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‘Rogue One’ star Alan Tudyk explains how K-2SO was brought to life

Alan Tudyk is everywhere these days. The star of sci-fi cult hits like Firefly and Serenity can currently be heard and seen in a number of high-profile roles, including voicing Heihei in Disney’s blockbuster animated hit, Moana.

Come Dec. 21 he will bring droid K-2SO (K-2 for short) to life in Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – a role for which he provided full performance capture on set in London’s Pinewood Studios. Tudyk will also return for season 2 of the digital comedy series, Con Man, that he created with PJ Haarsma and fellow Firefly alumna Nathan Fillion. The show, which is available on Comic Con HQ, explores the life of fictional celebrities as they traverse stardom and the convention circuit. Tudyk also voiced his character, Wray Nerely, in the Con Man video game he co-created, which plays on the ComicCon experience as well.

We caught up with the versatile actor just ahead of Rogue One’s highly anticipated debut for this exclusive Digital Trends interview.

What was it like for you to be able to step into this new Star Wars universe?

It was amazing. It feels right as far as it complements the Con Man world for sure. I don’t know what Star Wars doesn’t complement, though, in an actor’s career. He could be doing Shakespeare and say it complements his career. I got to go to London for six months. I worked with amazing actors. Truly, the cast of that movie has some of my favorite actors in it. It’s very impressive talent, and to work on a movie where there’s so many aliens.

It’s just Star Wars … You are surrounded by storm troopers and stuff like that, and when you land a spaceship, they took us up on a crane three stories in the air and just landed us. So you don’t have to act as hard because they do part of the acting for you. It feels like a real spaceship landing … It’s still hard to wrap my head around, until I watch it. Because at the end of the day, it’s a movie. I’ve shot other movies. Day to day is very similar to other movies.

And now you’re a Hasbro Star Wars action figure.

One big moment for me was the action figures. Now that it’s about to come out, you see the trailers, and then all of the merchandizing that came out. That’s where it really started to hit home that this is a Star Wars movie. It’s a different level altogether. But even making it, they were just so good. The sets were amazing with their attention to detail. I would just walk around the sets looking at the walls and looking at all of the control panels like, “Wow, look how they did this! It’s beautiful.” It’s not like they were creating things that looked futuristic as much as modern. The art to it is just beautiful.

Droids play a really important role from the original movie all the way through. What was it like bringing K-2SO to life?

It was great. I just approached it like a character. It was more on the production of Gareth Edwards on how important the character was because every character that I play is very important to me, and most actors are the same way. But they treated K-2 as an important character. CGI characters can get a short stick because filmmaking is hard and you run out of time and if you have a character that’s CGI, it’s like “Ah, we’ll fix it in post.” Everybody gets 19 takes and then the CGI character gets two.

K-2 is an important character for everybody. He’s a big character in the story.

But that wasn’t the case with Rogue One. K-2 is an important character for everybody. He’s a big character in the story. And as you said in the world of Star Wars, the droids are actual characters. They’re important. Chewbacca is a huge character in the Star Wars franchise and he just growls. But it’s because of how people treat him. And the fans love him for sure, and they give him that. Maybe that’s why the droids are so important too. Probably because the fans have embraced them. It’s the writing. It’s the performances (I mean Anthony Daniels just gave it his all) and I’m riding their coattails.

How have you seen the technology advance since working on I, Robot many years ago with Sonny?

It was much easier in that I really felt free to act on set. All of the CGI was done afterwards. It didn’t feel different to me. On I, Robot, because it was earlier, I would do the scene and then I would have to walk off set and then Will (Smith) and Bridget (Moynahan) would have to do the scene without me there, and then everybody would have to leave the set and they would have to walk the actual practical robot around the room to get all the way the light played off of him and all of that. So there were a number of steps that have been eliminated over time and I just wore a suit without those little balls on them. I didn’t have to be in a motion capture void. I was there running through water with everybody else and just doing everything. I just wore a silly suit. And he looks a lot cooler now that he’s been rendered.

How much green screen was involved in this film?

As little as possible. It wasn’t that much. They were very big on practical effects and Gareth certainly, but also Lucasfilm – they make creatures and the sets are the same way. The landing is a good example of that. You don’t have to land. If you want to look out the window just put a green screen right there and you look and put the lighting right and you fill it in later, but they hooked us up to a crane.

That’s interesting because Gareth comes from the special effects world.

Exactly. I thought the same things and said the same things. Like, “What did they do to you in that world?” But I think that part of it is that when you are in that world and you’re creating these things out of 1s and 0s you want to see it made for real. You want to see it built in front of you. And I’m assuming — because I don’t come from that world — that’s what he did and that’s what he liked. It was a lot of fun to play around on those sets.

You’ve provided voice work for many games over the years. How has that work helped with collaborating with Frima Studios on the Con Man mobile game?

Those were really different. The games I voiced aren’t mobile games. I play some mobile games, and I’m especially a big fan of them when I’m standing in line or when I’m on long flights. But the fun part for myself and PJ Haarsma – and I can’t underplay what a big part he is in making this game – was building out the world from the very basic decisions of what the characters are going to look like, what the look of the game is, what is in the vending machine. I always wanted to see a vending machine with fish in it, so we have that. Adding that character to the game is where a lot of the fun is, as well as what different people say throughout the game including when you check your feed and see what attendees are saying about your Con.

How are you expanding the Con Man video game world based off of fan feedback and your own gameplay experience?

People are moving fast. They’re building their Cons so fast we needed a new floor just so they can continue to build. And there’s also the collector side of things, so we added the manager’s office. Collecting is such a big part of Con culture, and we wanted to reflect that in the game as well. We’re always finding new challenges for people within the game, so it’s not just vomit you have to clean up, but new ways that strategy comes into play with how you set up a Con and how you keep everybody happy.