J.J. Abrams and Lupita Nyong’o Share Details About The Force Awakens‘ Maz Kanata

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J.J. Abrams and Lupita Nyong’o shed some light on Maz Kanata, the character behind the mysterious voice in all those trailers we’ve been seeing (read: obsessing over). As you know, Maz is played by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, who gave her performance via motion capture. You can see the character in the official The Force Awakens poster, tucked between BB-8 and R2. Of course, as this is Star Wars, and this is an Abrams production, details are light and speculation runs wild.

Abrams began by getting all mysterious about Maz’s eyes, which you can see on the poster art are covered by goggles. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said:

I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do. I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.

Nyong’o viewed the emphasis on the eyes as somewhat of a gift. She expounded on this and shared some wisdom from the mocap king himself, Andy Serkis:

The biggest advice [Andy] gave me, that was so important to hold on to, is a motion-capture character you develop the same way as any other. You have to understand who the character is and what makes them who they are. As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway. So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character.

Abrams then shared a bit more about Maz’s background, though not too much:

Her history is that she was a pirate for a long time. She’s lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole for about a century, and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe…

All that backstory will be forthcoming. In the movie, you don’t learn these things, but I know that these are things that are coming out in other venues.

If I could speculate for a moment: looking these details and some info from the trailer, it could very well be that Maz is force-sensitive, and has the ability to find that force-sensitivity in others. Rey has the potential to be force-sensitive, judging by the way the trailer is edited, with Maz providing voice-over with Rey often serving as a focal point. It’s possible Maz’s eyes are what help her see into people’s potential, but it’s something she likely doesn’t want to use a lot as she keeps them behind goggles.

Abrams’ references to info coming out in other venues is intriguing. It’s possible we could be seeing Maz pop up in a book–or a Star Wars anthology, perhaps. One can only hope.

End speculation.

It’s incredibly, incredibly important to note, however, that there has been quite a lot of backlash surrounding Maz’s design, as well as the decision to have Nyong’o hidden behind CGI. Looking at the concept art for the character, it’s clear to see why people are unhappy with Maz; there’s a striking likeness to a racist late-1875 caricature.

While the design has changed a little bit, it’s still worth noting that this is kind of where they started from.

Additionally, given the franchise’s treatment of another black actor hidden behind CGI (see: Ahmed Best’s Jar Jar Binks), one can see exactly where the worries come from.

All of this new information about Maz doesn’t exactly address these concerns — but the new details do flesh her out a little bit more. We won’t really know what kind of character she is until we’re all seeing her on the big screen, but hopes are indeed quite high for this former-space-pirate-possibly-a-force-sensitive-bar-owner.

Gosh, that’s a mouthful.

(via Coming Soon)

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Jessica Lachenal
Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.