Pedro Pascal said it was “no surprise” when Baby Yoda became the true star of The Mandalorian, taking the internet by storm.
The Child became a hugely popular internet meme when the first episode of The Mandalorian aired on Disney+ in the USA last year and British audiences can now feast their eyes on the adorable critter.
Pascal, who portrays the title character in the series, told Yahoo Movies UK that he knew from the first time he saw concept art that The Child would blow up online.
“I can’t bring myself to lie and be like ‘we had no idea of the sensation that he would be’,” the 45-year-old said.
Read more: Mandalorian doc coming on May the Fourth
“We never talked about it being a sure thing, but I unconsciously kept to myself that the very first time I saw the image in the illustration during that first meeting, I was like ‘oh my God, people are going to lose their mind over that’.”
Pascal added that it was “unbelievable” to see the level of talent that went into making Baby Yoda a reality.
Effects company Legacy were responsible for making the doll, which Pascal was able to interact with on the set.
He said: “There’s all the history they bring to it from the other films and from their experiences on other films.
“You’re among the best and so you just really have to make yourself a passenger to that.
“To see them care for the doll and also find different ways for it to express itself and become an incredible scene partner is incredibly fascinating. It’s a pretty adorable thing.”
Read the full interview with Pedro Pascal in which he discusses his first meeting with Jon Favreau, what fans can expect from the second season and whether it’s always him in that suit...
Yahoo Movies UK: With the staggered release of Disney+ all over the world, you must have been talking about this show for a while now?
Pedro Pascal: Absolutely! I wasn’t able to, obviously, answer questions about what we were doing or what the series was going to be about. People kept on asking me, especially those family and friends who don’t live in North America. They kept asking if they were going to be able to see it and I was always like: “I think so, but I don’t really know.”
It’s interesting to see the gradual launch and hopefully it’ll continue to get out there into the world.
We all know that Star Wars, as a movie and TV universe, is shrouded in secrecy. Were you able to see a script and know what you were doing before you got involved?
At the start of this thing, the most secret part of it was the first phone call. They said that Jon Favreau and [executive producer] Dave Filoni wanted to meet me to talk about “something Star Wars”. Those were the words.
So when I went to go and meet Jon, they brought me into a room where the walls were covered, corner to corner, with story illustrations of the whole first season. It was obviously this incredible Star Wars story with a Boba Fett-looking character at the centre of most of it and then, obviously, this adorable, small Baby Yoda.
All on the same day, they took me to the set where they were doing camera tests. They introduced me to Kathleen Kennedy, they put the helmet on my head and then Jon sent me off with six scripts to look at and to get an idea. I might be getting him in trouble. The studio may not know this.
This was all to get an idea, to help me consider the project and also, at least from my perspective, for them to consider whose voice they wanted to hear coming from inside that mask. They cast me in the part and as we got closer to launching the first season while shooting the second, it’s now a very practised lockdown on all things to make sure that nothing gets out.
Once you’d taken on the role, what are the challenges of playing this character and acting within that suit? Is it always you in the suit?
There’s like four of us. There are things that I can’t do. There’s a very improvisational way of shooting the show. You kind of discover what’s safe and what’s not on a daily basis. More than anything, I wanted to make sure that there’s at least a basis of a physicality and a physical language that we’re all in understanding with.
Therefore, an incredible stuntman like Lateef Crowder can bring the part of him that’s agile and dangerous and a looseness of movement from Brendan Wayne. I try to carve out as much as I can a physical language that is conducive to carrying an audience through a scene.
Read more: Eunice Huthart on Star Wars stunt secrets
I would say that’s the greatest challenge. You don’t know if there’s too much stillness like a stiff mannequin or too much movement, so you look like a bobble-head. Then, of course, creating the right kind of vocal energy for every detail to coincide with the story. It’s very obviously a more technical endeavour than anything I’ve ever done. So much so that it’s fascinating.
Then of course, if you feel like you really don’t know what you’re doing, you know it won’t make a difference. You have all of the greatest experts and the most talented people in the industry in every department. Ultimately, they’re shaping the show. It’s really their show.
When you first stepped on one of those sets, how exciting was it to be a part of the Star Wars universe? What’s your history with the franchise?
It was a very surreal experience. I was born in 1975, so the first movie came out when I was a child. It’s weird to have that movie be some of the earliest memories you can carve out from the recesses of your mind — that incredible desert landscape, the floating vehicle, the hologram of Princess Leia, a terrifying trash compactor. I had that stuff getting into my childhood imagination so young and marking it.
So when Jon Favreau asked in our first meeting whether I was a fan of Star Wars, I asked “do I have a choice?” Not in relation to getting the job, but just in terms of how I grew up. They were the biggest movies of my childhood and, of course, with the movies came the merchandise. Those first three films dominated my childhood.
Stepping on to the set — and in a costume that is so directly related to your childhood memories — was something I had never imagined could happen. It’s hard to describe. It’s a real tingle, a very magical feeling and a bizarre one. You are this middle-aged man looking at yourself. It’s like in childhood and the first time you discovered what Halloween was — people would give you free candy for dressing up in something cool. It’s kind of magic.
We have to talk about Baby Yoda. Did you guys know when you were making it that he would become what he has become in terms of his online popularity as a character?
I did. I can’t bring myself to lie and be like “we had no idea of the sensation that he would be”. We never talked about it being a sure thing, but I unconsciously kept to myself that the very first time I saw the image in the illustration during that first meeting, I was like “oh my God, people are going to lose their mind over that”. So basically it was no surprise.
What was it like working with that character on the set?
It was incredible just to see how talented the departments are. It was just unbelievable, from the production design to the company, Legacy Effects, that created the doll and so many of the props and creatures. There’s all the history they bring to it from the other films and from their experiences on other films. You’re among the best and so you just really have to make yourself a passenger to that.
To see them care for the doll and also find different ways for it to express itself and become an incredible scene partner is incredibly fascinating. It’s a pretty adorable thing.
Going into this world with a rabid and vocal fanbase, were you ever worried about the reaction to the show?
I felt confident because I could see two men who, above anything else, had a real love for what the fans love. So much so that they weren’t going to preoccupy themselves with servicing the fans, but just really dedicating themselves to telling Star Wars stories and using all of the elements they love the most in really creative ways to surprise fans and bring in new fans.
It’s kind of a beautiful thing because obviously there’s so much merchandise that comes with the Star Wars world and it’s such a business. So it was really beautiful to see two guys putting so much love into it. That more than anything is what it’s exciting people and drawing them in, whether they’re conscious of it or not.
This was airing at the same time as the final Star Wars film came out, so you had a month of Star Wars madness. What was it like to be in the midst of that, for good and for bad?
We were shooting the second season when the latest Star Wars film came out. I was lucky enough to get to go to the premiere in Los Angeles and a dear friend of mine has been in all three of those movies. Really, it just feels like being a part of a big family. We’re sort of the youngest child in this large family, discovering and carving a way out in the world. There’s so much for us to learn.
When that Star Wars craziness was happening, there was your show getting this great reaction on one side and The Rise of Skywalker getting a more divided reaction. What was it like to be on one side of that fence?
I didn’t feel that at all. The virtue of being neck deep in work. Once you’re in this world of Lucasfilm, you’re only touching on the positive. You just deposit something. I saw no fence.
You mentioned that you were working on the second season last year. Where are you with that now and what can fans expect?
They can expect me to not talk about it at all. Only so they can experience the second season in the same way they experienced the first — that sort of awe and surprise. It’s pretty wonderful.
Read more: Mandalorian confirmed for season three
Is there a surprise of the magnitude of Baby Yoda on the way?
I don’t want to say anything. I don’t even want to prepare you for surprises that may or may not be there. Let yourself be as empty a canvas as possible to just experience it.
New episodes of The Mandalorian are released every Friday on Disney+ in the UK.