Meet the new man behind Star Wars Chewbacca! Originally played by Peter Mayhew, Joonas Suotamo steps up to the block. A former basketball player, Joonas, shares how he was cast as the famous wookie, the challenges of the suit, and much more in this exclusive interview!
I was invited as media to cover this event. All opinions are my own.
Joonas Suotamo is Star Wars Chewbacca
In preparation for the release of SOLO: A Star Wars Story (in theaters this Friday!), I’ve shared exclusive coverage all week with cast interviews, including Director Ron Howard! Today I’m sharing an exclusive interview with the infamous Chewie!
How did you make the jump from pro basketball player to starring as Chewbacca?
Joonas shares, “I got the role out of the blue sky – a call one day from the Finnish Basketball Association, who had received a request for a person who has blue eyes [and] is seven feet tall. And they called me and I said immediately I’m interested. Didn’t take a second to think about it. So, I just said, yes, whatever it is.” Adding, “they wanted to see if I could do the acting required for the film.” He proceeded to share that it took roughly four to five months to go through that process, and one day he got the call that he would be Chewbacca.
Did years of playing basketball prepare you for the strenuous stunts and action in the film?
“I think basketball certainly gifted me extra body awareness. And also the trips I made with various team and the national team of Finland and everything. I met so many wonderful players and people. And I grew, grew up to become a very social guy. And on top of that, we Fins have a very rich sauna tradition. So, I can withstand heat [LAUGHS] exceptionally well.”
Which lead us to ask – What is the biggest challenge with the suit?
“I think it’s the fact that every day you need to have someone poke your eyes with rich black makeup to hide the white of my eyes.” He also explained that while it’s fun to be in the Chewbacca suit, the mouthpiece and constantly having hair go into his eyes were obstacles he had to deal with.
Joonas also shared, “the biggest [challenge] was probably respecting the legacy of Chewbacca, because he was played by Peter Mayhew, the legendary, original Chewbacca. And I want it to be so that the fans going to these films see the same Chewbacca because [he] is so loved.”
Did you consult with Peter?
“I had a week-long Wookie Bootcamp. [LAUGHS] Trademarked, not to be used – no, I’m just kidding. And he showed me the original films and clips. And we looked at his walk, and he told me why he did it such a way and what he did and what was he thinking at the time. And it was so helpful because I had done some studying up myself previously. And to hear from the master himself how and why did he do those things helped me tremendously in preparing for this role.”
Are you curious to know what Chewbacca carries in his bag? Joonas shared with us that on certain days when kids visit the set, he put chocolates or sweets in it to give to them so they wouldn’t be frightened of him.
What was it like stepping out of Millennium Falcon for the very first time, and then how was this movie and how was this Millennium Falcon set different?
“Well, the first time I stepped on the Millennium Falcon was on THE FORCE AWAKENS and it was the first day of Harrison on the Millennium Falcon. And there were people crying.” He shared how he wanted to cry too, but told himself he must remain professional.
Did you know the Millennium Falcon has a particular scent? Joonas told us “like a hardware store.” Adding, “when they made the original films, they used a certain Styrofoam or whatever as an insulator type of thing in between the panels and that’s always there. And Mark Hamill actually commented on the same thing.”
After the interview, Joonas shared with us that he has a 3-month old, and can’t wait to share his love for the Star Wars films with his child once more grown up. He was incredibly sweet and friendly, and it was evident how excited he was to be apart of the Star Wars universe.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know more about Star Wars Chewbacca!
Get ready for SOLO: A Star Wars Story in theaters May 25th!