Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is by far one of my favourite films of all time, and being the Star Wars fanatic that I am, I was extremely excited about interviewing General Ramda himself, Richard Cunningham.
Richard has been an actor for several years and his catalogue of work consists of the likes of Sherlock, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, and Dickensian amongst so much more. In December 2016, the world saw Richard enter the world of Star Wars when he appeared on screen as General Sotorus Ramda in Rogue one. Sotorus Ramda was a General in service of the Galactic Empire, who commanded the Scarif Deployment during the battle of Scarif which saw the initial Death Star plans being stolen and transmitted to the Rebel Alliance by Jyn Erso with the help of the Rogue One squadron.
How did you get involved with Star Wars?
I had to audition, which was a very secretive process. At this point we didn’t really know what we were auditioning for, all we knew was it was ‘an unknown Gareth Edwards project’, but of course we had an inkling to what it was! On arrival at the casting we were handed what must have been a sample script and asked to go away for an hour and learn it and I was asked to do an American accent, we then put it on tape with the Casting Director and that was it. About a week later I got an offer!
How does it feel being a part of the Star Wars universe?
I must say when I was offered the role it felt almost unreal as you would never imagine that you could ever be part of this universe. I was very excited and so was my agent as we knew this was big! So I feel lucky and blessed to be part of this universe. Having already done several conventions as well you realise how much it means to the fans, I am extremely lucky! And now I have a lego figure, how cool is that?
What’s it like being on set?
Being on set early on felt pretty intense! Gareth was so excited to be directing a Star Wars movie, it was a childhood dream, but with this excitement also came a tremendous responsibility to deliver something very special. So many of us, including Gareth, were nervous and Gareth told me that there were actors who even were rather tearful on their first day! So it was intense! But we all calmed down after a while. But it was certainly very odd when on my first day I was on set with Darth Vader – spooky! There was a real sense that we were creating something that was going to become part of history.
When you were given the role of General Sotorus Ramda, were you provided with a backstory for the character or any other details to help you get into character?
Not at all. We didn’t get any extra information and we weren’t even privy to a full script. All we had were the scenes that we were part of and originally my character was ‘Scarif Security Officer #1’. I didn’t have much of an idea of how we fitted into the story. And originally General Ramda was in six scenes including a hologram but as you are probably aware some of the film was rewritten and reshot, especially the later scenes, so in the end Ramda was lucky to survive!
Who are some of your favourite Star Wars characters and why?
The character that really stands out for me is Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). I was only 10 when it hit cinemas but I was a massive fan of Peter Cushing because of his appearances in many horror movies for Hammer Films, I grew up loving horror and it was great to see him relish this role, a gentlemanly figure but with a very dark soul. I would also say Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi played by the brilliant Alec Guinness, who was able to create such a memorable character, calm yet powerful ‘Feel The Force Luke’, this really was the beginning of something rather special.
When Orson Krennic arrived on Scarif, do you feel like Ramda felt threatened by his presence?
As I said earlier Ramda did originally appear in several other scenes and in these scenes you got more of an idea of the relationship between himself and Krennic. Krennic was impatient and didn’t have a lot of time for General Ramda and really put him in his place. So yes, when the Director arrives on Scarif, Ramda is confused but also anxious as to why he has come to Scarif (‘Director, what brings you to Scarif?’). General Ramda was used to having a rather hassle-free life under the protection of an impenetrable shield!
What are you working on next?
I have been working on several projects this year, I am just finishing off a Bollywood movie called ‘Gold’ about the 1948 Olympics and the Indian Hockey Team’s victory over Great Britain in the final. The serial killer drama ‘Rellik’ is just about to air on BBC1 and I have just shot an episode of ‘Father Brown’ which will be seen in 2018. I also have another Comic Con coming up at Elstree Studios on 30th September which is raising money for the Autism Society.
Would you do any future work with Star Wars as Ramda or even someone else?
Unfortunately as you probably know (spoiler alert if anyone hasn’t seen the movie!) everyone perishes at the end….unless General Ramda and a small contingent escape in a shuttle which is possible. General Ramda certainly would have run away if he could! Interestingly enough I did audition for the Hans Solo film, and because you don’t get much information when it’s a Star Wars movie due to the secrecy, we thought it was possible that maybe they were thinking about having Ramda in the story – as it transpired there was a misunderstanding and the fact I had been in Rogue One meant I was ‘in a totally different universe’ and therefore ineligible to appear in this particular movie. I think they try not to cast people again as different characters as this gets confusing so it’s unlikely I will appear in another movie in the franchise, which is a shame. Although if they wanted Ramda to return I would jump at the chance!
I would like to say a big thank you to Richard for allowing me the time to ask him these questions and although it is unlikely that we will see Richard return to the Star Wars franchise, be sure to check out his upcoming projects that will be appearing on screens in the near future.