If you're up-to-date on Disney+'s The Mandalorian, that means you've already checked out the Bryce Dallas Howard-directed "Chapter 11: The Heiress," which formerly introduced new Mandalorians into the mythology (Katee Sackhoff's Bo-Katan Kryze, Mercedes Varnado aka Sasha Banks' Koska Reeves, and Simon Kassianides' Axe Woves)- three new characters who we already wouldn't mind seeing in their own spinoff series. As impressive as the outing was overall, Banks' performance, in particular, is already impressing us- she has a "presence" on the screen even when the scene isn't focused on her.
In an interview with Variety, Banks reveals the road that led to her joining the series, how it feels to now be a part of the official "Star Wars" canon, and what it was like working with Bryce Howard as a director.
Banks' road to "The Mandalorian" was paved with… hot wings?!?: "So Jon Favreau came to me because he watched an interview that I did with 'Hot Ones.' And he really liked me and got my contact information. Then on FaceTime, he asked me to be part of 'The Mandalorian.' I was like, 'Well, I cannot say no,' but I was so incredibly nervous because I didn't know if I was going to be able to do it with the WWE schedule. You know, we used to travel a lot. But they made it work and everything happened," Banks revealed. "And it was such an incredible episode. I still just can't get over how awesome that was. Not only to be part of 'Star Wars,' but one of legit the greatest episodes in the history of television like that. I could watch that all the time. That was such a badass introduction to the world of 'Star Wars.' I'm so thankful I saved Baby Yoda! I cannot get over it. Oh my god."
Being an official part of "Star Wars" canon is still something Banks is processing: "It was beyond. Just like the first time ever seeing a wrestling ring. It's like the first time ever seeing anything just so magical. I would hate to ruin like how it looked backstage, but you felt like you were in a different galaxy in a different world. It was so almost easy to play a Mandalorian because I was legit in the universe," Banks explained. "And you know, Jon Favreau and David Filoni and Bryce Howard, they were so amazing towards me. Any questions I had, because I was so incredibly shy and nervous., they answered. But [Jon] reminded me 'Uh, you do WWE every single week and you do that live. You are amazing. There's a reason why I wanted you to be a part of the show.' So that made me feel like home and I totally gained a whole new family and I'm just so thankful.'
Banks can't say enough about how supportive Bryce Howard was as a director: "She really, really guided me and really took me by my hand because like I said, I was so nervous. She texted me to make sure I all good. She walked me through everything, if I had any questions. She was there for me. So it was so special to see. And I was just really inspired by her and how she treated everybody. She was so down to earth," Banks explained- and it had a positive impact on her performance. "I brought a lot of her energy into my work because of how incredibly she treated me. And as you see she is getting so much praise for her work because she is just so special."
To find out how Banks is feeling about her upcoming WWE Survivor Series match with Asuka as well as who would win in a war between the WWE and "Star Wars" universes, check out the full article here.
Behind the camera, Peyton Reed (Ant-Man), Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), cast member Carl Weathers, Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Dads), and Sam Hargrave (Extraction) will be sharing time with series creator Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni in The Mandalorian director's chair. While the second season of Disney+'s live-action Star Wars spinoff series appears to have gotten off relatively light compared to many COVID-19-impacted productions, Favreau was asked if new health and safety guidelines would make it difficult starting up production on a (for now) hypothetical third season and if he had concerns. As Favreau sees it, the series' reliance on virtual sets/scenes and distance-based production actually lends itself pretty naturally to the "new norms" on sets now:
"The fact that the set is much more contained is a benefit because you can limit the number of people. A lot of the people controlling it are doing it remotely from what we call the Brain Bar, which is a bank of gaming computers, essentially. The amount of people near the camera could be much smaller than [usual]. We also shoot a lot outside, which is helpful, too. We build to a moment in filming more like an animated production, where we have a lot of storyboards, a lot of discussions, and scouting in virtual reality. We use cinematic tools in VR much the same way we did for The Lion King and The Jungle Book. A lot of times the actors you are seeing on the screen aren't actually there on set."