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C-3PO actor details costume changes for Star Wars: Episode VII

Much of what’s been seen so far of Star Wars: Episode VII seems to indicate that the next big-screen installment of the sci-fi saga will put more emphasis on practical effects and harken back to the original trilogy than the digital-heavy prequel films. One particular element that will echo the original films is the return of actor Anthony Daniels as the android C-3PO — a role that will put him back in costume rather than simply provide the character’s voice.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Daniels addressed his return to the Star Wars universe and why his performance in the new movie is a return to the old classics. Asked about the difficulty of capturing the feel of the original films in the new movie, the Star Wars veteran acknowledged that there’s a concerted effort to capture the nostalgic appeal of the original trilogy in both Episode VII and the new animated series, Star Wars Rebels, in which he’s voicing C-3PO.

“It’s very elusive and I’ll tell you: It’s where we’re going now with Episode VII. We’re all back,” said Daniels. “And it’s great, actually, that Rebels is set before Episode IV because that film is quintessential, basic, ‘This is Star Wars.'”

According to Daniels, the preconditions for his return as C-3PO were made certain in his very first call from Episode VII director J.J. Abrams.

“I will tell you that when J.J. Abrams rang me to ask about filming Episode VII, one of the first things he said after he told me how wonderful I was — and that didn’t take long — but he then said, ‘Would you be interested in being in the film just doing the voice?’ I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Right!'” recalled Daniels. “He knew I’d say that. There’s no way I would just do the voice.”

As for how the 68-year-old actor will bring C-3PO to robotic life on the screen this time around, Daniels offered up some details about the costume he’ll don as the iconic golden android.

“I said that it can’t be the same suit,” he explained. “I will tell you that the team then got together and built a new suit. They made an entirely new look-a-like with changes that you will never notice [on screen] that made my life a lot easier. I can get it on and off very quickly.”

“During the prequels], the only time [Threepio has] been CG was when it was very dangerous [to act in the scene in a suit] — and it wasn’t very good,” he added. “In fact, I’m going to say it was awful. One of the difficulties is with a character that you know and love so well is that, as a member of the audience, you go, ‘Oh no, that’s not right. No, he doesn’t move like that.’ With me [in the suit], he’s always going to move the same way and have the same reactions, timing, and so on. With CG, you’re working with some brilliant person on the keyboard who is trying to pretend to be me. The only time that has worked without doubt is Disney’s Star Tours: The Adventures Continue [theme park ride]. There’s an element in the pre-show which is digital and I cannot tell it’s not me. It’s brilliantly done by Disney.”

Of course, Daniels stopped short of revealing any details about the plot of the film or C-3PO’s role in the story, which will be set well after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi and feature a cast of young actors alongside franchise veterans like Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.

“George [Lucas] always used to say every time I arrived on set, I would always arrive for the first time back on set in costume, and during the prequels George would say when I arrived on set that ‘Star Wars has arrived’ — because I was the old fashioned link,” he said. “Rebels is is an old fashion link to the old fashion film, which which we all loved. And you will love Episode VII — I have electrodes strapped to my head to zap me if I say anything more about it.”

Star Wars: Episode VII will arrive in theaters December 18, 2015.