The Resorts World Casino NYC in Queens hosted this year’s NY Wintercon, featuring science fiction, fantasy, and comic book properties. One of the highlights of Day 1 on Saturday was the panel featuring the most popular sci-fi franchise ever, Star Wars.
Starting off the day on the main stage was Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew, who was joined by a squadron of rebel pilots including Biggs Darklighter (Garrick Hagon), Nien Numb (Mike Quinn), and Red 4 (Jack Klaff).
The moderator asked how each man got involved with Star Wars and what is was like on set. They said they barely if ever met with creator George Lucas and simply conducted quick screen tests.
Klaff was hilarious. A veteran of stage, he was informed by his agent of a potential part in “Stan” Wars and they both thought it was a movie about a guy named… well you get it. Mike Quinn wasn’t originally brought in to act, as he was a puppeteer. He worked in London on both Dark Crystal and Muppet Christmas Carol and knew Frank Oz (who puppeteered Yoda), so he was brought in to help with all the creature effects in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. He played the tentacle that grabbed C-3PO in Jabba’s palace and helped Oz on R2D2. He kind of lucked into getting Nien Numb, who plays Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot in the end battle in Jedi.
The highlight of the panel for many was seeing the great Peter Mayhew, who donned the wookie outfit as the mighty Chewbacca. Mayhew, who currently walks with a cane and uses a motorized scooter to get around, was at his peak, 7 foot 3! He laughed that was he was actually too tall to play Darth Vader.
Despite having small roles in the original films, the rebel pilots were incredibly fun and engaging. My favorite part was when Hagon joked that his friend Mark Hamill told him what a great part he had since he got to die and that a hero’s death is a great way to go. Of course, that meant no sequels. They are still friends to this day and they still joke about that.
Mayhew played Chewbacca, Han Solo’s co-pilot and best friend, in the original trilogy, and then reprised the role in one of the Prequels, 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, which saw the wookie on his home planet of Kashyyyk.
In 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mayhew donned the Chewie suit once more, co-piloting alongside Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, while Quinn returned as Nien Numb. Both actors will next be seen as these characters on the big screen in 2017’s Star Wars: Episode VIII.