Chewbacca Actor Joonas Suotamo Reveals The Downside To Playing A Wookie

Chewbacca in Solo

The Star Wars is known for its epic twists and galactic battles, but the franchise is also notable for its myriad space creatures and droids. While Ewoks and Porgs have the cuteness factor, the most popular Star Wars creature is by far Chewbacca the Wookie. Han Solo's right hand man made his debut back with A New Hope, and has remained a relevant part of the franchise through Solo and The Last Jedi. Originally played by actor Peter Mayhew, the role was handed down to 6'11 Joonas Suotamo for the newest installments. Although it's not all fun, games, and bowcasters for the young actor.

Joonas Suotamo made his debut as Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as the body double for Peter Mayhew. But he's since become the primary actor for Chewie, so the 74 year-old actor no longer nneds to suit up for long hours on set. In fact, Suotamo recently spoke to the challenges of playing the beloved Wookie, and the suits' lack of breathability, saying:

Playing Chewbacca is a dream. But sometimes there were days that were more demanding than others. On interior sets there might not be any real airflow and the hairs would just trap all the heat to the fur and cause a slow temperature rise. While filming I would perform my bit and we would go again many times – usually this would take from an hour to 2 hours. On scenes requiring 3 hours I would sometimes need to start conserving my energy, which unfortunately meant having to reserve some of my jokes for after filming.

Well, that must be exhausting. Most actors would kill to get a role in the Star Wars universe, but that doesn't mean that working in the galaxy far, far away isn't without its challenges. And for Joonas Suotamo, that includes the extreme heat within Chewbacca's suit. But considering he's also become the go to actor to play the beloved Wookie, this is a downside that Suotamo is more than willing to work through.

Joonas Suotamo's comments come from his personal Instagram page, accompanied by a still of Chewie playing Holochess in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Chewbacca had arguably his biggest role in the franchise yet in Solo, as he and Han were given their own origin story and surprise loved ones. Getting to expand the franchise in that way was no doubt a privilege for Suotamo, although that meant much more time in the Wookie suit that normal. And while Solo was the franchise's first box office disappointment, the Chewbacca/Han Solo dynamic was a major high point for Ron Howard's blockbuster.

Chewbacca is once again set to play a part in the galactic war when J.J. Abrams' (still untitled) Episode IX arrives in theaters this December. Early reports indicated that Chewie will have a larger role in that movie, allowing audiences who liked Solo to get even closer to the Wookie warrior. But with Disney and Lucasfilm keeping their cards so close to the chest, only time will tell if those rumors come to fruition.

Chewie eating a Porg

Anticipation for J.J. Abrams’ Episode IX is at a fever pitch, as the pressure is truly on for the director to deliver with the upcoming blockbuster. In addition to wrapping up the narrative of the sequel trilogy, Episode IX will also be the final installment in the Skywalker Saga, completing the story that George Lucas began back with A New Hope.

These high stakes mean that Episode IX might also bring the conclusion of Chewbacca’s story, which the canon dates all the way back to his appearance during the Battle Of Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith. While the fans are particularly focused on what will happen with Leia, Rey, and Kylo Ren, the supporting characters of the Star Wars franchise are presumably getting their conclusion with the next installment as well.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Chewbacca will pop up in one of the other developing projects over at Lucasfilm. Rian Johnson clearly enjoyed utilizing the character during his comedic bits with the Porgs in The Last Jedi, so he may want to feature Chewie in the Star Wars trilogy that is being worked on. Additionally, Game of Thrones creators D.B Weiss and David Benioff are developing a set of Star Wars films, so they could always bring Chewie into the narrative as well. After all, the character was present in all three trilogies, so the time setting won’t be an issue.

The most logical place for Chewie to pop up in next would be a sequel to Solo: A Star Wars Story. The final moments of Ron Howard’s ill-fated Star Wars flick set up a follow-up, where Han and Chewbacca would travel to Tatooine to get in bed with Jabba The Hutt for the first time. But after the poor critical and box office performance of the movie, it seems those plans are on indefinite hold. What’s more, it’s unclear if standalone films will be a priority for the franchise moving forward.

Overall, the future of the Star Wars franchise after Episode IX is largely a mystery. Aside from plans for two live-streaming shows over on Disney+, Lucasfilm has been keeping its cards close to the chest regarding what’s next for the galaxy far, far away. The timeline of future releases is unclear, as is when both developing trilogies will be set within the franchise’s official canon. As such, Chewie’s future is a complete mystery as well.

While the future is unclear, Lucasfilm is clearly putting more resources and time behind the Star Wars franchise. Disney has already recouped its investment from purchasing the rights to the galaxy, and there’s a ton of material to mine from and create new and exciting blockbusters. Hopefully this includes exciting material for Chewbacca, giving Joonas Suotamo the opportunity to have a long tenure as everyone’s favorite Wookie.

All will be revealed when Episode IX arrives in theaters on December 20th, complete with Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.