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Opens In Theaters December 18

Do you have your tickets yet?

For more Star Wars: The Force Awakens coverage, don’t miss my previous posts. And stay tuned for more Star Wars all week.

Poe Dameron Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

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