Emily Swallow (Col ’01) can be anywhere in the world and fans will recognize her for her work on The Mentalist. Or Supernatural. Or SEAL Team. Or How to Get Away with Murder.
“It depends on who you ask,” says Swallow, of New York. She adds, laughing: “I don’t think that’ll be happening as much with the Armorer.”
That’s because viewers of The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series, never see her face. The Armorer is an enigmatic chieftan who forges armor for, among others, the titular Mandalorian. As a Mandalorian herself, she never removes her helmet.
As their people say: This is the way.
The show debuted on the new Disney+ streaming service in November and immediately became one of the most on-demand streaming shows.
“It’s such a joy to see how much people love the show. I recorded it over a year ago before it was announced. It was so bizarre to see the anticipation building over that year,” Swallow says. “When it was finally released, I didn’t know how my character would be received. It made me so happy to be part of this legacy that inspires people so much and brings so much joy.”
When Swallow auditioned, she didn’t quite know who or what she was auditioning for, which is typical of Star Wars projects. She was given scenes without a script.
“It’s the most secretive thing I’ve ever been part of. It was an interesting process when I’d get information I could use (when) performing,” she says. “I knew she was a spiritual leader of a people and kept order. That gave me something to work with during the audition.”
And the secrecy continues; neither Swallow nor anyone at Disney will reveal whether she will appear in the second season, due this November.
Swallow has delved into spiritual realms in her roles before. On Supernatural, she plays the Darkness, aka Amara, a primordial being and sister of God. Although nigh-omnipotent, Amara’s vulnerability was Swallow’s way of connecting with the character.
“One of the reasons the show’s been successful for so long, even with all these angels and demons, heaven and hell—this whole mythology the show’s created—all of the characters have very human struggles,” Swallow says. “Amara often got frustrated and would go way too far, where she’d hurt or kill somebody. She was just trying to be heard.”
That show is ending after 15 seasons.
“There will be people who’ll be happy about it and people who’ll say it’s not the right ending,” she says. “Even though it’s the end of the show, it’s not the end of the discussion and people passionately debating how it should have ended. Those conversations will certainly continue.”
Although she’s been acting since she was a child—she appeared in The Wiz, Into the Woods and A Chorus Line while at UVA—Swallow majored in Middle Eastern studies.
“The multidisciplinary nature of (that) degree interested me. I liked taking classes in several departments and blending it together in a more individual way,” Swallow says. “Even though I (went) into acting, if I had to go back and do it again, I’d still go into the same major, because what I learned pursuing it definitely informed my worldview and the kinds of things I look at when choosing projects.”