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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Student becoming the master’: Disney+ Darth Vader actor Dmitrious Bistrevsky, of Spokane, visits hometown for Lilac City Comicon

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Spokane native Dmitrious Bistrevsky, who played Darth Vader in the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series on Disney+, is in Spokane this week making several appearances, including at the Lilac City Comicon on Saturday and Sunday at the Spokane Convention Center.

Darth Dmitrious, as he calls himself, stumbled into the role accidentally. He has a unique background in gymnastics, helped found the Paper Cutout Crew breakdancing group in Spokane, attended circus school, worked with Cirque du Soleil and did stunt work before transitioning into becoming a suit actor. Becoming a suit actor requires being able to communicate emotion using only subtle movements and also requires being in makeup, prosthetics or a suit for hours on hours on end. It creates a sensation of claustrophobia that not everyone can deal with, Bistrevsky said.

“Sometimes you’re glued into a suit for 12, 15, 16 hours a day,” he said. “I played a lot of werewolves, a lot of monsters. I started to get known in L.A. as someone who could wear a suit and someone who could move.”

After becoming aware of a top-secret role involving a character in space who fights with a sword, Bistrevsky was convinced it was for the role of Darth Vader. After multiple auditions, he found out he was right.

“I started training sword right when I heard about it,” he said.

He got the role and spent nearly six months preparing. An old injury had given him a slight limp and he worked with a movement coach to perfect Vader’s walk, a mixture of power and aggression as well as the grace and elegance of a master.

Bistrevsky wore the suit for the limited series “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Another actor voiced the role and his voice was digitally altered to sound like James Earl Jones, the original voice of Vader. Though they worked in separate rooms, Bistrevsky said they were able to work together seamlessly and began to anticipate what the other would do.

“We worked independently on set,” he said. “I would hear him on an earpiece and he could see me on a monitor. It was a really good experience.”

The suit, however, was physically difficult to wear. Back spasms were an issue, as was visibility and mobility. Bistrevsky jokes that he had to use the force to move around when his mask fogged over and he couldn’t see.

“I couldn’t lift my arms over my head or out to the side,” he said. “Literally, the costume was a prison.”

When he hung up the suit, Bistrevsky was convinced he would never play the role again. To psych himself up for the role, he would meditate. But instead of soothing, calming thoughts, he would focus on small incidents or annoyances and work himself into a rage.

“When I played the character, I went to a very dark place,” he said. “I was very method. When I finished the role, I couldn’t stop doing it.”

He took some time off from suit work and worked on getting psychologically healthy again. He’s since learned not to go so deep into a character.

“It took me a year to recover,” he said. “I had a whole master class on my own psychology. I learned a lot about myself.”

Bistrevsky’s journey to suit acting had many detours. He grew up mostly in the Hillyard area, catching crawdads in the Spokane River. After earning his associate degree, he had a carpet cleaning company that held contracts at local movie theaters and other businesses. He accidentally got into teaching gymnastics even though he had no training in it. He taught preschoolers simple movements during the day and trained himself at night.

After leaving Spokane, he went to circus school and learned hand-balancing, among other skills. He attended the training program for Cirque du Soleil until injuries led to his transition to suit acting.

In addition to getting his coveted Papa Joe burger from Zips, Bistrevsky plans to host two community events while he’s in town. On June 5, he’ll teach handstand classes at Spokane Gymnastics Pines, 11712 E. Montgomery Drive, one for beginners from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and another for intermediate and advanced students from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The registration fee is $49. Spokane Gymnastics Pines can be reached at (509) 290-5270.

During the workshops, Bistrevsky will teach a handstand method that he invented.

“This, to me, is the full-circle moment of the student becoming the master,” he said.

On June 3, he will visit Monkey Biz, at 2928 N. Nevada St., from 6 to 9 p.m. to host a game night. Admission is nonperishable food items for a charity food drive. The comic, collectibles and game shop can be reached at (509) 242-3500.