As the first live-action Star Wars series on Disney+, The Mandalorian has gone on to set the expectations for shows like The Book of Boba Fett, Andor, and those still to come like Ahsoka and The Acolyte. In the near four years since The Mandalorian premiered, the titular character has become a new icon in the Star Wars universe and has gone even further as an extremely recognizable figure in modern pop culture as a whole with little Grogu (or Baby Yoda) by his side. However, a slew of other new original characters have also stood out from the show’s large supporting cast. One, in particular, started off in a very minor role before taking off to new heights in The Mandalorian Season 3. We’re of course talking about Emily Swallow as The Armorer.
The Armorer is a member of the remnant Mandalorian clan and is responsible for crafting their gear and weapons. She is a greatly experienced mentor and warrior, as her words carry great weight among her Mandalorian people. The Armorer has played a key role in the series by providing wisdom and support to the main character Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) as he travels across the galaxy to find Mandalorian clans and protect Grogu from the clutches of the Empire. Despite her few appearances in the show overall, The Armorer has quickly become a fan favorite due to her badass demeanor and impressive fighting skills. Every time she’s on-screen, The Mandalorian is elevated by her gravitas as you know things are about to get very serious.
Actress Emily Swallow who portrays the golden helmet-bearing Armorer attests that she had no idea just how big the The Mandalorian would become when she first sat down with executive producer/series creator Jon Favreau and Lucasfilm. Star Wars aside, Swallow is a seasoned actor whose work can be seen both on screen and on stage. Her theater career began on Broadway where she performed in several Shakespeare productions including King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She would go on to shine in several hit television shows such as Supernatural and The Mentalist, the latter of which she worked alongside her fellow Mandalorian co-star Pedro Pascal. Additionally, Swallow provided the voice and motion capture performance for the role of devout Seraphite Emily who faces off against Abby in The Last of Us Part II video game.
The Armorer plays a more crucial role in The Mandalorian Season 3 as we finally dive deeper into the extensive lore and culture of the planet Mandalore. In honor of the season soon reaching its end on Disney+, we sat down with Emily Swallow to discuss the Disney+ show’s impact on pop culture and her own personal growth as an actress through the portrayal of her character. We talk about the Armorer’s evolution and the direction lead creatives Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have taken the series in. Plus, Swallow reveals just how much time she actually spent in costume doing her own stunts while filming this latest season of The Mandalorian.
Exclusive Interview with Emily Swallow for The Mandalorian Season 3 on Disney+
Looking back to the time that preceded the first season, do you remember what your first thoughts were when you heard of this project called The Mandalorian?
Emily Swallow: When I was first made aware of the show, it was not called The Mandalorian and I was told very little about it. I really had very few thoughts about it because I tend to be very cautiously optimistic in this business. I knew that it was something to do with Star Wars, but there weren’t any live-action Star Wars TV shows at the time and it was on a new streaming channel that hadn’t really aired anything yet. I was pretty skeptical and thought maybe this could be something cool, but I don’t know. I’m really glad I thought that because, holy cow, if I had any real idea I think I would have been completely nervous out of my mind for the audition, and probably would have tanked it.
What has it been like these past few years, watching The Mandalorian cement its place in pop culture and becoming such a phenomenon?
Emily Swallow: I have nothing in my life that I could possibly compare it to. It’s really remarkable and has been such a fun journey full of unexpected twists and turns along the way. First of all, to get to play such a special character who teaches me so much because she is this very grounded presence. I feel like that’s something that I’m constantly seeking more in my life, so every time I get to step into her, it is a true gift. For season one, I was on set for maybe a total of seven days and I knew so little about the story overall. I knew that I was having some impact on Mando’s journey, but I didn’t really know what his entire story was until I saw the whole thing air. Only then I understood just how much she was guiding him.
So to see that for myself and then in ripples after that, meeting fans at conventions and hearing the impact that this character has had on them, is just astounding to me. I’m just so humbled and grateful that they created this character who is so selfless. She has been largely responsible for holding the Mandalorians together considering how they are pretty fractured, but her patience and willingness to try is what unite them. I’m so grateful for that because that really resonates for me in today’s world, there are so many divisions among us and so anything that can unite people, like the way Star Wars does, is pretty special.
After appearing in three episodes during the first season, did you ever think that The Armorer would go on to have a much more substantial role as she does now?
Emily Swallow: I certainly hoped so, but I didn’t count on anything. Jon [Favreau] actually told me while we were shooting season one that he had originally written it so that she sacrificed herself in that fight with the stormtroopers at the end. I was glad that she came out of that alive. But then, I really had no idea, because I wasn’t in season two and no one told me that I would be definitely coming back. There’s so much secrecy around it. They don’t tell us anything ahead of time, we find out that we have work practically the day before they want us to show up. I never dreamed because only they know where the story’s going.
Of course, I think The Armorer is important and I can dream up a million ways that she is relevant and how we need to see her all the time, but I don’t know where the story is going to go. They called me to tell me that they wanted me to come back for that episode of The Book of Boba Fett and I was thrilled. When I got the script for that one, it was so heavy with all of this lore and I wanted to make sure I knew what of that information was new and what of it was supposedly canon.
So I got on a zoom call with Jon and Dave [Filoni], and they said ‘We’re setting up some stuff for season three here, and you’re going to be in a lot of that.” They said it so casually, I was like “Wait what?” That was the first time I heard that. I was hesitant to even really believe it and in my head, I was like, “Anything can change.” But when I did finally get the call checking to see if my schedule was clear and telling me that they did want me to come back for some episodes, I was absolutely thrilled.
What are your thoughts on The Mandalorian Season 3 showing much more of Mandalorian culture after it was kept mysterious for so many years?
Emily Swallow: I think we’re ready for it. The fans have so many questions, and rightfully so. But I’m so glad that they’ve held off on it. It’s been so interesting to see the tensions that have come up knowing that a lot of those questions are hanging in the air and knowing that people want answers to them – but also knowing that it’s so much more interesting when you have to wait.
When it comes to playing The Armorer, how often are you actually in the armor yourself and how much of it is working with a stunt double and doing voice work?
Emily Swallow: Most of the time, it’s me. With the more complicated stunt work, it’s a double. I try to learn all the fight work and do what I can. We often shoot episodes concurrently, so sometimes it’s just a matter of if they need me to be shooting another scene and if I’m not talking in a fight scene, then they can shoot that without you, even though I really want to be doing it! I mean, that scene with the big turtle-dragon-gator monster in season 3, I was there when we were shooting all of that and learned all of the moves except for the very technical stuff that I’m just not trained to do.
I’m so appreciative of JJ Dashnaw, our stunt coordinator, because he’s just such a team player and he loves it when actors are willing to do the work and try to get in there. Sometimes it’s a matter of time where if there’s something that is complicated, it’s going to be more cost-effective and efficient to have the trained professionals do it rather than the actor. All of us actors try to learn all of this stuff if the time and schedule permit it, but we also have an absolutely incredible stunt team who’s ready to do it as well.
How collaborative has your experience been working on The Mandalorian, especially with Pedro Pascal considering the relationship between your two characters?
Emily Swallow: I have the wonderful advantage of having known Pedro for years. We’ve known each other through friends in New York, and we worked together on The Mentalist. My relationship with Mando is through both Pedro and stunt doubles Brendan [Wayne] and Lateef [Crowder]. I have a lot of conversations with Jon and Dave because there are so many people who play Mando, and it all has to go through them to make sure that it’s streamlined.
It is such a testament to Pedro, Brendan, and Lateef that they are able to work together to create such a cohesive character. You would never know that it’s multiple people playing one character, and they are all so skilled and creative in their own right. I’ve had wonderful conversations with all of them about Mando, and because they all have different areas of expertise and incredibly valid viewpoints, it helps you think about it from different angles. It’s a really unique experience, but I think it actually makes the character better.
You have worked with a different director on nearly every episode of The Mandalorian that you’ve been featured in. What is it like to bounce between different directors and their own distinctive styles during your time on set?
Emily Swallow: It has been a much more cohesive experience on this show than on other series I’ve done. I think Jon doesn’t shy away from choosing directors who have unique styles, but there is such a concerted effort to make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of the story that we’re telling and the creative tone of the show. He makes himself so available, just to make sure the heart of the story is consistent and it doesn’t get too crazy, because we don’t shoot episodes one at a time. A lot of it depends on what set we have up and when because the sets are so expensive, so we’ll shoot a few days of episode three, then a few days of episode six, and then a few days of episode two.
Plus, we’re usually shooting more than one episode at a time because we have two crews going at the same time. So we’ll jump back and forth between episodes while filming the whole season, in between different directors. Everyone has to keep track of where they are with their characters and where they are in the story. The directors have to also keep track of where they’re fitting into the overall arc of the season. I feel like all of the directors are very generous in terms of wanting to serve the overall story, no one is trying to commandeer their particular episode or put a stamp on it in any sort of way that takes away from the rest of the show.
To bring us home, what are you hoping audiences take away from The Mandalorian Season 3 and The Armorer’s arc within it?
Emily Swallow: Oh, boy. What do I want to say that won’t give anything away? Well, I hope that people will see that there is value and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable and in listening to opinions that are challenging to you and working through that discomfort.