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Alan Tudyk: Life Lessons from Sci-Fi’s Secret Weapon: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Film

Alan Tudyk: Life Lessons from Sci-Fi’s Secret Weapon

Alan Tudyk was uniquely suited to play K-2SO, the seven-foot-one-inch tall droid of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Thanks to I, Robot, the 2004 film in which he played the title role, Tudyk knew his way around a motion-capture suit. As for the stilts that lend K-2 his formidable height, Tudyk was experienced there, too: He once did a stilt-enhanced salsa dance in a clown show in the East Village. Maybe Tudyk has more in common with K-2 than he does with Wray Nerely, his hapless alter ego on the comedy series Con Man. Both Tudyk and Nerely starred in short-lived science fiction shows (Joss Whedon’s Firefly for Tudyk), but unlike the guy who plays him, Nerely hates the frighteningly loyal world of conventions. Here’s Tudyk, in his own words, on his happy, absurd life in sci-fi.


ON BECOMING K-2SO
“I wore a silly suit that didn’t have little tracking balls on it because ILM came up with this pattern that somehow, when they feed it into the camera, immediately tracks your body. It was light, it was breezy. It looked good in the fall months, but it was also good in the summertime. And the stilts were pretty easy to learn on. I had done some stilt work in a clown show off-off-off-off-off-Broadway a few years ago. I had to do this salsa dance in stilts. Those stilts were definitely not engineered by ILM, and they were a lot higher than the ones that I was learning to run around in for Rogue. K-2’s really cool to have in a room—even if I’m just standing in a scene, you know, me on my stilts and what look like pajamas.“

ON NAVIGATING THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE
There was no bible. It was kind of like any other role, at least to the approach. You’re just looking at the basic facts of what we know about him. K-2 was reprogrammed, and that affects a lot of who he is as a character. And then just going through as an actor—what was he before this? How did he end up with Cassian [Andor, played by Diego Luna]? Cassian’s a soldier. How many missions have they been on together? Those are things that I can use as an actor to do the role. I needed to learn a little bit about droids, and how droids are perceived. Like, there’s a little establishing, since K-2 was a droid with the Empire and now he’s been reprogrammed. What are droids like that are with the Empire? Do they have personalities like C-3P0 and R2-D2? There’s a lot of writing in books and comic books about how droids work with the Empire: They memory-wipe them so that they can’t develop personalities. Over time, every droid will start to get a certain cognizance that is their own, but the Empire keeps them from getting that. And so in a way, it’s really helpful to my relationship with Diego Luna’s character that I was not just reprogrammed; I was freed from the Empire. It’s like slaves being given an identity. You’re not just who they say you are; you get to be who you are. That informed a lot.

ON DROID MAGNETISM
“I’m blown away by how well-rounded the character of C-3P0 is. His face doesn’t move at all, and his arms and legs kind of struggle to move. It’s his voice. It’s amazing. And R2-D2 and BB-8 don’t even speak in a language you can understand, but in this world it’s how people react to them. I feel like I originally saw BB-8 in Castaway, playing Wilson. He’s really coming up in the spherical show business world. I didn’t know if it was the substance abuse thing, ‘cause he really dropped off, but then he came back and it was like, ‘Whoa, way to go!’“

ON FAN LOVE
“The main difference between me and Ray, and the whole point of Con Man, is that he’s missing how great his life is. It’s hard to miss it when you’re there [at conventions], surrounded by people who appreciate the work you’ve done—things that you’ve put some time and work into that other people haven’t seen. Like people who are into your video game work: They go deep. They’re out there, like, ‘No dude, you totally brought it as every extra soldier in Halo 3.’ But when someone comes up to Wray and says, 'I love that you did that,’ he takes it as an insult.”

ON DRAWING FROM LIFE
“Nathan Fillion and I did Halo 3. He did his voices here [in L.A.] and I was in New York. When we got back together, I asked, ‘So what was it like, dude?’ And he was like, ‘It was great. I did all the, you know, [gruff voice] “Follow me, this way! We’ve got them on the run!”’ And all of mine were, ‘Owww, that hurt!’ ‘They’re usin’ real bullets!’ ‘I got a new plan: Let’s hide!’ So all of the chicken-shit soldiers in Halo 3 were me. But then I got to make fun of it in Con Man. It’s a good outlet.”