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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cameos and new characters explained

Spoilers! Every cameo we found, plus what to know about the new characters after you watch the final Skywalker Saga film.

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The end of an era brought out some familiar faces.

Walt Disney Pictures

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the end of a nine-film saga, which is most likely news to you only if you've been living under a rock. At a glance, it brings back Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron and John Boyega as Finn. Chewie, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Maz Kanata all return. General Leia Organa, played posthumously by Carrie Fisher, also returns for the final film of her saga, and the movie was written and directed by J.J. Abrams. 

Phew, that's a lot.

But about a million more people and characters than we originally expected show up in the movie. Here are just a handful of the cameos we spotted (and heard!), plus what we know about some of the new characters.

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Cameos and familiar faces

Composer John Williams

Look for Williams on the planet Kijimi, as the band of friends enter the droid shop. He appears for a moment, only to shake his head in dismay at the group storming in.

Wedge Antilles, played by Denis Lawson

The fighter pilot from the Original Trilogy makes a one-shot cameo in the final battle: He's a gunner on the Millennium Falcon as it races to help the Resistance. 

"Nice flying Lando," he says.

Lawson also is the uncle of Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel trilogy (and will return to the role in the Obi-Wan show that's coming to Disney Plus).

Lin-Manuel Miranda as a Resistance fighter

Though we didn't exactly spot him, this photo from the set says it all: Miranda was there all along, blending in as a part of the Resistance. On Tuesday he also revealed that he contributed music to the film, just like he did for The Force Awakens. (Update: We spotted him! Look for Hamilton himself when the Resistance is celebrating all together on the right side of your screen. He's in beige hugging a female fighter pilot.) 

Rey's parents

In flashbacks, Killing Eve's Jodie Comer plays Rey's mother, a woman committed to protecting her daughter. Her father, Emperor Palpatine's son, is played by Billy Howle, who appeared in Dunkirk and Outlaw King.

Beaumont Kin (Dominic Monaghan)

The Resistance trooper appears in the latest Star Wars Adventure comic Ghosts of Kashyyyk, Part I, released in October.

Colonel Aftab Ackbar

The Mol Cal son of the late Admiral Gial "It's a trap" Ackbar is among the Resistance fighters. He's voiced by Chris Terrio, who wrote The Rise of Skywalker with Abrams. Ackbar first appeared in Marvel Comics' Allegiance miniseries, from writer Ethan Sacks and artist Luke Ross.

Nien Nunb

Lando's Sullustan co-pilot from Return of the Jedi is still fighting the good fight with the Resistance. He's voiced by Kipsang Rotich.

Emperor Palpatine, Lando Calrissian, Force ghost Luke

Should I really call these cameos? Jury's out on that, so I'm just going to include them for reference.

Yes, Palpatine is played by Ian McDiarmid, the same actor who's brought the evil Sith Lord to life throughout the entire Skywalker Saga. Billy Dee Williams shows up to reprise his role as Lando, greatest scoundrel in the galaxies, and save the day. And Mark Hamill returns as a Force ghost of Luke Skywalker to encourage Rey when she's at her lowest.

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Rey's showdown with the emperor (left) is the crux of the film.

Walt Disney Pictures

Porgs

They do appear, albeit briefly, when Rey burns a ship on her return to Ahch-To to try to seal herself off from everyone.

Harrison Ford as Han Solo

This one I'm calling a cameo because it was the biggest surprise for someone who avoided leaks and spoilers until the screening. One of the movie's touching moments brings Han to his son for one final chat and a classic "I know."

While training to be a Jedi as Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill often gave Yoda a lift.

Strong in the Force is Yoda.

Lucasfilm

All those voices

When Rey is hearing all the Jedi come together for her, we heard: Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu from the prequels), Yoda (the OG, not the Baby), Freddie Prinze Jr. (Kanan Jarrus from animated series Star Wars: Rebels) and Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn from the prequels). But there were so many it was impossible to decipher them all. 

Sam Witwer is also credited under voice acting, but it's not clear whether he's voicing one of his numerous Star Wars canon characters (from Clone Wars, Rebels, the Battlefront games or Resistance) or if he's playing another stormtrooper/baddie (like in The Force Awakens). 

Let us know in the comments if you heard others and we'll try to confirm!

The Knights of Ren

Kylo Ren's goon squad, previously glimpsed in The Force Awakens, doesn't get much to do in The Rise of Skywalker -- the goons mostly just skulk around and look menacing, until the redeemed Ben Solo slaughters them all toward the movie's climax.

However, their backgrounds (and the details of Ben's fall to the dark side) are being revealed in Marvel Comics' Rise of Kylo Ren miniseries. It's written by Charles Soule, with art from Will Sliney, and the first issue came out Wednesday.

The Knights are played in the movie by Martin Wilde, Anton Simpson-Tidy, Lukaz Leong, Tom Rodgers, Joe Kennard and Ashley Beck.

New Star Wars characters

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Zorii Bliss is begging for her own series, or at least an origin story.

Walt Disney Pictures

Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell)

We knew Bliss had a background with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Bliss is a huge fan of Poe's, though she doesn't act like it at first. 

Isaac previously revealed to EW that Bliss "has a little bit of a checkered past and maybe some questionable morals," which we see during our brief time with her. But seriously, an origin story or even a spin-off about her and Poe's adventures could be worth mining.

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Babu Frik is a tiny Anzellan droidsmith.

Lucasfilm

Babu Frik

This creature is adorably disgusting, with its weirdly huge human-esque hands, and helps Rey and her friends extract vital information from C-3PO's memory at a crucial moment. The side-trek gives the gang time to meet Bliss, which feels more important. 

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Walt Disney Studios

Jannah (Naomi Ackie) 

The leader of a band of rogues on the moon where the OG Death Star has crashed, Jannah rides not-horses and when the Millennium Falcon lands in her territory, she leads others to Rey and company.

Later, she reveals to Finn that she's a former Stormtrooper, which instantly bonds the two. Jannah tells Finn that her entire company refused to fire on a village of innocent people and mutinied, rising up against the powers that be shortly before the Death Star was taken down. 

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"Evil incarnate" is how Grant described Pryde to Extra at the film's premiere Monday.

Disney

Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) 

A member of the First Order, General Pryde is made to serve his masters and the Emperor, nothing more. Actor Richard E. Grant told Gizmodo that director Abrams gave him no backstory about his character: "I never questioned J.J. about this but I think it's pretty clear that I was in the Peter Cushing mold."

Boolio

An important alien the Falcon crew comes into contact with early in the film, Boolio is an Ovissian male who helps the Resistance by passing along a "message from a spy." He's voiced in the movie by Patrick Williams and first appeared among the selection of Force Friday toys.

D-O

All three of the sequels have given us new droids, but none's as polite as D-O. His high-pitched "No, no thank you" when Rey attempts to touch him is the Most Relatable Thing I've ever heard a droid say. Added trivia: This little guy is voiced by director J.J. Abrams.

If you've spotted someone else or have more questions about new characters, leave a comment below and I'll ask someone else to get back to you (kidding, sort of). 

Originally published Dec. 18 and consistently updated with more details, characters and trivia.