He’s a force for good.
“Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill feels honored to be the first ambassador of Ukraine’s Army of Drones, part of a fundraising initiative by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to aid his country’s fight against Russia.
“When they contacted me, first I was sort of in a state of shock. I’m not used to being contacted by world leaders, ”Hamill told the Daily News.
“We talked to the people in his administration, and then we did a Zoom with President Zelenskyy [on Sept. 29]. And how are you going to say no? I mean, come on. I’m in the escapism business. I do TV and movies and cartoon voices. I’m the epitome of a non-essential worker, so I felt this great sense of responsibility. I’ve got to do this. “
Hamill’s job is to represent Ukraine’s program for obtaining, repairing and replacing the drones used by the country’s armed forces to patrol borders and protect civilians. Through the fundraiser, Ukraine has received hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles valued at more than $ 50 million so far.
Army of Drones is part of the larger UNITED24 fundraising platform launched by Zelenskyy in May, less than three months after Russia invaded Ukraine. People from more than 100 countries have already donated more than $ 180 million to support the Ukrainian efforts.
“Everyone expected Ukraine to just roll over and not challenge the Russian invasion, but to see them as a country come together, it’s been truly inspirational,” Hamill said. “To see them and President Zelenskyy react so heroically, it’s a David vs. Goliath scenery. “
The California-born Hamill, 71, is known for his portrayal of the heroic Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” movies, which he believes inspired Ukraine’s interest in him becoming an ambassador.
Zelenskyy likened “Star Wars” to his country’s real-world conflict with Russia during his conversation with Hamill, the actor said.
“He mentioned the ‘Evil Empire,’ referring to Russia,” Hamill said. “It’s not surprising. ‘Star Wars’ was envisioned by George Lucas as a fairy tale for kids. He wanted to tell a story of good vs. evil, where good is clearly defined, evil is clearly defined. It’s so corny to modern, cynical points of view that he had to put it in a galaxy far, far away. He had to make sure that, in context, it would be accepted rather than laughed at.
“It had a worldwide impact that I certainly didn’t expect,” Hamill said. “I thought it would be popular, but I didn’t know how popular, and I didn’t know the longevity of it. … It’s also personal to people and so highly relatable, so I’m sure that’s what put me on their radar screen. “
Ukraine also enlisted Barbra Streisand, Liev Schreiber and the alternative band Imagine Dragons as ambassadors in its efforts to raise money for medical aid.
Hamill, whose initial conversation with Zelenskyy lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, says the president’s background as an actor helped them connect even further as they discussed Army of Drones.
He encourages people to donate whatever they can, including actual drones.
“’Anything we can do to help’ is my motto,” Hamill said. “A lot of times, you watch these things going on in your life, and you feel so helpless that you can’t have any say or any impact on what’s going on. This is not only an honor to be asked, but a chance to make even a tiny, tiny contribution towards their survival. “
Donations to Army of Drones can be made at u24.gov.ua/dronation.