The Mandalorian gave Star Wars fanatics a huge treat with the episode "The Heiress," which at last confirmed rumors that Battlestar Galactica vet Katee Sackhoff was taking on her Clone Wars role of the badass Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze. It's relatively rare for voice actors to portray their animated characters for live-action projects, so Sackhoff immediately felt a lot of pressure going into the TV show. Thankfully, her performance was spot-on, and the episode was a banger that opened up a lot of storytelling avenues, but it took a lot of mental work from Sackhoff to make it happen.
Despite the fact that Katee Sackhoff had been voicing Bo-Katan for years in Star Wars animated series, she hadn't ever fully considered how the role would be played in the real world, so that in and of itself was a challenge. Luckily, this was an episode directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, to whom Sackhoff gave credit in helping her bring Bo-Katan to life. Here's how she put it to Variety:
It was a completely different experience for me. One of the things that worked in my favor this episode was Bryce Dallas Howard, who is such a phenomenal director and also an amazing actor. I couldn’t have done it without her, she truly helped me understand that just because I knew this character so well didn’t mean that I’d worked out how to play her yet. That was hard at the beginning. One of the funnest things for me was establishing her look. The look of her face was so important to me because there were details about her that as a fan of Clone Wars and Rebels I’ve been accustomed to seeing. Her freckles, her red hair, her green eyes, her eyebrows which point down in a slightly unnatural way, and the scar on her forehead. I wanted all of it to be there, and to their credit, Jon and Dave and Bryce let me sit down and really play with that.
A character like Mando has it easy, since Din Djarin was created specifically for The Mandalorian. But even if he had appeared in animated form beforehand, he spends 99.99% of the time in a static helmet, so it wouldn't be a hard transition. In contrast, Katee Sackhoff had to think about all of the facial features that Clone Wars and Rebels viewers had grown accustomed to over the years, not to mention the uniform, the body movements, the vocal patterns, etc.
Katee Sackhoff spoke more about getting the hair just so, and how she wanted to get things close enough to avoid incessant nitpicking from the fanbase. In her words:
With the hair color, we know what she looks like in animation, but does that translate to live-action? Just because she has bright orange hair doesn’t mean that’s the natural look on a real person. We altered and darkened her hair a little bit, we made the eyebrows just a touch more subtle, but they’re still there. I really wanted to make sure the fans recognized her and that she wasn’t a jarring presence for them visually. I didn’t want them to pick her apart, I wanted them to just enjoy the story with her in it.
While everything in pop culture is going to have its detractors, Bo-Katan's debut on The Mandalorian was largely greeted with cheers from the majority of the fanbase. Even if she would have only popped up for long enough to judge the characters' facial comparisons and nothing else, Katee Sackhoff would have passed the test. But it's still a great thing that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni gave her some great action beats as well as important dialogue scenes – plus that big Ahsoka Tano name-drop – to truly keep viewers invested in her story. (As well as the story of her compadre played by WWE superstar Sasha Banks.) So here's hoping the actress is feeling all of that love.
The Mandalorian drops new episodes on Disney+ every Friday at 3:01 a.m. ET. While waiting to see when Mando & Co. are finally going to run into Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka Tano, head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring TV rundown to see what new and returning shows are on the way soon.