New Details on Supreme Leader Snoke & Maz Kanata From The Force Awakens

While JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm have been adamant about pushing the idea of “practical effects” for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the film does feature two important characters who are being brought to life via motion capture (like in the new Planet of the Apes movie).  Andy Serkis will be playing the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke, who, the last time we heard about him, Abrams said he was a powerful Dark Side user.  Lupita Nyong’o is playing Maz Kanata, a pirate who’s been the narrator of the last couple Star Wars trailers, and the TV spot.  

maz kanata

Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly revealed a slew of new images from the film, and today, they’re brought new information on these new enigmatic characters thanks to interviews with the actors and Abrams himself.  Let’s talk about Maz first.  As many guessed and confirmed when the final poster was released, Maz is the goggle-eyed alien smiling in the background.  Those goggles aren’t just for show either, as her eyes contain a ‘power’ that will somehow come into play:

“I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do,” Abrams says. “I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”

Nyong’o couldn’t go into the specifics about Maz’s eyes and capabilities, but said their traits gave her something compelling to explore. “As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway,” says Nyong’o. “So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character.”

Abrams went a little more into her backstory, saying that Maz has been a pirate for a very long time, and is over 1,000 years old.  Yes, that’s older than Yoda was, and has the potential for some interesting ramifications in the spin-offs, games, or books.  She could provide the connecting thread between some of the new Star Wars ventures, and could have even been around during a time when the Sith were still active in the galaxy!  While that’s all Abrams would give up, he did say that more of her story would likely be told in other venues aroudn Lucasfilm.  

While we will have to wait to see how big an impact she’ll play in the final film, based off what we’ve heard of her so far in the trailers, she could be playing a very key role in our heroes’ journey.  Let’s move from pirates to out right evil.  While we know Kylo Ren is the primary bad guy this time around, he’s not the one in charge.  Surpreme Leader Snoke is the top dog and will be a massive presence in the film, even if he doesn’t get a lot of screen time. 


The primary reason he’s CGI, and not a practical effect, is due to his size.  He’s apparently very large, and his facial structure isn’t such that could be accomplished through make-up.  Thus Andy Serkis is doing what he does best…though even he didn’t know what his character would look like during filming.  During his interview he talked about the character: 

“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean talk about secrecy! 

“When we first started working on it, [Abrams] had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance,” Serkis says.

Snoke kept changing, not only through principle photography, but even after.

This is pretty accurate to what I’ve been hearing for a while.  I’ve seen a handful of Snoke concept art over the last year, but each one was distinctly different.  My impression was that his look continually changed and wasn’t nailed down until later in the process, evolving even as they wrapped principal photography and got into the meat of post-production.  It’s one of the main reasons we haven’t seen any ‘leaks’ of him floating around, as we have with many other characters. 

You’re not really going to get a good look at him, however, until the film releases.  Which is a bummer, but could also make for some cool “holy crap” moments.  So let’s not get hung up on his appearance.  Andy Serkis did reveal some interesting things about the character in general: 

“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful,” Serkis says. “Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”

Interesting.  We know he’s super powerful, but hearing that he’s vulnerable and damaged has some interesting connotations.  I’ve heard some things in this regard (like that he’s ancient and possibly dying), but there’s no telling what exactly it means.  But what about any connections to the previous films or characters from the old EU? 

“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character,” Serkis says. “He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.” 

New character, someone who is aware of the previous galactic conflicts but obviously didn’t play an overt role in them.  This raises a BUNCH of questions, but sadly, answers aren’t forthcoming.  Either way, it opens the door for some fun speculation, and gives us more information than we had! 

What do you guys make of this new info?  Are you ready to see Maz and Snoke on the big screen next month? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, 2015