C-3PO is one of many roles Anthony Daniels has played in Pittsburgh


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When Anthony Daniels -- aka C-3PO -- comes to town this weekend to narrate "Star Wars: In Concert," the two-hour multimedia experience at the Mellon Arena, it's just another role he'll play in Pittsburgh.

The British actor who played the worry-prone golden droid in all six movies has served as an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center on Second Avenue since 2004. In this role, he's been an adviser and personal consultant to students in the two-year graduate program that focuses on the gaming and entertainment industries.

And in what may be one of his favorite roles, he's a "play tester," which allows him to test students' video games and other interactive creations.

"He's an excellent play tester," said Shirley Saldamarco, the faculty and supervising producer with ETC. "Students are always asking him to test their games.

"With more than 35 years in the industry, he as a lot to offer. It's not limited to his role as an actor."

Daniels, 65, met ETC's director Don Marinelli in 2003 when he was asked to host the first Robot Hall of Fame ceremony, organized by CMU and the Carnegie Science Center. At the ceremony, Daniels spoke to roboticists from all over the world.

"When he saw me at the awards, he realized that I wasn't just an actor who put on a robot suit and talked in a funny voice," said Daniels about Mr. Marinelli.

Impressed with how Mr. Daniels connected with the audience, Marinelli asked him to visit ETC two to three times a year to talk to students. Those visits led to his adjunct position.

"I feel hugely honored to be there because I deal with people with massive brains who treat me as an equal," Mr. Daniels said.

The feeling is mutual. "Anthony is so ... down to earth," Saldamarco said. "He is so real with the students that he never, ever intimidates them. They know that he's this personality, this megastar, but he makes them realize he's there for them."

For Daniels, there is a lot love about ETC. One of the hallways resembles the entrance to a spaceship, with movie posters and fantasy memorabilia at every corner. There even is a display of a life-sized C-3PO standing next to other robots that have made it into the Robot Hall of Fame.

"The spirit within the building [has] an atmosphere of excitement and intelligence ... There's also some wacky things with props and memorabilia that tweak people's brains when they walk by."

Ultimately, that is what the ETC is all about: the imagination that creates stories and entertainment. This makes Daniels feel right at home.

ETC hosts a lot of tours, and when Daniels is in the building he encourages the faculty to bring the tour to him.

One year, Daniels was told of a boy on the tour who was being bullied at school. The boy was a huge "Star Wars" fan, and Mr. Daniels took the extra time to sit with him, talk and take pictures.

"Personally, I think this was life-changing [for the boy]," said Saldamarco. "I think he felt armed with something that gave him confidence. He had pictures he could bring to school."

Daniels has been on tour with the "Star Wars" show since October. At Sunday's show, he'll welcome more than a hundred ETC faculty and students backstage at the Mellon Arena for VIP honors.

He said he gets the chills when he talks to people about the "Star Wars" concert, which has already received several standing ovations in various cities. However, he said he's not going to let the touring keep him away from Pittsburgh.

"I am not going to lose my connection with ETC ... I admire the city for creating the energy to make a place like ETC, which is becoming a world leader in a huge and important industry in our world."

"Star Wars: In Concert" will be held 5 p.m. Sunday at Mellon Arena. It includes video and live symphony orchestra and choir featuring music from all six of John Williams' epic "Star Wars" scores. Tickets: 1-800-745-3000.


Michel Sauret can be reached at 412-263-1988 or msauret@post-gazette.com .


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