The HoloFiles

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Emily Swallow Talks Her Role as The Armorer, The Mandalorian Season 2, Iron Man Influences, and Inspiring Fans

By George Bate

The Armorer herself gives us an exclusive look behind the scenes of The Mandalorian.

Star Wars Holocron spoke exclusively with The Armorer herself Emily Swallow to discuss her role in The Mandalorian, the upcoming season, and more.

Swallow’s character became an instant favorite immediately after she was introduced in the pilot of the acclaimed Disney+ series. Fans were delighted to hear the voice of The Armorer once again in the trailer for the show’s second season, premiering later this month on October 30. Swallow discussed her hope that fans will respond to season two in a similarly positive way as season one:

“I hope that they’re gonna fall in love with it just as they did the first season. The difficulty of a second season of anything is that they have more specific expectations because they’ve already seen something. So I’m really hoping that fans go into it with an open mind like they did for the first season and are ready to go for the ride.”

A key component of the second season will be Din Djarin’s quest to deliver the Child to his people. Swallow’s voice is heard in last month’s trailer as she references the Jedi, a word that is also heard in the first season. However, Swallow revealed that The Armorer didn’t originally use the word Jedi in the finale of Season One:

“I was recording all of my dialogue as I was in the suit. It wasn’t added later. But you always have to go back and do a little bit of looping and ADR in case some things don’t come out clearly. I didn’t use the word ‘Jedi’ when we first filmed that scene in the last episode. And then Dave [Filoni] and Jon [Favreau] felt that it wasn’t specific enough. When I was in my ADR session and they told me they were going to change it to Jedi, I got so excited because that word carries so much.”

One of The Armorer’s most remembered moments from the first season features Swallow’s character crafting Din’s armor. Swallow recalls creator and executive producer Jon Favreau’s intent to have those scenes be reminiscent of Tony Stark building his Iron Man suit in the first MCU film:

“I remember when we were shooting [the armor crafting scenes], Jon said he wanted them to have the same feel as the sequences in Iron Man. As soon as he said that, I knew I was in good hands because that was just so exciting in those movies when he’s making his armor. It’s shot so beautifully.”

Given the nature of Mandalorians and the prevalence of helmets in their culture, the voices of these characters takes on added importance. Swallow talked about how she crafted the voice for the role, along with the challenges of playing a masked character:

“It was such a fun challenge to approach a masked character, which I had gotten to do for theater before but never for the camera. It started with the audition, because my understanding is that they were originally seeing British women in their 50’s and 60’s, and the casting associate suggested that I do a few takes with a British accent. Then Jon [Favreau] really liked that because it sets her apart from everyone else. So that’s how [her voice] came to be.”

Swallow went on to describe the way in which The Armorer’s movement played into the voice of the character:

“The rest of her voice was really informed so much by the movement. She was described to me as a Zen leader of this group of people. So to me that meant that her movements could be very simple. She could be very grounded and she’s someone who carries her authority with ease, so I felt like that ease would come across in her voice. And that seemed to work. On a practical level, technically it was really hard to see in that helmet because I have tinted lenses and the set that I was working in, the Armorer’s set, was very dimly lit, so it wound up being great that I didn’t have to move around quickly or make any sudden moves, of course until the stormtroopers tick her off. It meant that I had to have a lot of breath and I had to take my time. She strikes me as someone who’s very patient, in a world where everyone else is getting really reactive and the Mandalorian’s are all freaked out because they had to be in hiding for so long. So all those things seemed to serve her as a leader. It just made sense to me on an intellectual level, but also felt right the more I lived in that. We were all finding the language of movement of these Mandalorians together during the first couple of episode that we shot. We learned a lot about how extraneous movements can be really distracting on camera because you often can’t see a person’s entire body in a shot, so you have to be more mindful of every different part of your body is moving. So it was a fun challenge because I’ve never gotten to anything like that in TV. It was definitely informed by training I’d had in theater with mask work and just trying to get my voice really connected to my body.”

In particular, Jon Favreau suggested samurai movies from directors like Akira Kurosawa to land on the movement of the character:

“I had a conversation with Jon a few days before we started filming and he was referencing Kurosawa and samurai warriors and that economy of movement and that simplicity. Plus, the importance of honor in that world. So I went to rewatch some Kurosawa and having those images in my mind was really helpful. In a situation like that where I haven’t gotten a lot of specifics, I like to have a lot of images in my brain and have some different things to draw from so that when I get to set and have those conversations, I can get more specific.”

As Swallow mentions, many of the cast members were given limited background for their character due to the secretive nature of the show. Swallow details how she was unaware of her character’s look until she was being fitted for the outfit:

“I’ve never been part of a project that was so tightly guarded. I knew very little leading up to it. One of my first glimpses of the character I was playing was when I went in for a costume fitting and they were taking all these measurements and these body casts so they can create this armor. I hadn’t seen any sketches or images or anything yet. And I started to ask them about it and at some point somebody said, ‘Wait a minute, you haven’t seen any of it?’ and I said no. They were like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ So they showed me the sketches of this incredible armor and that was definitely a huge piece that gave me a lot of information. And I knew too that the look of the costume would tell so much of the story.”

Despite not knowing a great deal about the role beforehand, Swallow still had many conversations with Favreau and Filoni, which she recalls fondly:

“That to me is the best part of performing is when you get to join your ideas with the directors and other actors and you get to see the set and it just starts melding together.”

Star Wars has a long standing tradition of characters appearing across a variety of different mediums, recently demonstrated by Forest Whitaker reprising his role as Saw Gerrera in Rebels and Jedi: Fallen Order following his appearance in Rogue One. When asked if this would be of interest, Swallow was enthusiastic at the prospect of playing the character again:

“Being able to play any character in the Star Wars universe is a dream come true. But playing the Armorer has just been such a gift for me. Getting to embody a character like that who is so wise and has so much patience and is so trusting that things will work out. That’s something I need in my daily life! (Laughs) Also, just seeing how much she inspires the fans. In particular, I get so excited when I hear about little girls who want to be The Armorer for Halloween and all these different cosplayers who are making Armorer costumes. It’s such a thrill and a gift so I would absolutely do it in any medium. I’ve done a little bit of motion capture work for video games. I’d be down for a video game, I’d be down for a voice over, I’d be down for The Mandalorian on ice! (Laughs)”

The Armorer continues Star Wars’ history of complex, predominant female characters, dating back to Leia Organa in 1977’s A New Hope. Swallow talked about what Leia and, in general, Star Wars means to her:

“I grew up with Leia. I grew up wanting to be her. I had all these Ewok adventures in my back yard. I tried to do the Leia hair and failed miserably. Star Wars has just always been a part of my life. It doesn’t make sense to have a world without it.”

Swallow recounted some of the challenges of acting while wearing a helmet and expressed her hope that a blooper reel showcasing some of these challenges will be released one day:

“I hope that they release a blooper reel of Mandalorians in between takes because there was plenty of bumping heads. I was amazed at how those welding sequences and the forging sequences came together, because there were plenty of moments when I was dropping things or I was trying to pick something up but I couldn’t. It was anything but graceful (Laughs).”

From insights regarding the behind the scenes mechanics of The Mandalorian to specifics about how The Armorer’s performance was crafted, Emily Swallow underscored the incredible level of detail and effort that goes into creating the show. Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for more coverage of The Mandalorian Season 2 leading up to its debut on October 30!

Emily Swallow headshot by Diana Ragland

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

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