The Mighty Dragon meets Emily Swallow
As a Star Wars fan, one of the older generation ones, I am beyond honoured to have my first The Mandalorian interview in The Mighty Dragon, especially with such an accomplished actress as Emily Swallow.
Throughout Emily’s distinguished career she seems to have forged ahead igniting a trail of strong and inspiring female characters whether on screen or on stage.
Here we discuss her acting history and also her role as The Armorer in The Mandalorian and what it meant to her being part of this incredible series. The Mandalorian has brought huge pay-offs to old and new Star Wars fans – to me, the true essence of Star Wars finally returning.
A big thank you to Emily for her time and the folks at 11:11 Entertainment for co-ordinating, I am truly grateful.
Your character, The Armorer, in The Mandalorian was one of my personal favourites. What challenges are there in portraying emotion in a character that is masked?
It was a wonderful challenge to take on; my acting roots are in theatre, and I studied mask work for the stage. We rely so easily on facial expressions to tell us how other people are feeling and to convey to others how we feel. When we can no longer observe those things on a person’s face, we pay a lot more attention to the rest of the body, so every little movement becomes important. I chose to embrace stillness so as not to distract from The Armorer’s directness of focus. Once I started to trust that stillness, I could let the scene play out. I got feedback from the directors about the impact of gestures like a head tilt or a turn, and I tried to allow her voice to be simple and direct. Beyond all that, I simply had to trust!
As a woman, what did you want to bring to the Star Wars Universe with your character?
The Armorer falls into a lineage of powerful and compassionate female characters from the Star Wars movies and animated series. It is a huge honor to play such a strong woman in a world full of incredible characters of both genders, and part of what I love is that no one in the clan seems to think it’s a big deal that she is a woman. I really appreciate the Armorer’s calm, steady presence, and I hope she shows people that strength displays itself in many degrees, and does not always have to be aggressive and forceful (well, until a bunch of Storm Troopers show up…). Her patience and the attention she gives to keeping the other Mandalorians connected to their roots are qualities I really admire.
When you look back at your career so far, what is your favourite role and why?
My favorite role comes from a stage play I did in 2013; it was called Nice Fish and was written by Mark Rylance and the poet Louis Jenkins. I played Flo, a contemporary version of the Norse Goddess Freya, who was a force of nature that caused all sorts of chaos but really, REALLY just wanted to throw a fun birthday party 🥳 . Mark co-directed the play with his wife Claire van Kampen and also starred in it. We had a tremendous amount of fun–we were all involved in adding to the script with improvisations in rehearsal and each night during the show. I have long admired Mark as an actor, and creating a new play with Mark and Claire and that incredible cast was a dream come true.
Your theatre work includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, High Fidelity and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. How do classics such as these enhance an actor’s skills and is stage work something that still excites you?
Live theatre will always be my first love. It is the playground where I learn the most about acting because I get immediate feedback from the audience. I love the process of creating a show in a rehearsal room with a group of actors over the course of four weeks; I love putting the show up in previews and learning what works with the audience and then getting back in the room the next day to fine tune it. I love the thrill of opening night and I love the subtle, nuanced growth that can only happen by dipping back into the same material over the course of a run. Theatre is my foundation, and from it I draw ideas to use when I’m working in television and don’t have the same depth of exploration in rehearsal.
What does 2021 hold for you?
What a time of mystery we are in! I am currently auditioning for pilots, as I always do this time of year, but I don’t know where I’ll be or when. My husband and I are usually based in New York, but since the end of September we have been splitting our time between LA and our families in Seattle and Jacksonville. I cherish this time with them; I am usually busy traveling all over the place and never get to see them enough! I am working on an album this year, and I’m super jazzed to be collaborating with friends on that. Finally, I’m looking forward to returning to conventions later this year.
Emily Swallow – IMDb
The Armorer – Wikipedia
Emily Swallow – Wikipedia
The Mandalorian – Disney+
Wookieepedia – The Armorer
Interviews on The Mighty Dragon
Barbara Jane Mackie