The Force Awakens was a passing of the torch to a new generation of Star Wars in more ways than one. The original stars were there to turn things over to the next generation, and the very character of Chewbacca passed from Peter Mayhew to Joonas Suotamo.
Suotamo played Chewbacca again in The Last Jedi, and now makes his third appearance as the wookie in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Suotamo recalled when he first learned he got the role.
“When I got to know that I was going to playing this character, I really couldn’t sleep at night,” Suotamo said. “I was so excited because this was a life-changer for me.”
For Star Wars fans, the transition was seamless. Chewbacca is always Chewie in the full body costume. But it meant steady employment for Suotamo.
“I was borderline jobless when I got this role,” Suotamo said. “My now fiancée, my then girlfriend have seen me going from living with my mom to becoming Chewbacca. That’s the span of our relationship right now.”
Suotamo suggests that perhaps Chewbacca was the role he was born to play.
“I’ve been like this the whole time,” Suotamo said. “It’s just now that this behavior suits me.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story shows how Han Solo and Chewbacca first met. That sets it technically prior to the time in which Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca.
“Peter Mayhew, who created this character along with George Lucas, has been so instrumental in giving me his blessing,” Suotamo said. “And giving me some tips in our week-long session together, how to be this character. It was fun because I never could have understood what went on underneath the mask of Peter Mayhew.”
Perhaps the third time was the charm, as Suotamo called Solo his easiest time performing as Chewbacca.
“Now that I got to know that, it was so easy going into shooting this film, which is so much about Han and Chewie and everyone,” Suotamo said. “It was so important to get right, for this film.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens Friday in theaters.