Thanks to the behind the scenes reel from Comic-Con, we know Simon Pegg has a small part in Star Wars: The Force Awakens — he’s completely suited-up from head to toe as an alien, though, so you won’t have an easy time spotting him in the film. Pegg’s eagerness to have such a minor, unrecognizable background role is proof enough of his fandom, but apparently his involvement goes much deeper than that.

In EW’s new Star Wars issue, director J.J. Abrams was asked about Pegg’s participation — at first he jokes around about not knowing who Pegg is, before he goes on to express his gratitude for the actor’s help:

I will say this in terms of Simon: while he won’t be recognizable in the movie, in all honesty, his role in this – not the performance or the character – but his support and friendship has been massively important and helpful in the process. He was a wonderful partner in crime to kick the story around and ask questions and come up with ideas, and he was an incredibly helpful part of the process for all of us. I’m very grateful.

The actor appeared in both of Abrams’ Star Trek films, and it was those films that had fans a bit nervous about the director taking on the world of Star Wars. Pegg is reprising the role of Scotty in Star Trek Beyond, for which he also co-wrote the script — as it turns out, he had quite a hand in shaping the screenplay for The Force Awakens. Abrams explains:

He was a sounding board. He would drop by the set because he wanted to, and when he could, he would help… We could talk about things, and he was a perfect combination of incredibly smart screenwriter, fan of the series, critical fan of the series, and friend of mine – but not just blindly supportive. He was an honest, critical friend. And he wasn’t so close to it that he became immune to things. He would come in with fresh eyes and very smart ideas. He’s one of a handful of people along the way that has been really priceless.”

Being surrounded by Yes Men is how bad movies get made, so it’s refreshing to hear Abrams speak so honestly about relying on the input of others — especially very smart others like Simon Pegg.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.

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