K-OHN (Rogue One), Cratinus (The Force Awakens)
Interview: February 2017
My first question for you is about your name. Dee Tails. Can it get any cooler? Please tell me it’s your real name! (is it?)
(Laughs) Yes, Dee Tails is my real name, I had thought about changing it a while ago but a casting director told me it’s a great name and hard to forget, so the name stays, hah!
You have roles in both The Force Awakens (as Cratinus) and Rogue One (as an L-1 droid named K-OHN). How did you get cast for the first one: The Force Awakens?
One of the puppeteers, Brian Herring, had me come in to see Neal Scanlan just before their trip to Abu Dhabi. At the time it was to just be in the background as another Hassk character, like the character Paul Warren plays as Varmik, who had more of a gang around him. I think at one point the two actors from the The Raid movies were going to play these parts, until things changed around that whole period where Mr. Ford was recuperating after his leg injury, and that idea was then knocked on the head and Paul and Nathan Plant were slotted back in to perform the Hassk Thugs. By this point I’d lost out on playing anything and was over the moon that I had been seen at all, as I wasn’t holding my breath or a hope that I had a shot at being seen let alone being in a Star Wars movie. But then I got another call to say that Neal had said ‘Let’s see if we can find Dee something’ And while they were away in Abu Dhabi the CFX team did find me something, a little smiling alien. At this time there was only Prashee’s head and image to go from until they then decided that Prashee needed a friend or a brother. Enter Tom Bell, who would go on to play Prashee. It was that moment when they came in with Prashee’s head which I was getting ready to grab and put on where they then gave it to Tom, and told me ‘Dee yours is coming’ and when it arrived I couldn’t believe how awesome it was and how they’d managed to capture hints of my laugh into his face. It was an awesome moment, we had literally brought the wardrobe department to a standstill as they watched us getting to grips with our movements on our knees. We were coached a little by Aiden Cook and Paul Kasey who have gone on to perform multiple creatures themselves. It was such an amazing experience going from not thinking I could ever be seen for Star Wars because… well it’s Star Wars! To having one character which was then taken away from me, causing me to think that was it, that was my one shot! And being overjoyed at that to then getting this loveable character teamed up with his brother, who went on to impress J.J who then bought my Cratinus head! We had a picture taken; Luke Fisher the designer of Cratinus, J.J holding the head and then me performing the laugh without it on. I’ve not seen it but I must try to see if there’s a way to get a print.
Just a couple of the performers from The Force Awakens returned for Rogue One. You were one of the lucky few! Could you tell how you managed to get cast again?
Rogue One only seemed like it had a few us back on it, but it was much like The Force Awakens, all hands were called in. There were many creatures and droids that were made and worn and performed in, that didn’t make it into the film because of the style of filmmaking that was being used. But because of this style of filmmaking it meant that no matter which direction Gareth swung his camera in, it needed to pick up a creature or droid for the overall aesthetic of which ever world we were on. But for those creatures and droids not used I do hope we get to see them at some point, as you can imagine there were quite a few amazing creatures and droids that we didn’t get to see. I had happened to be cast quite early on and actually contracted to the project having had one or two meetings and rehearsals with Gareth Edwards, as my blue droid was going to be the K-2SO droid in the film hence the name K-OHN aka K-1, KONE. But once the suit was made and they could see what its movements were like. It was soon decided that an ex-imperial droid should be more menacing and closer to the C-B3 Cortosis battle droids they had in the prequels, and began redeveloping the droid until they ended up with K-2SO. I love what they ended up with even though it wasn’t me performing the character and knowing how ILM like to build and create piecing these films together the real experience for me was just being a part of that development. So my part had changed to the point where I didn’t even know if my character L-1 was going to even appear in the film but I was still required on set for a few days. My scenes are in Jedha and a brief appearance on the first planet we go to where Cassian walks down an alleyway where you can spot L-1 in Red. But in Jedha I’d been placed on a platform near a corner of the market where I doodled about in a droid like manner giving them plenty of shot options, should they be actually filming me because generally you never knew where the camera was. It was during one of the breaks where some kids acting in the scene came running up to me and began talking to L-1 still completely in character and chit chatting which was awesome because finally I had other performers to improvise with. That had to be the highlight of my on set filming improvising with the kids and it turned out that the shot used in the film was taken from that down time, when I saw it I was blown away because not only did they include a shot of me but the shot chosen was taken from that particular moment on set. It was then followed up with the cast and crew credit which I never thought they’d give me due to the character change. It was all of these things that made seeing Rogue One so much more special and finding out that it was all down Neal Scanlan who had suggested me for the part in the first place I couldn’t be any more grateful.
Ok, you’ve been in a Star Wars saga movie and a Star Wars spin-off. What were the biggest differences in the making of both movies?
I think the main differences between making the saga film and the spin off were really more about how to perfect the machine behind it all. You must remember that starting up a franchise like this takes a lot of planning and organising between various departments etc. Just because George made three in the 70’s/80’s didn’t necessarily mean that shooting another three as prequels was going to an easy job. So starting from the ground up with The Force Awakens and then taking the slight adjustments that were needed on that film is how certain things came in to help make the entire process run more smoothly on Rogue One.
What funny or great stories can you share regarding your time on the set of the Star Wars movies?
(Laughs) Any funny stories from the set of The Force Awakens and Rogue One…let me think…On The Force Awakens Prashee and Cratinus basically took over their photo session and by that I’m not even sure if they knew where they were or what those flashing lights were for. Ha, Tom and I kept up our performances everywhere we went in costume entertaining everyone. It was to primarily help us find our range as we weren’t able to spend much time if any in front of a mirror. But what we found out later was that we weren’t just making people laugh, we were making everyone actually feel like they were in a Star Wars movie and an actual cantina, so the whole process turned out to be rewarding for everyone. I think on a behind the scenes clip you can see us playing around on our table with Derek Arnold (a creature performer) stood there laughing at us. Oh I will say this, you remember that little droid in Maz’s castle that also reports to the empire as soon as it spots BB-8, well there were four puppeteers working it and it originally had to walk into place before beeping its lines which you didn’t get to see, but watching these guys make this droid walk then stop then push out it’s hip like Elvis before delivering its dialogue was utterly incredible for me. I think I have another secret wish to be in a Muppet movie one day! Ha, on Rogue One, I think I’ve given you my best story on that regarding improvising with the children…Oh hang on this made me laugh. Nathan Plant plays both silver and black Imperial bug Droids RA-7, he was wearing the silver suit in Jedha in the market. We were talking to one another before we went on to do our bits but I did notice that he kept wandering off or going in the wrong direction, and it wasn’t until he took his head off that he said he couldn’t see anything. It was like the lens in the head were just waiting for them to shout out “Action”, so that they could fog up. (Laughs) He didn’t know where he was going all he knew was that he just had to keep going. (Laughs) As droids we do like to have a little laugh at our own expense I think.
How was it to be on the set with all these great legendary and new actors like Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Felicity Jones etc.? Did you get to talk with them?
On The Force Awakens it was already way too surreal to be overwhelmed by the iconic and known cast. When I was placed in my scene I generally had to stay there for our shots, covering shots and background shots for the likes of Maz etc. I do remember being given one note by J.J. which caused me to have to turn looking at Mr. Ford where he then just gave his Han Solo smile before I turned back around telling J.J in a somewhat broken language ‘That’s Solo!’ Tom who played my brother Prashee had worked with Daisy before so I know he got to have a quick catch up with her. I was merely blown away by meeting R2-D2, R2-KT, Chewie and being given a tour of the Millennium Falcon!
Cratinus or K-One (K-OHN); who is your favourite character?
I love Cratinus and K-OHN it’s hard to say which I love more, but if it wasn’t for my performance as Cratinus I doubt if I would’ve even have been seen for the L-1 droid let alone have Neal vouch for me. I have to say I love them both, these two Star Wars films have been beyond my dreams coming true and I have to take them as the individual moments they are and truly be grateful.
What did you think about the Star Wars franchise before you got cast? Were you a fan?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Star Wars, I was a fan before I’d even seen it ! Ha, I remember in the playground swapping stickers and cards with the characters on them, then arguing who was stronger: Chewbacca or Superman, because Chewbacca has to hold the walls apart so that the trash compactor won’t squash them! (Laughs) Then after an episode of Sesame Street they showed the making of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. All I remember saying is “That’s the guy that does Miss Piggy’s voice, and that guy is Jim Henson, he’s Kermit”. After that and seeing people stood around in costumes pretending the way we did in the playground was all I needed to know in deciding what it was I wanted to be when I grew up; an actor so all of this is incredibly surreal for me to be a part of.
How do you look back on the whole Star Wars experience?
It’s too hard to say what my best experience has been working on these films, I had those moments on Rogue One with the kids, but I don’t think anything can top that first day on set on The Force Awakens entertaining the cast and crew. For me that’s what Star Wars is all about, and to be in that environment knowing that there are a certain few, if not everyone, who get it, who still get those goose bumps from time to time has to be the best feeling in the world. The team is incredible from those building and painting the sets to those building and making our costumes, to those stitching them, designing them and the props and blasters to production and the performers… So many people who love Star Wars and who love what they do, are all as much a part of the overall performance as those wearing the suits. Working in a family team such as this, a Star Wars team has to be the best experience of my career so far.
What a fantastic answer to end this interview with! I enjoyed your great stories!
I hope that answers some of your questions Dennis. Wishing you and the Star Wars fans all the best, May The Force Be With You !