The actors behind Kazuda Xiono and Tam Ryvora discuss the show’s second season and the series finale, coming January 26.
“There is conflict ahead,” Suzie McGrath warns ominously.
The actor, who voices Tam Ryvora on Star Wars Resistance, has watched her character spend the show’s second and final season estranged from her friends aboard the Colossus and training inside the cockpit of a First Order TIE fighter. Now, as we prepare for the series finale this Sunday, McGrath and her co-star Christopher Sean say there are still plenty of surprises and emotional twists to come.
In some ways, joining the First Order is everything Tam has dreamed of, finally granting her the chance to be a real pilot. But the shift from outspoken mechanic to rank-and-file soldier hasn’t been without its challenges. “She joined the First Order,” McGrath says, “but she has not lost her heart or her morality.”
Then there’s Kaz “Kaztastrophe” Xiono, the pilot-turned-spy-turned-Ace. He has spent the entire second season recovering from the shock of watching his homeworld destroyed by the First Order and continuing to fight back, while simultaneously helping his friends aboard the Colossus find a safe place to call home. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for Sean, he says. “I came in just trying to be this leader and the great part about it is Season Two allows for that to happen. Kaz quickly grows into that role. He’s very aware of himself and his team and how important it is to get back to Tam. He’s adamant about getting her back,” Sean says.
“It just makes me so happy that Kaz hasn’t given up on Tam,” McGrath adds. “Because he could have so easily. To see him not giving up on his friend, I think that really is a testament to how far they’ve come in their friendship from the beginning of Season One.”
The pair -- who have a distinctly sibling-like chemistry even outside the recording booth, talking over each other excitedly -- recently sat down together with StarWars.com to reflect on the ways Star Wars Resistance added to the sequel trilogy timeline, how Kaz and Tam gave us a fresh perspective on the First Order conflict, and drop a few hints about what’s yet to come.
‘A lot of growing up’
Through Kaz and Tam, we have come to understand life in the New Republic from two very different points of view. At the end of the first season, Kaz was far from home and watching through a holo transmission as his planet was utterly annihilated by the might of the First Order. Starkiller Base ripped through Hosnian Prime and the surrounding planets, laying waste to the entire galactic senate and countless innocents who called the system home. The scene, previously witnessed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, took on new significance through Kaz’s eyes.
Sean says he received the script for the episode the day before shooting, a typical practice to ensure that sensitive materials stay under wraps. “The night before I was really, really focusing on making sure that moment hit,” he recalls. “I read it and read it and read it over and over. For me, it was extremely impactful. Even though we’re all playing while we’re recording and having a good time joking around, I knew in the back of my head I gotta bring it.” He relied on his training as an actor, trying to find the right level of emotion to bring to the moment. “You apply all of the knowledge and all of the teachings that you’ve gotten into that moment,” he says. “I was like, ‘OK, well, it’s supposed to be you lose everything. How does that sound? Now make it bigger.’ You substitute, as well. What would it feel like to lose something you love? You think about that and you get yourself into an emotional state.”
For Tam, the granddaughter of an Imperial factory worker, the First Order meant something quite different -- stability, maybe for the first time in her life. It offered comfort in the form of good food, and a guide in Agent Tierny who showed her compelling evidence that the promises Jarek Yeager had been making all had been lies to cover his involvement as a radical with the Resistance, in league with Kaz as a spy himself.
“I think for me things got a lot more serious, the stakes for Tam just skyrocketed,” McGrath says of her character arc. “She’s been pushed into this corner with so many different emotions and feeling betrayed and having to volunteer or fall into the First Order and then dealing with how she is naturally. Wanting to be outspoken and wanting to say her piece and do things her way, but having to really toe the line and take it seriously. We see a lot of instances throughout Season Two where Tam is called up to put her helmet on or let go of her former self, and so I think we see a big journey for her, a lot of growing up.”
The moment Tam stepped aboard the First Order ship, the regime represented hope and a means of escaping a life she was only just learning had been something of a lie. But throughout the second season, we’ve watched the character struggle with conforming to the new status quo and never really losing her compass. “I think we do see that in ‘Live Fire’ when they’re training and she helps Rucklin,” McGrath says. “That just comes naturally to her. We are seeing a back and forth between how she feels, what she thinks is right and humane, and the things she’s seeing. And being part of the First Order.”
The episode is still one of McGrath’s favorites. “It was exhilarating and I loved seeing the two sides training and finally Tam flying and doing really well at it. That felt to me that the character was getting what she wanted. And then toward the end the emotional scenes. We’re heading into the end of Season Two and there’s going to be some really lovely emotionally-led scenes, which are beautiful to play.”
Walking into the studio to record “The Escape,” the series finale, felt bittersweet, Sean says. “It doesn’t feel real,” he adds, “but at the same time it’s such a beautiful ending. It’s such a beautiful ending! I can’t wait for everyone to watch it. I think we did a wonderful job creating such a strong parallel story to the sequel trilogy.”
“It was amazing to be seeing people who I hadn’t seen in so long,” adds McGrath; most of her episodes were recorded without the Colossus actors in the same session to heighten the sense of separation.
Stepping into the Star Wars galaxy has been transformative for the two actors -- “It’s been life-changing,” Sean says emphatically -- and an experience that helped them grow personally and professionally. Sean recently started working with The Peter Mayhew Foundation, a charitable organization started by the late actor who originally portrayed Chewbacca.
“The whole team, being there and being a part of the family,” Sean adds, rattling off a long list of people he’s thankful for meeting through the process. From the recording session director Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, to executive producers Athena Portillo, Brandon Auman, and Justin Ridge, to his fellow actors, Sean learned something from everyone. Breaking into an impression of actor Scott Lawrence, who portrayed Jarek Yeager, Sean recalls an early recording session when his excitement over his character’s physical comedy was making him a little too jittery in the recording booth. “Hey Kaz, you’ve got to plant your feet,” Lawrence told him. “Donald Faison, when he walked in and started creating his character Hype, that was amazing. Watching Bobby Moynihan and Jim Rash, Flix and Orka,” he says. "Being able to work with them and watch them was just phenomenal. They’re so funny. Josh Brener and all his ad-libs,” he says, making McGrath chuckle. “And Suzie, she just lit up the room.”
McGrath takes away lessons from Sean as well, she says. “Christopher has taught me that generosity is key. Because the way that he is in the recording studio, it’s just delightful. And it creates such a lovely, positive energy. You would say some lines and catch him looking at you waving, smiling, giving you the thumbs up,” she says, as Sean goes uncharacteristically silent. “It was so nice to get to work with you and see how you are, you know?”
“Thank you very much,” Sean says finally. “That’s really kind. Sorry, I got a little choked up there.”
“The best thing is working with such awesome people and then meeting the fans and watching everyone interacting and seeing how excited they get as the story’s progressing,” McGrath says. “It’s going to be fun,” she adds of the finale. “So get ready.”
Star Wars Resistance returns for the series finale January 26 on Disney Channel and Disney XD.
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.
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