The Most Difficult Part Of Playing A Mandalorian Character, According To Emily Swallow [Exclusive]

The following article contains spoilers for "The Mandalorian" season 3 through episode 3.

In season 3 of "The Mandalorian," the Armorer (Emily Swallow) is a pivotal character. She creates armor and weapons and knows how to work with beskar, yes, but she's also the spiritual and moral leader of her growing covert. The Armorer is the one who performs the ceremony to induct younger members of the covert into their adult roles, as we saw in season 3, episode 1. She counsels members like Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) who are struggling with issues of conscience and upholds the tenets of her Mandalorian sect, The Children of the Watch.

This sect vows in adolescence to never remove their helmets in the presence of others, even family or partners. It's been a central theme of the show, with Din removing his helmet and becoming an apostate. To change that status, he had to bathe in the Living Waters in the Mines of Mandalore, allowing her to revoke his state and that of Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff).

The Armorer gives off a sense of calm and authority, power (she fought like a champion in episode 1), and strength — and all of this without us ever seeing her face. /Film's own Sarah Bea Milner recently spoke to Emily Swallow about the most difficult part of playing the role, which is conveying emotion and character through body language.

'To be honest, the most challenging part is not tripping over everything'

Emily Swallow says she noticed a big difference between working on the show in season 3 versus her experience in season 1, back when "all of us were trying to find the language of communication for any of the Mandalorians who were helmeted." The actors worked from the feedback they got from directors Dave Filoni and Deborah Chow while shooting season 1, episodes 1 and 3 back to back, and experimented with what worked and what didn't. Swallow explains:

"To be honest, the most challenging part is not tripping over everything. It is such a wonderful challenge. It's honestly been such a great journey for me that goes beyond just trying to communicate as the character. I have found that in understanding the language for her, it winds up being a tremendous lesson for me in trust, just overall because what I have realized is that simplicity serves her so well."

It truly is a feat, getting across emotion with no facial expressions. Swallow conveys so much with her gestures and head tilts as the Armorer, but it's never overdone. In fact, it's the simplicity and economy of each movement that makes it work.

'Every little movement becomes magnified'

Though the Armorer's emotions come across very well, Emily Swallow says that wasn't clear from inside the helmet:

"[...] It was such a strange feeling inside the helmet and inside the suit. I knew what it looked like, and I could see that this beautiful costume that I was wearing conveyed a very specific idea, but it felt incredibly awkward in there. And there was this feeling of, 'Wait, but do you know what I'm trying to tell you?'"

Swallow adds that it was clear if you speak to her in her "normal day-to-day life" that she is someone for whom facial expressions and gestures form an important part of her communication. She continues:

"When you're wearing one of those helmets, and especially when you're shooting it on camera, and you're so focused on it, every little movement becomes magnified. So it can be very distracting if you do too much. Especially for me as The Armorer, because she is somebody whose power, I think I realized, lies in being very simple, often being very still. She is somebody who is constantly watching what's happening around her. She's observing, she's taking things in, she's reading a lot from other people, and she's seeing what they need. I think she's constantly getting a read on others to see what they need from her and how she can best respond to them. So it required a lot of stillness."

It's interesting that Swallow mentions the Armorer reading what others need from her. It isn't just communicating your own emotions without facial expressions. It's reading others who do the same. The Armorer is clearly a fair and thoughtful person who doesn't seem to mind being proven wrong, as she is about the surface of Mandalore no longer being accessible.

'I just needed to trust that I could be still'

It's no easy task to get our meaning across without all the social cues we're used to. Humans rely on things like eye contact and facial expressions to read others. Think about how we often remove punctuation from the ends of text messages because it seems too harsh or how we've brought in emojis to convey the things our faces can't say when we're chatting online. Think about how many times you've rewritten a message to make sure it doesn't sound wrong without in-person conversational elements like a smile or emotions in the eyes.

Emily Swallow had to get used to trusting that she was getting it all across without the usual expressions. Eventually, that stillness and trust in her own acting work carried through to other areas of her life as she worked on conveying emotion and meaning in "The Mandalorian": 

"For me, that meant I just needed to trust that I could be still and that I didn't need to immediately go to somebody else and then check in with, 'Are you understanding me? Do you get it? Do you get it?' That has become such a gift in playing the character. Playing her, I've learned to carry that trust into other things that are going on and to really let that simplicity stand on its own and let that faith that [...] yes, what I am feeling is coming through, what I am thinking is coming through."

"The Mandalorian" is streaming exclusively on Disney+.