Jude S. Walko
Bounty Hunter (The Mandalorian)
Interview: January 2020
Director, actor, producer, writer … and bounty hunter in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Jude S. Walko is all five. In his long career, he appeared in the Power Rangers, produced the horror / fantasy film SiREN and directed The Incantation. In 2019, he was featured in episode 3 of The Mandalorian as a bounty hunter targeting Din Djarin.
How did you get started in the movie business?
I started out primarily as an actor, in the early 90s, but it’s hard to maintain a career as a working actor, so then I started working on film sets, additionally, as a Production Assistant. I eventually worked my way up to Coordinator, Supervisor and finally Producer. Now I am a member of The Producer’s Council of the Producer’s Guild of America and still remain a SAG actor.
How did you get cast for The Mandalorian?
I was in the right place at the right time. I got a call to check my availability when I happened to be in Los Angeles, which eventually led to a fitting and a role. They contacted me again when I was in Boston, but unfortunately the timing didn’t work out. Maybe I can get a spot somewhere in season 2.
In The Mandalorian you play a bounty hunter. How did you get this specific part assigned?
They liked my long beard and unique look, so decided to keep me as one of the Human Bounty Hunters. That was great because unlike people that spent hours in prosthetics, my make-up was relatively easy. I had the added bonus of people being able to recognize my face on screen, unlike many of the actors who were buried in a ton of Make-Up FX.
Were you a big Star Wars fan before you got cast?
I have a very unique relationship with Star Wars. I was 6 years old when I watched the first one in a theatre in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia with my big brother. I thought everything was really happening in space, as I was too young to know any different. Back then, some of the actors would tour with movie props and Mark Hamill visited our town. Somewhere I have a polaroid of me sitting in a mini X-wing fighter they used for some cockpit scenes. It was towed on a trailer by a pick-up truck. They also shot parts of The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia in our town, which starred Mark Hamill and Kristy McNichol not long after. I credit that experience, and the resultant fanfare, for giving me the bug to pursue a career in the film industry. Once I got older and realized they were movies, I fell in love with the process. I don’t consider myself a fan in the classic sense, as much as I do it actually being a part of my personal story. Luckily this story continues with The Mandalorian.
How did the shooting of your scenes go?
Fantastic. I have been on nearly 100 film sets in all sorts of capacities for over nearly three decades, and I have to say it was one of the most professional sets I have been on. The average age of the crew on the sets was probably closer to my generation. Nothing against the younger professionals, but it just demonstrated to me that they had chosen a lot of seasoned veterans of the industry, because they wanted everything perfect.
You were directed by Deborah Chow, who will be directing all episodes of the upcoming Obi-Wan series. Do you think she’s a good choice?
Deborah was amazing. I would love to see more directors like her, especially being female and a minority. On a production that big, there are a lot of people and many things going on at once. Deborah had a very cool head and commanded a great deal of respect from the executives, actors and technicians. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni were also there, in a creative capacity, and you could see how she managed to consider their notes in stride, all why commanding the set. She had the added pressure of having George Lucas on set one of the days I was there, and it was nice to see her shine in her element. I also would like to add that she had a predominantly female AD team, which were an extreme joy to work with.
Did any weird or funny things happen on or off the set?
Yes! As I mentioned I had less make-up time than others. So, one day, October 19, 2018 to be exact, I was out of the chair earlier than expected. The ADs told me to go wait on the set and relax. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was Jon Favreau’s birthday. So, I go on to the set, which was essentially the bar set you see in the series. Lo and behold, none other than George Lucas was there with a bottle of wine for Jon. It was just the three of us. I politely asked if I should leave, and they invited me to remain on set. It was a nice serendipitous moment. The crew eventually sang Happy Birthday, with a cake, to Jon after call, and George stuck around most of the morning.
What is the best memory you have regarding The Mandalorian?
I guess seeing all the amazing production value that was there. We had playing cards, money and drinks in the bar all with excruciating, Star Wars-specific detail. I had a gun that looked very much like Han Solo’s in the original series, and had the full weight of a real weapon. I kept it low slung like an old western gunslinger. There were droids and Jawas running around and a landspeeder. It was amazing to be surrounded by this universe that I had grown up in as a kid and had become the cultural juggernaut it has. In addition, it was great to see all the stars come out. Taika Waititi, Carl Weathers, Gina Carano and Bryce Dallas Howard were all there when I was as well as Pedro Pascal. Also Gina Rodriguez said hello to me one morning, as she was shooting next door.
I read that you’re currently working on an animated feature based on your life and experiences in Thailand. Could you tell something about this project?
Animation has always been a passion of mine. I’m a huge stop-motion fan from the Ray Harryhausen days, right up to contemporaries like Tim Burton, Henry Selick and the Chiodo Brothers. I’m also a lover of all things Disney, Pixar and Laika and have been a professional member of ASIFA-Hollywood for as long as I can remember. So cut to Thailand. I have lived there for over 20 years and have a wife and two children there. This project, Jaoshu Mai?! was a chance to combine two of my loves. At one point I had trademarked the term Thailanime and we did an animatic for the project with the help of Anthony Conley of Neopets fame. It’s still in development, like a lot of my projects, but ideally, I will definitely direct some animation projects someday.
You have worked on various movies in all kinds of ways: as an actor, director, producer. Which movie is your favorite and are you most proud of?
Well I wrote, acted in, and directed The Incantation. We shot it in France in a castle and under the catacombs, and I called in a favor from the very generous Dean Cain. It was hard and mostly privately financed, so there were are a lot of challenges. However, my producing partner Dan Campbell, of Blue Falcon Productions, and myself, pulled ourselves up from out bootstraps, as the saying goes, and pulled it off. I will never probably never be as grateful to a cast and crew as I was on that one, as it was my directorial debut. Please be sure to check it out on Amazon Prime or iTunes and always support Indie Film. Do it for the little guy. I also directed a film called Shark Island that is currently in post-production, so be on the lookout for that.
Any chance we’ll be seeing you doing conventions soon?
I would definitely be down for it, but don’t really feel I am a big enough part of the universe to warrant that. Maybe someday I will have a greater role in that community and would love to participate more. Never say never. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my story!