Temuera Morrison is 60 years old. Ming-Na Wen is 58. They are not at the age where many actors would be asked to play an action hero. Yet here both are on The Book of Boba Fett, her chasing assassins across rooftops in last week’s series premiere, and him robbing a train in this week’s episode. Nice work if you can get it — and if you can do it as well as these two can.
On Tuesday night, Morrison and Wen spoke with Rolling Stone about how lucky they both feel to be part of the show, about Morrison’s memories of playing Boba’s father Jango two decades ago in Attack of the Clones, why either Boba or Wen’s Fennec Shand wants the hassle of running Jabba the Hutt’s old criminal syndicate, and more.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. But not too much, because when Temuera Morrison gets talking, you want to just let him.
Temuera, aside from the passage of time, how would you say your performance as Boba is different from what you were doing as Jango back in the prequels?
Morrison: Well, as Jango, I didn’t know what I was doing. We shot that in Sydney in the year 2000. I just remember having so much fun, and I was shooting another kind of Australian low-budget detective story at the same time, so I couldn’t change certain things. I still had scenes to shoot, pop over to Star Wars and do some scenes, and then pop back to this other thing that I was working on, which was with Rebecca Gibney, Ihaka. There was just things like my hair, for example, and I had too many curls — Jango looked too soft. And so having this opportunity to come and do Boba Fett, play the son, I just wanted to be so much better. I think I used to kill George Lucas, because he’d be trying to shoot a scene, and I’m out there and it’s raining and someone’s got an umbrella. So I start singing that song: [doing his best Gene Kelly] “I’m singin’ in the rain, I’m singin’ in the rain, and having a wonderful time on the set of Star Wars!” I think I drove them all nuts, and George was very, very nice to me to say, ‘OK, Tem, stop singing now, I’d like to do a mid-shot or a close-up.’ I think with Boba, he’s got a lot more grit, because he’s got a lot more hurt in him. I just had that strong image of Daniel Logan [as young Boba] holding [Jango’s] helmet [in Attack of the Clones]. I’m not quite sure where my head is at that stage, but it’s either in the helmet or it’s fallen out of the helmet. But there’s just the strong image where I sort of felt sorry for the kid looking at his father’s helmet like this: [takes off his hat and holds it out like young Boba holding the decapitated Jango’s helmet].
Wen: And then he puts his forehead to it.
Morrison: And so the poor kid had to carry on with life, with no mama. I didn’t even see an auntie or an uncle around! It was going to be tough for this little kid. So I think I just wanted to make him [have] a little bit more a bit more of a chip on his shoulder, that he’s had to bring his own self up, and he’s had to learn the hard way by himself — the hard way or the highway — so he’s managed to survive. It was kind of amazing. Back in the year 2000, I didn’t know I was going to be playing Boba Fett back then. I remember going to all these conventions with Jeremy Bullock, who played the actual, real Boba Fett, and there’s Daniel Logan, who played the young Boba Fett. And I always signed ‘Jango Fett,’ so it still amazes me now that when I sign an autograph, I do ‘Boba Fett.’ But I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to fix up some of the things I didn’t take too seriously with Jango Fett and create a dynamic, mysterious character.
Both of you are at stages of your careers where, for a lot of actors, the opportunities to kick ass on screen are few and far between. And yet both of you were invited to play these incredibly capable action-hero characters and be in fight scenes directed by people like Robert Rodriguez. How has that been for both of you?
Wen: Oh, we’re just getting started! Right, Tem?
Morrison: You know how you look at some fruit or some food at the supermarket and it’s got a “use by” date on it? Well, that was very much my career. So thank Christ someone had a meeting and said, “Well, Boba’s gotta look like Jango. He’s a cloned son!” Thank Christ I played the father, that’s all I want to say. Yeah, it’s been great.
Wen: Tem and I both come from that old school in a way, which is a good thing, because we work our butts off. We know that we have this responsibility to the show, to Jon [Favreau], to the Star Wars fans, to Dave [Filoni] and Robert, to really bring our A-game. [Tem] was like training on set. I’m training with my trainer all the time, and we’re showing that there’s no expiration date.
Morrison: Well, the Rock came around, and he was getting all my roles, so I’m glad I was in the ring for this role. But also, I was so buzzing when I did the meeting with Jon Favreau. I knew they were doing The Mandalorian and all this, and I’m some guy who may be coming in. But I didn’t want to take anything too seriously. And it wasn’t until I went on the meeting and I saw these conceptual drawings and I thought, ‘Bald-headed guy. I mean, that’s me!’ And I buzzed like for two days just from the drawing!
Wen: And I’m just so happy that Boba came back. Because Boba took care of Fennec. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been back. And he hogs all the Bacta tanks. Every so often, I need it, because my muscles get sore, too.
Morrison: Try holding your breath for 20 minutes.
Ming-Na, you’ve said in the past that you did not get into this business intending to do action roles, and yet you keep getting hired for them again and again. Why do you think you are continually called upon to do this? Are there just a lot of Street Fighter fans in the business?
Wen: I spent a decade after Street Fighter not doing action films. But I believe that sometimes art imitates life, and sometimes life imitates art. And being the nerd that I’ve been, and the geek, this dream of wanting to be in Star Wars, it started with Marvel, with Agents of SHIELD. And now I am living this incredible fantasy life of my childhood dream. It’s pretty spectacular. I think I’ve I’ve gotten the Golden Ticket at this point.
Morrison: Oh, we both have to do our work. We both have to physically get ready. Even though the fight scene you see onscreen is only about 30 seconds or one minute, it took 12 hours to film. In the heat, and the sand. My god, am I done with sand.
Wen: I keep asking Jon, “When do we get off Tatooine?!?!”
So why does Boba want to stay on Tatooine and run Jabba’s empire? It seems like kind of a hassle to me.
Morrison: That’s a very good question. We’re going to start somewhere, I guess. We’re going to be branching out and looking at other things to do. But yeah, we’ll start small and then we’ll venture out. If you focus on the job, you’d better ask the writer that.
When we first saw Fennec on The Mandalorian, she was a very independent character. And, at least at the moment, she seems to be fairly content at being number two to Boba. Is it just because he saved her life? Or should we maybe be skeptical of her loyalty to him?
Wen: I think them being bounty hunters, they do have certain issues with having to partner up with someone. They’re very much loners. But under these circumstances, both of them have gone through this sort of near-death experience on Tatooine. And I think that that really creates this new vulnerability, this new need that perhaps it’s better to partner up — safety in numbers. And I think Fennec is smart enough. Her motto is, “Always find the best deal for yourself,” right? I think she’s seen this as the best deal right now. She thinks that there could be a lot more opportunities, a lot more sense of comfort and protection with Boba. And there’s a great deal of respect that she has for him, too. They both go by this honor code that might not exist as much, but that they believe in. And I think that level of understanding and respect between the two of them really helps to create this bond that they have with each other. To be able to run the syndicate, it’s not going to be easy.
Boba, for for so long, was known to Star Wars fans as the guy behind this iconic mask, and we never saw his face. And now, both on Mandalorian and here, you have the helmet off quite a bit. How do you think the perception of the character changes when we get to see his face this often and we get to see you emoting as much as you have in the role?
Wen: I don’t think we see him enough, personally.
Morrison: It actually came by chance [in The Mandalorian]. I think I was on the spacecraft, and I said, “Well, I’m not flying the thing, I’m not fighting. Can I take my helmet off?” And I remember there was a bit of discussion. That’s that scene when I was giving [Wen] all my dialogue because I wanted to be the quiet kind. And then [director] Rick [Famuywia] goes, “Yeah, I think it’ll be OK. Take his helmet off.” I would have been disappointed if someone said to me, “Leave the helmet on for the whole series.” So thank Christ, they said, “Yes, you can take it off for the scene.” So that’s how it started. And honestly, I think they need to see my face here. But you know, funnily enough, I think [on Mandalorian] they could tell if it wasn’t me. [If it was a stunt person,] Robert Rodriguez would say, “Oh, I can tell it’s not you if you’re not under that helmet.” My face would act through the helmet! I don’t know how that goes, but if there’s an Oscar for best performance under a helmet, I’m going to win it.