Continuing the Star Wars theme of their latest issue, People Magazine talked Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ Maz Kanata with Lupita Nyong’o.
The Oscar-winning actress tells People she’s excited to follow in the footsteps of actors like Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbit), Zoe Saldana (Avatar), and, of course, Andy Serkis, who plays Supreme Leader Snoke in the movie. She was also excited to work with the director of Super 8 and the latest Star Trek films.
"“I had been wanting to work in motion capture. When [Maz] was offered to me, I was so excited. I’ve always loved the work, like Andy Serkis and then Zoë Saldana in Avatar. And of course I got to work with [director] J.J. Abrams.”"
Another lure to work on The Force Awakens was, of course, the franchise itself. Lupita recalls Star Wars was a memorable part of her childhood growing up in Kenya.
"“In Kenya they would play Star Wars during public holidays,” she says. “So it was something I could look forward to. I watched it five or six years in a row.”"
Here’s what we know about Maz so far: She’s a sort of pirate queen, as she presides over a castle full of pirate-y scum and villainy. She’s at least a thousand years old, and short, with orange skin. Her eyes are a big feature of her appearance as well as her character, People reminds us. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, J.J. Abrams hinted at their importance.
"“I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do,” Abrams says. “I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”"
Nyong’o added that the focus on Maz’s eyes helped her performance.
"“As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway,” says Nyong’o. “So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character.”"
In the same interview, J.J. suggested we would learn Maz’s backstory through other media, perhaps alluding to books or comics. For now, he said she’s been a pirate for a long time, and her castle is kind of her “watering hole,” which, he said, is “like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”
But something tells me she’s not your typical miscreant bar-fly. First of all, Abrams suggested she might have run into Yoda at some point in her life; while that doesn’t mean it was a savory meeting, they are the two oldest characters in the saga, so it seems significant. Also, her lines in the trailers have been cryptic and her voice cultured, not at all rough or how you would expect a thug to sound.
Combine those aspects of her character with the power in her eyes (or goggles, whichever), I would say there’s more to her than meets the eye.