Everyone Is In ‘Star Wars’ Now
The following post contains a few minor spoilers about the cast of The Book of Boba Fett.
Star Wars loves to kick off a film with a dramatic character introduction. Think of Darth Vader boarding the Rebel ship at the start of A New Hope, or the Jedis on the Trade Federation ship in The Phantom Menace. This week’s Book of Boba Fett opens with a similar moment, when Boba Fett agrees to an unscheduled audience with one of his subjects. A lone figure plods down the stairs into Boba Fett’s throne room revealing ... beloved character actor Stephen Root?
He’s far from the only familiar face on this season of The Book of Boba Fett. Three episodes in, we’ve also gotten appearances by Flashdance’s Jennifer Beals as a cantina manager, and comedian David Pasquesi as the majordomo of Mos Espa’s manipulative mayor. A few scenes after Stephen Root’s debut as conniving water dealer Lortha Peel, an even more recognizable face joined the Star Wars saga when Danny Trejo arrived at the front door of Jabba the Hutt’s former palace to present a rancor to the new daimyo of Tatooine.
Three episodes in, this is one of The Book of Boba Fett’s most underrated pleasures: The endless parade of surprise cameos. From scene to scene, you never know who might show up to become Boba Fett’s new ally or enemy. Sometimes these characters are colorful one-offs. In other cases, they wind up becoming key members of the show’s supporting cast, and in turn, the ever-expanding fabric of Star Wars itself.
This is arguably the primary way The Book of Boba Fett feels like The Mandalorian, the previous Star Wars television show it was spun off from. Both series feature unusually small regular casts. On The Book of Boba Fett the only true leads are Temeura Morrison as Boba Fett and Ming-Na Wen as his counsel and bodyguard, Fennec Shand. The only characters guaranteed to appear on every episode of The Mandalorian are Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin and a Baby Yoda puppet.
But both shows also rely heavily on large recurring casts. On The Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal’s bounty hunter took his first assignment from a client played by cult filmmaker Werner Herzog. Over the next two seasons, Mando’s path crossed repeatedly with a quirky mechanic played by Amy Sedaris, and an Imperial trooper turned mercenary played by comedian Bill Burr. Before Morrison’s Boba Fett reclaimed his famous armor, Mando found it in the possession of a marshal played by Timothy Olyphant. A few episodes later, the Mandalorian squared off with a ruthless Imperial Captain, played by Bosch’s Titus Welliver.
The Mandalorian and now The Book of Boba Fett have reached a point where audiences have to come to expect unexpected guest stars. One week Nick Nolte might voice a gruff alien, and the next WWE wrestler Sasha Banks could join Mando on a quest to protect Mandalore. Even Luke Skywalker himself might turn up to rescue Grogu from the remaining Imperial forces. Computer effects were used to de-age Mark Hamill back to how he looked in the days of Return of the Jedi.
A typical TV show — and particularly a typical science-fiction show on streaming television — could never afford or attract this level of guest star talent. But so many people love Star Wars that the franchise can now draw upon an enormous pool of actors who want to be involved in it in any way they can. As a result, you get folks saying yes to tiny roles that they are wildly overqualified for and would never otherwise play, except for the fact that they’re tiny roles in the world of Star Wars.
I guess some curmudgeonly viewers might say having Stephen Root or Titus Welliver show up for a brief cameo amounts to little more than cheap stunt casting. I could also see someone arguing that their appearances are distracting. Seeing a familiar face suddenly and randomly pop up on an episode of The Mandalorian might temporarily break the illusion that we are viewing something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
To me, though, they feel very Star Wars. This franchise exists in a place where anything can happen; where people can move things with their minds and fly space ships faster than the speed of light. Adding these little cameos enhances the feeling that these shows are set in a universe of endless possibility. And it gives you something to look forward to every Wednesday besides the episodes themselves. Who’s gonna show up next week?