At the Saturday “The Mandalorian: The Armorer & The Doctor” panel at 2:30PM in the Hilton Grand Salon, Omid Abtahi (Dr. Pershing) and Emily Swallow (The Armorer) joined moderator Tony Gowell for a freewheeling Q&A exploring the Star Wars universe and their roles in it.
For both actors, working on The Mandalorian and being part of the Star Wars universe has been a thrilling experience. It’s like “Christmas every day,” Swallow declared. A veteran of another very successful franchise (Supernatural), she is amazed by the fandom. For Abtahi, he’ll never forget stepping onto the set for the first time and feeling like he had “arrived” as an actor. Both shared an appreciation for having the opportunity to work on Star Wars and the need to do it right.
Swallow’s journey to the Armorer is an interesting one. She began with an audition in which all she knew was that the character was a masked leader of people and the role might have something to do with Star Wars. The audition was very low key. She auditioned before the casting director in a room with the two of them and a camera. When offered the role, Swallow received confirmation that it had “something” to do with Star Wars. Her knowledge and anticipation began to grow when she visited Legacy Effects and saw the sketches of the costume. The costume revealed in those drawings was “magnificent!” Each subsequent fitting was great because it resulted in her learning a bit more about the Armorer. Swallow likened the journey to a scavenger hunt.
Abtahi echoed the sentiment. In fact, he flatly declared that people would be surprised by how much the actors don’t know. Even in the episodes in which he appeared, he had no idea what the episode was about. They gave him lines and little else. For him, part of the excitement was that he learned “on the fly.” Swallow pointed out that she shot all her scenes before the series premiered, so she got to watch the finished product as a fan. It’s been a thrill to watch the show unfold.
Playing their respective roles brought unique opportunities and challenges. The Armorer is a powerful and confident leader who uses force only when necessary. When asked about it, Swallow described her as matriarchal. She is perfectly capable as a warrior (the fight scene in the Season 1 finale attests to that) but the Armorer uses that skill only when necessary. What captivated Swallow about her character was the way in which she moved the Mandalorian through her words. She didn’t force the issue of his guardianship of Grogu until he was ready. Finally being able to tell him that he had to take care of the child was, for Swallow, very fulfilling.
Dr. Pershing presented Abtahi with its own challenges, particularly in dealing with the child. Like everyone else, Abtahi is smitten with Grogu. The scene in which Pershing is conducting tests on him was very difficult because as an actor and father he didn’t want to hurt the child. Internally he was hoping that nothing bad happened, but as an actor he’d do what he had to do.
While neither knows (or can comment) on the role their characters might play in the future, both found the experience of joining the Star Wars universe thrilling. Swallow didn’t know how much she didn’t know. For her, it’s been fun learning about this complex and ever growing universe. While walking onto a Star Wars set for the first time was a defining moment in Abtahi’s career, the very best part of being involved in the franchise has been the opportunity it has given him to bond with his young son in a new and special way. Abtahi looks forward to using the language and imagery of Star Wars to encourage and build self-confidence in his son. George Lucas and Dave Filoni would be well pleased with that, for in the end, Star Wars is all about family.