Officer M’Kae (The Empire Strikes Back)
Interview: August 2016
How did you start your career?
I trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. I began my acting career in Britain with The Royal Shakespeare Company.
How did you get cast for The Empire Strikes Back and what did you knew about Star Wars then?
I was submitted by an agent for the role and auditioned in London. I only knew that the first episode had been filmed and people were excited about it.
Can you share some of your experiences regarding the making of the movie?
I had two different scenes and costumes. There wasn’t much “waiting around” time, as I recall, but the days were long. The sets were enormous, with bluescreens as backgrounds. I was very young and just starting out.
Back in 1980 your character, Officer M’Kae, didn’t have a name. In the late 90’s he got his name and a background story thanks to a Star Wars card game. How did you find this out and what do you think of it?
A fan sent me a playing card with “Officer M’Kae” on it. I thought it was great and made my participation in the film more meaningful.
How do you look back at your part in The Empire Strikes Back after three decades, especially since Star Wars is still so much alive these days?
It may sound obvious, but I am proud to be a small part of such a giant phenomenon.
You have attended conventions and met many fans. What do you regard as the funniest, strangest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you at a convention?
I was sitting next to another actor, whose name I honestly don’t remember – not a Star Wars actor, signing autographs. He kept asking for drinks and eventually became so drunk that he had to go home. Not really funny, but definitely weird. I don’t think he was very happy.
You have done a lot of theatre work, toured the world, won a Theatre World Award and played a role in Titanic. Still, I bet that the fact you worked on a Star Wars movie is what impresses most people. Is this correct in your case and what is your opinion on this?
Actually, my Star Wars role only impresses big fans of the series, of which there are many, but I am known in the business as a classical actor and my reputation, such as it is, is for stage work. I’m proud of both but have worked much harder and longer in the theatre.
What do you regard as the highlight of your career?
One of many highlights was playing Agamemnon in Ephigenie En Tauride at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, sharing scenes with Placido Domingo and Susan Graham. I know that may sound obscure, and hard to pronounce, but it was so much fun. Generally, career highlights only occur to you as such long after they happen, so I have yet to identify many. They always include working with great talent on quality projects in either TV, film or stage. Even radio work is fun.
Can you tell something about your current or future projects?
I just finished a production of Amadeus near Los Angeles and am on my way to Atlanta, Georgia to film a TV series called Daytime Divas for VH1.
Amadeus sounds really great!
Finally: R.I.P. Kenny Baker. Always a presence at the Conventions and always generous and cheerful.
He certainly will be missed. Thank you for your time and good luck with the TV series!