This past year has been a busy one for the Star Wars universe. Aside from the release of the final film of the Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker, there has also been the beginning of the first live-action series, The Mandalorian, released last fall on Disney+, as well as the conclusion of the beloved animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this past spring. For Lauren Mary Kim, a stunt actor who has been working in Hollywood for the past 16 years, she has been involved in the making of both of these Star Wars productions.
Originally coming to Hollywood as a dancer — she even danced for the LA Lakers for a time — Kim made her transition into the stunt world after meeting stunt actors at a gymnastics class she was enrolled in. She knows seven martial arts — taekwondo, wushu, silat, muy thai, kali, jeet kune do, and capoeira — and has a resume ranging from Rush Hour 3, Star Trek, a few of the Fast and Furious films, Into the Badlands, and more recently in Daredevil and DC’s Stargirl.
When she doubled for Élodie Young on Daredevil, the two of them really got to be hands on with Elektra’s moves. “We really got to create and design her movements style, which was really fun,” she explained. “It’s just a memorable job because we put this iconic character to life — a comic book character — and it was just really fun to do. Some of the gags we got to do were really fun.”
Kim’s point of entry into doing stunt work for the Star Wars universe was by way of The Clone Wars. Fellow stunt actor, Amy Johnston, recommended her for the job to do motion capture as Ahsoka Tano, for a fight scene she has with Maul during the Siege of Mandalore.
Kim did her research ahead of choreographing the fight scene; from reading up on who the character is to studying past fight scenes. What caught her attention is how limitless Ahsoka is with her movements.
“When it’s animated, you can do anything,” Kim elaborated. “Animators can really create anything that humans can’t do. So, I had to take that into consideration because she’s a Jedi and a badass from another planet.”
Kim also consulted supervising director, Dave Filoni, on what he had in mind for the fight. Given Ahsoka’s preference to duel with two lightsabers, “He really wanted a lot of kali fight style, which is obviously what I’m familiar with,” she said.
Opposite Kim in the role of Maul was Ray Park, who previously brought the character to life in The Phantom Menace and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While initially nervous in advance, Kim eased up once they met.
“Immediately when I met him, he was just the sweetest, most humbling, most open-hearted person I ever met,” she said. “It ended up being really easy to work with him.”
Kim and Park had only two days to both choreograph and rehearse the fight. “We just brainstormed and choreographed organically a fight,” she reflected. “We would choreograph, change it, re-change it again, just to make it work.” They recorded the motion capture for the sequence at the Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco.
When the stunt coordinator for The Mandalorian said to Filoni — executive producer, showrunner, and head writer for the show — that they wanted to use her, he immediately remembered her. Kim got to do stunt work for several characters on the show. She did previs (short for previsualization) for Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) and was supposed to be the stunt double for Julia Jones as Omega, only for Jones to wind up doing the stunts herself.
The most notable role that Kim got to tackle for The Mandalorian was as the stunt double for Emily Swallow as the Armorer in the season finale, when she takes out several storm troopers at once.
“[Creator] Jon Favreau also wanted a kali style grounded fight from her,” she explained. “Ryan Watson and Sam Looc — the stunt coordinators — they actually designed the choreography for this fight. [Watson] has a background in kali as well, so he was able to come up with the choreography and he taught it to me. It’s just under the guidance of him.
“Because of the armor outfit, I was able to act more like a method actor,” she added. “I was really fighting with a costume as well because it’s heavy, it’s hot. You have the fur coat thingy on and you have the heavy armor, so it made me feel more grounded. That helped me get into the character as well, because in real life, that’s what really happened.”
Looking back on the experience of doing stunt work for both The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian, Kim is amazed that she got to be a part of something for Star Wars.
“I always thought it was unattainable to work on any Star Wars franchise, because it just seemed so exotic and far away,” she said. “I always hear about the movies being shot in some European country or something, and so you never think you have the opportunity to work on these projects. It baffles me that I actually got to work on The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars.
“It’s definitely a highlight in my career. If I retired now, I would definitely be happy — but I don’t want to retire right now.”
While Kim is unable to say currently on whether or not she did stunt work for the upcoming second season of The Mandalorian, what she can confirm is that if given the opportunity, she would love to work on another Star Wars production in the future.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Mary Kim.