IN CONVERSATION WITH SIMON KASSIANIDES
Interview by Jana Letonja
Simon Kassianides stars in Lucas Films and Star Wars franchise’s ‘The Mandalorian’. You might recognize Simon from hit shows like ‘Agents of Shield’ and ‘Suits’ spin-off ‘Pearson’. He also starred in the Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’, where he played Yusef, a member of Quantum who seduces female agents. Season 3 of ‘The Mandalorian’ premiered on 1st March on Disney+ and will extend into 8 episodes.
Simon, you’re starring in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise’s series ‘The Mandalorian’. Has it truly sunken it yet that you are part of the ‘Star Wars’ family?
It’s started to, but it is surreal. When my own brother Photis has an Instagram account where he takes my toy figure around town, it’s a better Instagram follow than my own page, you realise things may have changed. I get a sense of the scale at ComiCons and each time I meet the fans, the best part of this experience so far.
What can the viewers expect from the third season?
Viewers can continue to expect some of the best storytelling out there, told with heart, excitement and of course extreme moments of Grogu cuteness.
In the series, you play Axe Wolves, a human male Mandalorian from the planet Mandalore and a skilled warrior, who is loyal to his group. How much does portraying Axe excite you as an actor?
I love how there’s been room to make the character my own. I’ve only ever been encouraged and supported by the directors and team on set to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s exciting to see him fleshed out. I can’t wait to hear what the fans make of it all.
Prior to ‘The Mandalorian’, fans can remember you from two other big franchises, from Marvel’s ‘Agents of Shield’ and the Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’. As an actor, it is a huge honor to be part of such big productions. How do you look back on these roles?
I’m always a fan first, actor second. As far back as I can remember, as a kid I was going with my mom to the movies. I always allow myself to be excited at first when I’m on set the for the first time. I think by doing that, it gets the scale of what I’m involved in out of the way so that I can then focus on the job I’ve been hired to do. So when I look back on those roles, I try to remember it in the same way. As a fan myself first and then the memories of the job. In both ways,I’m very proud to have been involved in productions like those.
You studied something completely different, Spanish and business. How did your acting career begin from there?
Things started after talking with a producer who was a regular at a coffee shop I was helping to run for my family. I started out as a set assistant, then assistant director before I realised, when running lines with the actors, that I wanted to go in that direction. I enrolled in a summer course at a drama school and was spotted by an agent who saw me rehearsing. They sent me out as a trial and I booked the job. From then on it continued.
At the University you were the producer and EP of a sold out run of ‘Grease’. And then in 2010 you produced, directed and starred in ‘Geezas’, a film that made the official selection at 2012 Hollywood Film Festival. Is producing and directing something that you want to do more of? Does it excite you more than acting itself?
I am currently working with Warner Bros in Europe, writing and executive producing on a film and also a television series I plan to act in and possibly direct. I’m adapting a Camilla Läckberg/Henrik Fexeus book ‘Trapped’ with the streamer Viaplay, that will air in 2024.
I have always written. Being involved from ideas’ inceptions with talented people is one of the most rewarding experiences. The high level of skill around me allows for me to take that all on. It’s a lot, but seeing how such talent elevates the projects to levels I’d never dreamed of is something I am thoroughly enjoying and motivated to continue pursuing. I find all areas of this business exciting to be honest.
For your business ventures you got to travel around the world a lot. What is the most fascinating thing that you learned from all your travels?
That we’re all a lot more like one another than we may think. But the differences in habits and culture can be fascinating. I’ve spent time in Sweden recently and have become a fan of a fish egg spread that they have in the mornings with their eggs. And something they call ‘sill’, which is pickled herring. They have a shot of schnapps with it. That’s fascinating for sure.
Why do you believe traveling and exploring different countries and cultures enriches an individual?
Stepping out of your comfort zone helps you grow, in most areas of life. Travel forces you to do that in a fun way.
While studying and traveling the world you also helped your mom run your Urban Coffee business, which is an organic coffee shop. Why do you think organic coffee shops and organic produce in general are so important today and are gaining such popularity?
I think that people are realizing the power their spending has. Policy seems to follow along. People are caring more how the world is shaped by the things they buy.
Photography by Hannes Söderlund