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Simon Kassianides Had No Idea He Was Auditioning To Be A Mandalorian

Unfortunately, there's no coronation ceremony. We asked.
Simon Kassianides, The Mandalorian
Simon Kassianides, The Mandalorian. Image: Hannes Söderlund / Design: Sasha Purdy for StyleCaster

If truth be told, I was a little disappointed to hear there isn’t an official ceremony—coronation, if you will—for anointing new Mandalorian cast members in the acclaimed Disney+ series, The Mandalorian. I pictured Simon Kassianides, who plays Bo-Katan’s ally, Axe Woves, in season two and beyond, standing at the end of a gilded hallway as his helmet was presented to him upon a purple pillow. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. “I should have gone with that!” he tells StyleCaster via Zoom, laughing. “Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly how they do it.”

In fact, Kassianides had no idea he was even auditioning to be a Mandalorian—let alone one of Clan Kryze, whose members famously don’t subscribe to The Way rule that says Mandalorians are forbidden from removing their helmets. Instead, the British actor (by way of Cypress), describes the mysterious audition process as follows: “We were working in formation or moving down hallways, we were shooting, taking commands … So there were those elements in which you thought, ‘OK, these this is some sort of elite fighting force,’ but your mind doesn’t go to a Mandalorian.” It was only after he scored the role and arrived in his fitting room that he realized just how special this experience was going to be. “You turn up, you’re in a fitting room, and they pull back this curtain. And they’re like, ‘Put that on,’ and you’re like, ‘Why? That’s a Mandalorian outfit. And they’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re a Mandalorian’,” he recalls. “Grown men cry, it’s totally normal. It’s hard not to in terms of how impactful that is. So, you put on the suit and just hope you look cool.”

It struck Kassianides on such an emotional level because of his childhood ties to the original George Lucas-conceived Star Wars IP; revisiting such formative years of playing with his brother, eight-and-a-half-years his senior who must’ve been around seven when the first film, Star Wars: A New Hope, landed in cinemas in 1977. “By the time I turned up, Luke had one arm missing, Boba Fett’s head had come off… And the earliest memories I have are playing with those toys on the sofa,” he says. “So, when your experience of it starts that early, and then to become a toy yourself, sort of messes you up a bit.”

Viewers are introduced to Axe Woves in “Chapter 11: The Heiress” (season two), where he, Koska Reeves and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) save Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and The Child’s life on a Quarren ship. In season two’s finale, however, Axe Woves is mysteriously absent, leading fans to speculate where the hell he’d gone. Sackhoff’s cagey responses to questioning—”He just wasn’t there. And there’s a reason,” she told the YouTube show The Sith Council in 2021—only added fuel to the fire. In season three, episode six, aka “Chapter 22: Guns for Hire,” Axe Woves made a triumphant return, facing off against Bo-Katan herself in an epic throwdown. They used to be allies, but he lost faith in her. “I walked away from that fight bloodied and whiplashed,” he told Vanity Fair. “We’re flying all over the set. It’s brutal. There’s jet packs, we are in the air, we’re colliding into the ships. It’s no small fight and we each hold our ground until the end.” As the episode closes, fans are left with questions concerning his motivations.

StyleCaster caught up with the actor to talk about his character’s absence from the season two finale, how he feels about stepping into the Star Wars universe, and (obviously) what his co-star/the Internet’s Daddy, Pascal, is like to work with.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Simon Kassianides
Image: Hannes Söderlund

I want to talk about what it must be like to see your face on these action figures. That must be incredibly surreal.

It is. I think there’s a sanity scale there. I’m very much, luckily, on the side of something where something just clicks off, that I can’t fully relate to it, which I think is healthy, or that if it’s a self-defense mechanism kicking in. But it is amazing at the same time. And I do have all the versions and they are somewhere in a special kind of shrine. But imagine you had an action figure created in your image. You’d just be like, “That looks like me; there are people playing with that somewhere.”

About keeping the role you were auditioning for such a mystery — what’s with the secrecy?

I think it’s multiple reasons. It starts all starts with Jon Favreau in terms of the guard. So to answer your question, in terms of the audition, you’re dealing with a man who is an accomplished actor, director, producer, and creator. Here is a man who would know what scenes to send out to the town of LA for actors to come in and execute what he needs to see… I think that you’re dealing with creators in him, and [producer] Dave Filoni—a guy that’s an incredible world builder, and storyteller, and you’ve got the man that George Lucas chose to extend his universe in the animated series. You’ve got people that care deeply. Why would you ruin the fun for a fan base that you respect so much? So, I don’t think it was Disney’s approach in terms of blocking it down, no one talking about it. I think it’s more from the side of care, where it releases once a week and you’re going to come into every episode with anticipation.

Pedro’s not lording it around on set, he’s one of the gang, we’re a collective; that’s his mentality.

I have to ask about some photos that leaked of you on the set of season three—and about fan theories in a minute—but can you tell me how you felt about those pap shots being published online?

When you’re there on set, you’re almost in a bubble when you’re filming and you’re not very necessarily cognizant of that fandom. You’re very much protected from it. So when those photos came out… I just think you’re aware that even when you’re protected, even when everyone’s trying to keep everything at bay, people will go to any lengths to get any details about what’s coming. And again, why? Why ruin the fun?

Can we talk about your first episode? The one where you save Mando-slash-Pedro Pascal’s life in “Chapter 11: The Heiress.”

It was the last day I was shooting actually, with Bryce [Dallas Howard] directing, Jon Favreau was there. And that ship was surrounded by technology and when you see it in the episode, surrounded by water, it just took my breath away. But filming that, when we arrive and we take our helmets off, I knew that would be a big moment. We shot it in the fall and it aired in the spring and I remember it coming on-air and thinking “Oh God, I hope I’m in it.” [laughs]

You thought you might’ve been cut?

You’re just so excited! And then, the helmets come off and that, for me, was when I realized I was forever part of it. When you see your own face. It’s just surreal.

Were there nerves coming into such an established IP? The Star Wars fandom is very passionate.

Of course, it’s inherent if you care. I think the unifying quality of all the actors and cast and crew on something like this is everybody is, if not a fan, they are a superfan. So there’s this real crossing over of fans into actual production. I am of an age where I am able to acknowledge the nerves and have a moment, and then you collectively all go ‘OK, there’s a job to do,’ and approach it. I think if I were a younger actor, I don’t know how I’d handle it. It’s a lot.

Simon Kassianides
Image: Hannes Söderlund

I think about that a lot with someone like Tom Holland. You go from being a relative no-name actor to one whose face is on every billboard imaginable basically overnight.

It’s been really encouraging on so many levels to see someone like him say, ‘You know what, I’m stepping back from social media, I need a break. I’ve got a look after my mind.’ I think it’s a great example to set.

Agreed. Speaking of other famous heartthrobs, can you tell me what Pedro is like to work with?

I really love him.

Same. Continue.

He came to my house, and we went for a hike one day. My neighbor came out—lovely guy, I used to live opposite him—and it was the best triple-take I’ve ever seen. But Pedro is accessible, he’s an extremely intelligent, well-read guy. He’s a New York-trained actor, he’s passionate, and he’s invested in so many things. It’s no surprise he’s such a great actor. But because he knows what he’s doing, he cares about the human condition. And I think that when you watch the performances he puts in, and then he makes you laugh and then he puts you at ease. He’s not lording it around on set, he’s one of the gang, we’re a collective; that’s his mentality. You see how much he’s enjoying it. What you see in the interviews recently, he’s not different from that. It’s not an act.

The Mandalorian is available to stream on Disney Plus. Here’s how to watch it for free.

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