The Star Wars universe is a one of the most expansive and imaginative fictional worlds around, and Latinos have played a key role in bringing stories from this universe to life since the very beginning. Of course, it isn’t until Disney’s recent revitalization of the film franchise that Latinos have become more prominent in main roles. Before, many of the contributions were small, but important. Today, youngsters can look up to Diego Luna, Lupita Nyong’o, and Oscar Isaac (or Benicio del Toro if they’re weird).
This Star Wars Day, we’d like to look back and give a small shoutout to as many of these contributors as possible. While 1977’s Star Wars first introduced us to the series, in 39 years, the universe has grown to include comic books, TV shows, and video games. From the most recent Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, to the prequels (Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) and even to the Lando’s Commandos: On Eagles’ Wings comic book, here are the Latinos who have helped make Star Wars what it is today.
Plenty of Star Wars video games have let players explore many parts of the universe. Some were good, some were Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi (i.e. ?.). Arguably, the best of the bunch is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Set in a period of time thousands of years before the Skywalker clan existed, KOTOR tells the story of a character trying to stop the Sith. One thing you may not know is that Rafael Ferrer, son of Academy Award-winning screen legend Jose Ferrer, voices the villainous Darth Malak. The game still holds up pretty well, and is normally $10 on Steam. In honor of Star Wars Day, you can pick it up for $2.49 until May 9, 2016.
Freddie Prinze, Jr.
After Disney threw fat stacks of cash at George Lucas, much of the expanded universe no longer fit into the canon. However, Disney quickly started producing its own content and in 2014, Star Wars Rebels premiered. Freddie Prinze, Jr. plays one of the main characters, a Jedi survivor of Order 66 named Kanan Jarrus who takes a young Force sensitive con-artist under his wing. Unfortunately for Prinze, his daughter probably isn’t a fan, as she is a Dark Side sympathizer.
Because her dad isn’t nefarious enough, she may consider Philip Anthony-Rodriguez her favorite Latino on the show. Anthony-Rodriguez is the voice of the evil Fifth Brother. Fun fact: the Fifth Brother’s design is based on unused artwork from The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars survived the great Disney canon purge of 2014, and several Latinos lent their talents to this show. This is a good thing since The Clone Wars is much more fun to watch than the prequel trilogy. Argentine actor Ricardo Mamood-Vega appeared in three episodes as Atai Molec, a Zygerrian slaver. Though he’s not the only one of us who makes an appearance. Al Rodrigo is in one episode, but as the much more heroic Jedi Master Quinlan Vos.
When J.J. Abrams made casting decisions for The Force Awakens, diversity heavily influenced his picks. “We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks,” he said at San Diego Comic-Con. “And I think it’s important that people see themselves represented in film. I think it’s not a small thing.” The film franchise has taken this to heart by casting two of the handsomest of us (Oscar Isaac and Diego Luna) and also Benicio Del Toro.
One fair complaint raised about The Force Awakens is the casting of Lupita Nyong’o as a CGI character. Maz Kanata turned out to be kind of awesome, but surely there was a better use for the Academy Award-winning actress. Hopefully there will be room in Episode VIII, Episode IX, or one of the anthology films for a woman of color.
Oscar Isaac is having himself a moment in Hollywood, and he makes perfect sense as the star pilot of the
Rebel Alliance 2.0 The Resistance. Before we even meet the hero of this story, Rey, it’s Poe that reintroduces us to this world in The Force Awakens.
Isaac was so good that Abrams decided to spare his character’s life (in the original script Poe didn’t make it to the end). Abrams did us a solid because we could definitely go for a few more movies of the Poe-Finn bromance.
Diego Luna may have been a less obvious casting decision, but the quality of his work makes his presence in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story an inspired choice. So far all we know about Luna is that he’s a member of the OG Rebel Alliance in the time before A New Hope. The cast of Rogue One is absolutely loaded with talent, so hopefully Luna gets a chance to shine. But based on what we’ve seen so far (one trailer and one cast photo), it looks like a safe bet.
Benicio del Toro
Even less is known about Benicio del Toro’s role in Episode VIII (the movie itself doesn’t even have a subtitle). All we know is that del Toro will be in the movie, and that as always, he will deliver an awesome performance.
There’s already rumors that he’ll play a villain, and Del Toro is not exactly dispelling them. “You know, I’m not supposed to say, but that’s what’s out there, so I’m not gonna try and fight it,” he told HitFix in January. In the meantime, enjoy our Star Wars Photoshop of del Toro.
Truly, the less said about the prequel trilogy, the better. As Bail Organa, a senator from Alderaan (rest in pieces) in Episode II, III and The Force Unleashed video game, Jimmy Smits plays an important role in the story of the Skywalker family by adopting Leia and raising her as a princess. Thanks to this casting, we can pretend Leia grew up eating mofongo.
A lesser known contributor is Margarita Fernández, a little person who suited up as an Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and in two forgotten made-for-TV spinoff movies about the Ewoks.
Latinos haven’t just contributed as actors. Saul Ruiz, an animator at LucasFilm, has gone from working as a cinematic animator on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II to a 3D story artist on Star Wars: The Clone Wars to directing four episodes of Star Wars Rebels.
The perpetually busy Lin-Manuel Miranda jokingly volunteered to write a new cantina song for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, even telling Abrams that he’d drop everything to get it done. Luckily for him, John Williams didn’t want to write the song, and Lin-Manuel quickly had to balance starring in his hit Broadway play Hamilton and the new Star Wars.
Carlos Meglia was born in Argentina and is best known for the Cybersix comic series, which was later developed into an animated series. Meglia contributed art on Star Wars comics Lando’s Commandos: On Eagles’ Wings and Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika. Meglia passed away in 2008. You can find a touching tribute from one of his colleagues, Mike Kennedy, on DeviantArt.
Born in Chile and raised in Canada, Pablo Hidalgo has forgotten more Star Wars knowledge than most of us possess. A 2015 Vanity Fair article described him as “the company’s in-house Star Wars geek, a repository of everything known — history, planetology, starship specifications, alien taxonomy, proper spellings — about the galaxy George Lucas created.” Basically, he’s the dude you’d want to have a Star Wars conversation with. In addition to his consulting on many Star Wars projects, Hidalgo also got to play a character named Janu Godalhi, an anagram of his dad’s name, in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
Gilbert Hernandez is a successful cartoonist who created Love and Rockets with his two brothers, Jaime and Mario. His contribution to the Star Wars universe is the Young Lando Calrissian comic book, which shows Han’s buddy in his early days as a con man. Young Lando would most definitely be the Mr. Steal Your Girl of Star Wars, and it’s possible we’ll see him in the upcoming Han Solo movie.