Say hello (in your best Wookieespeak) to Joonas Suotamo, the new Chewbacca!
Suotamo, 30, will take over the fur suit and signature roar for the new Han Solo movie, officially replacing veteran Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Harrison Ford’s shaggy sidekick in the first three films and has been sidelined due to knee problems.
Chewbacca made it into the first official cast photo, released on Tuesday, but not all fans realized it was a newcomer under that mask.
After the big reveal, Suotamo posted a message on social media, writing, “I am profoundly grateful for this amazing opportunity to become a part of the Star Wars franchise that I have loved since my childhood.”
Here are five things you need to know about the next generation Wookiee warrior:
1. He’s tall and can ball
The Finnish actor stands tall at 6 ft. 10 in. (just a couple inches shorter than 7 ft. 2in. Mayhew) and is a former Penn State basketball player, who even played professionally in Europe from 2011-2015.
Suotamo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film with aspirations to someday make it as an actor.
2. If you live in Finland, you might’ve bought insurance from him
Before acting, Suotamo lived in his native country and sold insurance to pay the bills.
“I actually sold the insurance over the phone, so my size wasn’t a factor when approaching people with my pitch,” he told Business Insider in January 2016.
While he strived to make it as an actor, his size affected his confidence. “I just didn’t believe my chances to get any acting part were possible because of my size, so I studied more behind the camera,” he explained.
3. He’s already filled Mayhew’s (furry) shoes
Suotamo calls Mayhew his Wookiee mentor, appearing alongside him in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, where he performed the more physical action scenes that proved too difficult for the 71-year-old.
“Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey,” the incoming actor shared Tuesday. “I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love.”
4. He was right behind Harrison Ford when the actor broke his leg on the Millennium Falcon
5. He was destined to play Chewbacca
Abrams, who directed The Force Awakens, believed that Suotamo was the right guy to replace Mayhew.
“We had a wonderful guy, this Finnish actor who is twice as tall as I am, playing Chewbacca in many of the action scenes. They were both fantastic,” Abrams told Yahoo U.K. in December 2015. “There’s something about growing up 7 feet tall or more, 7’2” I think – that he had this love and respect and connection for this character of Chewie all his life. The fact that he got to play Chewie in so many scenes was a powerful thing for him.”
The next generation of Star Wars actors also includes Alden Ehrenreich, whom Ford passed the lightsaber to for the titular role.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres December 15, 2017.