Mr. Akin, let’s start at the beginning: How did you get started in the movie business?
I had just come back from university and not sure what I was going to do next. I heard that there was an open casting for supporting artistes (extras) for Wrath of the Titans in Wales. I was selected, and worked on the film for the Wales location of the filming. I enjoyed it so decided to sign up with more of the major agencies that supplied extras to film industry.
How did you get cast for Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a Stormtrooper and as the stand-in of Captain Phasma?
I was signed up with the agency that supplied the extras and was put forward based on the 5ft10″ – 6ft2″ brief. Myself, along with circa 80 others, attended an assessment day and were graded on the way the outfit fitted and looked on us as well as how we performed in basic military tasks and manoeuvres e.g. marching, standing in ranks and responding to orders, left/right turns, walking up/down stairs. It was narrowed down to about 12 core Stormtroopers that were used constantly throughout UK filming. Thankfully I was one of them!
As for Captain Phasma stand-in, I only stood in for her for 2 days. She would have had a regular stand-in that for whatever reason wasn’t there those days so I filled in based on similar attributes. Despite her being a female and myself a male, these were height/build/hair colour similarities.
In which scenes can we see you as a Stormtrooper and what was your exact task as Phasma’s stand-in? Are there scenes in which you are Phasma?
The most obvious time you see me as a Stormtrooper is in the opening scene on Jakku walking down the ship on the right behind Kylo Ren. I’m also amongst all of the Stormtroopers in the ship as its travelling to Jakku. All command centre scenes I was in but quite hard to accurately point out where exactly because you never know which take is used in post-production and often things are changed in between takes. Any scene with heavy usage of Stormtroopers I’ll be in and amongst it. You do see me walk across screen as part of the Rebel Alliance at the base. I was multiple characters.
So as the title name suggests, I would literally be standing in front of the camera in a replica Phasma costume whilst the camera/lighting crew and others are setting themselves up around me ready for when Gwendoline steps in and gives her performance. It’s a more efficient way of using the actors time. So no I’m in not in any scenes as Phasma, because stand-ins are used for off camera purposes.
Did you talk with Gwendoline Christie about the part of Phasma? How was it working with her?
No. Generally speaking it’s not common practice to speak to the actors and instructions are passed on by assistant directors. We only shared a brief personal hello together. She was very enthusiastic about being there and part of the production.
Were you a Star Wars fan before you got cast? What was the first time you saw a Star Wars movie and what is your personal favorite?
I was a mild fan yes. As a youngster (about 11 or 12) I was fascinated by the imagery and had some of the various merchandise like the flickout lightsaber! My favourite from a nostalgic perspective would have to be Return of the Jedi, but because I was part of it, The Force Awakens as it holds sentimental value.
Regarding your time on the set of Star Wars: were there extraordinary or funny things that happened on and off the set?
Yes. It was funny when we were running down the ship’s ramp after landing on Jakku, many Stormtroopers were falling over due to sight being very limited in the helmet and the un-evenness of the sand’s terrain. Seeing explosions go off and stunt men flying in the air is always an extraordinary sight!
Did you get to interact with the main cast like Harrison Ford, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley? How were they?
No. Unfortunately there weren’t any scenes where I interacted with the main cast. I was close to them at points and everyone seemed very happy to be there.
Besides the movie you also did a couple of promotional events dressed as a Stormtrooper. I saw a photo of Carrie Fisher holding your hand (while you’re dressed as a Stormtrooper). What was it like doing these events?
Great! That photo you’re referring to is from the European premiere in London, UK. It was a very exciting event to do. We walked down the red carpet in ranks and then myself and a few others were standing at the press area where celebrities have their pictures taken. A few pictures of myself and Carrie were in some of the UK’s nation press! They’re available online.
Episode VIII is currently filming and Rogue One will be released in December. Will we see you again in one of these?
Yes!….Well hopefully! Because the original Stormtrooper design costumes were used for Rogue One, I didn’t fit into it thus couldn’t be a Stormtrooper. But I was a marine soldier as part of the resistance.
As for Episode VIII, I’ll be returning as a Stormtrooper and will be filming soon!!
My final question: please finish the following sentence: “Looking back at working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens…”
Looking back at working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens I’d like to thank everyone that made it possible for me to work on such an exhilarating project. Bring on the next one!
Thanks for the interview…and, since you’re in Rogue One, see you in December!