An exclusive interview with Keith De’Winter AKA Goss Toowers from The Force Awakens
Hot Dang Ladies and Gentleman, today I have travelled to D’Qar to meet a member of the Resistance Technical Ground Crew. The Resistance Headquarters isn’t a place I travel to often or lightly, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about Keith De’Winter, so I’ve jumped in my First Order Shuttle and set my course.
Darth Elvis: Introduce yourself and the character you portray.
Keith De’Winter: The character I portray is called, ‘Goss Toowers’. Although like many creatures within the Star Wars films he wasn’t given his name until after filming was completed and this first appeared on an action figure…yes, he’s an action figure!
DE: How did you get the call to be in Episode VII?
KD: I still find myself driving down the road and screaming at the top of my voice, “Argh! I’m in Star Wars!!” It’s a very surreal feeling to know that I’m in one of the biggest blockbusters of that year.
A few months before filming began I was working on a touring show in Saudi Arabia called Barney and Friends Live! and I played a very loveable full skin costumed dinosaur, in an all singing/dancing show. The choreographer on the show had worked on many different characters on Doctor Who and was surprised when he found out I hadn’t appeared in it. After the tour ended I got a call from my agent telling me that a film that was about to go into production had an interest in seeing me for a casting. Due to secrecy she couldn’t tell me what it was, but as I knew where it was filming, there was only one big film about to go into production.
Like most castings that come up, I just resigned myself to it never actually happening…the more I thought about it the more I thought it would NEVER happen!
When the call finally came to travel down to Pinewood I was gobsmacked and then all I could think about was what on earth this casting would be. I remember sitting in the reception of Lucasfilm looking at all these movie posters covering the walls — all Star Wars posters — that in itself was a thrill! So you can imagine the thoughts going through my head at this point, especially when I heard a familiar voice. I looked up and there was Simon Pegg walking out the door…Simon Pegg! This was very surreal already!
I was then greeted by Brian from production, (this being the very talented Brian Herring who puppeteered BB-8 in the film), and he took me over to the CFX department for a head cast (where they literally cover you in plaster and take a mold of your head) While this was going on I kept thinking, I wonder what the audition is going to consist of?!
After that I met concept designer/sculptor, Luke Fisher, and he chatted to me about this character he’d designed for this “film”, and although I wasn’t told what the film was, it was obvious by the surroundings that this was what I’d thought all along. It was then onto wardrobe…
Once all this was done, Brian then said it was time to meet the head of the creature department, Neal Scanlan. Now I’d never met him but I knew of his Oscar winning work.
Waiting for the lift to take us to Neal’s office I was then greeted with the phrase, “Welcome to Star Wars!”…even then said in a quiet voice! My shocked response was, “am I to play the character I’d just seen?”…I then found out I got recommended for the role by the creature co-ordinator of the film Paul Kasey, who was the choreographer on the Barney and Friends Live! tour that I worked with him on.
What an honour!
DE: Incredible honour Sir, must have blown your mind going to work every day and working with these Star Wars icons.
Describe what it was like to put your costume on for the first time and see yourself in the mirror?
KD: The costume being what it was, was actually quite comfy to wear. I had a padded tummy/bottom to give the creature his cute rotundness and the trousers were like a bib-brace with a canvas jacket to give him that mechanic-technician look. After all, this is the alien who fuels the Millennium Falcon and the X-Wing Fighters! Added with boots and three fingered gloves for his hands.
The head — now this is the bit that was at times uncomfortable, but bearable. I wore a special helmet which had been made from the mold of my head and this would allow the head of the creature to be placed over my head, which I could then move as if it were my own. The weight of the head was extremely heavy due to the mechanics that were contained inside. Once everything was in place it was then up to me to ‘bring him to life’. Not easy as there is no vision whatsoever, I would rely on a puppeteer to talk to me via an earpiece as to what I needed to do. The skill of the puppeteer would bring the face to life which I would animate further with body movement. We did have some rehearsal without the head to give an idea of what we were doing, as walking from one place to another with lots of background artists running around you wasn’t easy…but we did it!
The first time I saw what I looked like was in a photo, as I said, I couldn’t see anything once fully dressed…I thought I looked fab!
DE: The King has a little extra padding as well but it’s 100% natural Dark King of the Sith baby!
In a movie like The Force Awakens it takes so many people to help bring a creature to life, what was it like working with Neal Scanlan and the Creature FX department?
Working with Neal and the CFX department was amazing! I know it sounds like a cliché, but these guys are phenomenal. It was so mesmerising watching these creatures come to life right in front of you, I even got to see some of the works in progress for The Force Awakens. To see what goes into designing and making these creatures is so amazing, such skill, even when I watch the film I’m blown away by how realistic it all looks. To be a part of this ‘magic’ is incredible.
DE: In your opinion, who or what would be a good standalone movie for the franchise?
KD: The Adventures of Goss Toowers.
…the story of an alien finding his way through a galaxy of different species. His dream to become a member of the Resistance, and show his family that the Shozer species can help them to defeat the First Order. Meeting many new characters, such as lovable droid PZ-4C0. Together they embark on a mission to show the Resistance that their skills can help move towards defeating…but there are many adventures along the way…
…failing that, a story about Obi Wan Kenobi!
DE: Hot Dang! Now that’s a movie I can get behind. Would be great to have you and Nathalie Cuzner (pictured above) in a standalone together.
How does it feel to have your own action figure/Lego mini-figure and where in your house are they displayed?
KD: While we were filming, I had a 360° scan of me in costume. I got told that this was for photos/toys etc. When the action figure came out I was gobsmacked! This was an actual figure that was created based on me being in full costume. I was and still am really lucky that they chose my character. I also have a Lego figure and you can play at being Goss Toowers in the Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens game.
I have the Lego figure displayed in a small box on top of the piano in the living room and the action figure is proudly beside!
Immortalised in plastic…yeah, that’s really cool!
DE: What piece of Goss merchandise would you like to see that hasn’t already been produced?
KD: I wish they would bring out a cuddly toy as he’s so cute and cuddly. He should also have another action toy where his eyes blink and his nose twitches as these were the working mechanics of his face. He actually got nicknamed Blinky by many people, so that’s sweet.
DE: Hallmark, how about an Itty Bitty Blinky?
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from the set that you are allowed to share?
KD: One quick funny story…the costume that I wore was padded to give Goss his cute rotundness, however, as well as having padding for my tummy I had padding for my bottom. This was covered by a material that was flesh coloured. So every day when I was getting dressed you could hear the gasps and then laughter as cast/crew thought I was doing a moonie!
DE: You have started appearing at conventions around the UK, how are you finding meeting the fans of the film and does it surprise you how much love the character has?
KD: The convention scene is so wonderful. Meeting fans of the films is a real pleasure and knowing that they come to see me and chat about the character is such a surprise. He may not be in the film much but he is in a few scenes, albeit very quick and in the background. I just love attending comic cons, I’m such a huge fan of these films so it’s great to share stories with fans and talk about my experience as Goss. I’m very grateful to the fans that come and say hello.
DE: How was it to be directed by J.J. Abrams?
KD: A remarkable thing was being personally directed by J.J. Abrams. He made sure he knew everyone’s name, and came in everyday with a real passion for the work we were all doing. The times that I wasn’t filming I got to watch him in action as a director. Now that was an experience watching how he gets the actors to play out a scene.
DE: Favourite Star Wars movie and why?
KD: It has to be Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and not just because I’m in it. I made so many friends on set and got to work alongside actors who I’ve watched on the big screen over the years. The whole reason I became an actor was because of the movies. So to appear in a Star Wars film, the first of a trilogy, is just awesome!
DE: Do you have any other film projects coming up?
KD: I have some projects going on but nothing I can share with you at this time.
DE: What character in any Star Wars movie would you like to have played?
KD: Han Solo, yeah, definitely him. 😀
Thankyouverymuch Keith it was an absolute pleasure to interview you for Future of the Force. Now it’s time for the King to leave D’Qar as I’m getting some funny looks from the rebel pilots and I don’t want to have to call my Imperial/First Order brothers down to help me out. Until next time……….