There are actors who refuse to look at their work after filming a TV series or movie project. In the case of Leilani Shiu, she couldn’t even watch while she was filming.
The fact she could not look at her work had nothing to do with concerns over acting abilities. The problem is that the thick costuming needed to transform her into a Jawa for the Disney+ “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” “The Book of Boba Fett” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” completely blocked her vision. If you are not familiar with a Jawa, they are scavengers who dress in hooded cloaks that obscure their faces.
Shiu will be able to answer more questions about her unique costuming situation and what it means to be part of the “Star Wars” universe on Aug. 13 and 14 as she is one of several special guests scheduled to attend this year’s Bakersfield’s Collector-Con to be held at Mechanics Bank Arena.
The two-day event – set to start at 11 a.m. each day – is a celebration of pop culture that will feature vendors, a cosplay contest, special guests and more. After being canceled and scaled down in recent years due to the pandemic, the event will be in full swing this year.
Joining Shiu as one of the special guests will be Bakersfield’s Christian Ganiere who portrays Number 10 in the extremely popular streaming series “Stranger Things.” Also scheduled to attend are Tom Cook, Bob Elmore, Tait Fletcher, David Roman and Jamie Sullivan.
Shiu has played a variety of roles on the various “Star Wars” series but her main work has been as the Jawa known as Teeka. It is an extreme rarity in the “Star Wars” universe for a Jawa to have a name. Her character not only has a name but also has been turned into an action figure.
“Just to be cast in the second season of ‘The Mandalorian’ as a Jawa was an honor,” Shiu says. “But now I am a Hasbro toy and will also be a Funko toy.”
Shiu points out that because of her age, she has been a “Star Wars” fan for decades.
“I was never really into Barbie. I was more into Princess Leia and the Droids. So when ‘Return of the Jedi’ came out, I was a little kid standing in line at the theater,” Shiu says.
Getting to work on the series has been a joy for the longtime “Star Wars” fan. Her excitement has been doubled because Shui’s daughter, Ariel, also portrays a Jawa in the productions.
The casting of her daughter in the series came out of a scheduling conflict. Shui was told she would only be needed for one week when she was cast for her first work as a Jawa but found out she was needed a second week. Shiu told producers there was a conflict but her daughter could step in for her. The fact mother and daughter are the same size meant they could use the same face-covering costume. That ended up getting Aerial her job on the series.
Working on the “Star Wars” series is just the latest acting work for Shiu both on screen and as stand-ins for young actors. She is part of the “Little People of America Foundation” that was created by Billy Barty.
Being part of the “Star Wars” universe has made Shiu popular on the convention circuit. She has appeared at events across the United States including the grandfather of them all, the San Diego Comic Con. The parts of the country are different but a lot of the questions remain the same.
“They all want to know how it is on the set. They ask about me and how I got started,” Shiu says. “They want to know what it is like to be a Jawa and how does it feel now to be part of the “Star Wars” universe.
“That is something that is for a lifetime because once you are in a “Star Wars’ project, especially as a cast member. You are in it for life.”
Shiu is contractually bound not to talk about her place in any future “Star Wars” productions. The only thing she will say is that getting to be part of the franchise as Teeka is a job she would be happy doing the rest of her life.
Admission to the Bakersfield Collector-Con is $9 on Saturday and $5 on Sunday. There is no charge for children 8 years old and younger.
You can follow Shiu on: Twitter: @leilanishiu; Instagram: @leilanishiu; TikTok: @leilanishiu; and Facebook: @leilanishiu. Her Jawa Adventure Fan Club is based at Downtown Toys N Comics in Bakersfield, 1300 19th St.