Spoilers below for the latest episode of The Mandalorian, so be warned!
So far, The Mandalorian has featured two insanely huge franchise tie-ins in Season 2, counting both Temuera Morrison's return to the franchise (though as Boba Fett and not Jango Fett) and Katee Sackhoff taking on the live-action iteration of her Clone Wars character Bo-Katan Kryze. Of course, those obviously aren't the only Star Wars easter eggs to be found, since creator Jon Favreau and his creative team love peppering episodes with familiar and obscure lore. In fact, the Chapter 11 installment "The Heiress" featured another very unique appearance from a Star Wars vet.
Everyone who played the controversial video game Star Wars Battlefront 2 no doubt has a fond enough memory of main character and reformed Rebel Alliance member Iden Versio, who was voiced winningly by actress Janina Gavankar. As it happens, Gavankar played a small part in bringing "The Heiress" to life, though it didn't involve reprising Iden Versio at all. It did, however, involve some very specific puppeteering work for a well-known Star Wars character type.
Think back to The Mandalorian's cold open from Chapter 11, when the always-in-trouble Razor Crest went through its problematic landing sequence, and there was a moment where a Mon Calamari saw the ship blazing through the sky and put his hands on his hips. Believe it or not, Janina Gavankar was the person operating the Mon Calamari's nostrils. Referencing one of The Mandalorian's special effects artists, Frank Ippolito, Gavankar told this to IGN about her very shot-lived cameo moment:
There is a Mon Calamari who puts their hands on their hips. That’s Frank Ippolito who’s inside that rig. He made that headpiece and it takes two puppeteers to animate it. And they needed a second puppeteer to just handle the nostrils of this character. And [Ippolito] called me and he said, ‘Do you want to come puppeteer the nostrils of this Mon Calamari?’ And I said, ‘Fuck yes.’
Hard to argue with that kind of reaction, which is probably the same one that millions upon millions of Star Wars fans would have if someone called up and asked them to take part in filming anything set in this universe. "Want to maneuver a Mon Calamari's nostrils?" "Want to operate a Twi'lek's head tail?" "Want to play a Tusken raider's butt cheek?" The answer, in all cases, would always be a resounding "fuck yes," so power to Janina Gavankar for getting that chance. (To be sure, the actress has also supplied additional voice work for the feature films Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.)
That phone call from Frank Ippolito definitely wasn't a random occurrence, either. The two creatives have worked together multiple times in the past, culminating in the 2019 short horror film Stucco, which won writer and director Janina Gavankar awards and film festival cred, and also earned praise for Ippolito's effects work. Here's hoping they'll reteam together on something soon, be it Star Wars or another genre project.