Considering the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, we should note that though the final trilogy has taken to slowly offing the iconic characters from the original movies, (and Fisher's death last year puts the nail in the coffin, as it were), some characters take a licking and keep on ticking. R2-D2, C-3P0, and Chewbacca are all icons, but since you never see the face inside, the role can pass on, as it has in two of those cases. So what does the new Chewbacca look like IRL, now that it's no longer always Peter Mayhew under the walking carpet costume?
Chewie isn't the only slow recasting of these characters, just so everyone knows. You might think with CGI, C-3P0 and R2-D2 would have merely become voice over work. But Anthony Daniels continues to be inside the C-3P0 suit. (We expect he'll continue to do that voice for Episode IX as he now holds the status as the only actor to appear as the same character in eight out of the nine films, plus Rogue One.) Likewise, for years, Kenny Baker was actually inside the R2-D2 rolling can. Since his passing in 2016, in The Last Jedi, his role was taken over by Jimmy Vee, of Harry Potter fame. Vee and Baker were already working together to pass on the role during The Force Awakens, and Baker's health started to go.
Peter Mayhew still loves playing Chewie, but his knees have been suffering badly during the making of the current run of films. So while it was a hybrid of Mayhew behind the fur in the seated shots when it came time for standing, or anything involving even the smallest of stunts, he handed the part over to Joonas Suotamo. For The Last Jedi, he was sidelined completely, allowing Suotamo to take over for the new film.
So who is Joonas Suotamo? Well, let's get a look at his appearance on the red carpet for The Last Jedi opening, shall we?
Here he is towering over Anthony Edwards and Andy Serkis:
So who is that long, tall drink of wookie?
A basketball player, of course! Suotamo is originally from Finland, but came to the states on a scholarship, where he played both power forward and center positions for the Penn State Nittany Lions. He never broke into the NBA here, instead heading back home to play for seven years (including four seasons in the top tier Korisliiga) before retiring to join the Star Wars cast.
But he clearly loved the experience of being the tagged in Wookie whenever necessary. His Instagram is full of hardcore fanboy moments like this:
I love being a part of these films, because you get to wait in the trailer before they come and tell you that a galaxy far, far away needs you once again.
I mean, can you argue with that? I sure can't.
And he's clearly excited to set up his first child to follow in his footsteps if the pregnancy announcement is any indication.
Gotta make sure your kid gets to be part of the Porg Posse early.
Most importantly, as he slowly settles in to take over the Wookie roar permanently, he's making sure that all the long time fans are cool with him. He's also recognizing those who have the Chewie roar game on lock.
Personally, I now need a Mayhew-Suotamo-Matarazzo Wookie Roar Off to see whose bellowing reigns supreme.