TIME magazine feature an article written by Joonas Suotamo, the main performer who stepped into the huge shoes left behind by the late Peter Mayhew. Since The Force Awakens, Suotamo has sat under the learning tree in Wookiee Boot Camp, and here he recounts his time with Peter and what he learned from the great man.
After Force Awakens, we spent a week at what we called Wookiee Boot Camp. We would watch old footage of Peter as Chewbacca, and he would explain why he did the things that we see in those legendary scenes. He was very generous with the information. I appreciated that so much, because it was a delicate situation stepping into his shoes, to become the character that he had been all his life. Always in my mind has been the objective to honor the character he created, because I’m as big a fan of the series as the next guy. To bring dishonor to anyone who had been a part of starting these great movies would be very disappointing.
What I came to realize over time is how much Peter put his own personality into Chewbacca. Peter wasn’t a professional actor; he was playing that character as himself in a way. As soon as I realized that, I realized what I needed to do. Just watching him speak about this character and being himself, every second was a worthy lesson, and I will always treasure that.