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Book Of Boba Fett's Rory Ross Unwraps His Tusken Raider Role And Working With Temuera Morrison - Exclusive Interview

Some performers spend their entire careers pursuing a dream role, so lucky for actor Rory Ross, he's reached the first step of that goal in less than a decade of being in Hollywood. Like countless others who grew up with the dream of venturing to the place "a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away" that was created by George Lucas, Ross has found the good fortune to land a "Star Wars" role. The thrilling bonus is that it happens to be in the same place where Luke Skywalker's story began — on the planet of Tatooine in "The Book of Boba Fett" — where Ross plays one of the Tusken Raiders who eventually comes to respect Boba (Temuera Morrison) as one of their own.

In the first three episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett," streaming exclusively on Disney+, fans are finally being treated — through dream sequences — to the revered character's story of surviving his fall into the Sarlacc Pit in 1983's "Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi." Once Boba escapes, he is captured and imprisoned by a band of Tusken Raiders, but he proves his worth by slaying a vicious sand monster. From there, Boba is trained by the Tuskens in the ways of the tribe, a series of events that will shape his destiny.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, and appropriately dressed in a full Jedi costume, Ross revealed how he landed the opportunity to work on "The Book of Boba Fett," his work with the likes of Morrison and creator Jon Favreau, and teases his work in yet another "Star Wars" spinoff series. In addition, Ross tells the emotional story of how "Star Wars" became an important part of his life while struggling with a childhood illness.

Remembering the Tusken Raiders

Your bio says you grew up an Iowa farm boy, and I think it's really appropriate, especially given your attire, that you grew up a farm boy much like Luke Skywalker did on his way to becoming a Jedi. I'm certainly hoping you get there, too.


Until you're a Jedi, it's not a bad first step with the amazing Tusken Raider gear in "The Book of Boba Fett." Looking back to the original "Star Wars" film from 1977, what were your first recollections of Tusken Raiders? With their design, they always held a high place in the pantheon of cool looking "Star Wars" characters for me. Is that the same for you?

I think one of the things, the production design in general, of "Star Wars" has always been something that has been so appealing to so many, including myself. They did such an amazing job with the miniatures and everything else in terms of the outlaying, [and] the locations they chose, Tunisia, where they were also filming "Jesus of Nazareth" at the same time. Plus, it's where R2-D2 crashed on set on the last day, which is really funny.

They did a really great job in making sure that the story came to life in so many different ways and the technology they implemented, but also, the costume design and how they decided to tell the stories in that regard has always been really cool. When you saw the Sand People, I think more as menacing than anything else, it left you wondering if they're always up to no good in the original trilogy and the prequels. It's been really cool to see how they've been fleshing out those stories [in "The Book of Boba Fett"] and showcasing the culture or the society as a whole — and understanding that one tribe doesn't represent the whole nation of Tusken Raiders.

Ross put his Star Wars dreams out to the universe

I'm wondering how the opportunity to be in "The Book of Boba Fett" came about. God knows there's millions of us who would love to be in a Star Wars project, and it can't be an easy thing to get to be a part of.

I was selected in the sense that there's a giant pool in LA for background casting called Central Casting, and anyone can join that. I just was very lucky. I would like to say, though, I think there is something to be said when you want to manifest something — when you put it out in the universe — the universe has a way of answering; sometimes not in the ways we always expect, but it can definitely help with it just being out there and being known. In terms of getting on this, I've said this before about when I was on set with Tamera Mowry from [the ABC series] "Sister, Sister," and we were just talking about dreams and manifestation. We talked about "Star Wars" and she's like, "Yeah, put it out there." I kid you not, it was an hour after this conversation, I get the text from Central Casting.

Now, as a huge "Star Wars" fan and being a sleuth, I knew what the [different code names] were for a lot of the projects that were on their way or getting ready to go into production. I knew "Buccaneer" was the code name for "The Book for Boba Fett," so I was freaking out already when I saw that as the headline. Then it said "Turkey Raider" and I was like, "Come on, this is it. This is 'Tusken Raider,' obviously." 

That's what started the journey and it has been an amazing ride. I've been so thankful and excited to be on the [first] three episodes and excited for what's to come and the rest of "Star Wars" ... Being a "Star Wars" fan, I knew that a lot of things were happening and I'm like, "I got to be careful of what I say, because I don't want to accidentally spoil something or get something out there on accident when I was on set." I was always just keeping it in, being like, "Oh my gosh." I'm so excited, I'm looking forward to the moment where I can finally release and be like, 'This is what's happening.'"

Ross loved working with Temuera Morrison

Are there any specific scenes you filmed with Temuera Morrison that stand out to you?

I didn't get to be a part of it, but they called us to set. It's the fight between Joanna Bennett — her Tusken warrior — who takes on Tem. If I remember correctly, his stunt double was actually the one doing the scene at the very beginning, but then his double got hurt and then Tem was like, "Screw it, I'll do it." He gets in there and he's ruffling and tussling with Joanna. Tem's a beast, but he's so humble, so gentle of heart and mind, and was very kind and making sure that he was letting everyone [know], "Thank you so much for being on set," and just making sure that we felt welcome. I can't speak highly enough of Tem. It was really fun.

I feel like he did get quite annoyed when we were doing this scene where he brings in the speeders and he's trying to talk to us and saying, "These speeders, they're for us." We're not paying him any mind, we're just throwing the pieces of this speeder away and thinking, "Oh, we need to take these parts and scavenge them." There were a few takes where he's still talking to us and we're waiting for the chief to give us the signal, and we're literally just throwing things away and he was like, "Stop! Stop!" I think after a while he was like, "Okay, how long we going to let them go?" [It was a] "Let's move on" sort of thing.

We were shooting outside for a lot of this, and he was a trooper. That sun — the California sun is no joke, no matter what time of the year — and he was tough, he stayed in [the scene]. Oftentimes, usually you'll bring in your stand-in, but he would be like, "No, I'm just going to do it because this is my role. This is the ownership I want to take up."

Ross says each Tusken Raider costume is distinctive

You all have a distinct look, and that's what's great about this series, that there's a new look for the Tusken Raiders. Which Tusken are you specifically and do you have any scenes one on one with Tem?

Shout out to [costume designer] Shawna Trpcic and Jon [Favreau], as well as Robert [Rodriguez], making sure [of] the distinction, even with the beige mask and things like that. It looked somewhat bland to other people, but there are other little things that really specified who that was, whether it was maybe a bandolier that's going on or they have a little trinket or something like that and the masks all have little subtle differences. The really cool thing was, I actually got to play — from my understanding of what they told us on set — a Tusken elder. There was myself and [my friend, Greg Kufera, who they originally made the costume for] that had the black wrappings. Everyone else has the brown, what you stereotype as a Tusken Raider, in terms of the wraps.

Mine is completely black, so I got a really cool moment in Episode 1 where it focused in on me as well as Wesley Kimmel, who plays the Tusken kid. He brings in the animal or the beast head, and as he's coming in, I turn around and I just look, so that was a nice little thing. I thought I was also the one that was holding the head originally because I did do another Tusken because we shot different days, but I don't want to necessarily take that away from somebody in case, for some reason, that it wasn't the case.

I did get to hold the head at one point, and I remember it was quite heavy. We were hoisting it around and there are, I'm sure, extended shots of that. Then, what's really cool is, my Tusken was actually the one that ends up doing the ceremonial wrappings on Boba. Mind you, again, what we were told on set was that the black symbolized the Tusken Raider elder, and when we gave the black wrappings to Boba, it was a very high distinction — not just of him being part of our tribe — but also giving him that high honor and that distinction, in terms of the seniority and that sense of our tribe.

Encountering Jon Favreau

Another great opportunity was the chance to work with Jon Favreau, Robert Rodriguez and Dave Filoni. Did doing that meet or exceed your expectations?

Exceeded and surpassed in so many ways. I've shared this story before, but it's a fun one. I remember the first day on set — you're not going to see the twin suns because you're outside in the real world, but seeing the sands of Tatooine and understanding where you were at and the importance of that was really incredible, and empowering and unbelievable in so many different aspects. I remember that I didn't want to accidentally rock the boat or anything, so when they called for mask break, where you get to take off the mask. It takes some time because there's about five or six different layers around your head that you have to take off and you usually have something that's tied in so that you can't see any of the sewing or anything like that. They do a really great job on the detail, to make sure that it preserves the world that we've made. 

They'll take it off and you get a chance to breathe. But that first day I just was like, "Oh, you know what? It's okay. I'm fine" and I kept the mask on, and I was trying to get some shade. I remembered Jon came over and he just kicked me in the boot and was like, "Hey, are you alright? You going to get a mask break?" And I was like, "Oh, no, I'm fine." He's like, "You don't have to be a tough guy." I'm like, "No, it's okay," but in reality, I'm just freaking out, like, "This is amazing. Jon Favreau!" "Ironman" was one of my favorite films and "Elf" was really cool since that was one of his first projects that he directed. It was just amazing to have this royalty of "Star Wars" who is bringing everything back into what we really love and enjoy of the storytelling. As it went on, [I saw] Dave Filoni, who's been amazing. I really hope and look forward to being able to work with them more.

Ross loved seeing the Tusken Raiders get a full story

Episode 3 features a tragedy involving the Tuskens. What do you hope happens with them from here?

I don't think it'll be the end of the Tuskens ... It was really interesting, as a fan and just in general, seeing people's reaction to Episode 1. They were like, "Oh, why are we spending so much time on the Tuskens? Why are we spending so much time this backstory?" And then by Episode 2, people fell in love with them. They enjoyed seeing this backstory and understanding the different Tuskens ... As I've said before, the little Tusken kid, played by Wesley Kimmel, represents Boba as a child and him, his innocence and everything else when his father passes away and we see that on Geonosis in Episode 2. Joanna Bennett, who plays the Tusken warrior, is representing Boba in his prime, where he's just a fierce warrior — but he does answer to someone, even in "The Empire Strikes Back" when we see him really take this space, he listens to Darth Vader when Vader says, "No disintegrations." He still has a chain of command, he's not completely free.

Then, when you see the Tusken chief, he doesn't answer to anyone. He takes care of his people, he is a leader, but he doesn't have to listen to whoever. That's what Boba really wants to be, and that's what we start seeing as it takes place in present day. It was just really cool to see that happen and then also, with Boba in his journey, his spiritual journey, where he breaks free of the bonds. I feel like this is the first time Boba has had a chance to be himself. Ever since Geonosis, he's always been trying to avenge his father or be his father.

When you're seeing him struggle in the Sarlacc Pit and everything else, and then it has that crossfading that goes into the different cuts of the Sarlacc Pit to Geonosis to Kamino and this turmoil, everything that's tumultuous is happening. It's really culminating into Boba breaking free and saying, "This is me. This is who I want to be." He walks away with that. I think that was really cool to see that story and how the Tuskens really impacted that storyline.

Shaping Boba Fett's future

Visual effects are so seamless now and it's really hard to tell what is CGI and what are practical effects. The Bantha certainly looked practical, and if it was, how awe-inspiring was it to see those creatures in person?

This might surprise some people, [but] the Banthas are real in the sense of, they are [partially an] animatronic machine. Sometimes you'd see the Bantha, and if they were only shooting one side, that Bantha's side would be covered. Then, when you'd go to the other side, you could see all the inner workings and the mechanical aspects of it, and be like, "Whoa, this is a weird disconnect." The Banthas are real. They do actually move and are operational.

Talking about Episode 3, there's a tragedy with the Tuskens, so it must be sad for you as an actor being one of them. Yet at the same time, it must be cool knowing that these characters really do shape Boba and his mission from here on out.

They really do. When he leaves and he goes to talk to the Pyke Syndicate, he feels like he's a part of their tribe. He feels like he's a protector. When he goes and the people that he's come to love are gone, you better believe Boba's going to be out for some revenge and he's going to have some hard feelings towards you. That'll be interesting to see how that plays out since we've seen what it feels like for him to be a part of a tribe like that, to feel like a part of the family where nothing is expected of you in terms of what you can give them. It's what they give you and what you give them in the sense of community.

Ross' take on the tone of The Book of Boba Fett

I'm not the first to say this, but "The Mandalorian" feels like a Western and "The Book of Boba Fett" feels more like "The Godfather." How would you describe the tone of the series?

Well, it's really interesting because, as I alluded to [for]Boba's whole journey, I still think it's really that process of figuring out who you are. It's still very much of an identity and trying to break free of some of these bonds. However, at the same time, especially as we're seeing in the mention of different syndicates, clearly there are mob family aspects that are happening in the present day. I think I would still say overall, what's so important about this series in general is Boba's journey, and I hope fans really take that away and they're going to be in for a wild ride of the next few episodes.

Masking up

With COVID, you're wearing a mask already as a Tusken, so what's that process like? Do you have to wear a mask over the mask or under the mask? What do you have to do there?

They did try to do that, if I remember correctly, and understandably, because COVID was a very important thing if there was a positive case. They were saying you were deemed a close contact if it was within 15 minutes of direct exposure of that person. So, they were trying to be very vigilant about that, just for when I was a stormtrooper in "Kenobi" — which I've already announced — when you put on the helmet or something like that, we have a gaiter inside that you could go ahead and use that as your mask. Otherwise, it's very difficult to breathe, even without the mask in general when you're in inside it, it gets hot, it gets sweaty, and gets a little claustrophobic at times if you're running and a lot is happening ... those first few days, when I was just freaking out that I was on "Star Wars," it was up quite a bit more than usual, so I just remember being like, "Breathe. Breathe."

Now that you've mentioned the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, is that something that's out there that we can talk about? You're going to be a Stormtrooper on that show?

Correct. I can't say too much more on that because obviously, there's no trailer that's come out. The only reason I was able to say anything about "Kenobi" in the sense of being a Stormtrooper is when the concept art came out [for the series], Stormtroopers were everywhere, so that's a safe bet. In terms of how long and things like that, I want to keep that a bit vague. I will say I'm on [the series] more, [so] take that for what it is. Again, I'm just excited for the fans to be able to see "Kenobi," to see that connective tissue between "A New Hope" and the prequels.

Ross wants his Star Wars story be A New Hope for others

I am a huge action figure geek, and I am hoping for new Star Wars action figures of the Tuskens from "The Book of Boba Fett." Are you secretly hoping that one of the elders is going to be made, perhaps?

That would be amazing. And it would be very humbling, to be completely honest, to be one of those that is chosen. I hope that, before me, the Tusken chief gets his notice, as well as Joanna Bennett as the Tusken warrior. That would be amazing. On that same note, I have a story of why "Star Wars" is such an important thing. When I was six years old, growing up on a farm, I unfortunately had this rare fungus that got on the back of my head and it literally destroyed my scalp. It was falling off, so, I went to the Iowa City's Children's Hospital. I was there for about a month going through different procedures as they tried to figure out what's going on. That first day I was there, my mom introduced me to "Star Wars: A New Hope" and that was my first time ever seeing "Star Wars." It was the first time understanding and seen this amazing journey of Luke Skywalker, who we've come to love throughout the series.

It gave me the hope and inspiration that I needed that I was going to be okay, and that was so important at that time because at six years old, you're feeling like your life is full and nothing's going to happen, but there were kids that got better that were in the same pediatric ward with me. It's been amazing to have this full circle because now I have the chance of giving hope and inspiration to people that might be in the same situation. I created this "Born to be a Jedi" campaign, the manifestation that we're talking about, and this [holds up a personalized action figure] was given to me for Christmas, where I am now a figurine as a Jedi, which is amazing. It has this story on the back of what kept me going as an actor and the hope and inspiration that I have and the chance of [something special happening]. Since we saw Luke in "The Mandalorian" Season 2, we know that he's around, so it is possible and plausible [to live] my ultimate dream: to be a Luke Skywalker student at his Jedi academy. That would be amazing.

So, to connect that, I'm going to be doing a Tusken watch party. I don't have the specific dates as of yet, but myself, another friend of mine that was a Tusken and my buddy, Warren Proulx, who actually got me on "Kenobi" ... we will be doing commentary on the episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett" when they've all come out and telling behind-the scenes stories and all this kind of stuff. Then, all the proceeds from the tickets will be going to Iowa City's Children's Hospital, which is where my story began.


It's a way of being able to pay it forward and give it back and to say, "thank you" to the universe that gave me everything that I could ever ask for.

New episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett" premiere on Wednesdays exclusively on Disney+.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.