Omid Abtahi on Grogu’s puppet: “It’s what Star Wars is about”

Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and The Client (Werner Herzog) look at Grogu in Season 1 of Star Wars The Mandalorian
Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and The Client (Werner Herzog) look at Grogu in Season 1 of Star Wars The Mandalorian /

Love or hate The Mandalorian, there is no doubt that Grogu, AKA Baby Yoda, was the breakout star of the series. He became an instant cultural phenomenon from the moment he appeared in the first episode. Grogu also apparently can charm his co-stars too, according to Doctor Pershing actor Omid Abtahi. In a recent interview with The Geeky Waffle, Abtahi shared what it was like meeting Baby Yoda for the first time.

While filming the first season of The Mandalorian, Abtahi gushed enthusiastically about the Grogu animatronic, saying, “It was amazing! It was magical! It was what Star Wars is about. The puppetry and the mastery and the artistry of it.”

Arriving on set, the crew asked if he wanted to meet his co-star. “I expected a human being,” Abtahi joked. “Then they rolled over this music case, and I thought there was a violin in there or something.” When they took out Grogu, Abtahi shared that despite not knowing what Grogu was at the time, he loved the little guy instantly. “He was so cute! But when they brought him to life, and his eyes opened up, and his ears started wiggling, and his mouth started moving, it did something to me!”

He said the crew would jokingly fuss at him, saying that he was playing an Imperial scientist and should be more serious. Abtahi would answer, “But he’s so sweet! He’s so cute looking! How can you be mean to this guy?”

Comparing the takes that he and his co-star Werner Herzog would do with the animatronics vs a tennis ball for a CGI creation, Abtahi said about the tennis ball, “It was like someone took the life out of the room [compared to the animatronic]. You’re acting with this tennis ball. You don’t know what this tennis ball is going to look like. You can do the job as an actor because that’s what we’re paid to do. We’re trained to do that. But it didn’t elicit the same kind of reaction in me naturally that you get with an animatronic.”

He wrapped the segment glad that the creators went with the animatronic, saying, “Lo and behold, [Grogu] is the star of the show. It was pretty amazing, and I would love to work with him again.”

The 30-minute interview is fun, with an insightful look at Abtahi filming his big Season 3 episode of The Mandalorian, his favorite run-ins with fans, working with his son on set (which is an adorable story), and so much more. Check out the full interview on The Geeky Waffle YouTube channel.