Katee Sackhoff has been a part of Star wars universe since 2017, but this year is the first time she really got her hands dirty as Bo-Katan Kryze. Physically it is.
That Clone wars and Star Wars rebels character is no stranger to a bit rough and tumble – she is a former member of the formidable Death Watch, a terrorist group that hell is on to make their hometown Mandalore a warrior nation again. But until Mandalorianen season 2, Sackhoff only ever pronounced fan-favorite character. For the live-action Disney + series, the actor needed to bring a completely different kind of performance. “I played her voice for as long as I can see her in my head,” Sackhoff tells ELLE.com. “I dream like her, but I actually never moved like her, and that was something that required a lot of work.”
Bo-Katan makes his striking debut in section 3, “The Heir,” along with Mandalorian cohorts Ax Woves (Simon Kassianides) and Koska Reeves, played by Mercedes Varnado, also known as WWE’s Sasha Banks. Not only do these Mandalorians fully inform the series’ eponymous about the diversity of his adopted people’s beliefs and traditions, but they save Baby Yoda (several times) and provide a significant narrative undercurrent to the series: the pursuit of a deadly weapon called the Dark Saber Bo-Katan believes can help restore their nation’s planet and power. IN season 2 finale, Mando wins Dark Saber in battle, which means that the only way for Bo-Katan to claim it according to Mandalorian tradition is by also defeating him in battle.
There are two sides of her warlord, Sackhoff says: one royal thanks to her dynastic upbringing; the other a warrior whose weapons and explosives are almost an extension of her body. “It was something I wanted to draw from the animation, and it was certainly not the easiest thing to do,” says Sackhoff. “I also have a great stunt double, Caitlin [Hutson]. She makes me look good with that jet pack and which I can not claim. ”
That’s not to say Sackhoff didn’t do as many of his own stunts as possible. The 40-year-old is a natural athlete who once planned a swimming career until a knee injury prevented him from doing so. But her competitive drive has never disappeared, and while filming with Varnado, she wanted to stay ahead of the professional wrestler.
“Mercedes is very good at the physical stuff,” Sackhoff says. “She does this for a living, and I pretend to do this for a living, and there were definitely those moments on the set where they’re like, ‘Well, we let Mercedes do it, but you know, Katee, we’ I gets Caitlin to do it. ‘I said,’ I can do it, I do it, I do it! ‘ “
It is proof that Jon Favreau cast that he brought two women with recognizable combat training to play such warriors along with the established badasses Gina Carano (Cara Dune) and Ming-Na Wen (Fennec Shand). And although Varnardo’s primary job is to knock people out, she was more than impressed with the strength her co-star brought to the role. “Katee is an athlete herself,” Varnado tells Elle.com. “Every single week I looked at her body and I was like, ‘Man, I was supposed to be a professional wrestler on TV, but you show up with an eight-pack. I have to catch up! ‘”
Mandalorianen is the 28-year-old’s first acting role, though she has thrown herself into WWE rings since 2012. As the reigning SmackDown Women’s Champion, she wanted to incorporate elements of her wrestling style into the fight choreography of her Mandalorian Grade. “I wanted to bring a lot of Sasha Banks into this realm because I wanted my fans to know right away who I was,” Varnardo says.
Sackhoff also arrived with his own set of tools for training – the actor has a history of playing “characters who are much warriors”, with a CV included Battlestar GalacticaLieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, LangmyrDeputy Generator Vic Moretti and Riddick‘s Dahl. But when it comes to Bo-Katan, Sackhoff has an intimate understanding of the character and provided input on how the warrior can act or react in a given situation on stage.
“It really felt like a collaboration,” she explains working with Mandalorian series creator Jon Favreau. “It felt really good to get someone to ask what I thought. Jon and I wanted conversations about the things she knew and the things we thought she did not know. When I left [on set], it immediately felt like I belonged. ”
Varnardo shot Mandalorianen alongside her WWE commitments, an overwhelming task for the inexperienced actress. “Not only did I want to understand what I was doing for Monday night raw and where my character went as a wrestler, but I wanted to see Mandalorianen so I understood what was going on, ”she says. “I wanted to get so much knowledge because it was still brand new [to me]. “She wanted to fly the east coast to the west, journeys that could take six hours to film her scenes. But first she needed to be deprived of her “bigger than life” aesthetic of Sasha Bank, for there is apparently “no glitter” in the galaxy far, far away. Wrestler felt like “a kid walking into a candy store” because of the expansive literature, movies, and TV shows that could provide context for her performance, but there was still a lot to take for a beginner: “I had feel like I had to learn things fast for this episode, I was like, ‘Oh my god, what do I need to know?’ And they were like, ‘Breathe, relax, you’re fine.’ “
Executive producer Dave Filoni proved to be a calming influence for Varnado’s first day on stage, explaining to her that there was still fluid where her character history would go. “He said, ‘What you need to be is Koska Reeves, part of the Mandalorians trying to find Mando, who has the information to help us find Moff Gideon and find the dark saber,'” Varnardo recalls.
Still, the actress was not alone in worrying about whether she knew enough about Star wars to perform the role of justice. Sackhoff is an expert in intense sci-fi fandom and admits she’s afraid she might get something wrong with Bo-Katan or the established cannon. “I have slowly learned that Star wars fans are incredibly loyal and passionate about this, ”she says. “[If] I accidentally say something wrong from her background story that would not go over very well, so I constantly brush up on my Star wars history. My biggest fear is that I will disappoint them. ”
Varnardo is just excited to add a new string to his bow and bring Sasha Bank fans in Star wars fold, and see how far her Mandalorian the journey takes her. “It’s so incredibly cool to see how excited I am WWE fans are only a few new Star wars fans too, ”she says. “I can only hope that people are inspired by my story. I can only hope to discover the character of Kosta Reeves even more. ”
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