Prior to appearing on The Mandalorian as bounty hunter Fennec Shand, it was a life-long dream for actress Ming-Na Wen to appear in the Star Wars universe in any way possible. Appearing on the Inside of You podcast, the star of the upcoming The Book of Boba Fett spoke with host Michael Rosenbaum about her fandom, how she got the opportunity and what it was like filming her scenes.
When it came to finding her way to the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, it turned out Wen's ties to her role in 1993's The Joy Luck Club bore unexpected fruit. "I'm going to give some credit to extraordinary women, extraordinary Asian women who support their sisters," the actress recalled. "I was at a party, throwback to 'Joy Luck Club' and [co-star] Tamlyn Tomita, a dear friend and amazing human being. She knew what a huge 'Star Wars' fan I was and at that party was Deborah Chow, who was directing 'The Mandalorian' and [Tomita] came up to me and she said 'You have to meet Deborah! You and she know everybody!' She's the social butterfly which I'm not. I don't even know how I succeed in this business, seriously. I don't schmooze." While she was initially excited about landing the role, that initial feeling of joy and elation deflated to sadness upon learning of her initial fate. "I read the script and at first, I was a little sad and concerned because you know Fennec Shand dies," Wen said. "My first reaction [getting the part], I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' I'm reading it and I'm like, 'Oh yes! Yes! Yes! She's an assassin- and she gets shot in the gut and dies.' It's like, 'Oh.' It just like broke my heart so totally."
Before finding out what was ahead for her character, Wen made the best of what little she knew. "I had a lengthy conversation with [creators] Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, two of the most…and again they're in the caliber of George Clooney for me… the nicest human beings, the kindest creative…just saints really," she said. "So I had a long conversation with them and just loved where they were going with it. I go on set I'm like, 'You know what, this might be my only opportunity. I got to do it right.' I went on set and the costume was amazing and I worked on the hair idea with Maria [Sandoval] and we were really being creative about this character because I'm like 'Okay, if it's only going to be one episode, I'm going to make her stand out.' I'm going to have this really cool hairdo to go, I really invested a lot into it. I was so excited and the first time I was on the Volume not realizing what it was and I got on set and literally, there was like one rock, some sand and I was just like, 'Wow! This is back in the day the black box theater.'"
Upon shooting Fennec's scenes, Wen wasn't done geeking out & trying to recreate her moment on set to the original film "A New Hope." "These are my inner nerd thoughts and then they light it up and it was Tatooine with the binary sunset and I freaked," she said. "I mean literally, I teared up so much I was so overwhelmed with emotions and then I asked the first assistant director Kim Richards, who was this incredible human being, I'm like, 'Okay, I know we're not supposed to take pictures, but you have to take this picture of me looking at the binary sunset with my one foot up like Luke Skywalker." You can also catch her lending her voice reprising the role on the animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch.