When James Estrada, 31, took his wife to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on opening night, he knew his 5-year-old son, known only as J, would take a liking to Cassian Andor, the rebel captain portrayed by Diego Luna. So when J immediately asked for his own rebel fatigues to imitate Andor – who famously utters the words, “I’ve been in this fight since I was 6 years old” – it didn’t come as a surprise. For about three years, James – a freelance audio engineer and stay-at-home father in Salt Lake City – has fostered his son’s love of cosplay. After watching Guardians of Galaxy in 2014, J wanted to dress up like Rocket Raccoon, the anthropomorphic nocturnal mammal who is the mastermind of his group of renegades.
Even though James has guided his son through the early stages of geekdom, he doesn’t actually cosplay. As a child, others discouraged James from dressing like certain characters, like the blond Luke Skywalker, because of his dark hair. Stifling him turned him off of cosplaying. Had he decided to dress up as the jedi or any other non-Latino character, people may have openly criticized him. That’s what happened to Chaka Cumberbatch, a black cosplayer who dressed up as Sailor Venus, blonde wig and all at A-Kon 21 – an anime convention – in 2010.
“While at the Sailor Moon shoot, I chatted up and befriended a photographer who took the now infamous picture of me that would eventually go on to accompany numerous blog and and forum posts arguing about whether or not black people should cosplay outside of their race,” she wrote on XO Jane, adding that many comments came with vitriolic and racist messages. “…The depths that the insults sink to are enough to scare many interested cosplayers away from even trying. I had an Indian friend who refused to cosplay anything other than Indian characters after watching the way people tore into my costumes online.”
But James doesn’t want his son to feel limited. So he’s thrown himself into making J a bonafide cosplayer. In the process, James has become an expert at thrift shopping and even learned to sew to make his son custom pieces. James’ handiwork has helped make J a hit on the convention floor, but so has his sprightliness.
“It’s fun having him go around and kind of hang out with the Rebellion,” James told the Star Wars blog. “[When he debuted as Cassian], we had one friend who was dressed as Leia. J told her, ‘You know, I died to get you those plans.’” He’s also cosplayed as Poe Dameron, a commander in the Resistance’s Starfighter Corps played by Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Once again, the spunky kid had something to say when he saw someone cosplaying as Kylo Ren, the angsty villain who wants to fill Darth Vader’s shoes. “Do I talk first or you talk first? I talk first?” J said, repeating the line Poe says when he comes face to face with Kylo.
Jason and J will attend the Salt Lake Comic Con in March, but their love of sci-fi and comics has taken them on many great adventures. Just last year, J – who also likes to dress up as Ezra Bridger – met Luke Skywalker, aka Mark Hamill, at a meet and greet. J asked Hamill to hold his lightsaber, and he happily obliged. Hamill also gave J a signed badge. Then J gave the OG Jedi a trading card of himself in costume.
As J continues to navigate the world of cosplay, he’s becoming more recognizable. It’s even inspired James to take the plunge. He’s currently considering making himself a K-2SO –Andor’s droid companion – costume so that he can be his son’s sidekick.
Check out images of J in cosplay below: