Ming-Na Wen on Her 'Genuinely Emotional' Relief of Fennec Shand Being Embraced by 'Star Wars' Fans

Ming-Na Wen, who debuted her Star Wars character on The Mandalorian, tells PEOPLE about her appreciation for the Star Wars fandom

Ming-Na Wen
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Ming-Na Wen will be delivering a special holiday present to Star Wars fans when she returns as the mercenary Fennec Shand in the Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett on Dec. 29. And she gets the anticipation: as a superfan herself, she's held on to the Star Wars toys from her childhood.

"I have some of my original Star Wars toys still from when I was a kid," Wen, 58, told PEOPLE while attending the Los Angeles Comic-Con, her first major convention appearance since the COVID-19 pandemic began. "I mean, they've been played and messed up. They're not in the boxes – you know, we didn't think about those things back then! But they still represent a very important and magical moment in my life."

The actress, who debuted her Star Wars character on The Mandalorian, said her parents didn't quite wrap their heads around her love for the epic space fantasy when she was a girl. "My mom knew nothing about Star Wars," she laughed. "If I needed any of those toys and stuff, I always had to go out and buy it myself."

Ming-Na Wen
Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images

Now, as a veteran of not just the Star Wars galaxy but the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and a Disney Princess (as the voice of Mulan) as well, the mother of two enjoys a regular pipeline of toys and merchandise featuring her various characters delivered directly to her.

"Now I just love collecting all the new stuff," she said. "It's kind of nice now that I have Pop Funko, Hasbro and Sideshow. They've all become sort of part of my new family, which is so weird – I'm a grown-ass woman!"

In fact, as a "self-proclaimed hoarder," Wen admitted she's worried she's running out of room for all her merch at home. "I think I need to find a very special containment unit that's automatically sealed because there's just not enough room in my house right now," she said. "We need a museum just for all my toys."

Wen said she was also thrilled to reconnect with her fellow genre fans in person after a too-long absence from conventions. "They're so good. They're so amazing," she said. "It's so needed and it's so much fun, and I love doing these because it's an opportunity to be one-on-one with some of the fans and just share in the experience together. I love conventions."

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Ming-Na Wen
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Wen, who will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year, pointed to an especially meaningful fan encounter during her visit to L.A. Comic-Con.

"There was one woman, she is the daughter of Hawkins Cheung," said Wen. "He's this martial arts master who taught Bruce Lee, and I met him years and years ago. And that one meeting that I had in his gym was so profound for me – he has just this incredible aura about him. And apparently, he had passed away two years ago. She came over and had a picture of the two of us that I had posted and wanted me to sign it. She started crying, I was crying. It's just moments like that."

Although she had to remain tight-lipped about any Book of Boba Fett spoilers, she said she was moved that the fandom had embraced Fennec Shand so much, now that she's joining the infamous bounty hunter from the original trilogy on a new adventure.

"It's such a genuinely emotional as well as such a satisfying relief that your character is well received, because the Star Wars fans are very, very strong in their opinions and they know what they like, and it's great when it matches their expectations," she said.

In terms of being a part of the modern-day Star Wars storytelling team, Wen revealed that "the experience is just being always a facilitator of what George Lucas always wanted for Star Wars, which is that no matter what the situation, no matter how dark things can get, there's always hope."

Wen added, "There's always that sense of the good will prevail, that things will turn out okay and that there's a humanity in all of us, so that's the legacy that we all want to leave behind, what he started."

Now, she's watching at least one of her kids share in her fandom. "My son is a total geek over it," she said. He knows more now about a lot of the other aspects of Star Wars that I have to catch up on, so that's kind of cool. My daughter is not so much the nerd, but she does appreciate it."

And do her family members finally know exactly which new Star Wars items are on Wen's own holiday wish list this year? "It's a long list!" she laughed.

The Book of Boba Fett premieres Dec. 29 on Disney+.

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