In the original Star Wars Trilogy there were few female characters, but in the prequels there were plenty. One of them is Mary Oyaya, who played the role of Jedi Master Luminara Unduli. Kenya-born Mary is a real globetrotter as she has lived in Africa, Sweden, Canada and Australia. She's originally a model, but also an actress nowadays. I had the following interview with her in 2006. It was originally featured on a Dutch Star Wars website, but is now also available to read here.
Can you tell us how you got the job for Luminara?
Actually it was my agent who hooked me up and a month before I got to know my character's name. She was a senator at first, but then when Episode II came out she was a Jedi master!!
Who approached you and why did they specifically wanted you?
I went for casting that was at Fox Studios and there was a big pile of people's compcards and lots of other people phoning in to get a role. So, there I was with other girls got our pictures taken, and sent to George coz he was on set. Next thing I know, my measurements are being taken and I'm trying Luminara's outfit! Apparently they knew what look they wanted so, as I was told later, the moment I walked in, the casting stopped!
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars phenomena and what were
your initial thoughts about Star Wars then?
I first watched Star Wars when I was just a kid, but was not too crazy about it until I watched Episode I. I got hooked immediately and went to borrow all the earlier ones. So, by the time Star Wars was in town, I only wanted to be in the background and that would be fine . In fact I thought Luminara would appear for just a second and no one would notice, but I would be busy pointing out to my friends!! I never expected comics, playstation games, books, conventions or anything.
Your Jedi apprentice in the movies is Barriss Offee; played by Nalini Krishan. Did the two of you hang out a lot together on the set too?
Yes, we did and off set too. We used to live close to each other and would go to Fox studios together, and take the train back home together too.
Star Wars had some big actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Ian McDiarmid. What impression did they make on you?
They are very professional actors and do a very good job. On top of that they are very down to earth people and very friendly and fun to be around. Ian is also a great actor, from Episode I I really admired his character, and could not believe I was right next to him, I couldn't even say what I thought coz I was like....wow...he's here!
Did they give you any memorabilia after the movie was finished? Your own lightsaber maybe?
What are your thoughts on the two Star Wars movies you were in? Do you think they are the same level as the old ones?
Actually no. The ones I'm in have a lot of computer technology involved and are much faster.
But with the earlier ones, there is a lot more plot, and it keeps you guessing . So, when you watch Episodes II and III everything starts to fall into place and complete the puzzle.
Regarding the shooting of the movie: did any weird or funny things happen on the set?
Not that I can remember, but there was an incident where someone farted and that's all.
Your character Luminara is on the cover of the Alan Dean Foster novel The Approaching Storm. Have you read the novel? And if you have; what do you think of it?
Yes, I have read and own a copy too. It has a lot of humor , and it gave me more insight into the character Luminara and Barriss.
In the USA you have attended some conventions, like Celebration; the biggest Star Wars event ever. How was it to meet so many fans? And is there any possibility we will ever see you attend a convention in the Netherlands or Europe?
The first time I attended a convention, it as Celebration II. It was amazing! I loved meeting all those fans (there were 50 000 people!) Seeing those lines of people going round building and streets. It was so exciting. I would love to attend a convention in the Netherlands since I haven't been there before. In May 2006 I went to Metz in France and It was my first ever convention in Europe and I truly loved it!
At conventions you sign a lot. What is the strangest item you have ever signed?
Well, I sign posters, pictures, t-shirts, books, I haven't signed anything strange but that would be exciting.
Regarding meeting fans: the nicest thing a fan has ever done for you would be?
Star Wars fans a really wonderful. I have had fans give me very many gifts. When I was in Japan, I had extra luggage full of gifts, and then in other conventions in the US I had some fans send me flowers every day of the convention; at Celebration III a fan made a doll of myself for me, and lots of people do amazing things and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.
On your website, you thank some people that were involved with Star Wars, like George Lucas, Steve Sansweet and Peter Mayhew. What was the thing they did you appreciate them for?
Simply for being very supportive (Star Wars is not like any other movie,) and for Peter welcoming me to the Star Wars family and being very helpful and kind. I did the Japan tour with him and it was great ...as well as other conventions too.
Your site can be viewed in one language: English. Still; it has a non-working Japanese button too. Why is that? Do you have a lot of Japanese fans?
The Japanese section was for the Japanese fans because I have many fans in Japan I had to get it translated. But it will be working soon.
What are you currently doing regarding new projects?
Well, currently I have a few lined up but not yet commenced ...so it is more like a waiting game!!