It's so rare that an actor has an endearing signature role, much less three the way Warwick Davis does. From Wicket in the Star Wars franchise, the title character in the Leprechaun horror franchise, to the Nelwyn sorcerer Willow Ufgood in Willow, the actor tapped into a familiar space when it came to his approach to magical character 34 years later on the Disney+ legacy sequel series. Davis opened up about how Mark Hamill's performance as Luke Skywalker in 2017's The Last Jedi provided inspiration for his latest take on Willow.
"The one thing I took note of in particular was Mark Hamill returning to Luke Skywalker [in Star Wars: The Last Jedi] and how he went about the approach for that," Davis tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I thought he was really interesting, and it wasn't the expected approach, certainly. He came at it from quite a different angle, and I also did the same. I noticed that Mark didn't try to play the character younger. He just leaned into his more mature years, and that's really what I did as Willow. I'm 52 now. The first time I played the character, I was only 17. So I thought, 'Well, let's not deny the fact that you're 52. Let's use that to make this character more interesting, more grounded, and more well-rounded as well.' Within this series, the world that we find Willow in is a different one than we last saw him in. He's quite troubled. He's had a lot of dark experiences in his own life, so he has to take all that on. And as an actor, I have to add all of that knowledge into the character's situation and use that to reflect out in my performance."
Creator Jonathan Kasdan initially approached Davis on doing the legacy sequel when the actor was filming 2018's Solo. "He did indeed. We were on the set of Solo, and I was looking very much like an older version of Willow, with my long hair as Weazel. And he started talking about how much he loved Willow and the fact that he'd been inspired by the film as a young writer. But the thing that really pushed it into high gear was when Ron Howard came on to direct 'Solo.' He and Jon then chatted about Willow, and Jon again said what a huge fan he was of the film. So Ron and Jon hit it off immediately, and they started talking about the future of Willow. 'What could it be? Another movie? A TV series? Where could it go?'"
From there, Davis became a creative partner in the series. "And John then started writing and coming up with ideas. Every so often, he'd give me a call and say, 'Hey Warwick, I've come up with this great idea. What do you think of it?' So that's how the project developed, really," he said. "For me, it was always something that was on the horizon, but until you start your first day on set, I've learned that as an actor, you should never take these things for granted that they're going to happen. Development of TV and film projects are notoriously very slow and very unreliable, but this came together and worked out." For more on how the previous talk of expanding the franchise didn't pan out, stepping back into character, bringing his family into the series, memories from the original 1988 Ron Howard film, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), you can check out the rest of the interview here.