(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Welcome back, intrepid lore nerds! Today I’ll be breaking down a character that lives on the periphery of Star Wars fame. This changeling assassin is instantly recognizable to fans, even if only in the “I know I know this character from somewhere…” way. I’m talking of course about Zam Wesell.

Why yes, this does mean every single one of these columns thus far has dealt with characters from the seedy underbelly of Star Wars lore. Why? Because in a galaxy that, until recently, dealt in absolutes of black and white, the people that populate the nebulous grey area in-between are far more interesting.

Who is She?

Zam Wesell was a shape-shifting bounty hunter contracted by Jango Fett to assassinate Padme Amidala before she could vote against legislation that would allow the Galactic Senate to create a standing army. Wesell’s first attempt — blowing up Padme’s ship — managed to kill one of the Senator’s body doubles. After that, Jango armed his assassin with extremely poisonous centipede-slugs. This second and final attempt was thwarted by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who were keeping Padme under guard when the Wesell’s droid dropped the deadly creatures into Amidala’s bedchamber. After a short chase through Coruscant,Wesell was captured by the Jedi. Before she could reveal the name of her employer, Jango Fett sniped her with a poisonous Kaminoan saberdart.

Wesell enjoyed an extremely robust backstory before the Disney-Lucasfilm merger. But since the canon was wiped clean, much of that information either exists in a nebulous gray area or has been outright refuted. The handful of things the remain include her species (Clawdite), her home planet (Zolan), and her affiliations with both the warrior-caste known as the Mabari (more on them later) and Jango Fett. Other than that, Zam Wesell’s story is ripe for the reimagining.

When Was She Introduced?

Zam Wesell first appeared in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Played by Leeanna Walsman, the character used her shapeshifting abilities to appear as a human female. It was not until after her untimely death that Wesell reverted to her true form, that of a Clawdite female. Despite having a minor part to play in the overarching Star Wars narrative, Wesell quickly became a fan favorite. Both before and after the canon reset, the assassin has appeared in cartoons, comics, novelizations, and mobile games. However, much of her current history and the culture of her people is still blank. It’s time to remedy that.

Why She’s Fascinating

In order to talk about what makes Zam Wesell so damn cool, we have to talk about her people. The Clawdite species were originally part of a story that smacked of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Before the lore wipe, the planet of Zolan housed two species: the Clawdites and the Zolanders. The latter was the ruling class and the former were victims of gene therapy gone wrong. The Clawdite people were basically enslaved and ostracized for their shape-shifting condition which led to political tensions and eventual civil war. But when Disney took over, they banished the Zolanders to the waste bin. I assume in part because of Ben Stiller.  

For a few years, nothing new was released about Wesell’s people. Even now, everything lore nerds have is from extremely supplemental — but canon — sources. For example, Zolan finally made an appearance in the 2017 book No Disintegrations, a Fantasy Flight Games sourcebook for pen-and-paper gamers who wished to make bounty hunter characters. Within its pages, Zolan is described as an arid planet in the Mid-Rim. Where once the planet’s alarmingly high radiation was the product of a meteor strike that only affected part of the planet, now solar activity bathed the entire surface with killer radiation. The Clawdite people, along with all other surviving species on Zolan, evolved and adapted to these high emissions. Instead of gene therapy gone wrong, Clawdite shape-shifting is now a biological response to a hostile homeworld. Much much later, the sun chilled out and Clawdite civilization eventually reached intergalactic status.

Part of Clawdite culture is an ancient order known as the Mabari. They are yet another piece of Expanded Universe lore that has been rescued from the bin and repurposed. Again, just about everything we know about them is from supplemental material. The order has appeared in both the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia and Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia, and it still lists Zam Wesell as a former member. Not much is currently known about the group since originally they were an order made up mostly of Zolanders (I’m sorry, but I’ll never stop picturing this species as perpetually doing Blue Steel™). What we do know is that Zam Wesell either left the order of warrior-knights or was kicked out, because she desired wealth and glory. After her exile, she ended up on the planet of Denon, where she converted her warrior skills into those of an assassin.

Then there’s the appearance of gender disparity among the Clawdite people. Besides Zam Wesell, only four other members of her species have canonically appeared in Star Wars. The gender breaks down to three women, one man, and one genderfluid person. Of course, when a species can alter their appearance to look like any humanoid, things like reproduction might get messy depending on how deep the shapeshifting goes. Is it simply aesthetic or, like some species of frogs, can Clawdite people change their gender at will? I, for one, would love to know more!

To summarize, Zam Wesell is a woman who spent her formative years training to become a warrior-knight on an arid planet nearly inhospitable to life. It’s extremely possible she’s part of a civilization where humanoid concepts of binary gender are non-existent. She broke with tradition to use her skills for her own gain, climbed the ranks of assassins on Denon, and eventually met Jango Fett. While their relationship is no longer canonically romantic, one of Disney’s many mobile games indicates the fires of passion might not be entirely dead. If so, Jango Fett murdered his lover to protect his identity. Or did he?

What Stories Could Lucasfilm Tell?

Okay, since I ended the last section with a cliffhanger question, let’s start there. Did Zam Wesell die on the streets of Coruscant? There’s no reason she had to. Jango Fett hit her with a Kaminoan saberdart, as identified by (1950s replica Earth?) diner owner Dexter Jetster. But with the expanded lore around this toxic dart now null and void, who’s to say Clawdite people would even be vulnerable to it? These are a people who survived solar radiation for generations until their biology evolved to ignore it. If anyone’s going to live thru a poison dart, it’d be Zam Wesell.

Should Lucasfilm decide to go that way, it’d go a long way to humanizing Jango Fett. Regardless of whether or not he and Zam Wesell were lovers, they were definitely friends. Or as friendly as underworld assassins can be with each other. Perhaps it simply put her into stasis. Or nearly killed her. How would Zam Wesell feel if she awoke in the morgue on Coruscant? How would she react to hearing Jango Fett had been decapitated in an all-out brawl with the Jedi and that his son had cradled Jango’s empty helmet on the battlefield? Would she feel anger? Relief? Nothing at all? Only one way to find out.

If Star Wars is content to let dead assassins lie, there’s plenty of other interesting stories to mine from Zam Wesell’s life. What was her childhood like on Zolan? How does one become a member of the warrior-knight order known as the Mabari? It certainly sounds both exclusive and grueling. What was their moral code? At what point did Wesell decide to seek wealth instead of honor? How did she come to that decision and was it rooted in her socio-economic status or something else?

The list goes on and on. Did she leave the Mabari or was she kicked out? How did she get to Denon, a city-wide planet located on the Inner Rim? How did she learn how to become an assassin? What led her toward specializing in sniper weapons and utilizing droids over long distances? What kind of missions did she go on? When did she meet Jango Fett? More importantly, did they smash? Inquiring minds want to know.

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