At long last, the mystery surrounding the character to be played by Lupita Nyong’o in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has started to unravel. Director J.J. Abrams recently discussed her role as alien Maz Kanata with EW, including the fact that he originally considered using a puppet instead of an actual actor.
Nyong’o is heard as Maz in voiceover in a recent TV spot for The Force Awakens, but fans were curious as to what she would actually look like. It turns out, though, that there was no need to wonder. Abrams shared that her appearance has actually already been revealed: she’s the smiling goggle-wearing alien on the movie poster.
The eyewear isn’t an extraterrestrial fashion statement, but instead will serve a purpose. “I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore,” Abrams told EW. “Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”
Abrams wasn’t willing to go into all of the details about her origins, but he did share that she lives in a castle with a court of misfits and is over a thousand years old. With such a long history, her background is interesting — she was once a pirate, but is now a business owner. Abrams shared that she has run a “watering hole” for around a century. “It’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe,” said Abrams.
Originally, Abrams intended to use a puppet to play Maz, but he realized that performance capture would work better given what her character is required to do. It was a decision that made Maz different from many of the other characters in her court, so it was important that she fit in. “Maz needed to look and feel and be just like one of those creatures,” said Abrams. “And given her mobility, and given the role that she played, it became clear that that was one creature where we should use the tool of CG.”
For Nyong’o, performance-capture was a new adventure, but she had support from co-star Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), who is a vet after roles in The Lord of the Rings and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “The biggest advice he gave me, that was so important to hold on to, is a motion-capture character you develop the same way as any other,” said the actress.
We’ll learn more about Maz Kanata when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.