As is the tradition with the galaxy far, far away, The Mandalorian introduced Star Wars fans to a number of compelling characters, with the stoic Kuiil becoming a fan-favorite quite quickly. Ahead of the character's debut, fans knew that Nick Nolte would be lending his vocal talents to the character, though the Star Wars galaxy is a collaborative effort, with Kuiil's physicality being provided by actress Misty Rosas. Also keeping in tradition with the franchise, the series blended intense action with gripping drama, requiring Rosas to convey a commanding presence regardless of whether Kuiil was engaging in a gruff conversation or racing across the desert to protect "The Child," who audiences affectionately know better as "Baby Yoda."
Having to convey a layered character while buried underneath an ornate costume was an experience Rosas was quite familiar with, as her first major suit performance came 25 years ago with Congo, where she used her talents as a gymnast to help bring Amy the gorilla to life. With all of the impressive accomplishments the actress has secured over the years, being enlisted in the Star Wars saga was a dream come true, with Kuiil's signature proclamation "I have spoken" being a motto she could personally connect with.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Rosas to discuss her time bringing the Michael Crichton novel to life back in the '90s, her experiences playing Kuiil, and fan reactions to the character.
Header photo courtesy of Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic/Getty Images/Disney
ComicBook.com: Congo is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and you were one of the performers who played Amy the gorilla. Given what was asked of you for that film, with the gorilla suit and action scenes, do you remember what the audition process was like?
Misty Rosas: Congo was my first job ever in film and television. It was this crash course in everything. I'd been to auditions before, but as a dancer at Disneyland, and that's where I got some costume experience, but nothing could ever prepare a person for these types of costumes. I was actually in school. I was in college and it was my gymnastics coach that I trained with when I was an elite gymnast. I'd called him and they obviously were asking for a very specific type of person: short, under five feet tall, but long limbs and super, super, super strong. The whole body needs to be strong for this, so obviously they look to gymnasts, but they also needed to be able to act, as well. I don't know, it just came naturally to me.
Our first audition was a movement audition that pretty much would give them an idea, because they brought in a pair of arm extensions and just asked you to walk on them across the floor and then try to run a little bit, so obviously they're looking at coordination, and then they asked everybody to demonstrate their upper body strength, so I just did some stuff from gymnastics, and obviously they needed us to be on our arms as much as you are in quadruped, like, "Well, I should do stuff in handstands so they can see I can handle the weight on my arms."
That was the first audition and I made the first cut, and then the second one was about acting. Same thing, they brought in arm extensions and they gave us two different scenarios, one was to be able to go from being calm into fear, and then the other one was going from being calm to then see a threat and charge at it with as much intensity and anger as you could. I made the cut and then there was a final audition at Stan Winston Studios. By then it was down to, I think, two or three of us, and then, originally, I was cast as one of the grey gorillas, but during pre-production and all of the film tests, they just got a little bit of an understanding of how extreme this role was going to be, and so they brought me in to team up with [Lola Noh] and together we created Amy.
You two definitely had to do more acting as Amy, while the other stunt performers playing the grey gorillas seemed to do more of the action sequences.
The grey gorillas were definitely ... there were those that were in that group of people for the grey gorillas that had more subtle, some different acting moments, but for the most part, their jobs were very physical. It was all fighting scenes and stuff, but, same thing, we all trained together to learn how to move properly and to embody what it is to be, which they call us, we're "suit performers," but this is very specific and it's called "gorilla artist."
On my Facebook I saw today, because we're really proud of our work on Congo, but then when we moved on to Instinct, there was like something on [The Ellen Show] and you got this opportunity to be up close and personal with gorillas, and then my friend David Covarrubias, he was on Star Wars with me, they shared a little of the behind-the-scenes footage of our work and we're super proud because it's people don't realize that in that movie, the gorillas are people and not gorillas. There's some arguing going on on YouTube.
With Amy being a collaborative effort, how did the responsibilities break down? Was it just a matter of how many hours you could spend performing in the suit?
They kind of broke it up. I actually did all of the really physical work in the film. I think all of the running, when we were running away from the volcano and lava and everything, all of that physical stuff was me. She was brilliant and she was able to get it more than I did at first, just their movement and their pace. I struggled with it. We just were a great team when it came to that because she did all of the very subtle acting moments. Like, obviously, the famous martini "green drop" drink on the plane, that was her and it was so brilliant.
We were both there for each other. When she was in the suit, I would be her stand-in, and then when I was in the suit she would stand in for me, and then if someone was in trouble and having a hard time in the suit, then whoever was not in it, then they were like, "Okay, she needs a break so let's swap them." But that didn't really happen too much.
Since so much of Congo was done with practical effects on set, do you remember any particularly challenging sequences to film?
Oh, yeah, all of them. But one that was super physical was Amy was having a nightmare, it was in the opening. It was the introduction to Amy and she's literally having a nightmare, so any time you're having to do that type of physical work over and over and over, because once they call "rolling" with all these types of characters, Kuiil included, the moment they shut your mouth, there's no air going in or out, so as you're getting hotter and hotter and hotter and doing take after take after take and breathing is getting faster, faster, faster, you're taking in more CO2, and so it's just knowing the balance while you're trying to do these scenes that are extremely physical, and they're heavy.
It is challenging, and every once in a while it's like, "Okay, I need a minute and I need more air for a second," and usually productions, they are really mindful and respectful and they're like, "Just let us know when you're ready." And, obviously, you can't milk that, but there's just a few moments, and then especially with Kuiil and stuff when I was riding on the blurrg, I just needed a few more minutes, and then sometimes they would be ready and my heart rate, I can tell when it goes down enough and I can handle doing another take, but as time progresses and stuff, again, it just was like, "I need a minute here."
Because it was so nerve-wracking, too, when it was myself and Dylan [Walsh], some of it when we were running through [the ruins during the volcano eruption], the set and the floor, it literally moved. They had set timers or something so that they could control when the different block pieces would move, so that was interesting to try to run with that. We did a few takes of that and the floor moved and I ran down the stairs, and to the left they had set all of the explosives. Eventually we were headed to this take where they were going to blow the floor and it's going to collapse, and when it breaks apart and collapses, the lava comes in.
I just remember we did a few takes and they got it, they got it, they got it, and then it was time to do that take, and, of course, I don't know what I was expecting, but the moment that I heard the bang and the floor drop, you could see I kind of got lost. But the take was fine, I just remember thinking, "Okay, just hug the right, hug the right, hug the right side of the wall so you don't fall in the hole." My heart was pounding for more reasons than one on that take, but it looked great in the end and we all survived.
Given the success of Jurassic World, there was a huge marketing and promotional push for Congo, so for it to be your first big role, do you remember your first reaction to seeing Amy as a toy?
I feel like Congo is one of those things where, if it didn't happen, to me now it would just be ... because it was really amazing, but I didn't have anything, any work or struggling or whatever, to be able to say, "Oh my gosh, I finally got there." I mean, with Kuiil, I definitely have had that moment now, but I was so new, it was just like, "Yay! Everything is just awesome and life is great."
I hadn't really been through struggles yet in the business, those were to come later, so the gratitude thing and understanding, too, sometimes about how hard we have to work for how long, that came a little bit later in my life, and it just felt like a gift to get it and being so unique, that is really one of the reasons I got it. I loved every moment of it, but I think because I was so young, I was only 20, I will say I took it a little bit for granted because life had just not been that challenging yet.
While it was only based on one novel, were there any talks back then that the first movie could launch a franchise? Since the success of Jurassic Park inspired a sequel book and many more live-action entries?
I think there was a little bit of talk about it. Obviously, it didn't really go anywhere. Stan Winston Studios was just in the middle of this phenomenal run, Jurassic Park had just happened, and what they literally just finished was Interview with the Vampire. I just remember walking into Stan's studio the first time and he has this beautiful ... it was the meeting room where they would have meetings with executives and stuff, and in that room they had the life-size, I guess it would be a bust of Brad Pitt's character and Tom Cruise, and there were the Terminators in there and some of the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park were in there, and it was just like, anytime I walked in there, I thought, "Am I dreaming this? Is this real?" It was amazing. So it's always fun to go and visit the studio because you can see all these characters that you love just displayed around in the studio here and there.
Since Congo, you've had a number of other opportunities, so how was the audition for Kuiil different from those auditions 25 years ago?
For The Mandalorian, my audition was an acting audition. My agent definitely helped them a lot with being able to show those involved in casting, who is Sarah Finn, my reels and my work as a suit performer and motion-capture artist. It was a time, too, when I was really focusing more on music stuff, so much so that, to the horror of my agent who kept asking me, he's like, "I need you to update your reel, I need you to update your reel." I was like, "Okay, okay, I'll get to it," but I was just in another direction at that point, so I hadn't done that, and I kept sending pieces of things that I've done, because I didn't know what this was about and even when I went in to audition, I had no idea what I was auditioning for.
They saw some of my stuff and they were just like, "No, we would very much like to see her," so they set up my audition and it just happened to be a crazy time, too, because I was born with hearing loss, and so at the time, I was going through a really rough moment. On the day of my audition, I was going to my ear doctor first and hoping that everything was going to be fine, they were going to be able to put back into my ear the hearing aid that I rely on, but they couldn't do that, and so I called my agent and was like, "What I should I do? I can't hear well at all right now and I really want to go to this audition, but I also don't want to make a complete idiot of myself out there if I can't hear," because it was a cold read. And she was like, "I think you should just go. Just go to the audition. I know you want to." I was like, "Yes I do, really bad. I don't get these opportunities much," and she said, "If you can't hear them, then ask them to speak up." So I said, "All right."
Then I asked if I could go in early and just get familiar with the script, and I'm really good at reading lips, so I was like, "If anything, I would be able to read the lips of whoever I was reading with," but I didn't want to do that because it takes you out of the moment and the character. They were super gracious and I showed up an hour and 15 minutes early just to calm my nerves and get the script and sign the non-disclosure and just sit there and take it in, and it was just a cool moment, too, when I was reading it. I was like, "Oh my goodness, I know this character." I knew him from life experience, from struggling a lot, and I knew him from my experience teaching and practicing yoga, so I was super excited about that, and when I went in, I just read. Sarah was in there with us and I read through the scene a few times and I must have done something right.
The production of The Mandalorian is obviously a lot different from Congo, since the technology of Lucasfilm is so much more ambitious with its effects than things were 25 years ago. What was the shooting experience like?
It was a really nice blend and marriage of everything. There weren't any green screens anymore, everything was right there, so it felt really tangible. So again, it was just I felt really fortunate to be able to take everything that I've ever learned from and trained for, because Kuiil's definitely a merge of all of my work and training as a suit performer, but a suit performer as a gorilla was different than this type of suit work.
I learned this technique when I actually auditioned for and worked with the Jim Henson Company, and then in their suit performance realm it was just a little bit of a different technique with dialogue and stuff and then furthered it with motion capture with the Jim Henson Company as well, so with Kuiil, it was just this beautiful combination of animatronics. I know I've done this work a lot and I've actually worked with the puppeteers that I worked with on Kuiil before on Instinct and different commercials and stuff, so I felt really lucky that I had experience already to be able to then, when we got this, come together and do a really seamless job at it. But we have a lot of hours doing this work with us as we were brought in, and it was amazing. I spend most of my time in the "dome," so I was super grateful for that.
One of the biggest surprises of the series was Baby Yoda, but also the fact that Kuiil dies late in the season. Which secret was harder to keep, Baby Yoda or your character's death?
Both. It was so hard, because [I knew] people were going to lose their minds when they saw Baby Yoda for the first time because he's just ... I'm obsessed with him. And it's been rough. I have a lot of friends with young kids and a few friends actually that are in London, and because I didn't want to give anything away, the age of their boys, one is eight and one is 10, and from the stories that friends here in the States told me [about Kuiil's death], like, "I wish you would've given me a heads up," because a few of them, their sons were just inconsolable for a bit and that just broke my heart. I was like, "I'm sorry. I know. Please give them a huge hug for me."
My friends that are in the UK, I was like, "Well, just so you know, episode seven is amazing, it's this crazy rollercoaster ride. Just keep your little guys close to you," and then after they saw the episode, they said, "Thank you for that. There were tears involved." That topic was hard and I did, I really felt for people. Because a few of my friends have showed me clips or sent me links for some of the clips on YouTube of the different bloggers and stuff, and it's heartwarming and also heartbreaking to watch their reactions when they see that scene, so it made me cry too when I saw the first one, I'm like, "Oh my goodness."
Since it's Star Wars and there are always prequels and spinoffs, it's hard to accept that Kuiil is really gone. Do you think we could see him return at some point?
Oh, yeah, I would love to. It was really hard on my last day. I've never actually played a character that dies, and even reading my script, I was obsessed. I got my scripts and I sat down and usually I go through one script at a time and I break it down and stuff, but I was like, "Nope, I'm going to read everything that I'm allowed to read," then, just as a fan, sitting in a room by myself and reading it and seeing what's happening, and then at the end of chapter seven, I literally put my script down and just started crying. I was like, "No!" It was like, "I just got here. I don't want to leave just yet."
Even on set, that was a rough day, because they're very strict about anyone knowing anything, so we had a skeleton crew on set that day and I swear it was so quiet and the people that were in there with us are just like, "No, what's happening?!" So it was a very somber moment. I think, even, in the end, there were some tears. But that's how much I love him and how connected I felt to this character, and again, it's not because I'm great at what I do, it's more I think the affinity with him is about life experience. Just the things that I've wanted to do, and I've done them, but it has not been easy to get there, so I'm grateful for that part.
And to have Kuiil's "I have spoken" line become one of the more popular things to emerge from the series is a testament to the character and work you've put into him.
It has done well. I feel so grateful, because, again, that was part of my audition was to say that line, and I think that that was very telling of if you really understood this character, you would know how to deliver that line, because it doesn't come out of arrogance at all, it's just that he keeps it straight up and everything that comes out of his mouth, he's very present is what it is, and he doesn't ramble. It's like he says what he needs to say and then he's done.
Dream Come True
Joining the Star Wars universe as Kuiil is clearly a big bucket list item for you, but are there other franchises that you'd love to join, like a superhero series or anything?
Star Wars is the biggest one, so to be here, I don't take one moment of it for granted. My younger brothers and I, we're just obsessed and we were Star Wars fans. We were quite young when Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back came out, because we saw it with my dad and didn't really know what was going on.
With Star Wars, I can't even explain this. I remember the music, and I was speaking with some other bloggers and I always loved, and don't get me wrong, Luke and Leia, I loved them, but for me, I always liked the Jawas and I loved Yoda and I loved Obi-Wan Kenobi. There was just something about Yoda and Obi-Wan that I always really connected with. And then friends are like, "Well, you're a yogi too. Maybe that had some influence on you to become a yogi and yoga teacher." I was like, "Maybe." Now friends are like, "So, in yoga when you're teaching, do you ever say, 'I have spoken?'" And, no. But they're like, "You better wear your T-shirt."
Chris Bartlett, who played Zero in Mandalorian, he gifted me a shirt that says, "I have spoken," on it, so I'll wear it here and there. Again, if people don't necessarily know, like, "Why is she wearing that shirt?" "Well, do you watch The Mandalorian?" And then they're like, "Oh my God, yeah." I'm usually pretty shy and quiet about that, but my roommate's like, "Why don't you say something?"
I remember I was at my favorite juice bar, Nekter, and I wasn't even thinking. We got sweatshirts as a thank you gift from production from Season One, and Two, actually, but Season One has the very specific, distinct Mandalorian helmet, and it says "Season One" on the bottom, and the employee was taking my order and he's like, "Oh my God, I love that show," and I was like, "Yeah, me too." So my roommate gave me this hard nudge and I was like, "Oh, you know, I don't want to be obnoxious about it," but they're like, "He would've liked to have known that you worked on it." I'm like, "Okay. Well, maybe next time."
I know production on everything is shut down right now because of the coronavirus, but are there any projects on the horizon fans should be on the lookout for?
Things are just on hold, but it just depends on when everything's going to open, and I don't know what the rules are going to be, and I definitely had never done it before, but my agent's like, "Why don't you go out there and meet people?" So I've definitely been scheduled for different comic cons and stuff coming up, but again, I'm just not sure when those are happening.
The behind-the-scenes look, the eight-episode of series [Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian], Season One premieres on May the 4th, so that'll be exciting and something to look forward to for everybody, me included. There was an amazing crew with us that was on set with us every day, so it'll be fun to get to see, really, how this comes together.0comments
Season One of The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian premieres on May 4th.