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Star Wars

Rookie Wookiee: New Chewbacca honors Star Wars veteran Peter Mayhew

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As the blaster is passed from Harrison Ford to Alden Ehrenreich in the new Han Solo movie, the smuggler’s Wookiee co-pilot is also being handed off to the next generation.

Joonas Suotamo is the 6-foot-10 actor who has taken over the fur suit and plaintive roar of Chewbacca from veteran Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew, who still played the role for many stationary Chewie scenes in The Force Awakens but has been sidelined from action scenes by knee problems.

The 30-year-old Suotamo played Chewbacca through most of his active scenes — and was one of the people trying to help J.J. Abrams lift the Millennium Falcon door off of Ford’s broken leg during an on-set accident. The Finnish actor graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State, where he (naturally) also played basketball as a center.

After the cast photo for the young Han Solo film was released yesterday, Suotamo posted a message on Twitter paying tribute to those who helped him land the role — including the actor who originated the creature Princess Leia once described as “a big, walking carpet.”

“I am profoundly grateful for this amazing opportunity to become a part of the Star Wars franchise that I have loved since my childhood. I would like to thank my family, friends, basketball coaches and teammates, fellow cast and crew members, the staff at Lucasfilm and Disney, the great fans of this spectacular universe, and especially Peter Mayhew,” Suotamo wrote.

“Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film, and Peter’s development and portrayal of this beloved Wookiee has spread so much joy across the globe. Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love.”

He signed off with a pledge to “See you in a galaxy far, far away …” and a “Wookiee fist bump.”

Mayhew is still present in the Star Wars fandom as Chewie’s originator, often turning up at conventions and cast-gatherings, and always eager to share a few Snoke conspiracy theories.

For more Star Wars news, follow @Breznican.