One day she's dressing up as Han Solo ... and the next, Hollywood called!
We originally had very simple plans for this summer. We talked about visiting family, maybe renting a lake house with some friends. The last thing I thought I’d be doing is standing on a sound-stage in Los Angeles watching my nine-year-old daughter march around in Stormtrooper armor in front of a green screen, while four production assistants blasted her with fans to give her hair the perfect Beyoncé look.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Somehow, through the unholy power of geek parenting, my non-actor daughter ended up being cast in a Star Wars commercial as her father, who used to freeze his Han Solo action figures in a water-filled butter dish to replicate carbonite, looked on in astonishment.
The world is a weird, wonderful place, sometimes.
If you’re interested, here’s the commercial in question:
But, again, I feel the need to point out that my daughter isn’t an actor. We don’t know any famous people. I have no access to any strings I could’ve pulled to get her this gig. My daughter was chosen for the commercial simply because she enjoys geeking out with her dad, which, speaking as her dad, is one of my favorite things in the world.
Here’s how we ended up on that sound-stage...
Two years ago, my daughter dressed up as Han Solo for Halloween. It was a big deal for her. She’d just seen the original trilogy for the first time and Han was clearly her favorite. However, when the subject of Halloween costumes came up a few weeks later, she very, very tentatively asked “permission” (that was odd) to dress as Han Solo.
She was worried that it might be “weird” for a girl to dress as a male character for Halloween and, specifically, she didn’t want to be laughed at. I quickly launched into self-righteous feminist dad mode, telling her that she could be WHOEVER she wanted to be and that gender should never, ever put any limits on who she wanted to dress as or who her favorite Star Wars character was.
That seemed to do the trick, but she paused for a moment and then said, “Well, if it’s no big deal, then I guess YOU should dress as Princess Leia, right?”
She had me dead-to-rights. So I said “Great idea,” and, a few weeks later, we were posing for pictures on our front porch — her, a suave and cool Han Solo, and me, a hairy, unfit Princess Leia.
At the time, one of my editors asked if I’d let her publication share the pictures. I said sure, and quicker than I could’ve imagined, the pictures went viral. They were all over the internet, they were discussed on morning talk shows, we got recognized while we were trick-r-treating. It was wild, but, more than anything, it became an amazing bonding experience.
Cut to a few months ago. I get an email forwarded from a friend, a member of the 501st, one of those super-professional Stormtrooper cosplayers that you’ll see at comic-cons or at Star Wars Night at your local ballpark. He’d received a notice from an ad agency looking for people with Star Wars stories for a new campaign. As an example of what they were looking for, the notice mentioned “the dad and daughter who dressed up as Princess Leia and Han Solo.”
My friend asked, “That’s you, right?”
This got me in touch with the ad people and, after a few weeks of calls, we found ourselves being flown to Los Angeles for the week to shoot the commercial.
(Side note: I didn’t go to LA for the first time until I was 25 and I’d NEVER flown first-class before this trip. And my daughter is NINE and got to experience all that, in case you were wondering, life is empirically unfair.)
We had a ball in Los Angeles. You could see the Hollywood sign from our hotel. The agency and production staff couldn’t be nicer. Then suddenly, they brought out my daughter’s costume. The Stormtrooper suit. THE white and black iconic suit that I’d known my whole life. (Literally my whole life. I was born in 1977, the year Star Wars came out.)
It was mind-boggling, but my amazement took a backseat to just sitting back and watching my kid thrive under all of this new attention. Any parent can tell you — you NEVER know exactly how your kid is going to react in any given situation. They could be brash, shy, annoying. You just never known until the actual moment arrives.
But my kid… she was professional. She was interested and kind and polite. She asked questions, she addressed people by name. She said “please” and “thank you” more than I’d never heard her say before.
And I was overcome with gratitude.
These people got to see my daughter at her best, her total best (which, as with any kid, isn’t always the case). She seemed to know what a rare opportunity was in front of her. She seemed to recognize the whole experience for what is was — a bizarre gift from the universe, all because of that one Halloween where she dressed up as something she knew her dad would LOVE.
It had all led her to this, standing in a Stormtrooper costume, surrounded by green screen, pretending that she was an intergalactic rebel or villain or whatever she wanted to be.
It wasn’t an easy shoot. The costume was hot, uncomfortable, and the hard plastic pieces made it almost impossible for her to sit. So she stood on a platform for hours, as PAs pointed fans at her and cameras swooped by her face, and, under difficult conditions, she imagined her butt off all day. She forced herself to stay in the zone.
At one point, the second assistant director told her that she needed to look tough and confident, “like Beyoncé.” My daughter replied with, “‘Lemonade’ Beyoncé or ‘Single Ladies’ Beyoncé?” The second AD turned to me, smiling, “Is she for real?”
That was just one of many small reasons why that ranks among the proudest days of my life.
Because my daughter wanted to share Star Wars with me so long ago, because she wanted to dress up and make believe with me one Halloween night, she was now on a film set, on the first professional job of her life, and she was KILLING IT.
As a geek dad — hell, as any kind of parent — it was a glorious thing to behold. And now I have this commercial to remind me of that day for the rest of my life, which makes me more profoundly grateful than I can probably ever express.
I was OK with all this, I was keeping it together, until we watched the commercial for the first time last night. My daughter was happy, but soon lapsed into a stunned silence. When my wife and I asked her if she was all right, she finally whispered, "I'm just proud of myself."
Keeping our composure after that was nearly impossible.
So my daughter is a Stormtrooper. How cool is that?
And who can even imagine what her daughters or sons will become one day? If this is possible now, who can fathom what will be possible for them in the future? But, until we find out, I’m saving the laserdisc player and my giant antiquated Star Wars discs. Because I wouldn’t miss sharing those moments for anything in the world.
— Psyop (@psyop) September 2, 2016
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In case you were wondering who were the other “rebels” in the ad…
The mother and son were Amiyrah Martin and her son Brandon. Amiyrah runs the fantastic blog 4 Hats and Frugal, and her family went viral last year after she made a video titled “Black Star Wars Fans – We Do Exist!”