the mandalorian

Meet the Man Beneath the Mandalorian’s Armor

Photo: Disney+

To be as excited as Brendan Wayne was to work on The Mandalorian feels like a rare thing. An actor with a long list of credits as well as significant Hollywood pedigree — yep, he’s John Wayne’s grandson — the man credited with wearing the armor of the Disney+ show’s titular bounty hunter for many scenes was not shy about telling Vulture how much he loved the opportunity to be on this set, doubling Pedro Pascal as the title character.

“It was a dream to work on this because I was able to live what brought me to acting every day,” he said. “I got to get on a landspeeder; I got to have my own Razor Crest. To be part of the mythology that you grew up with that was integral to you as a kid — it was really cool.”

He also made it clear just how much he and the rest of the production owed to the crew. “I don’t care what Pedro does, what I do — without the community, one little thing and it falls apart. And they’ve never dropped the shield.”

Vulture spoke with Wayne about the secretive way he got brought into the production, the technical aspects of doubling not just Pascal but the other stunt performers, and, of course, Baby Yoda.

Brendan Wayne, double to Pedro Pascal on The Mandalorian, and grandson to film legend John Wayne. Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Prior to The Mandalorian, you had worked with Jon Favreau on Cowboys & Aliens. Was that how you got involved in this?
Yeah, we kind of kept in touch a little bit. And then this came up, and it was very mysterious. I got a call from my agent. He was like, “Hey, I need you to do this favor. You need to go try on this costume.” I’m like, “Do I get paid?” And he was like, “Yeah, you’ll get paid to go. I can’t tell you anything about it; it’s super top secret.” But it’s Hollywood. A Pepsi commercial I did was super top secret. So I’m unimpressed. Then I pull up to [Legacy Effects] and go inside. And oh my God, that’s a Terminator. They have everything that I grew up dreaming about and, at the same time, all the new stuff. Oh my God, it’s Thor’s hammer.

So they finally called me in, and the costumers are looking at me, and it’s a different feel than when I normally go in for fittings or auditions. It’s weird. And they open a container [of the costume], and I looked at it and I said, “Oh my God, that’s Boba Fett.” And to a person, they were like, “No, it’s not Boba Fett! He’s dead!” And I was like, “No, this is Boba Fett, but I won’t tell anybody.” And they’re like, “It’s NOT.” They got really mad at me. [Laughs]

And then I tried it on and somehow it fit, even though it was initially, I think, created for somebody a different size — six-foot-five, and I’m six feet. But I have a small head, so the helmet fit perfect. Then, as this process went on, they started taking pictures of me with a blue screen around me, and I thought, This is a lot for trying on an outfit for somebody.

Two weeks later, I was taking my older daughter to college and I get a call saying, “Hey, can you come down and do a screen test?” And all I get is that it’s for Jon Favreau. And, okay, Jon —I trust Jon. I ask, “Do I get a script?” And they say, “They just want to see you move around.”

I had some idea of what I was going to wear, so I got some motorcycle pads out, the upper pads, and put them on, and I bought a Boba Fett helmet off Amazon and walked around with it before I ever went there. So they were looking at me, like, This guy’s pretty graceful for a guy who’s just put this on.

During that initial screen test, were you doing anything action-oriented, or was it really just seeing how you move in the costume?
It was funny: The second I walked in, I don’t know what possessed me, but I started just telling them things like, “This gun, I gotta have it lower. He can’t have it this high, nobody draws a gun this high.” I was talking as if this was my suit. “This rifle that’s on my back, I gotta have a little more access to what’s in my right hand to reach across my left body, to pull the stock out so I can flip it over and really shoot.”

I remember at one point I thought to myself, Are you a high-maintenance asshole right now, telling everybody how wrong their stuff is? What on God’s green earth is compelling you to keep talking? But I kept doing it, and they were great about it. I felt like we were working together. I felt like I was a part of the process, where you don’t usually get that.

At what point did you know that this was something Star Wars–related?
At the screen test. I’d kind of suspected, because my brothers and I had every action figure, but Boba Fett was mine. Just the fact that I got to put it on was enough, because it meant that much to me as part of my childhood.

And I was talking to a couple of actor buddies of mine, and they were saying, “Oh, you’re going have to do this and demand this,” and I was like, “I don’t care. They want me to play, I’ll play it. I’ll play it on fire if they want.” How often do you get to create something? That was really cool —being a part of creating a character who had never stepped foot in Star Wars yet.

So at what point did you know exactly what they were going to be asking you to do on set?
My agent said, “You won’t be the voice,” and I said, “I don’t care. What am I doing though? I do not want to sit around. Get me going — let me run into a wall, whatever you want. Throw me from a building — totally fine. You know, hurt me, but don’t make me sit around all day.”

I noticed that in the screen test that they wanted a very Western kind of feel. So I just slowed everything down. All my walks, everything. It’s about your core. I know it’s gonna sound like a workout video, but it’s about just holding the strength of your core. My grandfather was so graceful, even though he was a six-foot-five, 260-pound guy, and it was because he was so strong. It allowed him to move in a certain way. Plus he had tiny feet. He was six-feet-five-inches and his feet were as big as mine, which are 10s. And so he walked with his toes, like a dancer. So I picked it up. It was really fun to find that pacing.

And then Jon [Favreau] was great because he taught me so much about head movement. Because if I’m not careful, especially in that costume, I look like a bobblehead. And so Jon taught me the importance of a slow look versus a quick look versus an unfocused look.

When talking to Bryce Dallas Howard about working on “Sanctuary,” she said that she really liked how much of a collaboration creating the character was.
It was just great. Bryce would ask, “Well, what do you feel he would do here? You’ve lived in this suit for so long. You know, how would he interact?” That was incredibly emotional for me, which I had no anticipation of, but Bryce had laid herself out there, and whoever I was working with at the time, they were feeding off Bryce. So even though they have to work across a helmet, I am getting everything they’re getting, and it seems like they got it back. [In “Sanctuary”], there’s one point where [Omera, played by Julia Jones] goes to take my helmet off, and if I didn’t have the helmet on, you’d have seen tears in my eyes. It was really a beautiful moment for me. And when we were done, Bryce comes over to me and goes, “It is an absolute travesty that I can’t see your face right now.” And I say, “No, my kids are here. I don’t want them to see the tears,” and she was like, “I knew it!” It was so cute.

Did you work on every episode of the first season?
I did.

Are you also working on season two?
Yes, I am. Tomorrow’s probably gonna be my first day. I had appendicitis that almost killed me, so I was in the hospital for 37 days. I just got out a few weeks ago, and I just walked out of physical therapy. So I’m gonna get back into the suit shortly.

In terms of working with Pedro, how much did you see him on set?
Well, you know, hopefully I gave him as much of a break as he possibly needed, because he was working on, I think, three things at the time. I can’t remember. But I saw him frequently. The funny thing is, I think it was harder for him, because they really wanted a certain walk that came natural to me. And so Pedro had to ask me certain questions, because I guess they would say, “Talk to Brendan and see what he says.” Almost all of [the doubles], they had to come watch me walk — I think there were four at the end of it. And I did a lot of work to be able to walk like I did in the sand and not look like a drunk sailor.

Carl Weathers is an idol of mine and I got to meet him, and, at one point, I have to run up into the ship chasing him, and he gets the drop on me from behind. And they didn’t like the way I was going up into the ship, and I was like, “Guys, I’m going up the ship and I can’t see the ramp until I’m on it, and it’s pretty much pointing straight up.” So it’s not easy. But they’re like, “Yeah, but we need you to have your swagger.” And then Carl said, “How would your grandfather do it?” And I was like, “You know, he’d lead with his shoulder — he always led with his shoulder,” and then Carl said, “Goddamn it then. Lead with your shoulder and stop thinking about it.” And I thought, Oh my God, Carl Weathers just channeled my grandfather. And sure enough, I did it and they were like, “That was perfect. Excellent! Moving on!” And I looked at Carl and he could not stop laughing.

Also, we were working on the scene where all the Mandos come to save me after I’ve stolen the baby, and I say to Carl something along the lines of, “Here’s the deal: I’m going to take the kid, I’m going to get on the ship, and I’m going to get out of here — and you’re going to let me.” And Carl literally had to call cut, and he looks at me and he just starts laughing, saying, “If there was ever any question whether you’re John Wayne’s grandson or not, that just alleviated it.”

I now realize that my grandfather, he would talk low, talk slow, and, you know, make it count. And the thing that he told my mom was it was because “they can’t cut me out of the picture if I talk slow enough. They can’t cut away from me.” He’s a major icon — they’re not cutting away from him — but he’s still, you know, finding ways to stay in the picture.

So when you have the helmet on, do you have to project a little bit more, just to make sure that people can hear you?
One-hundred percent. I was classically trained — when I became an actor, my mom said, “If you’re gonna do it, you better know everything because they’re gonna expect you to, because you’re the Duke’s grandson. I don’t care how many years ago he died. This is what they’re going to expect.” So I learned how to dance, I learned how to fence, and I also learned how to project.

So in the episodes that have aired, can you tell whether it’s you onscreen in the costume versus someone else?
I will say, Yes, I can. Will I tell you which places? No. But if you were at my house, hanging out with us, my kids will tell you, and they’ve been right 100 percent of the time.

What percent do you think you’re being used onscreen?
I don’t think I’m allowed to say, honestly. I don’t. But I will say it’s very rewarding because I see it frequently.

As an actor, this must be a fascinating challenge. Because I’m sure you’re very used to using your face.
That was what this whole process was: learning how to radiate instead of show. It was this constant take a deep breath and radiate.

When you saw the first episode for the first time and saw your movement coupled with Pedro’s voice, what was your reaction?
It took me probably about 10 or 15 minutes to get used to it because I know where I was when I said certain things, like in my movement. And then, you know, Pedro looked at it and saw it in a different way, so it was very interesting. Now, for me, it’s pretty seamless when I watch — I have moments here and there. But initially, it was really tough.

Before wrapping up, here’s the obligatory question: What was your initial reaction to Baby Yoda?
It’s funny because I worked hand in hand with the Legacy guys, getting fitted properly for the shoot, so they brought me over and they were like, “You may be the next big Halloween outfit, but this is going to be the next greatest toy,” and they popped this thing out and showed me and I was like, “Oh my God. This is ridiculous.” And then they did some motorized stuff with his face, and I was like, Dude, this is going to be epic, because I remember Yoda when I was a kid. Having this baby version of this species …

My 10-year-old will tell you — I think we were midway through the second episode, because she decided to watch it with me, and she looked up and said, “Dad, I gotta be honest with you: I thought this was going to suck. But it’s awesome. And Baby Yoda is my favorite.” That was the selling point.

They knew. Jon knew. [Dave] Filoni knew. They knew. They were like, “This is magnificent.” And these guys at Legacy, they were able to make that baby move his hands and blink his eyes and wiggle his ears. I felt like I was working with somebody. So when I had to turn to him and say, “Put that down. It’s not a toy,” and then screw it back on — it was literally like working with a little kid.

Meet the Man Beneath the Mandalorian’s Armor