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Rogue One: Riz Ahmed on why Bodhi Rook wears Empire insignia

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Lucasfilm

As we await the new Rogue One trailer on Thursday, Entertainment Weekly is posting a week of new stories about the upcoming stand-alone Star Wars film. Here’s part two.

On Monday, director Gareth Edwards walked us through the Holy Land world of Jedha, a place where Force followers come to worship — and the Empire has come to plunder.

One of the inhabitants of this occupied territory is Bodhi Rook (played by The Night Of actor Riz Ahmed), who was conscripted to serve as a pilot for the Empire but defects to join the growing Rebellion.

His past is no secret anymore, but the question remains: Why does he still wear the Imperial sprocket insignia on his shoulder?

We don’t yet know what kind of craft he’ll be maneuvering, but Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) will costar as the Rebel squad’s lead pilot, Bodhi Rook. “He’s a very experienced pilot. Flies a lot of cargo, one of his key jobs,” Kennedy says. “And he tends to be a little tense, a little volatile, but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills.” But what do you make of the Imperial insignia on his shoulder?

 

Jonathan Olley/2016 Lucasfilm Ltd.

 

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy described Bodhi’s addition to the team this way: “He tends to be a little tense, a little volatile, but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills.”

Although he comes from a sacred world, and his name translates as “enlightenment” or “awakening” in the Buddhist faith, it doesn’t sound like there’s very much Zen about this character’s prickly, neurotic personality.

“When Kathy was calling my character a troublemaker, I think she was actually talking about me,” Ahmed joked in an interview with EW.

He said Bodhi isn’t a natural fighter, and he has developed the kind of ornery attitude that comes from trying to make the best of bad options.

“A character like Bodhi is not born into the life of a soldier,” Ahmed says. “He’s a pilot working for the Empire, doing his job, getting on with it. But when you put ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, it can freak them out. It can inspire deep passions. So I’m gonna defend Bodhi.”

As for removing that Imperial insignia on his shoulder … It might seem like an easy enough thing to rip off, but Ahmed says the mark goes deeper than what adorns Bodhi’s flight gear. The character is not hiding where he came from, so the mark stays.

“I think it’s to remind you of where you’re coming from, remind you where your debts are. Do you know what I mean?” Ahmed says. “For me personally, every day, looking at that, it reminds you of what you’ve done.”

That sprocket gear is actually symbolic. Bodhi is just a cog in the Imperial machine. He isn’t an ace dogfighter who knocked Rebel rivals out of the stratosphere, he’s just a pilot who kept Palpatine’s forces supplied.

“Bodhi is a cargo pilot. In our world, Bodhi would be a truck driver. A long-distance truck driver,” Ahmed says.

 

Unlike Han Solo, he doesn’t have a Millennium Falcon that stands as his pride and joy. He’s a utilitarian pilot, not a showboater.

“The feel of this film is quite rough and ready, and so is the mission and so are the characters, and so is the coming together of the characters,” Ahmed says. “So the idea of people having special ships that they spit-shine and say, ‘Hey, this is my ship called the XYZ,’ that’s not of this world. This world is more about ‘Grab what you can, and let’s roll.’”

Bodhi Rook isn’t the only member of the team seeking redemption by helping the Rebels steal the Empire’s Death Star plans.

“Everyone in this Star Wars movie has got quite a complex past. They have a lot of baggage and history to it. That’s part of what makes it an interesting, nuanced movie,” Ahmed says. “It’s taking characters with interesting backgrounds, whether it’s warrior monks, or ex-assassins, or long-distance truck drivers, and you’re assembling this pack of misfits.”

On Wednesday, we’ll explore one of the non-human members of the group – Alan Tudyk’s security droid K-2S0 (a.k.a. Kaytoo), and how he came to leave the Empire and pledge his loyalty to a better cause.

For more Star Wars news, follow @Breznican.

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