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“Simon Kassianides: The Anatomy of a ‘Mandalorian’ Fight”

"Simon Kassianides: The Anatomy of a 'Mandalorian' Fight"

“Well, I’m not sure if Axe Woves is a fan of Star Wars, but he’s a fan of the series and he’s been my friend for years,” Howard says. “And so I think there are some secrets there.”

“I mean, come on, Santa’s got nothing on me.”

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Image Source: Courtesy of Simon Kassianides

As a child, Simon Kassianides and his family, like many, had an impressive collection of Star Wars action figures. “I was a massive Star Wars fan,” the actor tells POPSUGAR. “I grew up with all the toys . . . [My older brother and I] had an Ewok Village, I think. But we had figures completely decimated by the time I got my hands on them — no arms, heads would be popping off and all sorts. I do remember an original Darth Vader without an arm. I just thought he was the coolest thing in the world.”

Kassianides now has something even cooler: a Star Wars action figure of himself. And while we can’t speak for all of the mini Axe Woveses out in the galaxy, the star’s onscreen “The Mandalorian” character has his body parts intact — so far. Kassianides’s Mandalorian, Axe Woves, made his debut in season two of the hit streaming series, was conspicuously absent in that season’s finale, and returned in an explosive way in season three, episode six.

In that installment, viewers learn that Bo-Katan’s failure to obtain the Darksaber caused a splintering between her and Axe Woves. Their reunion is charged: there’s “shared emotional pain that Bo-Katan had when she was about to arrive on the field to face me and the conflict of positions between the two of us,” Kassianides explains.

And while there is a “heartfelt” ending to the face-off, the actual fight is intense — and required extensive preparation. “The stunt team work tirelessly on this choreographed, well-presented idea of the fight — and then they have the experience and expertise to invite opinion in,” Kassianides tells POPSUGAR. “[Director] Jon Favreau is instrumental in making the choices and deciding how best the fight reflects the characters and how he wants them played out. So that’s presented before you even get there.”

The next step is working with the actors through the fight sequence, piece by piece. “The stunt guy is going to town, and you step in as much as is possible to do safely,” the actor says. “Katee [Sackhoff, aka Bo-Katan] and I are very mindful and we care a lot, and what I’m really proud of is that a lot of the emotional weight that we put into the fight, it felt layered. It felt like it was emotionally charged on both sides. And you see that in the build of the fight emotionally, not just the one, two, three steps of fights.”

“What I’m really proud of is that a lot of the emotional weight that we put into the fight, it felt layered.”

The entire process of filming the scene for episode six took a week, Kassianides explains. “We were outdoors, banged, bruised, the really amazing stuff was done by the stunt guys and the stunt team. When that happens, you just make sure you are there to watch and just applaud them and just think, ‘My word. I’m definitely not going to take credit for that.'”

Having a tenured director like Bryce Dallas Howard at the helm of the installment certainly helped, Kassianides says. Calling Howard “an actor’s director,” he notes that she has a “wealth of knowledge and experience and patience” for her performers’ processes. “You feel safe to extend yourself in those choices knowing that she’s going to shape it with a very, very keen eye. Not just as a director, but also as a massive fan of Star Wars, having grown up with George Lucas in her family circle,” he elaborates. “So there’s a really rich, respectful legacy in how she approaches it.”

Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) in Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Image Source: 2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM

At the time of Kassianides’s chat with POPSUGAR, “The Mandalorian” finale hadn’t yet aired. In it (spoiler alert), Axe Woves crashes the Mandalorian ship into the Imperial base to destroy it — a heroic conclusion to his season three journey. Kassianides had teased harboring “countless secrets” related to Axe Woves’s storyline: “I mean, come on, Santa’s got nothing on me.”

“Just when I was about to reveal a secret, you think, is that a blow dart behind that bush going to hit me in the neck?” he says. “The thing is that on set, there’s this level of care from Jon Favreau of understanding that everyone’s a superfan, and as such, why would you want to ruin the fun? When you are as giddy a fan as everyone is as a collective, you are aware of the responsibility of the patience that comes with it, and you just don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun.”

In general, Kassianides is pinching himself that the fan reaction to Axe Woves “was so great.” He says, “You just think, ‘Wow, well, how lucky am I?'”

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