Star Wars occupies such a big part of the collective consciousness because of its imaginative vistas, iconic images, delightful characters, and plays on mythic tropes. The galaxy long ago and far away also has a penchant for rich detail. George Lucas, and later, Disney, might try to make every background alien and costume change into an action figure, but at least they give each an interesting backstory.
Those backstories come into even greater play when they become parts of the non-film universe like books or TV shows, and can make an incidental character into a vital player in the saga. The characters listed here might not get to participate in swashbuckling lightsaber duels or great “I am your father” moments, but they still manage to win the hearts of Star Wars fans with their modest roles. Knowing their backstories can add even more enjoyment to a screening of the Star Wars canon, so check out 15 Background Characters from Star Wars, and Their Awesome Backstories!
The cabal of bounty hunters seen aboard Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back has long captivated viewers... to the point the incidental characters have become subjects of books, comics and other non-film adventures. Among them, standing about six feet tall, IG-88 is a repurposed assassin droid who achieved sentience and became a bounty hunter.
Following the decimation of the Clone Wars, the Empire banned droids like IG-88 from being manufactured. A laboratory on the planet Holowan continued research and development of assassin droids, however, and activated IG-88 - who promptly killed his makers! From there, he stuck out as a bounty hunter, gaining a reputation as a cold, calculating, and effective mercenary. Since the Disney acquisition of LucasFilm, a good number of IG-88’s adventures have fallen out of canon. Still, the presence of a discarded IG-88 body in the junkyard scenes of Bespin in Empire suggest he met with an early end while tracking the Millennium Falcon.
14 Aurra Sing
Keen eyes can spot Aurra Sing in a single shot of the entire Prequel Trilogy: a brief insert during Anakin’s podrace scene in The Phantom Menace. Additional materials at the time suggested that Sing would play a pivotal role in Attack of the Clones. While that role never materialized (author Michael Kaminski argues her role was adapted as Zam Wessel, the bounty hunter working with Jango Fett), Sing nevertheless did come into her own, though it would take a few years for her to reappear in canon.
Sing hails from the planet Nar Shaddaa, and became known for her skills as an assassin thanks to her sharpshooting ability. She joined forces with Boba Fett at the height of the Clone Wars to aid him in exacting revenge on the Jedi Order over the death of his father, Jango. Boba Fett assembled a team of bounty hunters, but despite their best efforts, attempts on the life of Mace Windu failed. Sing would later make several attacks on the Senate, including trying to assassinate Padme Amidala. Her ultimate fate remains unknown.
Best known as Bespin’s Bald Bot Butler, Lobot first appears as a sort of aide to Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. Lobot lived on Bespin his entire life before receiving his cybernetic implants (the weird computerized crest around his head) which would allow him direct interface with Cloud City’s computers, and to make greater computational calculations. As a side effect of the implant, however, he lost a good portion of his personality.
Lobot met Lando Calrissian shortly after the Battle of Yavin, and the two formed an unlikely partnership. Lando and Lobot engaged in a cavalier lifestyle, touring the galaxy and occasionally running afoul of a crime boss or two. When the pair crossed paths with the Empire, however, their fortunes changed. After sustaining injuries in a fight with the Empire, Lobot began to lose the last vestiges of his personality to his implants, which had been programmed to take over his body should his mind “die.” Lando kept his old friend around after settling in Cloud City, in hopes of finding a cure for his ailment. Following the Battle of Endor, Lobot played an important role in helping the Rebellion liberate Bespin from Imperial rule.
12 The Max Rebo Band
Otherwise known as the Fleetwood Mac of the Star Wars universe, viewers first saw the Max Rebo Band in Return of the Jedi. Led by the blue, elephantine keyboardist Max Rebo, the band actually consists of twelve rotating members, and three core musicians. Droopy McCool, the mushroom-like flutist, and Sy Snoodles, the lead vocalist, also performed alongside Max Rebo at most of their events.
The group, consisting of its three core members, first earned a following while performing on the planet Tatooine, filling in as a band in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Within a year, they’d become the in-house music group for Jabba the Hutt, taking up residence in his palace. There, their reputation as a powerhouse pop act grew, and they took in percussionists, back up singers and an alternate lead vocalist, the Yuzzem alien Joh Yowza. After the death of Jabba the Hutt at the hands of Princess Leia, the group disbanded. Droopy went off in search of his own species, Sy began a solo career, and Max became a successful owner of a chain of restaurants.
11 Aayla Secura
Aayla Secura had barely obtained the rank of Jedi Knight when she found herself pulled into the genesis of the Clone Wars. A blue Twi’lek, she trained under Jedi Master Quinlan Vos, and showed proficiency at swordplay. Throughout most of her career as a Jedi, she would wield two lightsabers at once.
After aiding in the rescue of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on Geonosis, the Republic assigned Secura as commander of a fleet. She befriended Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker in the battle on the planet Quell, and helped them survive a shipwreck on the planet Maridun. Her friendship with Ahsoka Tano proved especially helpful, as she tried to console Tano over doubts about the Jedi Order.
In the later days of the Clone Wars, Secura and her fleet stationed on the planet Felucia, known for exotic plant life. She met her end there in Revenge of the Sith at the hands of her own troops, after the Emperor issued Order 66.
10 Admiral Ackbar
“It’s a trap!” Rarely in Star Wars, or any film for that matter, has a single line catapulted an incidental character to legend status. Admrial Gial Ackbar was born on the Republic planet Mon Cala. At a young age, he joined the Mon Calamari military, and with the coming of the Clone Wars, found himself in midst of political intrigue. Both the Republic and the Separatist Confederacy wanted Mon Cala’s allegiance, and would later help spark a civil war on Mon Cala. Ackbar worked as a Republic informant, and later, an envoy, to help keep the planet allied with the Republic.
Because of his close friendship with Senator Meena Tills, Ackbar allied himself with the Rebellion following the Battle of Yavin. His experience in the Mon Cala army and during the Clone Wars proved invaluable to the Rebellion, and Ackbar became one of its highest ranking military commanders. In Return of the Jedi, he would command the entire Rebel Fleet at the Battle of Endor, where he would shout his famous utterance. Ackbar retired to Mon Cala following the establishment of the new Republic, though internal turmoil would drag him once again into the fray. When his close friend Leia Organa found her political career ruined after the public revelation of her true parentage—that she was actually the daughter of Darth Vader—Ackbar and Organa paired to form the Resistance, a militia group designed to help repel the advances of the Imperial-inspired First Order.
9 Nien Nunb
Nien Nunb cut his teeth as a pilot flying spice freighters for his homeworld of Sullust. However, with the rise of the Empire, and Sullust allying with it, Nunb struck out on his own as a smuggler and mercenary. Following the destruction of Alderaan, Nunb proved himself invaluable to the Rebellion as he smuggled and rescued groups of refugee Alderaanians off of Sullust. His actions earned special commendations from Princess Leia, and he would become a frequent personal pilot and aide to the deposed princess.
By the time of the Battle of Endor, Nien Nunb had become one of the Rebellion’s most decorated pilots. In Return of the Jedi, he would co-pilot the Millennium Falcon alongside his old friend Lando Calrissian, whom he’d met during his smuggler days. The two successfully led the attack that destroyed Death Star II and ultimately sent the Empire into a downward spiral. In the final days of the Empire, Nunb played an important role in defending the planet Naboo from destruction at the hands of the Imperial Fleet.
Nunb remained active in the early days of the Republic, though he would later join Leia Organa’s Resistance movement following her departure from the Senate.
8 Lor San Tekka
One of the most intriguing, albeit brief, characters to emerge from The Force Awakens, the elderly Lor San Tekka lived to witness the rise and fall of the Empire. Though not Force sensitive himself, San Tekka had a fascination with the Jedi Order, and became something of a scholar on the Jedi after their destruction. Throughout the days of the Empire, San Tekka traveled the galaxy amassing as much knowledge as he could regarding the Jedi, and ultimately concluded that the Emperor had tried to frame them as corrupt.
Following the Battle of Endor, San Tekka proved himself invaluable to the Republic as an information broker, and as a Jedi historian. He worked with Luke Skywalker to help re-establish the Jedi Order and their dogma, and also befriended Skywalker’s first apprentice, Ben Solo.
San Tekka retired to the planet Jakku, where he formed the Church of the Force—a religious group that believed in the powers of the Force without trying to manipulate it, a la the Jedi. San Tekka would become a notorious figure once again, after both Resistance and First Order forces learned that he had access to a partial map leading to the planet Ahch-To, home of the first Jedi temple. As seen in The Force Awakens, San Tekka managed to get the map to Resistance fighter Poe Dameron before an attack by the First Order claimed his life.
7 Jocasta Nu
The Jedi Jocasta Nu once served on the Jedi Council, before retiring to a position as chief librarian of the Jedi Archives. There, she worked to maintain order and access to the sensitive information held in the Jedi Archives. Nu helped Obi-Wan Kenobi discover the missing planet Kamino, and told him of the origins of Count Dooku, the former Jedi helping to fan the flames of galactic civil war. Her help in Attack of the Clones led Kenobi to learn that someone had deleted records of Kamino from the Jedi Archives, and that Dooku had likely turned to the Dark Side after his departure from the Jedi Order.
Following the breakout of the Clone Wars, Nu aided Ahsoka Tano in discovering the fate of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas on the planet Felucia. Jocasta Nu continued to maintain and operate the Archives until the issuing of Order 66, when the clone troops and Anakin Skywalker committed genocide of the Jedi Order.
6 Sarco Plank
The scavenger and arms dealer Sarco Plank first came to the attention of the Rebellion just after the Battle of Yavin. Plank lived on the planet Devaron during the Clone Wars, and witnessed the destruction of the Jedi after the edict of Order 66. The Jedi had established a temple on Devaron, and Plank had long fantasized about pillaging its treasures, both material and ethereal. Because of Imperial fortifications, Plank would not get his chance until after the Battle of Yavin, when by coincidence he met the young pilot Luke Skywalker. Plank led Skywalker to the temple, where the pair encountered a group of stormtroopers. Plank and Skywalker managed to defeat the Imperial forces, though their alliance failed when Plank wanted to scavenge the treasures of the temple. Though defeated, Plank survived his encounter with Skywalker, and spent the rest of the Galactic Civil War in hiding.
Plank relocated to the settlements on the planet Jakku following the historic battle between the Empire and the Republic there. He continued to scavenge, work as a bounty hunter, and deal weapons until the droid BB-8 arrived during the events of The Force Awakens.
5 Kit Fisto
Before the Nautolian Jedi Kit Fisto met his fate in Revenge of the Sith, the character played an important role in the Clone Wars, and within the Jedi Order.
Fisto had trained and become a full Jedi by the time of the Clone Wars, even training his own apprentice along the way. He accompanied Mace Windu in the assault on Geonosis, and the Jedi would later task him with tracking down Nute Gunray, the Viceroy of the Trade Federation. Fisto’s investigation led him to the planet Vassek, where he fell victim to a trap set by General Grevious. Fisto and Grievous engaged in a furious duel, which left the General wounded. Fisto used the opportunity to escape and rejoin the Jedi.
Fisto played an important role in the civil war on Mon Cala, and in keeping the pivotal planet aligned with the Republic. He returned to Coruscant in the final days of the Clone Wars, and tried to aid Mace Windu in the arrest of Chancellor Palpatine. The Sith Lord proved more powerful than the Jedi anticipated, however, and Fisto met his death at the hands of Darth Sidious.
4 Bazine Netal
The slinky, mascara-clad informant that alerts the First Order of the presence of BB-8 in Maz Kanata’s castle in The Force Awakens, Bazine Netal had long earned a reputation as a dangerous bounty hunter in the post-Empire galaxy.
The orphan Netal began her career after attending a combat school on her home planet of Chaaktil. She proved herself proficient in hand-to-hand combat, and set out as a bounty hunter at age 14. An attack with a flame thrower left her head scarred, and she would become synonymous with the head coverings she used to conceal her disfigurement. An espionage mission brought her to the attention of the First Order, which employed Netal as a spy on the planet Takodana. Her presence there paid off: she managed to alert First Order forces to the arrival of the Millennium Falcon with Han Solo, Finn, Rey and the droid BB-8. The First Order staged an attack, and managed to kidnap Rey as an accessory to locating Luke Skywalker.
3 Wulff Yularen
One of the first high-ranking officers seen aboard the Death Star, Wulff Yularen makes his first appearance in A New Hope. Yularen began his military career as an officer of the Republic in the years before the Clone Wars. He became known as a talented intelligence officer, and led the charge in locating the Sepratist General Grevious, further advancing in the ranks of the Republic navy. At the same time, he developed a friendship with Grand Moff Tarkin, and the two conducted a number of investigations into Republic and Jedi personnel for their alleged Sepratist sympathies.
Following the Clone Wars, Yularen rose as an intelligence officer for the Empire, eventually becoming the head of all Imperial Intelligence. His prominence led to his assignment to the Death Star, alongside Tarkin. He participated in staff meetings there and witnessed the annihilation of Alderaan, before he met his end during the Battle of Yavin. Like Tarkin, Yularen remained aboard the station during the attack, and died in its destruction.
2 Tasu Leech
Throughout the Star Wars universe, the Hutts have a nasty reputation as vile gangsters, though the movies seldom shows just how nasty. Additional materials provide a look at the destructive and criminal activities of the Hutts, and one of their victims: Tasu Leech.
After the Battle of Endor left the galaxy in transition, the Hutts lost a good deal of their sway, as well as scores of slaves they had owned for generations. Leech was among them, and hid in the Outer Rim where he formed a gang of his own, known as the Kanjiklub. Comprised of former Hutt slaves with combat abilities, the gang fanned out around the galaxy to engage in black market activities. The Kanjiklub established a rivalry with the Guavian Death Gang, and the two clans battled for years. Just prior to the events of The Force Awakens, the Guavians and Kanjiklub formed a wary alliance to capture Han Solo aboard his ship the Eravana. Their attempt fails, and Leech meets his death when a rathtar consumes him.
1 Chief Chirpa
The chief of the Ewok village, Chirpa makes his first appearance in Return of the Jedi. Native to Endor, he helped organize his primitive species into a hunter-gathering society. He’d presided over the tribe for a full 42 years before the Empire arrived on Endor to begin construction of a base, and of the second Death Star. Later, when Han Solo led a rebel strike force to the planet in hopes of staging an assault on the base, Chirpa and the other Ewoks proved invaluable to the Rebel cause. Chirpa initiated Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker into the Ewok tribe, which allied itself with the Rebels. Chirpa helped lead the Ewok attack on the shield generator base, where the Rebels succeeded in their attack.
Chirpa lived long enough to see the Ewok tribe triumph over the far more technologically advanced Empire, but not much longer. In the months following the Battle of Endor, he died of natural causes, and ceded leadership of the Ewoks to his daughter, Princess Kneesa.
KEY RELEASE DATES
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story release date: Dec 16, 2016
- Star Wars 8 / Star Wars: Episode VIII release date: Dec 15, 2017