‘The Mandalorian’: Giancarlo Esposito Reveals What Acting on the Magical Virtual Set Is Like

     June 23, 2020

One of the most important things about the Star Wars franchise, according to The Mandalorian star Giancarlo Esposito, is how it invokes the power of heroes in our mythology. So the Disney+ series premiering last fall “was such a beautiful time for the show to come out,” he tells Collider, “because… we need heroes in our world today to guide us and to encourage us that we can get through these trying times that we’re in right now.”

The veteran character actor began his career largely in independent film and theater, but while he still does plenty of straightforward dramatic work, such as playing the quietly nefarious Gus Fring of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, many of the roles he’s taken on recently have been pretty complicated on a technical level.

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Image via Disney+

As we’ve learned from the Disney+ behind-the-scenes series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, The Mandalorian was brought to life thanks to a virtual set which the filmmakers, led by creator Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni, could manipulate digitally to create all of the show’s strange worlds. Known as “The Volume,” the highly advanced system represents a whole new way of making a Star Wars story, and creates a very different experience for the actors.

“In the old days, we had greenscreen, which created our environment behind us,” Esposito says above, “And now this world creates all of our solar system, our sky, our earth, but it’s really being projected through a computer. So I find that your imagination has to fill in the rest. And so it’s a different style of acting — you’re looking around the room, you may have some props to stand on, or the vehicle that you arrived in, whether it be my TIE Fighter, or something else. But there’s nothing else there, except what’s projected.”

So, Esposito says, when he was working in this environment, “I create a theatrical black box… I always sit down, read the scene, read the elements that are a part of the scene and I need to reflect upon, and then put the whole world there within my imagination and own it… and I had to do all that and wear a cape and carry a lightsaber, and make all that look like really good.”

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Image via Disney+

It’s an improvement over greenscreen, because according to Esposito “it completes the environment for me — you walk into The Volume and you could be in the desert. They could take you into outer space. They literally put it up there.”

Esposito wrapped filming on Mandalorian Season 2 just before Christmas 2019, and tells the story of his last day on set with childlike glee: “They were just finishing up. And they said, ‘Oh, wait, wait, wait, we want to give you a good sendoff.’ And I’m standing in the big spaceship and there are windows everywhere. And they said, look to the right, and all of a sudden, Santa and his reindeers whoosh across all of hyperspace with my name — Merry Christmas, Giancarlo. And I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, they can do this? This is unbelievable!'”

For more on how Esposito approaches technically complicated roles, including what it takes to perform motion capture work for video games, watch the video above. Esposito will appear in The Mandalorian Season 2, set to premiere this fall on Disney+.

For more on The Mandalorian, click here.

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