Carl Weathers has been on our television screen for a long time, whether in front of the camera or behind it. Thanks to Disney+’s popular Star Wars original series, The Mandalorian, that will continue to be the case.
For those who don’t know about the 75-year-old actor’s career, we will school you a bit. He gave Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) fits in the boxing ring as Apollo Creed, father of Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed in the first Rocky movie. Teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger to take on an intergalactic game hunter in The Predator, struck fear in the hearts of criminals in Action Jackson, and provided us with laughs as Chubbs Peterson in Adam Sandler’s classic comedy Happy Gilmore.
Now, he’s best known for his role as Greef Karga, oops, we mean High Magistrate Greef Karga, who is now ensuring the people of Nevarro live in peace and is a friend to our favorite Mandalorian, Din Djarin, and his foundling, Grogu, aka Baby Yoda.
Weathers not only lends his acting skills to the show but also sat in the director’s chair for two episodes, “Chapter 12: The Siege” in Season 2 and “Chapter 20: The Foundling,” both receiving high praise from fans. He was also nominated for an Emmy for his guest performances on the show.
Ahead of the Season 3 finale of The Mandalorian, CASSIUSLife spoke with Carl Weathers. During our discussion, we talked about him being a Star Wars fan, how he landed the role of Greef Karga, his passion for directing, one particular moment he got to direct and why this current season is so polarizing.
Step into the full interview below.
Cassius Life: Watching The Mandalorian, it was a pleasant surprise for me, and I’m sure a lot of other viewers, to see you appear as Greef Karga. How did you find yourself in this series? Were you always a Star Wars fan?
Carl Weathers: Well, I was a fan, but I never really imagined being in it. I just didn’t. But what happened was Jon Favreau actually said he was doing a project. He didn’t tell me what it was, but he said he was doing a project and had written a role that he’d like me to play in. Would I be interested? And, of course, Jon Favreau, yes, thank you. Please, let’s go. He sent me a script, I read it, and then I went and met with him and saw this magnificent artwork that had been generated to give a sense of what the show was going to look like at the offices there. And I was hooked from the beginning, man.
The Mandalorian also allows us to see your skills as a director, and you have one of the best episodes that fans really like and gravitate towards. While you’re no stranger to being in front of the camera, did you always have ambitions of getting into directing, and were you nervous about directing episodes of The Mandalorian?
Well, I was a fan, but I never really imagined being in it. I just didn’t.
Well, the ambition has been there because I’ve been directing since ’93. Yeah. And I directed, prior to this, I don’t know, maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 episodes of different television shows. I just hadn’t imagined this particular show because this show didn’t exist when I was directing. But then when I was on it as an actor and asked for an opportunity to direct one, and Jon agreed, I mean, man, I was hooked before, but becoming a part of this and directing this has really kind of solidified my love of directing and my desire and ambition to do even more.
And so, as I said, having directed a couple of shows there in New York, the Dick Wolf shows, having directed shows in Chicago, and having directed other shows, Hawaii Five-O and other things, it’s the love now, the love of my life in terms of my creative adventures. So yeah, directing, man, directing, directing, directing. Send more, more, more, please.
That’s fascinating. I did not know a thing. That is very fascinating. Also, your episode, “The Foundling,” was also loved because it saw Ahmed Best return to the franchise and made Jedi Knight, Kelleran Beq, canon. What was it like being able to direct what was surely an emotional moment for him?
Well, first of all, he’s such a wonderful human being, a wonderful man. We got on just beautifully right from the beginning, and he’s so prepared, man. I mean, first of all, he’s physical, so he could do what he did. He didn’t need a stuntman to do it, really. And you could see how effortlessly he seemed to do it, play that character. But there’s also a quality about Ahmed that is such a generous quality and gentle quality that it just made it a joy for me.
And having an opportunity as an actor to, in a way, be vindicated because he got such a bad rap there for something he had no control over. He’s an actor performing. And to see him just step in and pick it up, man, and run with it and make me look good [laughs] and doing such a great job, I was happy for him and still am. I remain really happy for him and just hope that it opens even more doors for him.
Now, throughout your career, you played a lot of characters, a lot of cool characters. One of my favorites is Dylan from The Predator. Where would you rank Greef Karga on your list of characters that you portrayed?
Well, wow, each of those characters is so different. And what I try to do as an actor is fill them with enough traits as fully as possible so that they’re realized in a way that makes them real for you, the viewer, for you, the fan. And I wouldn’t be able to rank them, so to speak. I just think that there’s an appeal, clearly, in what I do as an actor and what I deliver as an actor, to whatever degree I can, based on what’s on the page. And if the character’s written well, what I try to do is bring some life to it and add some blood to it so that it feels real to you.
And for me, Greef Karga is as real as any of the other characters I’ve played in terms of what you finally see on screen. With enough experience, enough artistry, and with the help of the directors, and ultimately, obviously, what the writer has written, and then editors, the performance that you finally get is something that you can really relate to. And hopefully, that’s one of the things that’s made Greef Karga so loved by so many.
We want things that are easily digestible…We just want it, bang, to hit us in the face and knock us over.
Absolutely. Now this season of The Mandalorian, I want to say I’m enjoying it, but it might be one of the most polarizing seasons of this show. Why do you think fans are so torn regarding how the stories are being told this season and where the direction is going? Do you feel they’re being a little impatient or not letting it play out and letting maybe the finale come and maybe getting that aha moment, and they’re jumping ahead of themselves? Why do you think this season is just so polarizing?
Wow, man. Well, first of all, accepting your statement that it is polarizing, to try to address that, I’m not sure what the answer really is. I will say that you hit on something in that I think a lot of us now are so impatient that it is very, very hard to get people to sit still and wait for something to be realized fully. We want things in sound bites. We want things that are easily digestible. We want fast food because we don’t want to take the time to go out and shop for the ingredients and then put the ingredients together and see it all cooked or baked, as it were. And then let it cool down before we can take a bite. We just want it, bang, to hit us in the face and knock us over.
And The Mandalorian, in its own way, requires a little bit of attention span because it’s not just bells and whistles. It has some blood and guts to it. And by that, I mean it’s got some fulfilling stuff that’s coursing through the veins of the show. So for those who want instantaneous gratification, they’re going to complain. And for those who are willing to sit there and take it all in, and maybe then go back and watch the episode again to see what they missed–because you can’t necessarily take it all in in one viewing– they may have a little more patience and a little more desire to be more fully quenched, to have their thirst fully quenched.
So I just think that The Mandalorian is a challenge because there’s so much in it, so much packed in there, and if you blink, maybe you can miss something. So go back. Give it another shot. That’s my suggestion because, let’s face it, if you’re already watching, it means you paid for the year, so you can go back and watch as many times as you want.
Absolutely. That’s a great answer. I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
You can watch Seasons 1-3 of The Mandalorian streaming now on Disney+.
Photo: Disney / The Mandalorian
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