Playing Gekko the Bounty Hunter, a minor character whose popularity is rising to cult status on The Mandalorian – the Disney+ TV series that is part of the Star Wars franchise – is a dream come true for actor Dominic Pace.
“I’ve been a lifelong Star Wars fan; this is every Star Wars fan’s dream come true. So it’s not necessarily an acting accolade but more of a childhood Generation Xer’s dream come true to not only be a one-of-a-kind bounty hunter but to also have a name within the Star Wars universe be immortalized like that. It’s bigger than any role I could’ve asked for. I’m so proud to have been a part of this show,” said Pace, 44, of Hollywood.
Currently, the White Plains, NY native is on a cross-country tour across 25 cities where he’ll appear at comic book stores and sign memorabilia. Of the merchandise Pace signs, 15% of the proceeds will be given to the store he’s visiting.
“Overall, this has been close to a 10,000-mile road trip with my youngest son,” said Pace. “With all the conventions being canceled, I wanted to promote the character before Season 2. Since my son’s out of school and the film industry’s completely shut down, we wanted a way to reach out to fans. We wanted to make a really fun father-son road trip out of it and not only incorporate the appearances but also have a lot of fun along the way; we’re going to several different attractions, (including Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tennessee)… It’s a perfect recipe for the Star Wars community promoting small businesses, promoting my bounty hunter, and an amazing father-son experience to make the most of 2020, which, obviously, is difficult for most Americans right now.”
Pace – who’s appeared on Veep, Barry, 911, Scandal, Superstore, among other guest-starring roles – considers himself a blue-collar actor who has to audition for his parts, most times competing against 30-50 other actors for the same part since he’s not a household name like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. According to Pace, blue-collar actors have plenty in common with mom-and-pop businesses.
“I can relate to their struggles, their journeys, and – most importantly – the American way, which is picking up your bootstraps and getting it done yourself. That’s what we’re doing with my bounty hunter character, and I stand side-by-side with small businesses in order to succeed and get ahead in this country,” he said. “I was raised with a strong foundation to treat every job as a privilege as opposed to a right. By having that attitude, I’ve been able to endure 20 years of all the undulations of this crazy business.”
According to Pace, several charitable organizations within the Star Wars community have been supportive of his road-trip, including the 501st Legion, the Mandalorian Mercs, and the Rebel Legion. All three have inducted him as an honorary member.
“All along this tour, fans have been showing up in costume and they’ve been purchasing an autograph or two, which has ultimately helped support my family during this time when the entire film industry has been shut down,” explained Pace. “I’m extremely grateful and honored to be an honorary member of these groups but also extremely grateful they’re supporting my side character in such an amazing way. It’s been a beautiful experience, ironically enough, with everything going on in the country.”
Created by Iron Man director Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian chronicles the adventures of bounty hunter named Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal, Game of Thrones) – better known as Mando – the titular Mandalorian. The Mandalorians are a clan of enigmatic, armored warriors whose best-known warrior is Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch), the deadliest bounty hunter in the galaxy who debuted in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Described as a “spaghetti Western” set in outer space, The Mandalorian occurs five years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 25 years before 2015’s The Force Awakens. It is the first live-action TV series in the Star Wars franchise.
In the first season, Mando’s hired to capture a target that turns out to be an infant member of the same heretofore unnamed species as Yoda called the Child (or colloquially referred to as Baby Yoda). He delivers it to his client (Werner Herzog, Nosferatu the Vampire), who states his plans for the Child are none of Mando’s concern.
However, uncharacteristically, Mando isn’t comfortable with handing over Baby Yoda to the Empire (or what remains of it after the events of Jedi) and takes him back, killing numerous Stormtroopers in his wake. Mando goes on the lam with Baby Yoda. En route to his ship, he’s ambushed by Greef Karga (Carl Weathers, Rocky), leader of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, and a slew of bounty hunters, which includes Gekko.
“I’m an Italian American from New York. One of the most inspirational movie series of all time for Italian-Americans, for African-Americans, and those coming from a diverse background is the Rocky series,” said Pace. “(Weathers) was a tremendous professional from start to finish. It was an absolute honor, he’s a Hollywood legend. To be able to flank him during the standoff in the third episode was an absolute dream come true.”
The Fate of Gekko
Deborah Chow, who directed the third episode, handpicked Pace to be in it.
“They had to do a chorus line cut of all these different bounty hunters and creatures in the first episode in the cantina,” said Pace, who appeared in the first and third episodes. “After those scenes were done, Deborah invited me to be part of the standoff in the third episode. I was extremely grateful because it gave me a little more screen-time and established the character for me in the years to come with the Star Wars fanbase.”
However, during the standoff in the third episode, Gekko is killed.
Or is he?
His fate remains ambiguous.
That raises the question: Will Gekko be in the second season of The Mandalorian, which debuts in October?
“It’s never been confirmed, but – unfortunately – I can’t say anything about Season 2 yet,” said Pace.
He did say that Gekko will appear in Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: Bounty Hunters No. 10 (its release date is unknown, due to the pandemic).
“Ethan Sacks, who’s writing Bounty Hunters, has taken a very passionate interest in the character. After No. 10, he’s trying his mightiest to get Gekko in there with Lucasfilm’s approval,” said Pace. “The Mandalorian will have its own comic book series as well, so I’m positive you’ll be seeing more of Gekko in the future throughout the Star Wars canon. I’m hopeful Lucasfilm and Disney will do it, which will make it a lot more prestigious, of course.”
Making Gekko Menacing
Pace credits Brian Sipe – the head makeup artist for Legacy Effects who did Drax the Destroyer’s makeup in the two Guardians of the Galaxy films and last two Avengers films – for bringing Gekko to life.
“As a blue-collar actor, I take all different levels of work. This was a second-tier job opportunity for a simple makeup test. I’ve had previous experience with prosthetics in Van Helsing, where I doubled as Frankenstein’s Monster, opposite Hugh Jackman,” said Pace. “(Sipe and I) just had this rapport for six hours. We had a very detailed makeup test with different styles of makeup.”
Pace told Sipe since he’s 6 foot 4 and weighs 260 lbs., the more menacing he made Gekko look for his screen-test with Favreau, the better.
“I also got to select my own blaster, which is a Star Wars fan’s dream. There were about 20 blasters on this prop table, and I picked the biggest one for Gekko,” said Pace. “When I came to set on the first day, Brian wanted to give me the most expensive makeup, which I’m hopeful will become a really amazing action figure in the years to come.”
He’s looking forward to getting his own Gekko action figure someday.
“The one thing with Star Wars is the side characters have almost as much clout as the stars. If you were a kid and you had a Han Solo toy, you also had a Hammerhead toy. If you had a Luke Skywalker (in his Jedi Knight uniform) toy, you had a Weequay toy or a Ree-Yees toy or a Yak Face toy (NOTE: Yak Face was the final action figure in Kenner’s original Star Wars action figure line, but he was never released in the United States, per Wookiepedia). The side characters had very limited screen-time, but – ironically enough – sometimes these rare characters end up being more expensive for the collector,” explained Pace. “Were it any other franchise, I wouldn’t have gone on a promotional tour. Since the Star Wars fanbase is so passionate because of the detail companies like Legacy Effects put into the side characters handed down by the legendary George Lucas… I think it’s just very special. And you can see the detail of the entire production on every level.”