Michael Kingma was (and still is) a basketball player who got the part of the wookiee leader Captain Tarfful in Revenge of the Sith.
In February 2010 I had the following interview with him.
How did you get cast for Revenge of the Sith? You were a basketball player back then and got cast for the biggest saga ever. It sounds like the most remarkable career switch ever.
It was a one in a million chance really. I was playing basketball in Sydney at the time and the casting and most of the filming was done at the Fox studios in Sydney. Obviously they needed big guys to be wookiees so the people that were casting thought that they might as well try to call a few basketball agents to find some height. My agent called and told me to get down to the Fox studios as soon as possible. They measured me up and the rest is history! I am still playing basketball though; being a wookiee isn't a full time job unfortunately.
You were in your twenties when you played Captain Tarfful. I bet you were a Star Wars fan as a kid? How did it feel when you heard you were cast?
Yeah I was a fan, at first I didn't really realize that I was being cast for Star Wars I thought I was just going in to do some extra work for a TV show or something. When they told me I was going to be a wookiee I almost collapsed as Chewbacca was always my favorite character, so being told I was going to be a wookiee was unreal, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for months!
What is your view on the character you played: Captain Tarfful?
I love him; he is a fierce looking wookiee with awesome dreadlocks! When I first saw him I was like: ‘he is definitely the coolest looking wookiee’ (laughs). I think he is a lot wiser than Chewie too. (laughs) Don't tell Peter I said that! (laughs) Although I didn't have a big part in the movie I have been told by many people at the conventions that Tarfful has bigger roles in the video games and is in many books so he is a lot more known then I thought.
Can you tell any remarkable, unique, strange or funny things that happened on the set?
I was very lucky that I got Tarfful because I got to go to San Francisco with Peter Mayhew to do our bit of the movie while the other wookiees stayed in Australia to do their scenes. I’ll never forget the week I got to stay at the Skywalker Ranch because I got looked after like a king! The first day on set was the hardest because I had to do motion capture for the battle scene when there where hundreds of wookiees in the battle scene. I was so nervous because I'd never done any acting and I didn't have the suit to hide behind, but after a while I got used to it and it was fun, the other three or four days where great and on the second day I got to meet George Lucas! Me and Peter were both in our wookiee suits and he came up to us and gave us a few instructions on what he wanted us to do. The whole time I was just thinking is this really happening? Besides the filming there was a lot of waiting around and not doing too much but the time still flew by pretty quickly and it was all over before I knew. I guess the strangest thing about it was having to stay in the suits all day and when it was time to eat lunch it looked hilarious with us sitting at the lunch table as headless wookiees with the rest of the crew!!
Can you tell something about how you were directed by George Lucas for Revenge of the Sith?
He didn't really spend to much time talking with us, but when we started to do the filming he approached us and told us that it’s going to be a long couple of days because it was going to be extremely difficult to get us in the right positions for the shots and looking the right way, as everything was done on green screen. There were no props for us to look at except for a stick with a tennis ball stuck to it for Yoda!! But he just told us to be patient and try our best and eventually we would get the shots he wanted.
You did most of your scenes with Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca. Did he give you any advice and how did the two of you get along?
He just told me to not worry about things too much as I was a bit nervous about it all when I first started. Peter is a great guy and we got along great as well as with his wife Angie. We hung out a lot and still do this whenever we have a convention or something. We always have a bunch of fun!
You have attended various Star Wars conventions where you met fans and signed photos. How do you look back at these events? Can you share some of the most remarkable moments?
The conventions are awesome and I always feel like I am part of a huge family whenever I go to one. I always get looked after like a king and there are so many awesome people and friends I have made along the way. I’d have to say Celebration in Los Angeles was amazing. I did a Q&A with Peter Mayhew in front of a packed audience. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done! I think the most fun I have at the conventions though is signing the autographs and seeing the passion in the peoples eyes when they talk about the movie, or to hear about my character and how much they liked it. It really still amazes me how big these movies are and to be a part of such a massive thing is incredible. I got made an honorary member of the 501st legion at Celebration Los Angeles at a party they were hosting. It was the most amazing night ever from what I can remember!
You are a basketball player. Suppose you had the choice between the ‘Star Wars immortality’ you have now, and a career in the NBA, what would you chose?
Wow, that's a tough question, I really loved my time doing Star Wars and enjoyed every minute I was involved with it, if I could do that everyday for the next few years I would choose that in a heartbeat! Basketball is great and I have loved playing for as long as I have and the NBA would be amazing but I would have to say being a wookiee in Star Wars is a probably one of the best jobs and experiences I will I will ever have! Bring on the TV show or Episode VII!
Looking back at your work for Star Wars: what are your feelings regarding it?
I have nothing but great memories from it and hope to have many more in the future with conventions and whatever else I can do! I just wish I could have done it for longer as the time I was involved with it went by to quickly!!
What are your plans for the future? Do you have any upcoming movie projects or will you stick with basketball?
I wish I could do movies, that would be unreal, but I only ever just did the wookiee thing. If anything came up I would be there but right now I am in Sweden playing basketball for a team called the Sundsvall Dragons. I love playing basketball and hope to play for a few more years or at least until the next Star Wars saga!!!