An in depth interview with Misty Rosas of “The Mandalorian.” Written by Catherine Ramirez
George Lucas once described the late Peter Mayhew as a mime actor. Mayhew, who portrayed Chewbacca in the Star Wars Films for almost 40 years, had only the use of his eyes and body language as a means of expression as the 7’2” tall Wookie. To be able to express and convey so
many different emotions across a cinematic screen is no easy task, and yet Mayhew did it to utter perfection, all while performing within a suit. I have not seen another suit performer convey such emotion as Peter Mayhew did when he performed as Chewbacca, until I saw the Ugnaught Kuiil in, “The Mandalorian.”
Who is Misty Rosas?
To understand Kuiil, you’ll have to understand the character’s suit actor, Misty Rosas. Misty was born in Mission Viejo, California and raised in the mountains at Los Piños in the Cleveland National Forest. She had a unique upbringing, enjoying the forest as her backyard.
She also became quite a skilled gymnast. Misty said that her mom took her to her first gymnastics class when she was 2 ½ years old, and quite often there would be tears when it was time for Misty to leave.
Misty tells me, “Class was never long enough. I was immediately hooked! I loved gymnastics! I loved it so much that it was my life from age 2 ½ until I was 16. By the time I was 12 years old I was a Child Elite gymnast on the U.S. National Gymnastics Team, and again as a Junior Elite at age 13.
The Olympics were in my sights, but some dreams don’t come true. For me personally, I loved doing gymnastics, but I did not like competing! The mental, physical and emotional pressure just became too much for me, and all of that pressure manifested into an eating disorder. At 16 years old I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life, I had to walk away from the sport I loved so much because I was losing my battle with Anorexia. A battle I would fight for many, many years.”
Memories of Misty’s childhood were bittersweet. There was joy but there was also heartbreak. Even with the heartbreak Misty was appreciative of the lessons she learned from her years of training and competing as a gymnast.
“Like all things in life,” Misty tells me, “you’ve gotta take the good with the bad, and learn from the lessons! The invaluable lessons!”
Misty went on to tell me that gymnastics not only taught her how to strength train, but the sport also trained her mentally and gave her emotional strength as well. All those years of gymnastics training gave Misty an understanding of how hard and how long she would have to work at something for it to become a reality.
She went on to explain, “You just gotta have faith in your journey and keep checking in with yourself. Do you love what you do? You have to love it more than anything because (for most of us) success doesn’t happen overnight. At the end of the day, something like Star Wars is the icing on the cake, and I appreciate it so much more because of all of the struggles I endured and the very long journey I’ve taken to be here now.”
A Twist of Fate…and Some Imagination, Huh?
Misty walked away from gymnastics, choosing to give up the dream of being in the Olympics at the age of 16, bravely disclosing to me that she was lost for a while. Misty ended up graduating high school early and enrolled at Saddleback College, a local community college located in Mission Viejo, California. There she enrolled in dance and voice classes. It’s in those classes where Misty would find her joy once more.
There were a couple of young ladies in Misty’s dance classes that were parade performers at Disneyland. Because of Misty’s demure height, they told her that she should audition at Disneyland because there were parts in her height range.
Misty tells me, “I didn’t know how to approach auditioning, so I called up Disneyland and I went in for an interview but it was perhaps a lack of communication because the interview was not to work in Entertainment in the Parades Department, it was to work at the hotel. I told the interviewer that I was really trying to figure out how to be a dancer in the parades at the theme park.”
By a twist of fate, Disneyland Entertainment had just sent over a stack of flyers and Misty was given one. She was told that there was a new show coming out called Fantasmic! (Yes the exclamation mark is part of the title of the show) and she could audition for that.
Fate was certainly on Misty’s side. She would end up being one of the original Fantasmic! cast members in 1992. In the now world renowned show with two other incarnations, one of which was performed at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and the other version was performed at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan, Misty was cast as one of the dancing monkeys on King Louie’s Barge, based on Disney’s animated feature film The Jungle Book. On the same night, she would also become very good friends with Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, and sometimes even Mickey Mouse, who liked to frequent the Mark Twain riverboat during the finale of the famous nighttime show.
“It was fun to be a part of because it was a brand new show. The rehearsals during that period of time were long and grueling, but to be 18 and in a show that everyone wanted to see was pretty special.” Misty said.
Full disclosure, I began to work at Disneyland in 1992, starting as a float driver in the Main Street Electrical Parade. That same year Misty began her debut on the River’s of America in Fantasmic! I also worked in Fantasmic! first as a barge driver from 1993 to 1994 (Ursula and Tick Tock) and then as a performer in Fantasmic! from 1999 to 2001. Though we both worked Fantasmic! in the early years, I didn’t know Misty until we both performed in the Lion King Celebration Parade at Disneyland.
We were both cast as the only two female pole climbers in the parade. From the moment I saw Misty climb and execute her stunts on the pole, 10 feet in the air, I was instantly humbled by her strength and elegance. Misty seemed to possess a strength that few others had. The ease and transitions of her skills going into every stunt looked as effortless as breathing in and out, but believe me, few skills on that pole were easy, but they certainly appeared so for Misty.
Timing is Everything
While Misty was performing at Disneyland, she also landed her first Motion Picture film role in Congo, directed by Frank Marshall. I asked Misty about her role and how she got it.
M: “It’s timing. Timing is everything! My gymnastics career was the reason I was right for that role. Looking back, you only remember the joyous moments, but I know how hard it was to execute this role well because it took the producers a very long time to find the right people that would be able to handle the demands, especially for the role of the main gorilla character, Amy. It was a nationwide search to find Amy!
Production had called my former coach at SCATS Gymnastics (in Huntington Beach, California) and told him that they were looking for people under 5 ft tall. Little people. STRONG, little people, and the role was quickly narrowed down to gymnasts to perform as a Gorilla Artist, which is a type of suit performance work. They asked if he knew anyone over 18 years of age that he could recommend. I was 20. He called me knowing I was performing at Disneyland and that I had some suit experience, and he thought I should try for this role.”
I asked Misty what it was like auditioning for the role of a gorilla and she shared with me that she had to go through a series of 3 separate auditions, each building upon the prior audition.
First, she had to show them her upper body strength and overall coordination. The most extreme stunt that she could show the better because they wanted to see if Misty could handle weight on her arms. She performed a few impressive gymnastics skills. She also was given arm extensions and they wanted to see if she could walk and run using the arm extensions, in quadruped, like a gorilla.
Misty says, “It was easy having been a gymnast. I have spent as much time on my hands as I have on my feet! Walking and running in quadruped felt quite natural to me. I made it through the 1st audition.”
The second audition would become more intense.
Misty describes, “They brought the arm extensions back and these auditions were more intense because it was one on one with Peter Elliott (veteran gorilla performer). He wanted to see if I could act. We were in a dance studio. Just Peter, a camera, me and arm extensions.”
Peter would direct Misty to very slowly walk around and mill about as if it was a typical ordinary day for the gorilla, and then he explained to her that, “Something is going to scare you and you have to react to it. You have to be scared! However you feel you would react, will you cower? Will you try to get away?” After that challenge Misty goes on to tell me about the next challenge, to be aggressive.
Once again Peter gave a direction. Misty recalls him saying, “You’re milling about in quadruped and a threat comes and this time charge at me and be aggressive, you’re welcome to vocalize.”
Misty tells me that she knows she did end up using her voice, because her friend Jane, who was just outside waiting to audition, was stunned to learn that the voice she had heard so loudly was Misty’s.
“That was you?” Misty remembers Jane asking.
Misty went on to share with me about the final audition.
M: “The final audition was at Stan Winston Studios. I got to meet Stan and fellow veteran gorilla suit performer, John Alexander, and Peter Elliott was there to guide us through this final call back audition. This audition would solidify who they were going to choose and for what roles. I didn’t know if I would get it but knew I had a good chance by that point. Stan wanted to meet everyone that was going to be a part of the film. He not only wanted to see movement, he wanted to see personality, a willingness to work well with a team, and the actor’s response to direction.”
Misty is Cast as the Gorilla Amy in “Congo”
M: “I gained a lot of suit performance experience having worked at Disneyland, but there is NOTHING that can prepare you for this type of suit performance work! I remember going in for the fittings, the various stages of fittings. The head cast, body cast, arm casts, hands and feet cast. Trying on the muscle suit, which is the first layer; then the hair tech. suit that goes over the muscle suit; then the animatronic head (The “blind” head. You do not have any line of sight in animatronic heads) and the head’s attached pack of batteries (Yes! Plural!); lastly, the arm extensions. It was overwhelming at first! …to say the least! I couldn’t see, and I felt like I couldn’t move! I had a lot of hard work and training ahead of me, but I was ready for the challenge and so thrilled to be cast in Congo!”
“I was originally cast as one of the grey gorillas, the aggressive, violent protectors of Zinj. During preproduction it was soon realized that the workload for the role of Amy the gorilla was going to be too intense for one person alone. Production would need two people for the role, so they brought me on board Team Amy with actress, Lorene Noh. Congo was my first job ever in the film industry. I will say that it was incredibly overwhelming. I didn’t know what I was doing, I had never been trained, never taken any classes to understand about film, but I was lucky, I learned this art and technique from the best of the best, but again, I have gymnastics to thank for that too.
This job required a tremendous amount of discipline. When we started training, a three month preproduction preparation, we worked out every single day. We did circuit training, weights and cardio, for 3 hours every morning. In the afternoon, 3 to 4 hours of movement training and acting class learning how to move, feel, breathe and BE a gorilla. Lorene and I also had sign language class. The training was intense, but the job was going to be incredibly intense, so it was necessary! I loved every moment of it! I trained twice a day as an elite gymnast, so I was used to this type of workload, and this once in a lifetime opportunity felt like a gift from gymnastics! I didn’t make it to the Olympics, but because of my years and years of training as a gymnast I was awarded this role in a major motion picture! I am forever grateful!”
C: “From working on Congo, is that when you knew you wanted to go into stunts or an acting career?”
M: “While shooting Congo, I did all of the stunt work for Amy. I worked with the stunt coordinator and the stunt men often, and that made for a smooth transition into the world of stunts. And so it goes, EVERYTHING we put our hearts’ into always leads to the next, which leads to the next, which leads to the next.”
The Gorillas ARE REAL!!!
A few years after Congo wrapped, the film Instinct, which was released in 1999 starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding, Jr., would be Misty’s 2nd film as a Gorilla Artist. Stan Winston Studios would once again be the studio to build the gorilla suits. It would be a much smaller troupe of gorilla artists that would be needed for this casting. Stan Winston handpicked the troupe he wanted to work with and Misty was one of the gorilla artists chosen.
M: “I was incredibly proud of my work in the film, Instinct! Congo was my very first film role, a once in a lifetime opportunity, but Instinct was an opportunity for me to improve! To take all that I learned while shooting Congo and use that knowledge and experience to really master the craft of, Gorilla Artist. To make my performance really beautiful and believable, that was my goal, and I believe that our Gorilla Artist team did just that! I’ve had some fun interaction with fans about Instinct. They insist that the gorillas are real. I told them, no, they were people in suits, in fact I was one of them, but they want to believe that they are real, and that’s fine with me. It’s a tremendous compliment that people think the gorillas in the film were real, it means we did our job well.”
WOAH! I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO DO THAT!
Misty credits working on the film Instinct as one of the most important moments of her life. It would be due to witnessing an intense and emotional scene involving Sir Anthony Hopkins. For one specific scene, no one would be allowed on set except the director, Jon Turteltaub, and the cast and crew that needed to be present to film the scene. Since Turtletaub was on set, Misty ended up sneaking over to the director’s chair at video village, where a monitor was present enabling Misty to see what was being filmed.
M: “I saw Tony (Anthony Hopkins) go from zero to 1000% in half a second displaying a tremendous amount of emotion, energy, anguish, anger, pain, humility, etc., etc. I had never witnessed something so heartbreakingly beautiful, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I want to learn how to do that!”
With quite a few films, television series shoots, and a couple of commercial shoots under Misty’s belt as a stunt and suit performer, and after seeing Hopkin’s brilliant performance in action, she was instantly inspired and soon thereafter wanted to continue to build upon her craft and soon began to take an Acting on Camera class at Cypress College. taught by Theater Arts Professor Mark Majarian. After studying under Majarian’s tutelage for a few years, he told Misty that if she really wanted this career, she would have to move to Los Angeles and hustle by truly hitting the pavement.
It’s Not Easy…But it is a Piece to the Puzzle
Misty was incredibly uneasy about moving to Los Angeles, but she was determined to make it in film and went for it, even though not everything went according to plan.
M: “I moved to Los Angeles, and then everything fell apart. What am I going to do? I had assumed that I solidified a role on Planet of the Apes but as fate would have it, they had written out all of the female roles and mine was one of them. So here I am in Los Angeles, my big job just fell through, and no other work in sight. Budget time! For a couple of months, I ate just one meal a day in the middle of the day, and I would drink a lot of water, and take a lot of vitamins. To say, “The hustle is real in L.A.,” is an understatement! This moment was a good learning lesson about assumptions! In this business, never assume that you are booked on a project until you are literally driving to set! My parents asked me why I didn’t ask them for help, and I told them that this was my choice and not theirs. I was either going to figure this out on my own or I’m not going to figure it out at all. If you really want to be in L.A., and you know your, ‘WHY’ you’ll find a way. AND, every once in a while, a residual check from Congo or another film I had worked on would come through the mail at the last minute to help me pay my rent and other things. I lovingly refer to those checks as, ‘Pennies from Heaven!’ A.K.A., grocery money!”
Misty Meets Brian Henson
While Misty had been in Los Angeles for several months trying to survive, she was called in by the Jim Henson Company to audition for Disney’s The Country Bears Movie.
M: “It was my first audition with the Jim Henson Company. I went in and I thought I completely blew the audition. But it never fails, because honestly, most of the auditions I think I’ve aced, I never get the callback, but the ones I think I didn’t do well at, I get the call back.”
The movie The Country Bears would be Misty’s first job with the Jim Henson Company. She was the suit performer for Beary Barrington. Misty grew up watching The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, and she had always wanted to work with the Jim Henson Company and truly enjoyed the experience, especially filming the final concert scene! The dream of singing and performing live on stage was born here in this movie making experience, but it would be a few more years before her music journey would begin! After all, timing is everything!
Henson Digital Puppetry Studio (HDPS) is Born
After The Country Bears movie, Brian Henson called in the suit performers for a meeting. He let them know that the company was no longer going to be doing practical, suit performance work. Misty shared that she was disappointed because she had only just begun to work for the Henson Company and now, as it would seem at the time, her journey with the company was over before she had the opportunity to truly begin, or so she thought.
A month after Misty learned that the roles of suit performers were going to be cut, Brian Henson invited her to return to the studios to work alongside actor and fellow suit performer, Michelan Sisti. Misty and Micha were hired to work on a test pilot assisting Brian and the Henson Company in the further development of their brand new system called Henson Digital Puppetry Studio (HDPS), which is the Henson Company’s motion capture technology.
It was not only Misty’s first time working in motion capture, it was the Henson Company’s first time too. Misty was at the forefront in testing this new technology which allows performers to puppeteer and voice three-dimensional CG characters in real time. The Henson’s proprietary software allows for live performance control of computer graphic characters, which means that the animated characters are streamed in real time and are directed just as live action actors would be.
M: “My introduction into Motion Capture came about because of my experience as a suit performer, and my suit performance work as Beary Barrington in The Country Bears movie. After working on the motion capture test pilot with Brian and Micha, the next big job for us with Motion Capture was TJ Beary Tales, and then I did the test pilot for Sid the Science Kid. That project got green lit and the show became a big hit.”
Not only was it a big hit, Misty would go on to star as the title character, Sid. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would end up receiving a special Emmy Award Laureate for Special Recognition in the Computer Smithsonian Awards, Media, Arts and Entertainment Category for their Henson Digital Puppetry Studio (HDPS) use in Sid the Science Kid.
Another Piece to the Puzzle
Other jobs came up for Misty, both in motion capture, stunts and suit performance work.
It would be on the set of the 2006 Horror/Sci-fi film Altered in which Misty played an Alien Foki Scout, where she would meet Brad William Henke (Orange is the New Black). Their meeting and friendship would propel Misty forward in her acting training. After the film wrapped, Henke encouraged Misty to attend his acting class. Misty shared with me that acting class always made her nervous, but after about a month of Brad’s persistence she finally relented and Henke would end up becoming Misty’s acting coach. The first assignment Henke would give Misty was to purchase a book called The Alchemist, by author, Paulo Coehlo. To Misty, that book was everything.
M: “The book forever changed me. To realize my ‘Personal Legend’ (Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist) It will take everything I’ve got, but it is worth it! Acting class in L.A. intimidated me. Many of the actors here in town are classically trained. I really struggled at first, and I had a tough time dealing with my nerves, but I kept going to class week after week, and devoted a good, solid two years to Brad’s acting class, all the while continuing to work on films, commercials, and television shows, and continue to audition, and take dance classes at the EDGE (EDGE Performing Arts Center located in Los Angeles). You always need to be training, and improving your craft.”
Bikram Yoga and Finding Self Worth
Misty was dedicated to her craft, taking both acting and dance classes continuously but, after a decade of stunt work and suit performance work, it had taken a toll on Misty’s body that not many are able to fathom.
M: “The Country Bears movie was incredibly challenging and physically demanding on my body! My body was pretty beat up by the end of the shoot. My puppeteer, Alice Dinnean, invited me to come with her to a yoga class just after the film wrapped. She felt it would help me. After the first class, same as with gymnastics, I was hooked. I began practicing yoga in the summer of 2001, and I’ve been practicing ever since.
Bikram Yoga is where I discovered a great deal of healing. I didn’t take to Bikram at first. I remember walking into the room and thinking, ‘oh wow, it’s hot in here!’ But I signed up for a month unlimited Bikram yoga series because the teacher suggested that ample benefits from the yoga come with steady practice! And there was a big ol’ first time student discount! So, I went every single day, and within a month my body had changed so rapidly and dramatically in all lovely ways possible, I thought to myself, ‘THIS IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!’
After experiencing the tremendous, transformational, healing power of the Bikram series, I decided that I wanted to teach the yoga too! I wanted to give to others what I had been given; a happy, healthy mind, body, spirit connection. And a smoking hot body! Ha! My mama couldn’t understand why I would want to walk away from my career and spend 9 weeks in the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, but I told her it was something I needed to do for me. I don’t feel that I am contributing to society, and teaching yoga will be my small contribution. I want to help other people heal too, and I know that the Bikram series works!
My height. I’d like to say that I stand proud and confident and unwavering, but often times I experience shyness and insecurity. I’m not very comfortable in social settings unless I have my posse with me, oh, and my stilettos on. For a short girl, those ‘stilettos’ inches matter! However, when I walk into the Bikram studio to practice or to teach, I’m not wearing stilettos. I simply stand on my flat, bare feet in the hot room. It is a space where I have not only found peace and compassion for myself, but I’ve also found my confidence in a social setting. Through the 90 minute class, you’re in that room with the heat that pushes not only your physical buttons, but your mental and emotional ones too, and as you learn to really look at yourself in the mirror for those intense 90 minutes you begin to become your best friend again! Most of us are really skilled at breaking ourselves down, and I remind my students during practice that there isn’t anyone that they judge more harshly than themselves. I encourage them to use the 90 minutes in front of the mirror to begin to learn how to be more gentle and compassionate, and in doing so, they are able to share that same gentleness and compassion with everyone in their life. The Ripple Effect! The Bikram Yoga journey isn’t just physical, it is a mental and emotional journey too. I became my best friend again, and I found my confidence too! To stand in front of a big group of people and talk to them for 90 minutes, that was a big win for this shy girl!”
Becoming a Certified Bikram Yoga instructor helped Misty to find confidence in herself once again. Misty continues to practice and teach the Bikram series at Christie William’s Bikram Yoga Encino studio.
Music Is In Her Blood
When I asked Misty about The Mandalorian and how her audition was, I did not expect to hear the story she was about to tell me. As I type this, I am fighting through water filled eyes (I know what is about to written and I need to pause for a moment). I knew Misty when we were in our early 20’s performing at Disneyland, I thought I knew Misty well, I idolized her really, she has always been such an incredible one of a kind talent and yet I never knew many of the things she so bravely shared with me during her 90 minute interview with me. Like, I knew she was a talented singer/songwriter. OH, YES! Misty can sing too!! She’s a quintuple+ threat! Actor/Singer/Dancer/Stunt Performer/Suit Performer/Motion Capture Performer/ETC/ETC.
So when I asked Misty about The Mandalorian, she back tracks a bit to tell me about her singing career, because the two would mesh and come together in an unanticipated way.
M: “It was a culmination of things that happened, leading up to the audition for The Mandalorian. At that time in my life, I would tend to go off on little tangents, letting my heart and spirit guide me. When I auditioned for Sid the Science Kid, I was asked if I could sing. My head was saying, ‘Well, sort of. I sort of sing.’ While my heart was shouting, ‘YES!!!! I DO SING!!! I LOVE TO SING!’
I have always loved singing. I didn’t really know why until more recently that music was a big deal on both sides of my family. One of my second cousins was Rick Rosas (a long time bassist who performed with Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Ron Wood and Jerry Lee Lewis and who Neil Young describes as, “One of the greatest musicians to ever play with me”).
Music and singing has always been a part of my life, but it was not the forefront of my career. So when I went in for my singing audition, knowing Sid the Science Kid was a children’s show, I chose to sing a song in a cappella that I had always sung to my nieces and nephews, “You Are My Sunshine.”
The creator of the show, Halle Stanford, never forgot Misty’s voice and referred her to a music producer who told her that in order to make it in the music industry, she’d have to write her own songs too, luckily, Misty did indeed write her own music. In 2009 Misty pitched the one song she had written to her music producers, Paul Bushnell and Paul Graham. They took her on as a client, and they’ve been creating songs together ever since.
M: “I’ve taken the biggest risk in my life choosing to create my music and music videos, as well as, perform live on stage. Every penny I’ve ever worked for, including my entire savings, I put into this journey of being an artist. A music artist. There are no guarantees, it’s the hardest business I’ve ever been in, and by 2018 I had absolutely nothing to show for myself except for my songs and music videos. January, 2018, I had to hustle extremely hard again to simply make ends meet! I taught as many yoga classes as I could without dying of dehydration. I got certified to walk dogs, and I walked 3 to 4 dogs every day. I must say, despite having nothing, I was really happy! I was living moment to moment and day by day reminding myself that, ‘In THIS moment, I have enough!’ I’m fine. Keep going!”
Though 2018 was a turning out to be a rough year for Misty, she never lost faith and continued to return to that favorite book of hers that Brad William Henke had her purchase many years prior, The Alchemist.
M: (Referring to The Alchemist) “Your ‘Personal Legend,’ The Universe isn’t just gonna hand it to you! Everything will go wrong at first. You will lose everything you have, but you will find yourself in the process! JUST STAY THE COURSE NO MATTER HOW HARD IT GETS.”
Misty Gets The Call
Misty would receive a call from her agent saying that Sarah Finn, casting director known for Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Mandalorian, just to name a few, was casting a new show and had requested Misty’s acting reels.
M: “At this time in my life I was incredibly focused on my music and not on my reel (an actor demo reel is a video of clips of the actor’s best performances which helps casting directors get a sense of the actor’s abilities). I had no idea what I was blowing off!”
Misty gave her agent what she had, which her agent submitted, but Sarah Finn Casting wanted to see more.
M: “My agent told me that casting wanted me to come in for an audition. Despite my nerves about cold read auditions, I really wanted to try for it! A few months earlier I had done a favor for a friend and acted in her short film, and although it was terrifying to not be under an animatronic head or in a motion capture suit as an animated character; to be on camera as myself, it was new and scary for me, but I really enjoyed the process, and I wanted to do it again! So I agreed. ‘OK! YES! I CAN DO THIS!’”
Misty shared with me that she wears hearing aids. She was born with a congenital hearing loss in her right ear and after years and years of wearing ear pieces in her left ear for suit performance jobs, she has suffered nerve damage in the left ear. Even with the nerve damage, her left ear is still the strongest of the two, and she relies on her left ear a lot. Unfortunately, she was having trouble with her left ear the morning of the audition for The Mandalorian. Misty had hoped that all she would have to do was go to the doctor, have her ear examined and then the doctor would insert a new hearing aid back in and she would be fine. But that didn’t happen for Misty.
M: “I called my agent immediately after the appointment with my ear doctor and told her what was happening! I had mixed emotions! I really wanted to go to the audition, but I was so uncomfortable with the fact that I could not hear well at all, AND it was a cold read audition with Sarah Finn! It was an incredibly frustrating moment for me, but ultimately, I listened to my heart, and my heart really wanted to go to the audition! It was an opportunity to get to meet Sarah Finn, one of the biggest casting agents in town. And my agent, always being positive and supportive said, “If you have trouble hearing them, just ask them to speak up. YOU NEED TO GO TO THIS AUDITION! Also, I’ll ask if you can go in early so that you can spend a little time with the script.” She asked, and they said yes!”
I got there an hour early, signed in, signed the NDA agreeing that I wouldn’t share anything, and I just sat there in the front waiting room and began reading my script, and in that moment I had an epiphany as I read the character’s words, OH MY GOD, I KNOW THIS CHARACTER!!!! And again…”
Misty begins to get teary eyed and tries her best to hold back her tears and then she continues…
M: “Kuiil (she is barely able to muster out his name) I know him and I understand him from my struggles in life, not my triumphs. I know him from my struggles as a gymnast. I know his wisdom from my years of practicing and teaching yoga. I know him from having a similar wantonness to help people to help themselves. So when I went into the audition room, the choices I made were derived from a very honest place. My life’s journey! And it was the first time that I got to say the line, ‘I Have Spoken.’”
It wouldn’t be the last time Misty would get to say this now famous line, the next time would be on the set of The Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian, But First Air Supply!
After Misty learned she landed the part of Kuill in The Mandalorian she thought all her struggles were over, but life had one more lesson for Misty to learn.
M: In July of 2018, just prior to filming The Mandalorian, I was still having issues with my left ear. I went to my ear appointment at House Ear Institute thinking I was having a simple, painless procedure, and that I’d be in and out of the doctor’s office in no time. It ended up being one of the most scary and painful days of my life! I had 3 incredibly painful procedures in one day. Multiple doctors came into the surgery room (never a good sign!) they couldn’t stop the bleeding in my ear. After the third ear surgery they administered a special medicine used for internal bleeding, packed my ear with tons of cotton, medicine and tape, and sent me home. The next day I went in for a CAT scan, blood work, and a return visit to my ear doctor just to see how I was doing. To be honest I was really scared and frustrated! I didn’t know if my left ear would recover. I could feel my music career slipping away, and it would be a week and a half of waiting. Waiting for the test results, and waiting to see the doctor again! THE LONGEST 10 DAYS OF MY LIFE!
The day after the surgeries, when I returned home from all of the appointments, I received an email from my music promoter Zac Garfinkel, asking me if I wanted to open for Air Supply in about 3 weeks? As always, my heart and spirit immediately scream, YES! OH MY GOSH! YES! While my head is spinning with the thoughts, ARE YOU INSANE? You just had 3 ear surgeries. You don’t know what’s wrong with you, or if you’re ok? You don’t know if you’ll be able to hear well out of your left ear again?
There I was, sitting alone at the dining room table, tears streaming down my face from frustration and confusion. What kind of timing is this?”
Fortunately, Misty has a strong group of close friends she calls, “The SheTribe.” She sat alone at the table and began to send out texts to them. One by one messages of encouragement began to come back.
M: “Messages came back saying things like: “Remember, life happens in the yes!” “Stay positive and trust that in 1 ½ weeks from now you’ll get good news. Everything is going to be fine.” “JUST SAY YES MIST!”
Misty was now cast in an epic new Star Wars series, she had just undergone three ear surgeries, and she now had an opportunity to open for her favorite band of all time, Air Supply. She had just three weeks and 3 days to prepare for her set. She had no hearing aid in her left ear to hear her pitch, her ear was still jam packed with cotton and medicine as she began planning for the show, and rehearsing with her band mates. She took a leap of faith and she said, YES! because it was AIR SUPPLY!! Thankfully, everything turned out OK for Misty.
M: “Just one week before the show I went to my final ear doctor appointment and was able to put my hearing aid, that I rely on, back in my left ear. It was a truly joyous occasion for me! I got to rehearse one final time with everything FINALLY back to normal! Words could never properly express the joy I felt!
The Rose, a live music venue in Pasadena, California, was sold out on the night Misty would be opening up for the Air Supply.
Photos Credit: Nyk Fry/Air Supply at The Rose in Pasadena
M: “It’s crazy because when you’re backstage, the volume of the crowd and their collective excitement, it can be overwhelming! For my first song, I decided to start with a three-part harmony, a cappella, and we were trying to hear the note to get prepared for that. When I walked onto the stage that night I felt so happy, excited, and proud! It felt good, like I really earned the right to be there, and I sang my heart out that night for Air Supply’s fans. It was the best show of my life because of everything that I had endured just a few weeks before the show! I shared about my experience with the audience that night, and for the first time ever, I experienced the beautiful connection between us all. The human connection! They took a journey with me that night! It was one of the most incredible moments of my life! …because of the lesson: JUST SAY YES!”
Misty would tell the audience that night she was so excited to be opening up for her favorite band since she was 8 years old. She also went on to tell them that 3 weeks and 3 days prior to that very performance she had three ear surgeries and had no idea if she would ever be able to hear again.
But then, there she was, standing on stage, singing in the best show of her life and then when it was over, it was time to start shooting The Mandalorian.
And So It Begins…
After Misty’s stellar opening performance at The Rose, she was now ready to start shooting the epic new Star Wars series, streaming on Disney+. The Mandalorian, written and executive produced by Jon Favreau, is the first live-action Star Wars series that has many Star Wars fans on edge. The familiarity of many of the new characters Favreau has introduced has many fans instantly wrapped up and invested in the character’s storylines, like The Child, Mando, and Kuiil. This saga takes place 5 years after the Return of the Jedi, just after the fall of the Galactic Empire and yet prior to the rise of the First Order. I was eager to ask Misty all my nerdy Star Wars fan questions, but I tried my best to keep it cool…at first. So I went in easy, though my heart started pumping a bit quicker by this point.
I asked Misty what it was like when she got the scripts for The Mandalorian.
M: “It was amazing and so special! Logging into my Lucasfilm account for the first time to get my scripts, it felt like an incredible gift! A reward for working so hard for so long, and staying the course no matter how tough life got! (ALERT…If you haven’t yet seen season one of The Mandalorian, there are spoilers ahead…skip ahead to WHO IS KUIIL?)
The scripts. By the time I finished reading Chapter One, I was hooked! I was a Mandalorian fan! The scripts were so good! I was so excited! Kuiil is such a cool character! I could not believe I was going to be a part of this incredible Star Wars story! Then I got to the end of Chapter 7, and I was like, ‘NOOOOOOO! NOT KUIIL! NO! I just got to Star Wars!’ I read through the scene twice just in case I misread it. I didn’t. I sat on my bed in silence and in shock. I put the script down and I cried! I was so genuinely sad for this character that I didn’t even know yet, but I was also extremely proud to be playing such a cool, funny, kind, courageous character that is willing to sacrifice himself for the innocent, and for the greater good of all! I had a lot of work to do in order to ensure that I could deliver a genuine, heartfelt performance that people would be moved by. A performance that people would remember because he has such a short time on screen in this Star Wars story. I wanted him to be memorable. I think he was.”
WHO IS KUIIL?
Kuiil was certainly memorable and I believe there is more to his story that needs to be told. The Ugnaught, Kuiil’s race, first appeared in Empire Strikes Back in Cloud City. In The Mandalorian, Kuiil tells Mando that he was once an indentured servant to the Empire. I asked Misty if she knew if Kuiil was one of those Ugnaughts’ who had to prep the hyperbaric chamber for Han Solo before he was frozen in carbonite.
Misty politely laughed and replied, “Maybe. Dave Filoni was my first director on The Mandalorian. I asked him if he could give me Kuiil’s backstory, anything really. Dave told me that because Ugnaughts have always been background characters, it was up to me to create what I wanted to create with him. So YOGA! That’s how I know him. Because he is wise and passive. There is no jibber jabber with him, he says exactly what it is he needs to say and then he is done. HE HAS SPOKEN…he’s moving on.”
I then asked Misty if she had a favorite line, or dialogue as Kuiil.
M: “I Have Spoken, is special! This line was in the scene when I auditioned for the role. Casting directors and writers often choose dialogue for auditions that will cue them quite quickly about an actor’s understanding of a character’s complexities and depth. The line, I have spoken, I understand it because of my yoga journey. When I teach I try to be very specific with my words because I know my students have a lot going on internally, and less is more. I teach yoga simply because I want to help people to help themselves. I never imagined that it would help me book the greatest role of my life! “I HAVE SPOKEN.”
I love that line too, and I better understand the power in Kuiil’s line after Misty shared the back story. Misty then pauses for a moment during our interview, thoughtfully going through her lines in her head for a moment and then she shares with me a beautiful moment, it would be the very first day of shooting for The Mandalorian and she would be in that very first scene.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
M: “It was the very first day of shooting. We were on set with the sunrise! The first scene up was Kuiil and Mando on the blurrgs at the top of the ridge overlooking the encampment. It was one of Kuiil’s most important monologues, and it was first up! I had butterflies in my stomach! I needed to continuously take big, deep breaths in order to stay calm. I was standing next to Dave Filoni on a Star Wars set! Yeah, deep breaths were necessary! With my sides in hand, we read through the scene. I didn’t need my sides because I was off-book, but I had them just in case! … you know, THE NERVES! Brad William Henke taught me well. He reminded us all (when Misty was in his acting class) ‘The dialogue is the last thing you’ll be focused on in the scene! There are many other technical details unrelated to the dialogue that will need your attention. Your words should come naturally! Have respect for the writer’s words! Know them well! Be off book when you arrive on set!’ Thank you Brad!
So I had my lines down, we ran through the scene a couple of times for timing and pacing, then it was time to get dressed; walk onto my first Star Wars set; jump onto the blurrg and do my thing. We did a few takes, and then we were done! It felt strangely easy! I think that the crew was quite shocked at how well the first scene went too! It was seamless! The two characters looked great, and it was a beautiful exchange between the two of them! I am very proud of that scene!
My puppeteers at Legacy Effects were so excited too! In between takes they would come up to me to give me air and water, and they were just so happy! They kept saying over and over, “He looks so good!” That first day on set, and every day to follow, I experienced little victories in the form of courage and confidence! I have my yoga journey, my music journey, my acting classes journey, gymnastics, and all of life’s ups and downs to thank! I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL! For all of it! Especially the tough stuff because it is what has made me who I am, and who Kuiil is! I brought all of my life experience and put it into Kuiil! In fact, another one of my favorite lines is, “None will be free until the old ways are gone.” Like me, he understands empathy, compassion, kindness and peace, and we all need strive for those beautiful qualities, rather than power, violence and dominion.”
It Takes a Team
Misty was the suit performer for Kuiil, but it would take more than Misty to help bring the character to life.
M: “Kuiil was a team effort. In addition to me, the suit performer, and Nick Nolte’s voice, I worked with 3 puppeteers on set. Legacy Effects puppeteers: Jason B. Matthews (puppeteered Kuill’s eyebrows), David Covarrubias (puppeteered extra mouth and jaw movements, and Rodrick Khachatoorian (cued the dialogue tracks). Often times our first couple of takes would be a little off, but once we felt the timing and the flow of a scene, the ‘mind meld’ would occur, and suddenly 4 people would blend and mesh into one character! Also, the excitement that everybody felt knowing that this project was a new Star Wars show, we were always ready to work, we came to set prepared, and we were very excited to be there!
As soon as me and my team arrived on set, Kuiil’s dialogue was our first priority. David Covarrubias would set up the dialogue tracks on his puppeteering rig, hand me headphones, and I would listen and listen and listen. Nick Nolte not only gifted us with beautiful delivery of the lines, but he also gave us 2 to 3 options for each line varying speed and emphasis on different words in a line. After our morning rehearsal with the cast and crew, I would have a good idea of what lines I’d like to use. Each director I worked with (Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow) would also have a listen, and they too would help me choose. Once the choices were made, David quickly pieced the lines together, and Kuiil’s dialogue would be ready to go! PHEW! It was quite a process!”
Misty also shared with me that because of the expert craftsmanship of Legacy Effects artist, Jason B. Matthews, who sculpted Kuiil’s face, she didn’t have to be glued in anywhere around her eyes, which, to me, is astonishing.
M: “Kuiil was a unique animatronic head for me to wear because of the tight sculpt. I’ve never worn a head that had to fit so tightly against my face, nor have I ever worn an animatronic head that exposed my eyes. The head had to be a super tight fit against my face in order for the skin around my eyes to blend well with Kuiil’s face. Also, Kuiil’s eyes are my eyes, just a different color. I wore custom made, bright yellow-green, sclera contacts. I thought they were cool and beautiful, but Jon Favreau would always smile and laugh and say, ‘It’s challenging to chat with you when you have those things in without the head on!’ Ha!!”
What Happens in Season 2?
I had interviewed Misty prior to the release of Season 2, The Mandalorian, which she was not allowed to confirm or deny any of my questions about it. So I waited with baited breath until its release. And then I saw a new character, a sweet character, one that is referred to as Frog Lady, and I knew instantly who the actor was inside this suit.
In Chapter 10, you’ll see some awesome moves that reminded me of Misty when she was a gorilla artist in Congo and Instinct. In two seasons of The Mandalorian, Misty has now portrayed two very different characters in the Star Wars Universe. I am eager to find out what happens in season 3, will Misty play a third character? Just think of all the Star Wars action figures! And Mr. Favreau, if you ever end up reading this, please oh please Kuiil needs an origin story! There’s so much more I want to know about him!
FROM DISNEYLAND TO DISNEY+
M: “It’s special to come full circle! I consider this my Alchemist journey! My very first professional audition was at Disneyland, and now to return to the Disney Company to play a role that has forever changed my life, well, it’s like the icing on the cake, and it’s incredibly special to be a part of the magic again.”
Misty is an inspiration to many. She has always been someone who leads with her heart, and I do admire that about her. She is so very kind and her humility is humbling. When I tell her that she is an inspiration, someone who is strong both physically and mentally, and that I wanted to tell her story, because I thought others should be aware that someone like her exists in the world, she smiles graciously and she then tells me the following:
“All I really want is for my story to inspire people. I want them to see that it’s never too late. Age is just a number really! You have your entire life to constantly be inventing and reinventing yourself. I believe our stories become more and more interesting as we get older, having endured all of life’s ups and downs, and through it all having the courage to just keep on going. Keep on fighting! To me, that’s what’s inspiring. Like RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), that woman right there is one of the most amazing people I have ever come to know! I was absolutely blown away when I watched her documentary, RBG. (Misty recites a quote) ‘There’s a sense that time is precious and you should enjoy and thrive in what you’re doing to the hilt.’ – RBG Thank you for the inspiration RBG! I am doing just that!”
Misty has a new song that she just finished recording entitled, “Thank You.” It’s a song about gratitude. A ‘thank you’ gift from her to all of the essential workers, her family, friends, and the fans. It is set to be released around Christmas time. It’ll be available on Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify and anywhere else you may stream music. Until it’s released be sure to check out “Paper House,” which landed on Buzz Music’s Spotify top 10 Best of 2019 list.
Misty is continuing her motion capture artistry in the Jim Henson Company/Netflix series, “Word Party.” Netflix greenlit the adorable, educational program for its 5th season. Filming is set to begin in December.
Will Misty Rosas be in the 3rd season of The Mandalorian? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
*Star Wars Autograph Universe Fans, reach out to www.swau.com for autograph information for all your favorite Star Wars Universe characters.