Jude S. Walko - Interview The Mandalorian -
I happened to be on set one of the days that George Lucas visited
Jude S. Walko grew up in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and received a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor of the Arts
degree in acting from the renowned University Of Georgia Drama Department in Athens, Georgia. He
studied acting there before moving to Los Angeles, California.
- Thank you Jude S. Walko for your time for the Star Wars Fans.
Thank you so much Bernd. The Star Wars community is massive and stretches across the globe. I am only very happy to be a minuscule part of it, and to be able to share my experiences with all the fans.
- The dream of every fan is to be in Star Wars. How did you get cast for The Mandalorian?
Luckily for me, I spend a lot of time back and forth between my home in Bangkok, Thailand and amongst the film community in Los Angeles, California. In the fall of 2018 I happened to be in Los Angeles working on some of the feature films that I produce as a Produce's Guild of America Producer. I received a call checking my availability, based on a photo. They liked my unique look and long beard. with my ice blue eyes and high cheek bones, I can generally be picked out of a crowd. After a couple of fittings, and several date changes, they finally cast me as a human bounty hunter. It was great, because unlike a lot of other actors, my face remained recognizable on screen. Something every actor loves, especially in such an iconic universe as Star Wars.
The props were so intricate and detailed. Every change of costume carefully scrutinized. Weapons felt heavy and life-like. Everything from etchings on walls, to door panels, and playing cards were designed specifically for the universe. It was quite impressive seeing all the obvious creativity that went into the set pieces which made them new, but yet kept them in the same Star-Wars specific wheelhouse that we have all grown to know and love, for generations.
- Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast as Bounty Hunter in The Mandalorian?
I have been a lifelong fan, but not in the traditional sense. My brother, who is 10 yeas older than me, was always way ahead of the curve on pop culture and music. He was going to fan signings, getting back stage passes and visiting underground comic stores long before they were popular in the mainstream. As a result, my love of things like Ray Harryhausen, Tim Burton, Hammer Films, Judas Priest and Blue Oyster Cult came heavily from his influence. Star Wars was no exception. When I was just six, he took me to see the original film (which we now know as Episode IV - "A New Hope") in the then very small Battlefield theatre, off of Highway 2A in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, USA. I remember leaving the theatre thinking that was all very real, and continuing to look up at the stars at night knowing in my heart of hearts that Chewie, Luke and Han were battling the Empire, somewhere up there in the sky.
Back then, when stars and actors would come to town they would bring movie props and sign autographs, so I remember meeting a few of them. Then, in the early 80s Mark Hamill and Kristy McNichol were in our town shooting "The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia". I'll never forget it. They had an old red pick-up truck on a flatbed tractor-trailer and they were driving them through town in a technique we refer to in the film business as a process trailer, wherein actors can concentrate on acting, rather than actually operating a vehicle. I believe everyone in a 50 mile radius came out to see it. It was then I realized the power of cinema, and that unforgettable experience would eventually lead me down a path in the film business.
So in a way, I see Star Wars as a way of life. Part of my personal journey from a very young child, even until now. I don't look at it as a franchise, as much as I do it a significant part of our cultural history.
- Could you share some funny, remarkable, weird stories regarding the filming of your scenes?
Of course! I remember some of the actors who had very elaborate alien costumes, were getting quite hot. In some cases Make-Up FX were practically melting off their faces. Others had large all-encompassing and probably claustrophobic head gear. Even though the studio was piped with tons of AC, it generally is only turned on in-between takes. As a result, there were teams of make-up and costume professionals following actors around with little fans, bottles of water and constant "last-looks" or make-up and costume touch ups. It seemed like a tremendous amount of effort, just to maintain a consistent look on screen. Kudos to all of them, not the least of which were the sweating talent, themselves.
- Do you know the name of the Human Bounty Hunter in The Mandalorian episode Chapter Three?
I don't think he has one yet. It was pointed out to me, though, that he specifically was after Din Djarin, The Mandalorian himself, so perhaps his name should reflect that. When asked about my character, I often describe him as a Space Pirate. Perhaps the fans should name him!
- With a role in Star Wars comes a Big Fan Community, what are your first star wars fan experiences?
As I mentioned earlier I saw the first ones in the theatre thanks to my older brother taking me. I remember going to an autograph session, maybe in Chattanooga or somewhere in Tennessee, and there was a miniature X-Wing fighter there used for cockpit scenes. It was towed on a boat trailer, and I remember climbing into it for a polaroid. Somewhere in this galaxy, or another, that photo still exists.
Like any kid of that era, ( I was born in '72), I had the figures, the pajamas, the bedsheets and the toys.
Also when I was in the 6th grade at Cloud Springs Elementary, I was lucky enough to be in an "advanced placement" class. They told its it was because we were smart, but in hindsight I think we were probably just the kids that had ADHD. Regardless, they used some cool teaching techniques on us. I remember getting to make a film, frame by frame. I chose to do a very crude animation with my Kenner Death Star Space Station set. Remember that one with the big gun on top, the little sliding trap floor, and the trash compactor full of foam and some creature that looked like the Loch Ness monster? I also somehow worked in a Dewback into the scene. I remember having Jabba the Hut and a landspeeder as well, but only the extremely cool kids had the Millennium Falcon or the Tauntaun with the slit in its belly!
- Please finish the following sentence: “Looking back at working on Star Wars: The Mandalorian …”
I was extremely blessed. I happened to be on set one of the days that George Lucas visited. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was Jon Favreau's birthday and George brought him some wine, quite possibly from Skywalker Vineyards. But more than any of that, it was a chance to watch consummate professionals in an epic and iconic setting that we have unilaterally accepted as the greatest universe created in our time. Director Deborah Chow, Jon and George, Dave Filoni, Taika Waititi, Carl Weathers (Apollo frickin' Creed!), Gina Carano, Pedro Pascal and a host of 100s of talented cast and crew were giving their all to create a singular vision. That is the very essence of Movie Magic and why we work so tirelessly to do what we do. The whole point is escapism, so you the viewer, can take an hour or two out of whatever ails you, and immerse yourself, totally and completely, in a galaxy far far away from your fears, anxieties and problems.
- You not only played in Star Wars, you also in "The Incantation" , "Superstore" , "Adventure Force 5" and some more. What
was your favorite role so far?
Yes I have a long storied acting career as a Screen Actor's Guild actor that spans nearly 3 decades. I am so very grateful to be able to work in an industry consistently and conformably doing what I love. I'd have to say my role as "The Vicar of Borley" in "The Incantation" was very close and dear to my heart. Some people don't know this about me, but I studied in the Seminary to be a priest for quite a long time. This character was quintessentially the opposite of all that training, and villains are always fun to play. In addition I got to act alongside the talented Dean Cain and it was a very special experience as it was my directorial debut. All the cast and crew gave their all, just to help me out. Dan Campbell of Blue Falcon Productions, really came though and made it happen, I will be eternally grateful to everyone involved in that project. Please check it out on Amazon or iTunes, for me. It was a truly independent film made with blood, sweat, tears and love, along with the little money we managed to put together. We got to shoot in the Sullivan's Dunderry Castle in France, and under Paris next to the catacombs. Please watch it and help support the little guys like us!
- You work with so many people, which one has left an impression in your life and what?
So many. Like the director of my episode of "The Mandalorian" many of my first influences, and mentors, I had in the business were women. Leigh Shanta, Linda Warrilow, Nancy Paloain-Breznikar, Elaine Dysinger and Melissa 'Stanley" Cohen all gave me my start.
I have worked with scores of A-list celebrities, among the nicest were Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, Penelope Cruz and of course Dean Cain. But man this list has hundreds!
I've got to witness, on set, Directors like John Frankenheimer, Curtis Hanson, Stephen Spielberg and Now George and Jon.
Also longtime industry friends like Dan Campbell, Boontawee "Thor" Taweepasas, Andrew Reyes, Nathan "Johnny" Stein and Billy Greenfield to name a few who always have my back.
In short, I have meet some of the most influential people in the business, all while getting to indulge in my craft. I don't know what I did in a past life to enjoy such an embarrassment of riches, but I will forever remain grateful and try to remain humble.
- A Dreamproject for the future?
I would love to work with Tim Burton some day. I have so many projects in development, so getting any of them greenlit would be ideal whether it's as a writer, producer, actor or director. Our company has developed quite a few feature and series ideas. At the top of that list I would say are one based on some Marine's first hand accounts of their combat time in Iraq, another contemporary reimagining of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and a "The Irishmen"-esque epic I wrote based on some first hand accounts of the Mafia.
But all in all, I'm just happy to stay relevant and busy in an industry that has allowed me into its hallowed halls.
- Thank you for your time Jude S. Walko! Let’s end this interview with some words for the fans?
Thank you so much for letting me share my story.
Follow your dreams! You don't need to be on Star Wars sets, or rub elbows with celebrities, to have worth. Each and every one of you brings value to many people's lives and I, for one, am so grateful that you are here. Love each other like Leia loves Han, or 3P0 loves R2, or Mando loves The Child.... This is the Way!
May the Force be with you all!