Niki Botelho (Teek)

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Niki Botelho
Teek (Battle For Endor)
Interview: August 2010

What do you recall of the filming of your scenes for The Battle For Endor and how did you get cast as Teek?

Originally Teek was an actual puppet. However, Wilford Brimley was throwing a fit with the directors, the Wheat Brothers. “I can’t act to a F****** puppet!” Often, I would be off the clock for work and Wilford would kindly ask me to act as the puppet for line sight so he could be interacting with something real.
I did not even see it coming. One day they told me my call time was god awful early, like 6 am -for a sixteen year old that is early-. I was to report to the creature shop.
Next thing you know parents are there signing contracts with me. I had to join the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) as soon as possible. It was a bit crazy. You know, no one ever ‘asked’ me if I wanted to do the part. I was the tiniest of the bunch, always was and always will be.

The main cast for The Battle For Endor were you, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller and Wilford Brimley. How did all of you get along during the filming of the movie?

We all got along wonderfully. They were like my first second family. We went out to dinner a lot, swam together….we were all so young, it was a blast! Once, Wilford asked all of us -at the time- kids if we were free for dinner and also if we liked sushi.
He ended up getting a limo to take us all to his premiere of Cocoon in San Francisco. We were all so surprised with all the photographers etcetera. It was a good time.
The Battle For Endor was directed by Jim and Ken Wheat. How were both men to work with?

Well as I said before how pissed Wilford was about the damn Teek puppet; he screamed at the Wheat Brothers and called them the Idiot Brothers. Wilford refused to work with them, therefore all of Wilfords shots were shot by the second unit director who was Joe Johnston at the time. He is pretty big in Hollywood these days and cool as hell to work with.

Where you a Star Wars fan before you were cast? When did you first see the original Star Wars movies?

My mom was a huge Star Wars fan. I think she was more excited than I was! I was young and semi-into it.

Did any strange, remarkable or funny things happen on the set? Can you share some memories?

Lots! Someone was always messing with someone!
One shot we were filming a POV shot across the ravine of all the Marauders descending down the hill. The Idiot Brothers wanted me to get up at the end of the scene and walk out of frame. Joe was directing me at the time. He did not like the idea so he put DUP on the slate (directed under protest). Joe did not have a good feeling about this one and he was right. I walked right out of frame and over the edge. I tumbled and tumbled and tumbled some more. Finally I ended face down in the creek, water rushing through me as well as the costume, making it weigh about two tons. I was choking on water by the time they yanked me out of the water and ripped my mask off.
Everyone freaked out and thought I was seriously hurt, the way the fall looked. I was 16, nothing hurts when you are 16. The creature shop was so pissed at the Wheat Bros. They painted a huge fake bruise on my back. The Wheat Bros. called me over, all concerned. I told them I felt fine, however my back kind of hurt. I lifted my shirt to show them my back…the fake bruise was huge. They shit their pants! We all got a good laugh at it.

How do you look back at the fact you were in The Battle For Endor, and are you proud to be a part of Star Wars?

You know Dennis, I knew, even though I was only 16 this gig was beyond special in so many ways. I was so young, traveling to Japan with Lucasfilm -everything First Class of course-. I realize now that I am older -and I hope wiser- I see how cool it is to be a part of major entertainment history.
I enjoyed playing Teek, it was fun. My friends say they knew which character I was right away by my mannerism. Funny huh?

In the Star Tours ride at the Disney theme parks the visitors can see Teek in the pre-ride show. On TV screens the visitors see Teek in a chair, getting ready to fly to Endor. Did you play Teek for this short film as well?

I honestly do not remember if I shot that or not. I did so many appearances and commercials and traveling with George Lucas. I am not sure. A lot of stuff is shot totally out of index. I saw it years ago and it did not look like my movements. It almost looked puppet like.
Are you still active in the acting business these days?

Yes I am active. Quite more these days.

Final question: of all the movies and series you have worked on: which particular one are you most proud of, and why?

That is really hard to say. I cannot stand watching myself, so I tend not to at times. I think every project I have ever worked on had some special quality about it that I have fond memories of. Some for the crew, some for the incredible food, some for the great script, some for the great co-workers. They all have been associated with wonderful memories. I would not have changed one thing about any of them.

Many thanks for this great interview!

No problem! You got lucky and caught me, not many people are able to. You must have good energy, good karma.

Was this your first Star Wars interview by the way?

That was the ‘Martini question’?
The first detailed one in over twenty years. Wow! That is a trip!