Ming-Na Wen on her Star Wars role: 'She's more street smart than Boba Fett'
Star Wars star Ming-Na Wen chats about reprising the role of Fennec Shand in The Book of Boba Fett.
Ming-Na Wen is no stranger to big franchises, with Disney's Mulan and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD already jostling for prominence on her impressive CV, but the life-long Star Wars fan seems particularly pleased to have a recurring role in that galaxy far, far away as the bounty hunter Fennec Shand.
Wen debuted in the role during the first season of The Mandalorian, the Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni-produced show that put Disney Plus on the map. She's since reprised the master assassin character in The Mandalorian season two, The Bad Batch animated series and now The Book of Boba Fett, which pairs Fennec up with Temuera Morrison's original-blend spacefaring bounty hunter for a tour of Tatooine's criminal underworld.
Just a few short hours after the third episode of The Book of Boba Fett dropped on Disney Plus, RadioTimes.com chatted with Ming-Na Wen over a transatlantic Zoom call. You can read the full interview below.
We're picking up with Fennec Shand on Tatooine here. What do you think she makes of the place? I get the impression that she maybe takes it a bit less seriously than Boba Fett does?
Yes. Well, I mean, I think Fennec is very familiar with Tatooine and, you know, the crime syndicate, because she's been a bounty hunter for a while now. And Dave [Filoni] made me aware of that, because he asked me to play Fennec in The Bad Batch [which is set years before Fennec's live-action appearances]. And so there's a long history. And if anything, she's probably a bit more street smart than Boba Fett. Because he worked more with the Empire. You know, he was brought up in that whole world. So I think that's the good yin and yang between us. And she doesn't take it as seriously, for sure, which is kind of like Tem [Morrison, Boba Fett actor] and I on set, a little.
What is it like working with him? As a Star Wars fan, were you starstruck at all?
Oh my gosh, well, when Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni first called me up and said, 'Hey, guess what? Fennec lives.' [After the character's near-death experience in The Mandalorian season 1.] You know, I was so blown away. And then when they told me how she comes back, just... it's unbelievable, you know, that I'm partnered up with Boba Fett. The legendary Boba Fett, right? Yeah, I love working with Tem. He is just the most dynamic, funny... when you catch him in the right mood [laughs]... and serious. He's truly just all heart. He's amazing. And that whole New Zealand Maori foundation that he has, and that I'm learning more and more about, it's so authentic and beautiful.
This is maybe more of a Mandalorian question than a Book of Boba Fett question, but again, as a big Star Wars fan yourself, what was it like shooting that scene with Luke Skywalker?
Well, you know, they keep everything very top secret. And this was one of the most important top-secret things, and even in the script, it never said his name. It was always another character's name. And then when we were on set, I was like, 'Oh, come on. I know who that is!' [laughs] And John and Dave would be like, 'No, that's not him'. I'm like, 'Really?' So, it's crazy, because even when you're on set, and you're doing it, there's sort of like an out-of-body experience where you're you and you're not you.
You're so focused on the work and the reality of that character and what's going on. And it was a very intense life and death situation at that point, right? These Dark Troopers were going to annihilate them. And then to have this saviour come out of nowhere. But then to see it all put together. I did the same exact thing as all the fans did, in reacting, when I was watching it with the music and the images – you know, the beautiful green lightsaber. I teared up and I was screaming, and so it's a weird dynamic of knowing what's going to happen and yet still be so utterly moved and impressed. So I'm kind of living two lives right now.
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I know on these Disney Plus Star Wars shows they shoot in [vast digital soundstage] The Volume a lot. How does that compare to your previous set on other projects? It looks like a totally different way of working.
Completely different. When the light is changing, like if there's a sunset happening in the scene, you feel it. You see it. When there's an elaborate set, like when we went into either the Cantina or when we went into the mayor's - for lack of a better word - throne office [laughs], all the actors are seeing the same thing. You know, we're not having to imagine it with a green screen or blue screen. And it gives so much more to play with as an actor. I can't imagine ever going back, you know? It's such an intense addition to the acting experience. And yeah, it's magical. It really is. You're there. You are there. When Tatooine lit up, when I first was on The Volume, that was incredibly memorable, moving, seeing the binary sunset. It was just like, wow, this... this is next level.
You mentioned all the secrecy that you had on The Mandalorian season 2. I'm sure there are things at the moment that are also being kept secret [about The Book of Boba Fett]. We're still only partway through this season – there's a few episodes still to come. Obviously, you're not going to spill beans here. You're a professional. But by the time we get to the end of this season, how are you hoping that the fans will feel when they've reached the end of this journey?
Oh, gosh. I mean, I really hope that they want to go back and see the whole thing over again in a different light. After, you know, knowing how things have... I'm so careful with my words here... how things have evolved, and all these other elements that have come into play. You know, that's what's so great with John and Dave, they are so knowledgeable about this world, about Star Wars, and they're such huge fans that they know how to set up the pieces and make moves that you don't even know are coming. And then suddenly it's like, [claps her hands together] ooh, checkmate. So yeah, we're waiting. We're waiting for that win. We're waiting for that hit. And not just 'til the very last episode – like each and every episode, there's new moves and new elements that come into play that hopefully will surprise the fans. I know it surprised me.
Amazing. And do you know what your next project in this world is going to be? Is it another season of this? Is it back to The Mandalorian? Is it top secret things that you're not allowed to mention? All of the above?
I'm one of those actors that, like, I know more about the show – I focus on the show, [rather] than the showbusiness. So you're asking the wrong person. I am always the last to know. Always. Including the fact that I was a regular on my own spin-off. So I thought I was shooting Mandalorian 3 and it ended up [being Book of Boba Fett]. No, I was shooting my own show. So yeah, you're asking the wrong person about what the next project will be. But trust me, I'll be there for it, if they want to invite me to any other projects.
Switching for a second to an Agents of SHIELD Agent May perspective. I saw that someone else had already asked you whether would like that show to come back, which obviously all the fans would like, but one thing that's been happening a lot recently is Marvel characters from one thing popping up again, and it's the same actor, but now they're in a different universe or a different franchise. If you could take Agent May and drop her into any Marvel project, what would be your dream?
Hmm. Oh gosh, I mean, any of them. I'm such huge fans of all the characters. I love Doctor Strange because I'm... I don't want to say what they call his fans [laughs], but I am definitely a Benedict Cumberbatch fan. And I used to always joke about Chris Hemsworth and Thor, but I'm gonna stop doing that because my husband doesn't like it too much, even though he knows I'm just joking [laughs]. But any of them, any of them, you know? Especially with Black Widow, I think that would be really cool to have, like, an all-female thing happen.
The Book of Boba Fett releases new episodes on Wednesdays. Sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year.