The Background Characters That Make The Force Awakens Come Alive
Star Wars has always celebrated even the most minor and fleeting background characters in their films with most getting represented in plenty of ancillary tie-in material like comics, video games, and even action figures to boot! Whether it’s the cantina scene in A New Hope or the rogues gallery of bounty hunters featured in The Empire Strikes Back, Lucasfilm always stuffed every frame with eccentric and beguiling faces all screaming out for their stories to be told. Like the ice cream man on Bespin (that’s Willrow Hood) and Jedi Council member Adi Gallia (she was my favorite when I played Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles as a kid), Star Wars: The Force Awakens contains plenty of background characters that have already captured my imagination. After numerous (yes, five!) viewings, here are my favorites below:
1. Jakku Villager Rises
While Rey and General Leia Organa lead the charge as far as female badasses are concerned in The Force Awakens, I cannot help but be transfixed by Jakku Villager as played by Sasha Frost. She’s the first person to raise her blaster and mount a defense against the invading First Order, who are after the map to Luke Skywalker. Although she’s only seen for a flash and then gone, probably having perished at the hands of the nefarious Kylo Ren, I hope she eventually gets a proper name and a backstory. She’s earned it.
2. The Dengue Sisters Mosquito Squad
Sure, there’s the Guavian Death Gang and Kanjiklub, but the one squad I want to be part of is the mosquito gang that appears ever so fleetingly in Maz Kanata’s castle/bar. Dubbed the Dengue Sisters in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, these red mosquitos all sport multiple limbs, a large proboscis, and appear to having a jolly time with drink in hand. These characters are one out of the many delightful nods to practical effects in the J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Wars film and prove that this universe still has room to be a little silly and fun. Giant red mosquitos! I’ll have what they’re having!
3. Korr Sella Gets Her Close-Up
Let’s talk about Kor Sella. After the well-deserved controversy surrounding the lack of casting female characters in The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm attempted some damage control by announcing they had cast Gwendoline Christie what is now known to be the gender-swapped role of Captain Phasma. Another actor named in the later rounds of casting was relative newcomer Maisie Richardson-Sellers. When I finally watched the film, this character appeared in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment on Hosnian Prime as it exploded in a brilliant flash due to Starkiller Base and The First Order. Tie-in material such as Topps trading cards and The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary (again) provides some context for her lingering look of terror (she was direct delegate to General Leia Organa in the New Republic). I’m disappointed in the diminishing of her character onscreen, but at least for a moment, Korr Sella shined brightly.
4. GA-97 Holds Down The Fort
The charmingly hodgepodge microphone-mouth droid, AKA GA-97 (according to the Topps Force Awakens trading cards), was assigned to hang out with the wildest rabble-rousers in the galaxy at Maz Kanata’s castle/bar on Takadona. Voiced by David Acord, GA-97’s mouth looks and sounds basically like a vintage microphone ripped straight from the ’40s and ’50s (on our world). Alerting the Resistance to the location of BB-8, GA-97 is responsible for aiding in the eventual rescue of Finn, Han, and Chewie and proves that Star Wars always allows for minor characters to affect the fate of the galaxy.
5. Jessika Pava: Ace Pilot, Fangirl, Friend
While George Lucas and company cut out all the female pilots from Return Of The Jedi, The Force Awakens marks the first on-screen appearance of a female x-wing fighter pilot by the name of Jessika “Testor” Pava, as played by Game of Thrones actress Jessica Henwick. Always attuned to the situation at hand, even in the chaos during the battle to destroy Starkiller Base, Pava manages to survive to fight another day with the Resistance. Appearing in a frame story in a children’s tie-in novel, The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure, Pava is a fangirl like the rest of us who is described as admiring Luke and other Rebel heroes, inspired to fight the good fight herself. Umm, can we be best friends already?
Are there any other background characters that stole your heart during The Force Awakens? With what medium would you like their backstories told? Sound off in the comments below!
Steven Ray Morris is a Los Angeles-based author and an okapi in his next life. He is a podcast producer and cohosts a podcast about cats called The Purrrcast. He wrote a book about the Jurassic Park franchise called Molding A Jurassic Universe that was released by Thought Catalog Books last summer. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenRayMorris.
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