If you’re appearing in a new ‘Star Wars’ movie and you sit down for an interview about anything else, chances are pretty high that the interviewer is going to have lots of questions about your return to a beloved franchise. And that’s exactly what happened when Mark Hamill sat down for a new interview about the upcoming ‘Elf’ musical TV special. After answering questions about his voice role in the new animated TV film, Luke Skywalker himself opened up about his absence from the first trailer for ‘The Force Awakens,’ his “contractually obligated” beard, and how that adorable little droid named BB-8 is actually a practical effect.

Hamill was interviewed by Yahoo! to promote his voice role in ‘Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas,’ which debuts on NBC on December 16. Of course the talk turned to ‘Star Wars,’ and Hamill was game to talk about his return to the franchise for the new trilogy. When asked about that beard he’s sporting in ‘The Force Awakens,’ Hamill explained:

That is what I call my contractually obligated beard. Listen: I think they look fine on other people. It’s just not me. I mean, I never got used to it. But face foliage is almost a part of the costume. And it does bring a gravitas, perhaps unearned, but nevertheless, it makes a statement that they wanted to make, and I’m more than happy to oblige them.

Hamill was absent from the first trailer for the film, but he seems more than OK with that—he’s actually rather self-deprecating about it:

This is about the new generation of characters; I think that’s the most important thing. It’s the opening act of a whole new approach to the storytelling. So I never thought that the stories would be – first of all, I never thought I’d be involved in it again, period. And then when George [Lucas] said that they wanted to do more, I rightly assumed that it wouldn’t be our story, because we had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This must be our offspring and the current generation, with us there lending the kind of support that Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness did in the original. So no, that didn’t surprise me.  And I mean, I’m one of those people where I just think, ‘Keep me out of it. I’ll ruin it, I’m sure!’ [Laughs] I’ll show up and just ruin the whole thing.

The actor went on to say that if either Carrie Fisher or Harrison Ford didn’t sign on, he wasn’t going to return, either, taking an “all or nothing” stance. Ford is notoriously a bit gruff, and Hamill describes how happy he was that his co-star agreed to come back:

Well, you know, he was someone that was unpredictable. I hadn’t seen him in years; I didn’t know what his feelings were. I know he’s sometimes grown impatient with people that don’t want to focus on what he’s doing currently and want to go stroll down memory lane. God knows, I’m used to that sort of thing. But who knew? And for him to jump back in so enthusiastically, I was delighted. It’s a wonderful character. Everybody loves Han Solo.

Everyone also seems to love the new ball droid featured in the first trailer, which we later discovered is called BB-8. Hamill explains that the new droid is actually a practical effect:

They never cease to amaze me with what they’re able to come up with, you know? I said, “How are you ever gonna top R2-D2, the most adorable droid in movie history?” And then they have this new one. I can’t even tell you his name, but you saw it in the trailer. And when they were demonstrating how they did this thing, live on set — because it’s not CGI, that’s a live prop — I was just amazed. They let me play around with it. [Laughs] I was running it all around at the creature shop up in Pinewood. I’m telling you, it’s an absolute delight. And not having thought that I’d ever go back there, to go back into that world, is just – I get the chills. It’s just so much fun.

There’s much more to the interview over on Yahoo!, but one of the things we’ve been so happy to hear is how committed J.J. Abrams and his production team are to using practical effects as much as possible. And knowing that BB-8 is something they actually built rather than relying on CGI is pretty outstanding.

There is still a lot that we don’t know about ‘Star Wars,’ but we’re sure to hear a lot more over the next 12 months. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ hits theaters on December 18, 2015.

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