Lucasfilm’s second Star Wars spinoff film, a prequel centering around young Han Solo, is now in principal photography ahead of its scheduled May 2018 premiere. Obviously, the project required the studio to recast some classic franchise characters with younger actors, and the duo of Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover are locked in to play scoundrels Han and Lando Calrissian. But they aren’t the only newcomers injecting new life into familiar faces of a galaxy far, far away. The role of Solo’s best friend Chewbacca is one that had to passed off to someone else as well.

As many fans know, Peter Mayhew first portrayed the lovable Wookiee, most recently appearing in 2015’s The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, Mayhew’s age and ailing knee problems severely limited his performance in the suit by the time Episode VII rolled around, and he could not handle the more physical elements of the production. With that in mind, Lucasfilm brought in former basketball player Joonas Suotamo to relieve Mayhew of his duties, and reprise the part in this year’s The Last Jedi (which will also feature Mayhew). With Han Solo, Suotamo has officially taken over as the full-time Chewbacca, and he’s now issued a statement about that development.

Taking to Twitter, Suotamo shared a message expressing much gratitude for everyone who has helped him in his life and that he plans to honor his legendary predecessor. Check it out below:

While not exactly the same, the situation is similar to famous droid R2-D2, who is now being played by actor Jimmy Vee (stepping in for the late Kenny Baker). If Disney is to keep making Star Wars films for the foreseeable future, then this is a necessary component of their plan, and it’s nice to see both Vee and Suotamo be humbled and honored by their involvement in something so monumental. Everyone involved with the modern Star Wars movies seems to have a clear understanding of how important the franchise is to viewers, and know that making these projects is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. The recent comments made by Suotamo and Vee will only endear themselves to fans, making them instant favorites on the convention circuit.

At first glance, playing Chewbacca seems like an easier task than following Harrison Ford’s footsteps, but there’s much more to the role than simply wearing the costume. Through five live-action film appearances, viewers have grown accustomed to Chewie’s mannerisms, and it’s crucial Suotamo carries those over in The Last Jedi and beyond so it looks and feels like the same character. Luckily, the youngster learned under Mayhew’s wing, which will certainly be a monumental help. From the sound of it, Suotamo will keep whatever lessons he was taught in mind whenever he’s on-set, and there should be an easy and smooth transition.

MORE: Can Alden Ehrenreich Do Harrison Ford Justice?

Source: Joonas Suotamo

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