J.J. Abrams Reveals Some Maz Kanata Backstory As The Next 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' TV Spot Arrives

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens news rains, it pours. But unlike the eternally damp planet of Kamino, this is one downpour you probably don't mind getting stuck in. Unless you don't like Star Wars and in that case, we are oh-so-very sorry for how irritating the next few weeks will be for you. We'll try to stop throwing made-up words like "Kamino" around if that will help.

Today's dispatch from the Star Wars front lines involves two compelling items of interest. First of all, a new (and brief) TV spot for The Force Awakens has arrived, giving fans a glimpse at a few precious seconds of new footage. Second, director J.J. Abrams has finally opened up about Maz Kanata, the mysterious alien character played by Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o. After keeping her under wraps for the better part of a year, the always-cagey Abrams has offered up a few scraps of information about her backstory and mysterious abilities.

Hit the jump for the Maz Kanata backstory and to watch the new batch of footage. While no one goes into anything too specific about the plot of The Force Awakens, tread cautiously if you want to go in as blind as possible.

Let's just go ahead and get that TV spot out of the way. We've seen most of this footage before, but it's worth clicking play on that YouTube embed so you can hear BB-8 "speak." After all, the last time we heard so much noise from this little thing was at Star Wars Celebration back in April. She sounds just as cute as she looks... and yes, that adorable rolling droid is apparently a girl, confirming some rumors that have been floating around the internet for ages. The Star Wars Droid ensemble is no longer a boy's club!

Meanwhile, as part of their big upcoming cover story on The Force Awakens, Entertainment Weekly got the notoriously secretive J.J. Abrams to open up about Maz Kanata, a tiny, wise, and very old alien that Lupita Nyong'o brought to life through motion capture. After confirming that yes, that is her on the poster (see the top of this post), Abrams made it clear that her goggles are no mere accessory:

I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do. I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you'll see how it plays out.

But can her eyes do, exactly? In a previous TV spot, we were treated to a voiceover narration from Maz, who had this to say to an unseen character:

I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes. I know your eyes.

Combine this with the brief shot from the second trailer of her handing a lightsaber to another (or is it the same?) unseen character, and you can start to put two and two together. She may not be a Jedi, but Maz certainly sounds like the Yoda stand-in for the new movies.

maz kanata backstory

Abrams doesn't confirm that much, but he does tease Maz's former occupation and current residence, which sounds very interesting indeed:

Her history is that she was a pirate for a long time. She's lived over a thousand years. She's had this watering hole for about a century, and it's like another bar that you'd find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.

It turns out that Maz's watering hole/bar/cantina is home to many aliens and droids, most of them brought to life through practical costumes, makeup, and puppetry. Abrams originally intended for Maz to be a puppet as well, but ultimately decided to go with motion capture to bring her to life. It should be interesting watching an all-CGI alien hold court over a bunch of practical effects:

Maz needed to look and feel and be just like one of those creatures. And given her mobility, and given the role that she played, it became clear that that was one creature where we should use the tool of CG. But the performance was all Lupita. She was there on set, and we did capture sessions afterwards as well, and I can't say enough about working with her.

In any case, we should savor knowing little about Maz Kanata right now. In the months and years that follow the film's release, we're going to be seeing a lot of her.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18, 2015. You probably already have tickets.