Zuckuss (The Empire Strikes Back)
Interview: September 2010
How did you get started in the movie business?
I attended the Italia Conti stage school in London for 4 years where I had training in dance, acting and singing, passing several LAMDA exams.
At stage school I helped form-and performed in a singing group called Encore.
Leaving school, I acquired an agent, and one of my first acting jobs was The Empire Strikes Back.
How did you get cast as Zuckuss for The Empire Strikes Back?
I was told to go to the E.M.I. Elstree studios, where I was asked my availability for the next few weeks, and if I had any problems with wearing a mask.
My height seemed very important to them as I had to make several visits for fittings.
On the final fitting at the studio the costume was complete. It was quite restrictive and not very glamorous. I was briefed about the scene, and that I would be working with Dave Prowse, and four other actors collectively named the Bounty Hunters.
I reported to the wardrobe department where all the headdresses are designed and made. I saw my mask for the first time, which had to be locked onto my head, and could not be taken off without help. I took a deep breath and the mask was locked in place I could only see ahead of me. I also had a tube near my mouth which I had to blow into to create bubbles. This tube was connected to a cylinder on my chest which had colored water in. I had my own permanent wardrobe lady, and if I raised my hand she would know that I needed to get the mask off quickly. Because it was so hot in my costume especially with the hot studio lights, I was allowed a chair on set if I needed to sit down.
Zuckuss has become a real cult figure over the years and got a background story. Did you keep up with these stories?
I know now how important Zuckuss has become having met many fans at different conventions, and all the numerous cartoons, books, and publications relating to Zuckuss.
I try and keep up with the latest developments. I find it all so fascinating! I feel very privileged, and special to have been part of Star Wars and to be ‘immortalized’.
Can you tell something about how Irvin Kershner directed you in The Empire Strikes Back?
Irvin Kershner was a very interesting director, he had a precise and clear vision of the scene. He was very polite, yet quite serious. On the set it is always difficult for directors as they have so much to think about.
Did you meet George Lucas on the set? What impression did he make on you?
Yes, I did meet George Lucas. He was a real gentleman and very handsome.
Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set? Can you share some memories?
Because I was the only female on set, I was quite spoilt. The actors and crew were great to work with and I loved the atmosphere in the studio even though the costume was difficult to wear.
I can’t remember any funny things except when all the actors were in full costume; watching them trying to mount the set took ages.
Besides Zuckuss, you also played Wiorkettle in some Cloud City scenes. What do you remember of these scenes and the Cloud City set?
I was very pleased to be asked to play another character, Wiorkettle, on the Cloud City set, especially when I found out the mask was a rubber one which I could pull on and off myself.
I worked with another Wiorkettle dressed exactly the same, including the mask. The only difference was the he was nearly 7 foot tall! We looked very funny wandering around the set, with me so small and him so tall! We were nicknamed Mr. and Mrs. Pig. The Cloud City set was completely white; beautiful, even magical. I met Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, both were very friendly and pleasant. I remembered thinking how glamorous and beautiful Carrie looked.
You ‘disappeared’ from the fans for many years after The Empire Strikes Back. You didn’t do conventions for instance and the fans didn’t know where you were. A few years ago you ‘re-surfaced’ and started doing conventions, signings and even got your own website. Why did you choose to step out of the ‘Star Wars spotlights’ for so many years and do you enjoy being back in the spotlight?
The reason I disappeared is a strange one. I worked on The Empire Strikes Back under my real name of Catherine Munroe, with a provisional Equity card. After I finished The Empire Strikes Back I was granted my full Equity card, but because someone had a similar name, I had to change mine to Katy Jarrett. Under Katy Jarrett I worked mainly in television usually for the BBC.
I knew Star Wars was big, but had no idea that anyone would be interested in me, or of the conventions and shows. In 2007 whilst working at the BBC, during a long coffee break, a few of us actors spoke about past work. I mentioned among other things that I had worked on The Empire Strikes Back; one of the actors nearly fell off his chair when I described my costume to him and the scenes I played in. He told me that every Star Wars fan thought I was dead, as they had given up trying to find me under my original name. I am now very happy to be on the Star Wars circuit, and have met many my fellow actors, including Dave Prowse, Jeremy Bulloch, and my dear friend Chris Parsons who has helped me. Chris and I speak nearly every week and we love doing shows together.
You have attended various fan conventions over the world. Do you like attending them and interact with the fans?
I was extremely happy to have been ‘discovered’; it has been wonderful to travel the world meeting all the lovely fans and telling my story. I am still amazed at the dedication of all the fans, and all the memorabilia waiting for my signature, especially when it’s to complete a bounty hunter set. The joy in a fan’s face makes it all worth while.
What are you up to right now? And do you have new projects coming up?
I have returned to singing which is my passion, I love writing songs, and enjoy painting especially in oils.
If there is anything you want to say to the readers here’s your chance!
I would like to say a big sincere thank you to all my fans-they make me feel so welcome and very humble. I am very privileged to have been involved with such an important film, and to have been ‘discovered’. I hope I can continue as long as possible to meet and talk about my wonderful story, which started all those lightyears ago.