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Thursday, December 17 2015 08:00

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS' Lupita Nyong'o & Oscar Isaac - The Pirate & The Pilot

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Lupita Nyong'o & Oscar Isaac. One is a model and actress, honored with an Academy Award for her work in 12 YEARS A SLAVE... the other an actor with some serious rock chops, spending much of the 90s rockin' guitar and a mic in ska-punk bands before attending The Juilliard School and becoming an actor... gaining mass acclaim for his role as a musician in The Cohen Brothers' INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. In a galaxy far, far away, Nyong'o is a pirate known as Maz Kanata, while Isaac is pilot Poe Dameron. While their characters differ greatly, one thing these two actors share is a life-long love of The Force - an attribute that makes their entry into J.J. Abrams' STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS all the sweeter. At the recent STAR WARS Global Press Event in Los Angeles, I spent some time with the duo as they filled us in on their STAR WARS experience.

Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata
Pictured: Lupita Nyong'o doing Motion Capture to perform the role of Maz Kanata

"I was born into STAR WARS," explains Nyong'o, her own youth in Kenya a prime example of the franchise's Global reach and appeal. "I feel it was a very normal part of my childhood. It would come on public holidays on, the National Television [network[. We only had two channels, so STAR WARS was on and everybody watched it - and everybody was familiar with it because it was all there was to watch on TV. We all loved it, and so it was just a very normal, comfortable, cozy part of my imaginative folklore. It wasn’t until being cast in it that I realized what it meant on a meta level - to the world and how big the fanbase is, how dedicated, how enthusiastic people are about this world that George Lucas created."

Nyong'o was born in 1983, the very year that Isaac's cinematic STAR WARS experience began.

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Pictured: Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron

"The first movie I ever saw in the theater was RETURN OF THE JEDI, amazingly," recalls Isaac, introspectively delving into his childhood while balancing enthusiasm and the type of smooth calm befitting of the character he plays on-screen. "It’s pretty crazy. Doing this movie,  it kind of blew my little kid brain. I was a huge fan ever since, and my family were very big fans and every time a new film would come out we’d throw themed parties and memorize the fight scenes to a T and terrorize my family with them. For me, STAR WARS always represented and meant quite literally coming together as a family and having a great time - it was an excuse to do that. At the same time, it’s like that thing where there’s this ownership over it and there’s an intimate relationship with it - something completely outside of anyone’s reality, and then suddenly to be asked to join that, and not only be in it, but to contribute something and create a new character - it was an evolution. The character changed so much from what originally was there when JJ and I first met to what ultimately ends up on screen."

When it comes to the vibe and motivation of their characters, Nyong'o remains cautiously mum - noting that much of what we know has been officially revealed nowhere, and that she still would prefer not comment other than to say that seeing her character evolve over time was a "bizarre and titillating" experience to see herself as not herself. Isaac is a little more forthcoming, noting that "Poe Dameron is committed to The Resistance and to defeating The First Order. He believes in The Force, and he can be a little reckless in wanting to prove that he is a leader and a hero."

Oscar adds, "I think he also has that swagger and confidence that comes from people that can soar above everyone else and do all these things at once like, like fighting a fighter jet and getting into these dog fights and be so close to the edge of death and that definitely influences how he operates in the world."

Lupita Nyong'o and Oscar Isaac

As THE FORCE AWAKENS blasts into theaters this weekend, audiences will finally experience the fruits of two years' work and secrecy for Lupita, Oscar, and massive cast and crew - something so big, that even the performers themselves still have to take pause to absorb.

Nyong'o adds, "It dawned on me for the first time, I think, stepping onto the actual set, that I was a part of STAR WARS because I looked around these very expansive sets and there was so much detail taken into the creation of every single thing - the textures, the colors. You really did feel like you were on another planet, and that was the time when I realized 'Wow, I'm a part of something that has and will continue to go down in history.'"

For Isaac, it's the calm  before the storm... "It’s kind of hard to process because you start, and especially now you really feel that receding of all the water ‘cause the tsunami’s about to hit. It's kind of what this moment is really - where it’s just about to crest over, and it’s not just a film. It’s a cultural phenomenon and it’s just hard to process."

Bonus: Oscar Isaac mixes "On Broadway" with Bill Murray's STAR WARS with updated lyrics for THE FORCE AWAKENS via GQ:

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS opens tomorrow. Get tickets now via Fandango.

Check out more Exclusive Coverage of the STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Launch:

For the latest on THE FORCE AWAKENS, ROGUE ONE and more, keep your browser pointed at TheRockFather.com/StarWars

Disclosure: THE ROCK FATHER Magazine has partnered with Disney/Lucasfilm for this coverage series. Travel and accommodations provided by Mickey Mouse. Thanks to Louise Bishop of MomStart.com for taking photos of the interview.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade as Publisher of The Rock Father Magazine, he joined Adventure Publishing Group as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider—a destination for all things pop culture. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 25 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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