Putting on a motion capture performance can surely be a daunting task, but when taking one on in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, actress Lupita Nyong’o had a tremendous resource in co-star Andy Serkis – who has basically mastered the art with his turns in the Middle-earth features, the Planet of the Apes movies, and more. Of the guidance that he gave her during her turn, however, there was one particular piece that wound up being more significant than the rest: ignore the fact that it’s a performance capture character, and treat it like any other role.
I had the chance to talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Lupita Nyong’o this past weekend at a special press event held in Los Angeles, and it was while discussing the details of her performance capture role as Maz Kanata that she revealed the key piece of advice she received from her more experienced co-star. I asked if Serkis made himself available to discuss the physical nature of her role, and she not only told me that he did, but explained the most important thing she learned:
Andy Serkis was a great support, and a resource, as you say. His advice to me that stuck with me was that I should go about creating this character as I would any other character. The homework of the actor is the same. You still have to find out who you are, how you are the way you are, and what you want.
Nyong’o obviously then used this guidance to get deeper into character as Maz Kanata – a mysterious character who has really only been identified as a "space pirate" – but don’t take that to mean that she ever felt truly comfortable throwing on the performance capture pajamas and being surrounded by cameras. Or as she put it, "there’s nothing natural about being strapped up and wearing dots and having cameras in your face and on your head."
You can watch the Academy Award-winning actress talk about her Star Wars: The Force Awakens character and performance in the video below:
Sadly, we really don’t have much of an impression of who Maz Kanata is or what to expect from Lupita Nyong’o’s performance just yet, simply because she has been all but completely left out of the marketing materials for the movie. But that’s just left her as an element of the film that we’re most excited to see.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters everywhere on December 18th.