Christopher Sean has a resume spanning the last decade. His most notable roles include Paul Narita on Days of Our Lives, Bing Lee on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and Gabriel Waincroft on Hawaii 5-0. Now, he’s been making waves as the first Asian American lead of the Star Wars franchise in the animated series, Star Wars Resistance.
Set before and during the events of the sequel trilogy, Sean plays Kazuda “Kaz” Xiono, a New Republic pilot who is recruited by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to be a spy for the Resistance on the growing threat, the First Order, aboard a fueling station called the Colossus. In between pretending to be a mechanic and conducting his assignment, Kaz learns to become more self-reliant and eventually a leader, all the while dealing with the First Order as they close in.
In a phone interview with CAAM, Sean talks about how he landed the role as Kazuda, his thoughts about being the first Asian American lead in Star Wars, and on working with actor Tzi Ma.
Can you talk about how you landed the role as Kazuda Xiono on Star Wars Resistance?
Yeah, I actually got a phone call from my agent in New York and he says, “Hey, I’m your agent in New York. Lucasfilm is calling for you. Who are you?” And I’m like, “Wait, I have an agent in New York?” And he says, “Yeah. I’m coming to LA and I want to meet with you,” and I said, “Okay, cool.”
So we sit down and we talk and essentially he’s like, “Hey, Lucasfilm is calling because they’re looking for an Asian American actor to perform.” I didn’t know to what aspect or how large the role was going to be. I just knew that I was going to have the opportunity to audition for a role in Star Wars. That alone was amazing.
I went back and forth for multiple auditions, to a point where I found myself meeting with the producers to Star Wars Resistance and I was like, “I think I have a chance. This is really amazing.” And that’s kind of how it happened.
You mentioned that they were looking specifically for an Asian American actor, and according to my research, correct me if I’m wrong, you are the first Asian American male lead in the Star Wars franchise and the first mixed race Asian lead. What do you make of this reality?
That’s a really great question, and yes, you are correct. I am the first Asian American lead of the Star Wars franchise – male or female, I am the first lead, which is really, really cool. That in of itself is extremely important to me because representation matters, diversity matters.
Children these days who are multi-ethnic and/or Asian American never really had someone to look up to and see as a hero in the Star Wars universe or many, many programs in television, in fact. So to have any representation be the hero, be the person that we get to follow the storyline and not be the subsidiary character – it’s really important for them to see that, so they can see themselves as heroes and never have to take a backseat in life. They can emulate that and become a hero in their own lives.
Kaz is interesting in that he starts in the opposite position compared to characters like Luke and Rey, where he comes from a more privileged background as he’s tossed into these wild adventures. How have you approached portraying this side of him as well as his growth overtime?
Well, because he has such a privileged background, the way I played it, he had a safety net where he could make mistakes and in his mistakes, he always had someone to bail him out. So for the beginning of the show, the first half of the season, he always relied on others to take care of him. No matter what he did, he would speak or react before he had time to think.
Now, as the show continued to progress, he realized that there were a lot more consequences to his actions, and he himself had to pull himself out of the situation. He luckily has wonderful team members like the Aces and Tam (Suzie McGrath) and Yeager (Scott Lawrence) and Neeku (Josh Brener) and so many others to help him, but really he relied mostly on himself. So essentially, as time progressed, he learned to become a hero and a leader in his own sense and someone who took responsibility for his own actions.
Time obviously isn’t the same in space, but you definitely see the progression and the development of the characters in maturity.
This is something I noticed when the series first premiered, which is that your character’s father is voiced by Tzi Ma. I don’t know if you got the chance to work with him, but regardless, how was it for you to have him in that role?
I did, actually, have a chance to work with him and he’s such a professional. He shows up, so professional, but at the same time, he’s got so much humor and he’s so humble. You don’t typically see that from Hollywood celebrities, [getting] to work with someone who’s got such a large resume in Hollywood and have them just hang out and relate with you. He dropped a lot of knowledge on me, in reference to how important representation is [and] what we were doing together.
So I was really, really excited, and to see him now be the father in Mulan, I’m like, “Yeah, way to go man!” So I’m proud of him. He’s doing such huge things.
How would you describe the response to the show so far?
It’s great. Before anything came out and the show was just announced, there was a lot of negativity surrounding the title. However, once the show aired and once they finally got to understand what it is that we’re actually working on, the tables have turned in such a positive way, that it was a negative 75 percent to [positive] 25 percent, to now it’s a – I would say – 90 percent positive to 10 percent toxicity. Everyone is excited, and there are people who are cosplaying as the characters – I call it Kaz-playing as Kaz – I’m getting messages on Instagram, saying how much they appreciate and love the show and their kids love the show. It’s really, really cool to see the positive feedback.
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Rough start to the day for Kaz… The Wintrust Arena security lady said "Good morning" to my gorg, though. 🤐 . Last day of Celebration! Can't believe it's almost over — I don't want it to end! Wearing Kaz again today and will be attending the 20th Anniversary panel for The Phantom Menace and the Resistance panel. Feel free to say hi if you see me… especially if you're also cosplaying a Resistance character! . #starwars #starwarscelebration #starwarscelebration2019 #starwarscelebrationchicago #swcc #starwarsresistancecosplay #starwarsresistance #cosplay #cosplaysidebyside #starwarscosplay #kazudaxiono #kazudaxionocosplay #kazplay #gorg
As we enter the final season of the series, in retrospect, what has this whole experience been like for you?
It’s a whirlwind of emotion because I’m so proud and so honored to be asked to be a part of the show, and to be working with such professionals – these guys are the best of the best of the business – to be able to work with them, to just hang out and feel like a family, even though we’re doing such huge things, that was amazing. So I’m honored, I’m happy, I’m proud, and I’m sad that it’s ending but golly, what I great way to end; to fall in perfectly with the sequel trilogy of The Rise of Skywalker that’s ending in December. It’s like the perfect place for our series to end.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.