By Anthony Breznican
May 03, 2019 at 03:11 PM EDT

The actor who inherited the role of Chewbacca from the late Peter Mayhew has never stopped praising the veteran Star Wars actor for the warmth and personality he brought to the Walking Carpet.

At Star Wars Celebration in Chicago just a few weeks ago, Joonas Suotamo invoked Mayhew’s enduring influence as he discussed playing the Wookiee in this December’s The Rise of Skywalker.

EW had been banking this interview for closer to the release of the movie, but with Mayhew’s passing this week at 74, it seemed like a tribute worth sharing now.

In the video above, Suotamo describes the unique, “animalistic” gait that the 7-foot-3 Mayhew brought to the furry and ferocious alien, and describes how he continued to study and seek insight from Mayhew’s performances.

After word spread of Mayhew’s death Thursday, Suotamo tweeted this heartfelt tribute, alongside an image of the two actors in their Chewie make-up on The Force Awakens:

In an interview with EW shortly before his last go-round as Chewbacca in that film, Mayhew discussed handing off the role to the now-32-year-old Finnish actor, who has played the part now in Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Last Jedi, in addition to the more physically demanding sequences of The Force Awakens.

“He learned very, very quickly,” Mayhew said of Suotamo. “When we talked about it, he had seen Chewie as a hero for him, and he was almost as big as I am. He’s about 6’9”, 6’10”. And by the time he got the costume on, there is not that much difference between us.”

Failing health and weakened knees for the mammoth actor may have prevented him from continuing to wear the yak-fur suit, but Suotamo clearly carries Mayhew’s heart within Chewie to this day.

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