Gary Tomkins, the art director for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has been involved with the galaxy far, far away almost his entire life. In fact, he is one of the only people to have been a part of all three trilogies of the franchise, having also worked in the art department for The Empire Strikes Back and as a draftsman for The Phantom Menace.
Tomkins recently spoke to TIME about what it was like working under director J.J. Abrams and how the nature of the Star Wars series creates nostalgia:
“What is lovely with J.J. is — I mean obviously so many of us have grown up with Star Wars, me maybe particularly more literally than a lot of millions of people across the world, but we’ve all played with Star Wars toys on the bedroom carpet and you know, we’ve all done that. Even J.J., on one of the first days that we showed him an X-wing, we were talking to him about it and talking about various technical details and he said, ‘Hey, just give me a minute. I’ve got my own X-wing here, this is so cool.’ And suddenly the little boy in him, the eight-year-old boy came out because he was standing there next to a X-wing. I think that’s what Star Wars does to people. I think the word iconic is very overused these days, but something like a X-wing is an iconic piece, and for a director to be presented with what essentially is a toy box of X-wings, of TIE fighters, of all of these things — it’s a privilege for us to be able to give it to them and I think its a great thrill for them to actually have it at their disposal and hopefully come up with some fantastic shots.”