Bringing any character to life is always a unique challenge for an actor. You don't pull only what's on the page, but have to learn the character's life, their backstory, the way they'd respond to even the most outlandish situation, so that their responses come from a place of truth. But taking a character who is being animated in CGI and living alongside humans has to hold additional challenges, and actor Alan Tudyk, who plays the droid K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had to explore that. Luckily, he has a background of not just classical acting training, but also voice acting; he's even motion captured a robot before.
"[With Voice Acting], it's really quick, from the time you get the character to the time that you're voicing it, and then they're animating it, it can be very fast," Tudyk told ComicBook.com during an interview at the Rogue One press junket. "You get pictures and you sort of play around with the voice, some of them are like that. 'What about this? What about this?' Kind of just finding a voice is where it starts, and then you get the scenes and you go line by line, and so you'll do the lines three times in a row until you get the line right. It can be very disconnected from the overall script. A lot of times you don't read the entire script."
That of course contrasts drastically with developing a character on screen in a standard live-action role.
"When you're doing a role that's just like a typical role in a film, the costume sometimes informs a lot. You're wearing, if your character wears rings, somehow you start gesturing differently. The way that they hold their mouth will be a thing, and so as you get into the character, whatever they do that affects your look, that's a part of it, you're going to be onscreen," he explained.
With K-2SO, Tudyk wore a full motion capture suit, plus stilts to make him taller, extending his stride and changing his gait to make him move more like the 7 foot-tall robot would when ILM's titular VFX magic was complete. Also - Kaytoo doesn't have a mouth, significantly changing the way he's able to emote at all.
"A motion capture character, you're not, ultimately your face is not going to be onscreen. At least for the ones that I've done, they were both robots. There weren't a lot of bizarre character mouths or affectations," Tudyk said. "With this character, [there's no mouth at all]. That then affected how does this character get ... How does he communicate? Or as an actor, how do I express that [non-verbal communication]? A smile doesn't work. I can't just look at somebody and smile and they get a sense of what's happening. The emotion needed to be in, if it was non-verbal, either make it verbal, or use your body much more, that's what I needed to do. I would need to put the emotion within my body."
Kaytoo's expressiveness comes across slightly in the trailers, but in the full scenes of footage we watched it's even more so. A cock of his head, or the way he strangely (for a droid) slumps his shoulders helped tell his story well. Tudyk attributes some of his ability to do so to the mask work he did in school at Juliard, learning to emote without words or sometimes with nothing but breath.
"The challenges of a motion capture are specific to whatever role you're motion capturing. This one, the stilts were something to learn, but it also informed the way Kaytoo moved, and it worked really well. It worked really well. I think it played into the role a lot. Then that movement, like I mentioned, I was aware of it. It worked better when I used my hands."
You can see Tudyk's movements and hear his voice as K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial security droid, when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016.
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