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Q&A: ‘The Mandalorian’s’ Katee Sackhoff has questions about Bo-Katan too

Pedro Pascal and Katee Sackhoff facing each other
Mando (Pedro Pascal) finally meets a fellow Mandalorian, Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackoff), in “The Mandalorian.”
(Francois Duhamel / Lucasfilm Ltd)

It’s not often that an actor who originated a character in animation goes on to portray the role in live-action, but Katee Sackhoff just pulled it off.

Sackhoff made her “The Mandalorian” debut in “The Heiress,” the third episode of Season 2, as Bo-Katan Kryze, a character she’s portrayed for years in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels.”

Bo-Katan is a character with plenty of backstory. She was introduced as a member of a Mandalorian terrorist group who was trying to bring the ancient warrior ways back to Mandalore, which at the time was ruled by her sister. She’s had to reclaim Mandalore from outside forces more than once.

“I think it’s kind of fun that she’s got all this backstory,” Sackhoff says during a recent phone call.

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Even so, there is still plenty of Bo-Katan’s story that is unknown to “Star Wars” fans and even Sackhoff herself. Below, Sackhoff discusses her thoughts on Bo-Katan, approaching the live-action version of this character and what she did to make sure she nailed that key line in the episode.

Between “Clone Wars,” “Rebels” and “The Mandalorian,” what do you wonder the most about the gaps in Bo-Katan’s story?

There’s so much about her that I wonder and that I don’t know. I just spent the weekend texting with [executive producer] Dave [Filoni] talking about her backstory, just for fun. I think that the way that she was raised and the circumstances to how we first meet her in “Clone Wars” is such an interesting thing and I wonder how she got there. How did she get to a place where, for all intents and purposes, she is against her sister? I always found that to be very interesting and I constantly want to know how that happened because I’m so intrigued by this family dynamic.

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How has Bo-Katan grown from when you first encountered her?

For me, the main thing with Bo is how she went from a person who had no desire to lead to a reluctant leader and I think that she has grown into that. I always say that just because somebody thinks they can lead doesn’t mean that they can. Bo-Katan is a wartime leader and she wants to bring peace and unity to her people. To me, it would be very interesting to see what that actually looks like for her. Her sister was the leader and I don’t know if [Bo-Katan] ever really wanted this position. I think she’s sort of thrust into it, and she feels she has to. While her sister was a bit of a pacifist, I think she sees that there’s a need for both in a leader.

Mercedes Varnado and Katee Sackoff shooting blasters on "The Mandalorian."
Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado), left, and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackoff) in “The Mandalorian.”
(Francois Duhamel / Lucasfilm Ltd)

What was it like to see and put on Bo-Katan’s armor the first time?

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I legitimately cried. I was standing there with Dave Filoni and he just kept saying, “The fans are gonna lose their minds, Katee, they’re gonna lose their minds.” He and I were just overwhelmed. It looked like Bo literally stepped out of animation into real life. And then I remember that we went in to go show Jon [Favreau]. He was so calm in the way that he was picking things apart. We really wanted to get the hair right. And I think that he was leveling out Dave and I because we were so overwhelmed with this emotion and Jon was like “uh huh.” It was really great. It was a nice combination of emotions going there.

How did you approach this character that you’ve known and portrayed for so long in a completely different way — where now you actually physically embody her too?

I honestly thought that it would be easier because I knew so much about her and I’ve seen her in my head so many times and I’ve dreamt of her. But I had never actually moved as her and that was a really strange thing. I have, for better or for worse, an incredibly expressive face. She’s much more regal and stoic than I am and that took some getting used to. But you didn’t want her to be wooden. So Bryce Dallas Howard, on set, would constantly say to me, “More real boy, Katee. More real boy.” It was such a beautiful metaphor. It actually made me understand Bo-Katan better to look at it from the perspective of Pinocchio. To sit there and go, “Oh, right. Pinocchio is the same as he was before, but now he’s learning to move and be a real boy.” That’s exactly how I felt.

What is it like to know in advance that you’re delivering basically the most significant line of the episode?

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“On the forest planet of Corvus, there you will find [Ahsoka Tano].” You want to say it the right way. This line holds weight. This is what fans of “Clone Wars” have been waiting for and it’s such a beautiful moment for them. Could you imagine if I screwed that up?

My dialogue is very technical on “Star Wars” and you can’t just memorize it the way you would memorize normal lines. So [my fiancé] started throwing tennis balls at me when we were running dialogue because we figured if I could play catch, then I actually had my lines memorized. There were definitely a couple times where I was focused on lines and got hit in the face with a tennis ball. But it was actually the best way to memorize “Star Wars” dialogue — having balls thrown at your face.

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