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SYFY WIRE Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

Shirley Henderson is the uncontested GOAT of The Rise of Skywalker

By Rebecca Pahle
babu frik

Reactions to The Rise of Skywalker have been mixed, but one thing everyone can agree on—or at least if they don’t, I do not want to know about it—is that new character Babu Frik is a prince, a star, a god among men.

A droid mechanic and bona fide party boss, Babu Frik slipped right between the Reylo ship wars and the over-the-top fan service (I know people like Lost, but couldn’t we have eschewed a Dom Monaghan cameo in favor of giving Kelly Marie Tran, I dunno, lines?) to EY-EYYYYYYYYY right into our hearts. 

A man who wears nothing but welding goggles, a hood, gloves, and a loincloth is a man who does not give a Frik

Not announced before the release of The Rise of Skywalker was who, exactly, would be playing Babu Frik. The person who brought light into our hearts and love into our lives, it turns out, is Scottish actress Shirley Henderson. To genre fans, she’s probably most memorable for playing bathroom-dwelling ghost Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series, a pre-Bob's Burgers illustration of the unbridled horniness of teenage fangirls. Henderson was in her late 30s when the first Potter film in which Myrtle appears hit theaters, putting her among the rarefied ranks of actors who are way too old to be playing high school students, but like, OK? (See: Nicholas Brendan from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but decidedly not Bianca Lawson for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because she is immortal.)

Henderson isn’t the first Star Wars actor to sneak in some voice work under the radar; The Force Awakens had already been released when it came out that the cute little droid everybody had been freaking out about since that year’s D23 had been voiced by Jean-Ralphio Saperstein and Stefan the whole time. Even in The Rise of Skywalker, there were some additional surprises snuck into the voice track, with a whole slew of actors who have played Jedi somewhere in Star Wars’ 40-plus year history returning to give Rey a little last-minute encouragement. (cough Legend of Korra did it better cough)

With her iconic high-pitched voice, Henderson was a perfect choice to play Frik, whose dulcet party wail is ebullient enough to bring joy to one of the saddest deaths in Western literary canon. 

Those looking to maybe see Shirley Henderson in addition to hearing her will have no trouble doing so. She played Tilda Swinton's harried secretary in Bong Joon-ho's Okja, radiating supreme my-boss-is-crazy energy.

Okja GIF-downsized_large

She pops up, understandably, in a lot of British films, playing one of Bridget Jones' best friends in the Bridget Jones trilogy and collaborating with director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) multiple times. She was a highlight of last year's Stan & Ollie, playing the wife of classic film comedian Oliver Hardy. Trainspotting and its sequel are both in her filmography.

For those who want something slightly more upbeat, with slightly less by way of hard drugs, Henderson was excellent in the severely underrated rom-com Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, wherein she plays a manipulative fashion maven and the foil of Frances McDormand's "dowdy spinster-turned-society lady for a day" lead. The movie boasts swoon-worthy '30s fashion, Ciáran Hinds as a romantic lead, and Amy Adams being an IRL Disney Princess. Though I probably should have started with "Lee Pace sings."