Lily Nyamwasa interview | Stass Allie | Star Wars

Back in 2006 I had the chance to interview Lily Nyamwasa for Wattographs.com. Star Wars fans know her better as Jedi Stass Allie from Attack of the Clones.
Lily was born in Rwanda , but had to flee to Burundi due to the unrest in her country. Nowadays, she lives in Sydney, Australia.




On the Internet Movie Database, you are credited for two films: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Are these the only two movies you have starred in? Or did IMDB miss something?

Yes that's correct. I've only appeared in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

You were originally cast for the role of Adi Gallia, but ended up playing a new character: Stass Allie. What led to you getting cast for Attack of the Clones?

My agent called me and asked me if I was interested in going to Fox Studio for a casting for Star Wars. They had seen my photos and they were interested in seeing me. She did not have enough details she simply said to me: "I think they are looking for someone who looks like you. You have to try on this head piece and if it fits you will get the part." They were looking for someone to replace Gin Clarke. I had to try on her head piece and it fit perfectly. After the shoot George Lucas realized that I looked very different to Gin Clarke and he decided to make me her cousin, Stass Allie, instead. I think I like Stass Allie better with her art of healing ability. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use it when a lot of Jedi were wounded. What’s the point of having a gift you can’t use? Not happy with George Lucas on this one…


Did you tell George Lucas you're unhappy with this decision? If so, what did he say?

Well, I am not one of his major actors/actresses, so I don’t think my opinion really counts. If every single actor/actress demanded their script to be changed, I don’t think they will ever complete the movie. So, to answer your question, no I didn’t let George Lucas know.

What do you make of the amount of attention the fans give to you for Stass Allie, who doesn’t have much screen time, but has a large “off-screen” history?

I am always stunned about this. I remember the first Star Wars fan letter I received I almost fell of my chair. I could not believe my eyes! I thought how the hell did they find me? So I signed for this one guy who told me that he had cancer. I felt really sad for him. More and more requests came through and I always signed for them. I think I was just so shocked that people would be interested in Stass Allie? There was a lot of confusion initially about Stass Allie/Adi Gallia saga and finally when the movie came out, I could hardly see myself on the screen.

Did you wear contact lenses, or were the eyes of Stass Allie your own?

I wish. I loved those contact lenses. They were so cool.

Since you didn’t have any facial prosthetics, like some of the masked characters, did you spend a long time in wardrobe/make-up getting ready?

Not really. I was in for maybe thirty minutes for make up and hair, and then wardrobe didn’t take me that long. I was very lucky. The other guys went in for hours before the shoot and then more hours after the shoot taking everything off.

In Revenge of the Sith, the scene in which Stass Allie gets killed was shot with an ILM staff member (ILM Visual Effects Coordinator Nina Fallon) being tapped for your role. How do you feel regarding this: It was Stass Allie’s "moment of fame"...and you weren’t in it!

Very disappointed. I was on the set in Sydney shooting the Council scene and waited for the call to do the final shoot for my famous scene but I heard nothing. I think it's all to do with the budget. George Lucas probably did not want to fly me over to UK. I know two other Jedi were flown from Sydney to do their last scenes so you could say that I was very disappointed...and Nina looked nothing like me, so that was another disappointment.


The scene with Nina Fallon

In Issue #87 of the Star Wars Insider, there was an article which references the killing of major Jedi and the report of their deaths via "Order 66." What are your thoughts on Stass Allie's death?

Very sad. I knew how I was going to die beforehand so I was quite happy with my death. Unlike Mace Windu, who falls from how many floors? Isn’t a good way to die.


The atricle in Star Wars Insider

Were there any scenes you filmed which didn't make either film?

Oh yes. I did not see myself in the Council scene. In Episode II, I was on the set for a while shooting different scenes, so I thought that I would appear in the final cut. But, I didn't make it as much as I hoped.

What are your thoughts on shooting against a green screen?

I think blue was better...

You have done scenes with some of the big Star Wars actors. Did you manage to meet and talk to anyone of "The Big Five" (Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Samuel L. Jackson)? What were your impressions regarding them?

I met Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson. I was not introduced to Hayden and Ian McDiarmid. I was impressed how down to earth they all are. We were all treated well; Ate together, etc., so there was no distinction between big stars and us. I kept in touch with one of them. And whenever they are in Sydney, we catch up.

You have worked with George Lucas twice now. Did he approach Revenge of the Sith in a different way than Attack of the Clones? If so, can you tell us what the difference was?

I was on the set for one day in Revenge of the Sith I can't really comment much. I didn’t see many of the other Jedi. I think actually Shaak Ti and myself were the only two Jedi on the scene in Episode III. What's your view on this one?

Well, I wasn't in the movie, but as a viewer I can't say I see big differences; except for the tone of the movie which is a lot darker.

You certainly know more about Star Wars than I do. So, yes, I am trying to get your opinion.

What did you do for the one day's shooting for Revenge of the Sith?

Sitting in the council....the whole time. They were shooting Anakin and it took the whole day.

If you had to pick just one favorite moment regarding filming the two movies, which one would it be?

The arena scene. I liked the action and I was so happy that I could use my martial art moves. But, it was very sad to watch a lot of Jedi dying. During the shoot, I swear I had tears in my eyes -- although I could see that it was acting -- but I really felt sad to see them all dead.

Wow, so, in a way you weren't acting your emotions but they were real! Did you know before you read the script you would survive? (e.g. did you sign up for two movies when you were cast or were you approached for the third after Attack of the Clones?)

Yes I wasn’t acting. I am naturally a soft person. When I watch a sad movie, I cry, or when I hear someone’s sad story, I cry. So I truly felt sad seeing all of them laying there. I think also the song they played during that scene that was so touching!
You never really know for sure because when the editing part comes whether they might decide to kill your character off. I knew I wasn’t going to die in Episode II, but I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be needed in Episode III. But, we all knew the story line, so we knew eventually all the Jedi would die. I was just waiting for my time to die.


When did you see the Original Trilogy for the first time? Did you become a fan when you saw them?

This is probably not going to sound good: I am originally from Rwanda and science fiction is not a big thing there. I watched the first trilogy after I was cast for Stass Allie/Adi Gallia. I had no clue what Star Wars was about, so my English flat-mate sat me down and made me watch it. I was hooked after that. I liked the creativity behind it. I tip my hat to George Lucas. He is an extremely intelligent man.

Do you have any favorite characters from the Original or the Prequel Trilogy?

Obi Wan. Everyone loves Obi Wan.

You are doing an autograph signing with Wattographs -- the first formal signing you have ever done. What is the reason you haven’t done one so far? And what was the main reason for you to do this one?

I’ve been too busy in the past. I tend to get involved in a lot of things and never find time to concentrate on just one aspect of my life. I accepted the signing with Wattographs because it was the right time for me to do so and I liked your approach. Things are quieting down a little for the next few months. Also, I thought that the money I make from signing can go towards my charity, Rwandan Orphans Assistance Response (ROAR) that helps kids in Rwanda to attend schooling, etc.

Do you get much fan mail?

Yes. At University of Technology, my details were on internet so I used to get a lot of fan emails asking me to autograph their items and I did. I have since changed my email address so I don’t think they know where to find me...

Do you miss this? Getting fan mail?

It’s not something you miss, because you don’t expect it to begin with. I don’t sit there thinking: “Why are these fans not asking me to autograph for them?” I never expected Stass Allie to be as popular, because she has small screen time. So, there was never an expectation that I will be signing for fans. But, it’s nice and flattering to receive the requests, as I said before. Whatever makes the Star Wars fans happy, I am happy to contribute.

A lot of Star Wars actors are active in the convention-scene. Do you think one you’ll do one in the (near) future? If so, what would be the incentive to do one? If not: why?

I am not in the position to do one until probably 2008. I’ve had a couple of busy few years that I didn’t want to commit to anything else. But, if the right opportunity arose and it’s the right time I would definitely do it. I would not do one for free because I have my own business that requires my time and effort, plus I have few other projects in the pipeline. Time is an issue for me and I hate to commit to things If I can’t deliver.


Have you ever been recognized (on the street, in a shop etc.) by a Star Wars fan? If you have, how did you react to it?

Yes. One day I was in Sydney in Myers (Editor's Note: Myers is a large department store). It was funny, because I was standing in the queue at the counter and this family has just bought the new Star Wars book. They were flipping through the book waiting at the counter and one little boy asked me if I was Stass Allie. I could hear them arguing and the little boy said to his dad “I am sure it’s her” When I said yes he asked me to autograph the book for him… I tend to get embarrassed about these things as I am not a celebrity, so I am not used to people walking up to me and asking me my autograph. Usually my friends introduce me to their friends and they are very proud to have a Jedi friend. It’s very flattering to be recognized for something as big as a Jedi in Star Wars.

Stass Allie is a popular character and you even have your own action figure. Do you find this weird? Or do you like being immortalized by plastic?

As one of my friends once said to me when he heard that I had my own action figure: "Finally, I can get to play with you." Yes, I love the fact that I have been immortalized by plastic. Although I have a complaint to make: I don’t think the action figure looks like me.

You’re originally from Rwanda, but you had to flee to Burundi because of all the turmoil in your country. How are your feelings towards Rwanda now? And will you ever return?

Rwanda is my home country. I miss everything. I miss the food and I miss the people. I went to visit two years ago and I was amazed how everyone is striving to rebuild our Rwanda. They are fighting hard. When I came back to Australia, I thought to myself: I need to give back to the country that has given me education and everything. So, myself and a couple of friends decided to start the ROAR charity. You can find out more on our website: www.roarcharity.org.

What are your future plans? Getting more roles in movies? Or, are your plans something completely different?

Who knows? As I said before, I like to put my hands in everything. I always have different things happening simultaneously. I have given up modeling, but I haven’t ruled out acting. If the right role in a movie came up, I would grab it. Right now, my husband and I, we have our own business, so that’s where my concentration is at the moment. But, I never get satisfied with just doing one thing. My passion is to write, so hopefully one day you will be reading a book(s) written by me!

Ok, what would be a right role for you? Maybe a big director is reading this!

I would like to play a strong female warrior. I like to challenge myself, so anything that takes me outside my comfort zone would do it for me. Also, I think it’s becoming trendy to have female action heroes, so I wouldn’t mind playing a female action hero, saving some innocent people somewhere in the world. Although this won’t be as challenging as playing an evil person, because naturally I regard myself as philanthropist or a people person, so it’s easier for me to act a good person than playing a bad person. I found it challenging when we were filming the arena scene. George Lucas kept saying to me "Lily put on your angry and serious face, you supposed to be killing enemies” and I thought I was trying my best, so something like this would be really good and challenging for me.