Imagine your best friend is directing a Star Wars movie and he wants you to be in the film. That’s what happened to actor Greg Grunberg (Heroes, Lost), who was called by his longtime buddy and frequent collaborator J.J. Abrams after the Star Trek director landed The Force Awakens. Below Grunberg, who is signed for three films and reportedly plays an X-Wing pilot, shares his infectious enthusiasm for the eagerly awaited seventh Star Wars feature, which is scheduled to open on Dec. 18. Though Grunberg doesn’t give away any spoilers (of course), it’s tough not to feel excited about the new film after hearing his perspective—including how the production was so Abrams-esque secretive, even iconic stars like Carrie Fisher couldn’t take their scripts home to memorize their lines (which might explain why The Force Awakens script hasn’t leaked, even though several plot points from the film apparently have).
I assume you’re on lock down about your Force Awakens role but is there anything you can tell us?
I can’t talk about who I play or what I did. But just imagine that you get a call from your best friend saying, “It’s true, I’m doing Star Wars and you can stop begging me, yes, I want you to be in this movie.” It was an absolute dream come true. I have been such a fan of all the actors and everything about Star Wars. … Some people may not have loved some of the movies, but it’s a whole world you can’t deny how super compelling and awesome it is, and I can’t believe I’m part of it. Like there were moments when J.J. would yell, ‘Cut’,’ and then come over to me and go, ‘Are you f–king kidding me? Did that just happen? Did I just pan from C-3PO to R2-D2 to Han Solo and then to you?’ I spent seven weeks in London and it was heaven. And it’s crazy cause usually I’m the first person that J.J. calls to bounce ideas off. This one is so top secret, and so on lockdown, that all I can do is ask him, ‘How’s it going?’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m really happy.’ So I know if he’s happy it’s just gonna be incredible.
I know you can’t talk about the content of the film. But just in terms of your sense of the film, how it’s going to compare to what’s come before…
I can only say that practical effects are as important—if not more important—than the special effects. And it’s all about the story and family. I mean that’s what J.J. is all about. He did it with Star Trek and I’m sure that played into keeping that the franchise alive. And these new characters, these actors are unbelievable. They’re so well cast. What I’m gathering from all of the pieces I’ve seen is it’s everything that a Star Wars junkie like me wants out of the movie. We got our script pages, only the scenes that we were in. Not even what was being shot that day! It was all on red paper so we couldn’t copy it or take a picture of it. And then we had to give the script pages back at the end of the day. And we didn’t get them the day before to take them home and learn them—Carrie Fisher and I were talking about it several times, like, “This is crazy! An actor does not get to prepare on this movie.” But I think at the end of the day it plays into what J.J. has always talked about which is that the theater is a mystery box. I know my scenes. I’m very excited about my scenes. I was really happy with the stuff that I got to do. But I’m sprinkled throughout the whole movie, in a very small way. I can’t wait to see the rest of this stuff. I watched the trailer 20 times after it came out.
Speaking of the trailer, how much of the scope of the movie do you think that gives you a sense of? Are there like massive set-pieces that aren’t even hinted at?
I don’t know! I have not read the full script. Harrison [Ford] and Carrie read the script, they had a roundtable in the early day—I wasn’t part of that. Everything I see I get more excited about. Everything looks like a poster. Every shot I’ve seen I’m like, “That’s a poster! That’s such an iconic image.” It’s really being done the right way. So I think it’s gonna be incredibly satisfying. To see this world re-created with such attention to detail to everything everybody loved about the original films, it’s just special. Disney is so brilliant to have done what they did, with all the other films they’re doing on individual characters, really squeezing this franchise in a really good creative way.