The Star Wars galaxy might be far, far away, but it’s composed of a surprisingly tight-knit group of collaborators. For example, Janina Gavankar, who starred as Iden Versio in Star Wars: Battlefront 2, had a small part in the most recent episode of The Mandalorian. But not as Iden.Instead, Gavankar helped puppeteer a Mon Calamari’s nostrils.
The most recent episode of The Mandalorian finds our stoic Baby Yoda dad hanging out with some new acquaintances and a Mon Calamari. This is where you’ll — well not “see” per se — but see Gavankar’s work as the second puppeteer of the nostrils on this Mon Calamari.
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In a phone call with IGN, Gavankar shared how she wound up on the set of the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, “The Heiress,” where she helped puppeteer a special effect on the show.
As it turns out, the effects for the Mon Calamari were handled by special effects wizard Frank Ippolito of Thingergy Inc. Ippolito and Gavankar go way back, having worked on eight different projects together and even winning a Jury Award for “Creature Effects” at SXSW for Gavankar’s short film Stucco.
“[Ippolito] is one of the many special effects artists that work on The Mandalorian,” Gavankar says. And Ippolito was one of the makers and actors behind a Mon Calamari seen in the teaser trailer for The Heiress. The one putting their hands on their hips while the trailer cuts to the Razor Crest seemingly crash landing.
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“There is a Mon Calamari who puts their hands on their hips. That’s Frank Ippolito who’s inside that rig. He made that headpiece and it takes two puppeteers to animate it,” Gavankar revealed. “And they needed a second puppeteer to just handle the nostrils of this character. And [Ippolito] called me and he said, ‘Do you want to come puppeteer the nostrils of this Mon Calamari?’”
“And I said ‘f**k yes.’”
Gavankar’s arrival on the set turned many heads including David Filoni who recognized Gavankar but didn’t realize the purpose of her visit on set. When Gavankar revealed she was there as a puppeteer, she says the response she got from Filoni was “one of those ‘of course you are,’ kind of things.”
So yes, when you see the Mon Calamari’s nostrils in the latest Manadlorian episode, remember that it is the work of Iden Versio, or rather her actor Janina Gavankar. Gavankar does say she would love to reprise the role of Iden if asked to by LucasFilms. “We know how she dies but we don’t know about the years in between. There’s a lot of life there so if anybody asks me to come back and play [Iden] I’d be delighted to do so.”
For Gavankar’s portrayal of Iden Versio, an Inferno Squad commander and star of the campaign mode in Star Wars: Battlefront 2, check out IGN’s Battlefront 2 review. And be sure to check out our review of The Mandalorian Episode 3.
Matt T.M. Kim is a reporter for IGN.
Additional reporting by Terri Schwartz