The Book Of Boba Fett And Obi-Wan Kenobi Actor Rory Ross Is Living Out His Star Wars Dreams [Interview]

Most of us will never get the chance to be a part of and influence "Star Wars" and, instead, will be enjoying it from afar with the rest of the fans around the world. But everyone once in a while, a fan gets the chance to live out their dream and become a part of a galaxy far, far away. Such is the case with actor Rory Ross, who plays one of the Tusken Raiders in "The Book of Boba Fett" and is also playing a Stormtrooper in the much-anticipated "Obi-Wan Kenobi" series. For him, the dream has come full circle in a pretty profound way.

Ross underwent some real hardships in his youth that ended up being tied directly to his love of "Star Wars," which ultimately informed his quest to become an actor in the first place. Now? He's living the dream and is actually a part of this iconic franchise, appearing in a project that fans have been waiting decades to see, and another one that might arguably be the most anticipated thing the franchise has produced in several years.

I recently had the chance to speak with Ross about his experience working on the shows. His devotion to "Star Wars" was made crystal clear right off the bat, as he showed up for our Zoom call dressed in full Jedi garb, ready to go. We discuss how he found his way to the franchise, the crazy level of secrecy that goes into being involved in this universe, what to expect from "Obi-Wan Kenobi," and much more.

"It just seemed like a scene from a zombie movie."

Man, I feel like I am way underdressed. You did the whole thing.

All good. It's all about the manifestation. You got to put it out there. So every time people see me, I'm trying to be the Jedi I want to be, as much as possible.

Well, you're a hell of a lot closer than I think most of us are, given what you're doing right now, man. I often tell people that I don't have memories that go back further than my love of "Star Wars." My mom was one of those people. She saw it like 14 times the year it came out, and then she indoctrinated me. t's a big part of my life. So anytime I get to talk to anyone associated with the thing I love so much, it's a big deal. That's how I came to it. What was your relationship to "Star Wars?" How did it enter your life, and what was your relationship to it before being a part of it?

My journey of "Star Wars" happened when I was about six years old. I grew up on a farm in Lockridge, Iowa. It was a very small farm. Well, small farm is 300 some acres, but we had emus, ostriches, and all these exotic animals, which was really cool. But what was crazy is, during that time period, I somehow contracted a rare fungus and my hair started just falling out. That was kind of scary. It was like "Oh, what's happening? I'm going bald. That sucks." What I came to find out was that my scalp was actually falling off.


My mom was literally grabbing pieces of my scalp and then trying to hide it from me, because she was like, "This is insane." She was freaking out. I remember we went to the doctor, our local doctor. He didn't know what the heck was going on. They were trying to be hush-hush about it and keeping me cool, giving me a lollipop or something like that.

Holy s***.

They sent a part of my scalp to the CDC in Atlanta, and '97 or so, somewhere in there.

A couple of years before "The Phantom Menace." Right on.

Yeah. So, they're trying to figure out what's happening, and then, all of a sudden, we got asked to come back in. They told us to go in the back entrance of the hospital, and it was a very weird thing. We show up, he takes us in the back door, and he just wraps my head into a towel, and he says, "You need to take him to Iowa City Children's Hospital. They're waiting for him. You're going to go to this entrance. Don't stop. Don't go home. Go straight there." And I was, I think, asking for McDonald's or something, and my mom was like, "No, we're going straight there."


We get there, and it just seemed like a scene from a zombie movie. Because when we got there, it was hazmat suit people awaiting us. They took me into this room and went through this whole, weird decontamination process. I remember once they deemed that we were safe, in a sense, they were trying to give me an IV. And I had never seen a needle at that point, at least for myself. Maybe for the cattle and things like that, but I never had to have one come through.

I remember they were trying to get me to read "Curious George," and they're getting closer and closer, and then the nurse missed the vein. Then it was like, "Jigs up," and I felt so bad for my mom because she was trying to hold me down, and all these people are coming in, and I'm freaking out. In that first day, it was very traumatic. My mom went to the media library, and she brought "Star Wars: A New Hope." And that was my first foray into "Star Wars."

It was an amazing storytelling experience. Also, Luke and I both grew up on a farm, and both trying to figure our ways out into what's happening. Seeing his journey and just how he was able to overcome these insurmountable obstacles, that's what I needed right there. Because I had no idea what was happening. I mean, I was in the hospital for close to a month. I was in the infectious disease ward, and I remember they were kids that were with me that were getting better, but there were also kids that, that was it, that was the end of the line for them.

"I want to bring hope and inspiration to people, just like Luke did for me."

Man. That's heavy.

Yeah. I mean, and even at our age, anytime someone dies, it's a hard thing to deal with. But when you're so young, and you're feeling so full of life and thinking you're invincible, to all of a sudden see that that's not the case, at any point, that could be the end of the line for you, it's a pretty life-changing experience. When I left, I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing with my life, but whatever it is, I want to bring hope and inspiration to people, just like Luke did for me." That's something that has permeated throughout my life. I started leaving home I guess when I was 13. But when I actually left, I think I've been saying 13, but I think it was technically 15, so it's kind of a murky area. But it's partly because my stepdad and I, we really just started not getting along.

Same thing with my stepdad, that resulted in a similar exodus.

I could go further into that, but it's basically kind of like Uncle Owen, where you just don't see eye to eye. I tried to be a farmer, and that's really all you can be sometimes in Iowa. I tried to work in the farm, and feed the animals, and all that stuff, and try to be who he wanted me to be, or even be a cowboy. I rocked the cowboy boots and all this stuff. I was good at lasso, but man, I was terrible at horses. I broke my wrist on a horse. I got bit in the ass by a horse. Horses and I just weren't simpatico.

I officially left at 15. I needed a new beginning, a new life. I went to this private school in Washington. That was the only way my mom would let me leave. I paid 10 grand for my freshman and sophomore year each, and then 12 grand for my junior and senior year. While everyone else is getting to play and have fun, I'm over here working my butt off, working two different jobs and scholarships. It was very important to me.

Later on, going into college, I almost went into aerospace engineering. I did my first two years in mechanical engineering, went all the way to Calc 4. So I was doing close to ordinary differential equations, and parabolic arcs, and all that kind of stuff. I got to go to the jet propulsion laboratory here in California. It was my first time here, and I saw the Mars Curiosity rover. That was super cool. My name is on the rover. It's in space, on Mars.

Oh, that's incredible.

Yeah. It was super. But it was all, again, because of "Star Wars." "Star Wars" has just been such an amazing thing in my life. Then when I decided not to do the aerospace engineering and really focus on acting, again, just that life mission of how do I give hope and inspiration to people, that has been something that has been a huge thing. So ever since I've been an actor, I've been trying to make sure that 10% of everything I make has been going to... I've been doing donations to Charity: Water, which is an awesome organization that helps provide clean water for everyone out there. They're someone that I've been really following.

When I was in university, I shaved my head to a rainbow mohawk to help fundraise money to build bathrooms in Honduras. Because, again, with the whole fungus, I have a bald spot on the back of my head. And ever since all those surgeries happened when I was young, I always try to make sure my head was covered. I was embarrassed. So, I never wanted to be vulnerable again to that sort of an extent. And instead, I found a way of, how do I make this, that it is something that's going to give back?

I said if I raised $500, I'd shave my head into a rainbow mohawk, and we raised over three grand. And I was like, "Oh, I got to do it." So I rocked it out. "Star Wars" has always been something so important to me, so dear. To finally have that go full circle and be a part of an integral part of "Star Wars," maybe not as the Jedi that I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to try to imbue, but it's still been an amazing journey, and it's so awesome to get texts and things from people of how it's inspiring them in terms of following their dreams. As an actor, that's the greatest compliment I could ever receive.

"I think there's something to be said about when you put your dreams out there."

You go on this crazy journey, you abandon science in favor of arts and acting, obviously with "Star Wars" in mind. How does one become a Tusken Raider? Does Lucasfilm just call you? Do you audition to be a Tusken Raider? Because I'd understand if you're auditioning to be one of the biker gang from the third episode or something. But a Tusken Raider, I don't know. Was that just, you just luck out as the best background extra in history?

I wish it was a little bit more like, "Oh my gosh. I was selected out of this heavy pool." So there's Central Casting. They're the background talent [agency]. They do a lot of stuff on a lot of different shows. I remember getting a text from them, and it said "buccaneer." I was like, "Oh my gosh. This is amazing. I know what this is." Because I'm a sleuth, I've been following all the different code words and all that stuff. This is freaking "Book of Boba Fett."

You knew exactly what that was.

Oh, I knew what was up real fast. I was like, "Oh my gosh." Also, it said Turkey Raider. And I was like, "It's got to be Tusken Raider."

Yeah. That's pretty clear.

It was pretty easy to decipher. There's two things. One is, I think there's something to be said about when you put your dreams out there, when you're trying to manifest something. Once the universe knows what you want, it may not always go in the way that you might hope or perceive, but it definitely listens. I remember in February I was on the set with Tamera Mowry on this baker show. I was a stand-in, and we were just talking about dreams, and she was like, "Yeah, you got to put it out there." It was an hour after that conversation when I got the text from Central Casting.

That's amazing.

There's definitely something to that. The other thing is I got really fortunate because the outfit was originally fit for my buddy, Greg Kufera. He was taken in by John and Robert, and they actually designed it specifically for him, because he had been part of "The Mandalorian," and he was a Tusken Raider in that. They shot things out of order, and what happened is, I guess they had done the train scene and the robing scene pretty early on. But when production shut down and it came back, he wasn't available.

Oh s***.

So Greg and I are the same size, the same height, and everything else. So in that sense, it was selective – there's only so many people that are like that, and it just so happened we're both big "Star Wars" nerds. I remember getting fitted, the costume people were like, "Man, you are pretty similar to Greg. Not just in stature and everything else, but in mind." I was like, "Oh, okay. This guy seems cool to meet." It was fun to be able to meet him later on. But he got to do that really cool scene with Boba and making him a part of the tribe. Because they shot out of order, I got to do episode 1 and parts of episode 2, and that's why you see me first in that Tusken.

I am just a gigantic, gigantic "Star Wars" fan. Especially because you're filming on the Volume, it's this very interesting environment, does filming a gigantic "Star Wars" show destroy any of the mystique of it for you?

So, I want to say that the stuff that I primarily filmed for "Book of Boba Fett" was actually not on the volume.

Oh, so you were on location?

Yeah. We were on location. We had taken up this big parking lot and put railroad cars so that people couldn't see inside or know what was happening. I remember there were vaccinations happening right across from us, so we always joked about, "Hey, can we jump in line early, try to see if we can't get our COVID vaccine," because it was in February. But it was really cool because you see all the sand was literally there, the tents are there. So we didn't have that virtual aspect of being on the Volume and how they're able to project and make it extend out in that sense.

That sand was real. It got everywhere. I understand Anakin's frustration with sand after that, because it just was getting into boots, it was getting in the hair, and you're taking a shower and you're still finding it. But it was really cool. I remember that first day I was on set, it was just crazy because I'm understanding that this is Tatooine, and then I remember seeing the sun, but even though I'm only seeing one sun literally, because that's what we have, I could see the two suns. It was just a fricking cool experience, and I'm just like, "Okay. Okay," just taking it all and stride. Maybe breathing a little heavier than I should have been, but it was just fun.

Okay, so you're outside, on location. I know it's February, but how hot and intense is the costume? Because it's a full deal.

It is a full deal. I mean, you have multiple layers. Anybody knows that, for the most part, in order to preserve heat if you're cold, you put something on your head, so you have the mask on, and it's got multiple wrappings around that, so you're getting pretty hot. I think even in the actual desert tribes, like the Bedouin people, which is kind of what the Tuskens are representing a little bit, or where they brought inspiration from, but even in the desert, they will typically wear that, because you have the wind coming, so it keeps you cool.

Sometimes the wind didn't always make it, or it was hot wind. Man, that was miserable, because now you're not getting cooled at all. You're just sweating. You're just losing moisture at that point. That was a little difficult. But it was a small sacrifice for me of being a part of the world and just understanding the important part of the Tusken Raiders. Because we had only seen them a little bit in "New Hope," and we saw them as barbarians. Then we saw, obviously, in "Attack of the Clones" when Anakin goes to rescue his mom and he calls them savages. But then, to be here and to know this is exploring more of their society and culture, amazing.

"We're just trying to make sure that it's as polished as possible."

I understand there's things you can and cannot talk about. If I'm to understand this correctly, you are also going to be in the "Obi-Wan" show.


Are you going to be a Tusken as well? Because sometimes, the costume performer thing in "Star Wars," you get to wear multiple hats.

In "Kenobi," I've already been able to say publicly I'm a Stormtrooper.

Oh, hell yeah. That's awesome.

That was really, really fun. A really great time. I got to actually explore the Volume, so I do understand how that experience was. It's really crazy to see this panoramic screen and how they're able to basically, where the camera's pointing, it can either focus in or make it feel like they're walking and it's expanding out or contracting. But it was really discombobulating when you do a cross or something, or you're walking and you're doing whatever, that you cross in front of the frame and you're seeing one thing, and then all of a sudden, you go on the other, and it's not moving anymore. You're like, "Whoa." It just disorients you for a second. You're like trying to have your mind catch up, I guess, is the best way to say it.

So, for "Obi-Wan" specifically, every once in a while, there's something that'll happen in a fandom where everyone is behind it. I feel like every brand of "Star Wars" fan is excited for this "Obi-Wan" show. I know you can't say anything, but from your limited perspective, how excited should fans be about it, from an insider who was there?

It's going to be awesome. It's going to be really, really cool. Having the connective tissue between the prequels and "A New Hope," and just understanding where Obi has been and what's happening, story-wise, I think fans are going to enjoy that. It's just going to be a really great time. I think a lot of fans are like, "Where's the trailer? What's happening?" I think the big part of it is [Lucasfilm] is just trying to make sure that it's as polished as possible so that when it comes out, it's not going to have that "Game of Thrones" moment, where there's a coffee cup in the corner that they missed or something like that. It's going to have a lot of love that's poured into it, and it's just going to hopefully blow people's minds and just really enjoy seeing what's been going on.

Okay. You're a Stormtrooper.


Did you film with Vader? Were you on set with Darth Vader?


You don't have to answer if you can't answer.

[Laughs] I'm like...

I don't want to get you in trouble.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

"It was a double-edged sword for me."

Obviously, secrecy is a big part of "Star Wars." How intense is the secrecy from an actor on your level? How much stuff do you have to sign? Is there a sniper pointed at you right now?

I mean, you definitely sign a lot of NDAs, so that's why I have to be careful on talking about proprietary technology. Obviously, the Volume has already been explored in the "[Disney] Gallery" series, which I definitely recommend people watching that if they're curious about behind the scenes. Especially when it comes to "Kenobi," there hasn't been a lot out there. So that's why I'm like, "I'm a Stormtrooper. People are going to enjoy it. It's going to be a fun time."

I mean, you want to make sure that you're not spoiling anything, as well, for the fans. Because you imagine if someone knew about Grogu, or even Luke Skywalker [in "The Mandalorian]. That would be devastating to know beforehand. So I would never want to be the one that would give out any of those big things or anything like that, and just enjoy the show. I'm happy to talk with the fans and stuff like that. But yeah, got to be very careful what you do and don't say.

You're in Jedi regalia right now. It feels like once you're in the Lucasfilm family, you end up in the Lucasfilm family. You're a Stormtrooper. You're a Tusken Raider. Nobody's seen your face yet. You got a lot of potential opportunity down the road. What's the dream, man? John and Dave bring you in, and they're like, "All right, Rory. What do you want to do?"

My ultimate dream, honestly, especially because we saw Luke in "The Mandalorian" season 2, the finale ... I'm sure I'm not the only one that shed some tears and just being like, "Oh my gosh," seeing the X-Wing, and you're like, "That is Luke Skywalker." And then you see the green lightsaber ignite, and you're like, "Oh, Luke Skywalker in his prime. Oh gosh," freaking out. I would love if they end up showing it before the ransack of Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren. If they showed Luke Skywalker's Jedi Temple, I would love to be a student in that. That's where I would love my face to be seen.

If there's a chance of the story going on because I go into the World Between Worlds or something like that, and then you find me past the sequel trilogy, or whatever it is, that would be amazing. That would be freaking awesome. Even just to have that moment and be able to share a word with Luke or something like that, but that's where I am now in canon as a Jedi, would be freaking amazing. To have that full circle and to have that story united with Luke, who gave me the hope that I needed in that desperate time would be fantastic.

Man, you know your s***. Dropping the World Between Worlds reference in there.

Oh yeah. "The Clone Wars" season 7, and seeing the Siege of Mandalore. I would love to see the purge and all that stuff. That would be awesome, understanding what's happened there and then seeing "Rebels." I am a big "Star Wars" fan, and on "Kenobi" and "Book of Boba Fett," I always had to be a little careful. Because I know a lot of different things because of my wide array of knowledge, if I accidentally say something to somebody, they might be like, 'Oh,' and then try to carry that on to somebody else. I was like, "Okay, I want everyone to just enjoy this." It was a double-edged sword for me, because then it was like, now I know what's coming, and so, as a fan, I'm like, "Ah, I can't enjoy it quite as much." But then maybe I will because I know it." It'll be interesting to see as it comes along.

"The Book of Boba Fett" returns with new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+. "Obi-Wan Kenobi" does not yet have a release date set but is expected to arrive this year.