New Chewy Alert! Meet the Basketball Star Taking Over for 'Star Wars' Legend Peter Mayhew in Han Solo Prequel

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Photo: Instagram
For the upcoming young Han Solo film, producers needed a young Chewbacca -- and the filmmakers found their star in 29-year-old Finnish basketball player Joonas Suotamo.
Suotamo is taking on the mantel from longtime Star Wars legend Peter Mayhew, who originated the role in the first Star Wars trilogy, beginning with 1977’s Episode IV – A New Hope.
This won't be the first time Suotamo dons the hirsute costume. He previously appeared alongside Mayhew in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, where he performed the more physical action scenes that proved too difficult for the 71-year-old Mayhew.
However, for the upcoming prequel story, Suotamo is going to be in the driver's seat, playing the celebrated Wookiee throughout the entire film.
The aspiring actor -- who, standing at a towering 6 feet 11 inches, is still shorter than his 7-foot-2-inch predecessor -- took to Instagram on Tuesday to share his excitement, and to express his love and appreciation for the man who developed the character of Chewbacca, and taught him the intricacies of portraying the role.
"I am profoundly grateful for this amazing opportunity to become a part of the Star Wars franchise that I have loved since my childhood," Suotamo wrote before thanking his family, friends, colleagues and singling out Mayhew.
"Chewbacca is one of the most iconic characters in the history of film, and Peter's development and portrayal of this beloved Wookiee has spread so much joy across the globe," he continued. "Peter's guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring Star Wars fans the Chewie they know and love."

While Suotamo has been able to enjoy his anonymity so far -- what with being behind the Chewbacca mask for all of his time on screen -- he's also taken the opportunity to bask in the Star Wars glory. The former Penn State basketball star has also made sure to document it all, from his time at fan conventions to meeting other stars, to even getting his own action figure.

On Tuesday morning, Suotamo joined his Star Wars brethren Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Donald Glover -- along with directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord -- for the young Han Solo film's first official cast photo, snapped inside the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Check out the video below for more.