A FOTF exclusive Interview with the only Rebel trooper to survive Darth Vader’s slaughter in Rogue One
With the release of the superb Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we were introduced to a wealth of new characters in which to welcome into the annals of the Star Wars franchise. Set amidst the backdrop of the galactic civil war between the tyrannous Empire and the struggling alliance of Rebel forces, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her band of unlikely heroes, infiltrated the Imperial facility on the planet Scarif and liberated the plans to the first dreaded Death Star.
With the attack, upon the Scarif shield gate taking centre stage in Rogue One’s gripping finale, the sinister figure of Darth Vader invaded the crippled Rebel command ship, hell bent on regaining the stolen plans and eliminating the rebellion in its formative years. As Vader, slaughtered many of the defending Rebel Fleet Troopers with his luminous glowing red blade, one remained to escape his onslaught and conveyed them to the waiting hands of Princess Leia Organa.
That Rebel Fleet Trooper was Toshma Jefkin.
The character was brought to life fantastically by actor Christopher Patrick Nolan, a fresh face to the Star Wars fraternity, who will now be entered into the annals of our collective hall of fame. The celebrated Broadway actor, has been fortunate enough to have performed alongside Star Trek legend Patrick Stewart, as well as enjoying a decorated career on both stage and screen and has now brought his talents to the Star Wars universe.
I recently had the chance to sit down with the man himself and probed him for the real story behind the filming of Rogue One as well as being the only Rebel warrior to escape Vader’s clutches.
Enjoy his interview here:
Phil: Were you a fan of the Star Wars Movies growing up?
Chris: Absolutely! I’m a child of the 70’s so I was very much a fan of the original trilogy. It was so massive at the time and I remember collecting the action figures.
Phil: Which was your favourite movie and why?
Chris: In my memory of seeing them as a child, I think I merged A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back together, so I would have to say both of those! Some of those iconic scenes really are imprinted in my memory of my childhood.
Phil: Who was your favourite character and why?
Chris: Darth Vader, of course! He’s just so iconic and as I say, a flashback to my youth. It’s quite funny now to think that I escaped him in Rogue One! I like to think that by surviving Vader, my character technically is in A New Hope.
Phil: How did you come to be a part of Rogue One?
Chris: Jina Jay, the casting director, had seen me in a stage production of Orwell’s 1984 in the West End and invited me along to Twickenham Studios to audition on tape. It was all very secretive and I had no idea what part I was auditioning for. I was just told to come along early and I would be given sides to prepare on the day. So, I arrived early and had to sign a confidentiality agreement before being given two different generic scenes to prepare. The casting director was great and gave me bits of direction after each take. After a couple of days, my agent rang to say they would like to offer me a part in a scene with Darth Vader!
Phil: Being a celebrated actor of both stage and screen, how does it feel to be able to say you’ve performed alongside two sci-fi titans in Jean Luc Picard and Darth Vader?
Chris: I’ve never thought about that but, yes, you are right. I feel very lucky indeed. I had the very good fortune of appearing in two Shakespeare productions in the West End and Broadway with Patrick Stewart, as well as a film version for the BBC of Macbeth. Patrick really is one of the true good guys and it was a pure pleasure working alongside him on and off for almost 2 years. Vader and Picard are so huge and so loved that to be connected to them both, in even the smallest of ways, is such a privilege and very special.
Phil: After roles in both Macbeth and The War Horse, how did performing on a Star Wars set compare to performing on Broadway?
Chris: Filming is such a different experience to theatre. War Horse and Macbeth were amazing experiences. Performing to a live audience is a thrilling and immediate experience, whereas filming is specific and detailed. I remember the first day walking on set for Rogue One at Pinewood Studios to chat to the director, Gareth Edwards and being totally in awe of the set and crew. Just the sheer scale of everything and the amount of people involved in a big film is just so different to theatre.
Phil: What was it like being inside the Rebel Blockade Runner, Tantive IV fleeing for your life as Darth Vader closed in?
Chris: It was brilliant. I had had a day of rehearsal with Gareth and Daniel Naprous, who played Vader in the scene, as well as with the stunt director, so it was great to actually get on set. So much was going on in the scene with extras, stunt men and special effects etc.
Phil: What was the biggest challenge of taking on the role and did you enjoy your experience on set?
Chris: In rehearsal Gareth explained the scene to me, how Vader had no dialogue and how it connected to A New Hope and what he was hoping to achieve. He spoke about the energy and fear he wanted to capture in the scene and how pivotal to the whole Star Wars story this moment was. I referenced the fear of the swimmers in the movie Jaws and Gareth agreed that it was their reactions that helped sell the danger of the shark and that I should use that with Vader. We shot that scene for three days and on the first morning I was given my lines to learn. Gareth liked to use the Steadicam and get me to improvise lines and react instinctively to the action, which was exciting as he thought it brought a realistic urgency to the scene.
We filmed lots of different set ups/takes, close-ups and long shots and angles, showing both Vader’s POV as well as the Rebels. I remember having to do this stunt fall through the doorway of the Tantive IV, while holding on to the Death Star plans, which was tricky as it had to be timed perfectly to catch Vader slaying the last few rebel troopers before closing the door on him and commanding the ship’s “Launch!”. It was an intense and thrilling experience and although much didn’t make the final edit, I think the fast editing, the score and the hand-held camera work really kept up the momentum and tension and delivered a scene to remember.
Phil: Does your character finally have a name?
Chris: Yes, he does…Toshma Jefkin. Matt Forbeck, who wrote the ‘Rogue One Junior Novel’ was given permission by the Lucasfilm Story Group to name a character as a tribute to his good friend Jeff MacKintosh, who sadly passed away from cancer last year. I feel very honoured that he chose my character.
Phil: After being the only Rebel Fleet Trooper to survive Vader’s assault in the finale of Rogue One, did your character survive the opening sequence of A New Hope?
Chris: I’m not sure I’m qualified enough to answer that but I like to think he did!
Phil: How do you feel about being idolised as a Star Wars character?
Chris: People have been very kind and I love how passionate and informed Star Wars fans are. It has been such a great privilege to be, in a very small way, part of the Star Wars story.
Phil: When can we expect to see your action figure on the shelves?
Chris: That would be amazing! I doubt that will happen but who knows.
Phil: If you could play any other Star Wars character, who would it be and why?
Chris: I’m really happy to have had the chance to play the character I did, so I don’t want to push my luck! I got to be in a scene with Vader and survive and get to pass on the Death Star plans. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Phil: Are you looking forward to The Last Jedi?
Chris: Yes, definitely. It will be fascinating to see where they go with it.
Phil: What are your hopes for the future?
Chris: Health and Happiness!
Wow, what an incredibly cool and talented performer…
In the finest traditions of the Star Wars franchise, new and exciting characters have been introduced in Rogue One and the fans have embraced them wholeheartedly. It is a true testament to the dedicated studio heads at Lucasfilm who continuously seek out the finest representatives from every department to bring Star Wars to life with stunning brilliance. With Christopher Patrick Nolan, on hand to bring his considerable acting prowess to proceedings, it clearly demonstrates the calibre of actor they are attracting for roles in our beloved galaxy far, far away…
Christopher Patrick Nolan, has brought to life a stunning new character in Toshma Jefkin and can pride himself on portraying the only Rebel trooper to escape Darth Vader’s unrelenting slaughter. All we need now, is an official Hasbro action figure to welcome into our ever-growing collection of characters pleading to be liberated from their plastic prisons.
Come on Hasbro…we know you can do it!
And finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to Christopher Patrick Nolan for giving up his free time and granting this exclusive Future of the Force interview.
Until next time…
May The Force Be With You
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is available on Blu Ray and DVD now. Grab your copy and join the fight against the Empire! Check out my recent interview with Christopher’s co-star Benjamin Hartley here: