“I thought he was really interesting, and it wasn’t the expected approach, certainly.”
To journey back to Andowyne for Disney+’s Willow series, Warwick Davis took cues from Star Wars collaborator Mark Hamill on how to revive a beloved character.
Before his turn as Nelwyn sorcerer Willow Ufgood in the 1988 film in which the series is based on, Davis made his Lucasfilm debut as Wicket, a courageous young Ewok in 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He’d go on to play various roles across the franchise, including Wodibin in 2017’s The Last Jedi. According to Davis, Hamill’s performance as Luke Skywalker in the latter Rian Johnson film helped shape his return as Willow.
“The one thing I took note of in particular was Mark Hamill returning to Luke Skywalker and how he went about the approach for that,” Davis told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview. “I thought he was really interesting, and it wasn’t the expected approach, certainly. He came at it from quite a different angle, and I also did the same. I noticed that Mark didn’t try to play the character younger. He just leaned into his more mature years, and that’s really what I did as Willow.”
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.; (L-R): Dove (Ellie Bamber) and Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker; Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood
| Credit: Lucasfilm ; Lucasfilm
“The first time I played the character, I was only 17,” Davis, now 52, continued. “So I thought, ‘Well, let’s not deny the fact that you’re 52. Let’s use that to make this character more interesting, more grounded and more well-rounded as well.’ Within this series, the world that we find Willow in is a different one than we last saw him in. He’s quite troubled. He’s had a lot of dark experiences in his own life, so he has to take all that on.”
As an actor, Davis said, “I have to add all of that knowledge into the character’s situation and use that to reflect out in my performance.”
Davis likened stepping back into the role to putting on “an old sweater or a comfy pair of slippers.” He added, “As soon as I got the wig on again and the blue tunic, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘Well, Willow is back.’ So it was relatively easy to step back into those shoes. It’s been 34 years, but it feels like only yesterday.”
(Center): Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) in Lucasfilm’s WILLOW exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Joanne Whalley as Sorsha in ‘Willow’ series
| Credit: Lucasfilm
Along with Davis, original star Joanne Whalley reprises her role as Sorsha in the series, which introduces a different generation of heroes who set out on a new adventure: to rescue Sorsha and Madmartigan’s (played by Val Kilmer in the film) missing son. Kilmer is notably absent from the series; showrunner Jonathan Kasdan told EW that the start of the COVID-19 pandemic made it “insurmountable” for Kilmer to board the series amid health concerns. (The actor damaged his vocal cords following surgery for throat cancer.)
“We started building out the first season with the intent of having him appear,” Kasdan said. “[It wasn’t clear we couldn’t get him] until pretty late in the process, frankly. . . We were prepping in the spring of the year that it was most happening. And Val reluctantly didn’t feel he could come out. We had to figure out a way to preserve the story we wanted to tell with him about how his story was playing out.”
But don’t fret, Madmartigan fans: there’s still a chance for Kilmer’s return. Kasdan is hopeful for a second season following season 1’s Nov. 30 premiere, and would love to get Kilmer on set now that COVID-19 protocols have loosened. “We wanted to leave open the door to any possibility in the future and also honor the spirit of him,” Kasdan said. “We’ve tried to do that and work with him in a way so that he is felt and heard, if not seen.”