Emily Swallow (The Armorer)

Emily Swallow
The Armorer (The Mandalorian)
Interview: June 2020

Besides Din Djarin himself, perhaps the most mysterious figure in The Mandalorian is helmet wearing Armorer, a female Mandalorian whose face remains a mystery. Well, in the series that is, since we all know the part is played by the beautiful actress Emily Swallow. Besides this series she is best known for her roles as Kim Fischer on The Mentalist and as Amara / The Darkness in the eleventh season of Supernatural.

How did you get cast as ‘The Armorer’ for The Mandalorian?

I went in to a casting office for something that I was told had something to do with Star Wars, but that was all I knew. I had a brief character description and was told the character would be masked, but other than that I had no context or any other information to help me. When I get an audition like that, I know it’s up to me to supply the missing pieces with my imagination, so I created something that made sense to me with the scenes I had. I shot the scene a few times with the casting associate, Jason Stamey, and that was that! A few weeks later, I found out I’d been cast, but I knew so little about the project that I wasn’t even sure if I should be excited! In hindsight, I’m glad I knew so little, because it didn’t give me a chance to get nervous!

Were you a big Star Wars fan before you got cast?

I can’t remember a time when Star Wars was not part of the fabric of my life; Return of the Jedi came out when I was three years old, so I grew up staging Ewok adventures in my back yard and trying to style my hair like Princess Leia’s. Those stories shaped my imagination and my sense of what was possible in the universe—the hope, the honor, the friendship and camaraderie. I followed the prequels and the later movies, but didn’t have the depth of knowledge that I dropped into for The Mandalorian; I hadn’t seen The Clone Wars or any of the animated shows that explained more of The Mandalorian history. My appreciation has grown more and more as I learn, mostly from the fans, about the depth and breadth of the stories in this universe!

How did the shooting of your scenes go?

Shooting was a lot of fun! Everyone on the set—the cast, crew, designers, directors—was generous and hard-working, and we had a great time creating the world of the show.

Did Jon Favreau or Dave Filoni tell you anything about the background of the Armorer?

They did not tell me anything specific; Jon’s instruction was related more to the feel of the scenes and other characters who might be similar to the Armorer. He referenced the films of Akira Kurosawa and the samurai warriors. They told me she was a wise leader of her clan, and that she probably had history with Din Djarin. But the rest is a mystery!

I read that you modeled the Armorer’s voice after characters from Lord of the Rings. What was your motivation to do this?

Hmm. I wouldn’t say I modeled her voice after anyone specific; I may have referenced characters like Gandalf or Galadriel more because of the archetypes they represent in that story. The Armorer represents the archetype of The Mentor, somewhat like Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi. She is a source of wisdom and strength, and I wanted something that would set her apart from the other characters. I was encouraged to try a British dialect in my audition, and that felt right for her.

Most of your scenes were with The Mandalorian himself: Pedro Pascal. How was he to work with?

I’m a huge fan of Pedro’s; I first met him in New York because we have a lot of theatre colleagues in common, and then we got to work together on The Mentalist. He is an incredible human being and a hard-working, lovely actor to perform with.

In the series we never see your face. Does wearing a helmet the entire time made acting easier or more difficult?

It meant I had to communicate in different ways, and I loved the challenge. When your masked and the audience can’t look to your face to see what you’re feeling, they become that much more attuned to the way you move your body. So, I had to be very mindful about the rhythm, pace and size of my physical movements. I knew I wanted her to have a slow, deliberate physicality, and I had the images of Samurai warriors in my head, but beyond that it was a bit of trial-and-error; I tried things and got feedback from Dave Filoni and Deborah Chow (we were shooting their episodes at the same time) about what translated best when viewed on camera.

Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?

I keep hoping they’ll release a bloopers reel, because there was a lot of tripping and bumping helmets and dropping things in between takes—those of us in Mandalorian helmets had pretty limited vision, so we would run into each other, totally miss hearing someone’s lines, and drop things constantly. I’m so glad the Armorer came across the way she did, because there is a bumbling and awkward version of her captured in some of our takes!

The Mandalorian got more praise than the sequel trilogy. Quite an accomplishment! What’s the ‘secret’ behind this success?

I think Jon Favreau is an absolute genius, and I think he is very smart about what people love in the Star Wars stories. The original trilogy has always been the favorite, so he was smart to replicate the feel of those worlds. That immediately appeals to fans of those movies, and there are lots of nods to things we’ve already seen in those films. But the show is also incredibly appealing to folks who know nothing about Star Wars, because it has the feel of a Western and has, at its core, a hero on his formative journey.
I also attribute the success to the caliber and styles of the different directors, and the way Jon encouraged them to work together to create a cohesive story arc AND pushed them to draw from their unique styles of storytelling. I love the different feel of each episode!

The big question all the fans have: will we see you in season 2 this fall?

Will we? Who knows…