- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (AP) - A long, long time ago on a dance floor far, far away, Kendra Wall started cutting a rug with Dave Eman. She didn’t know he was a casting director.

Now, Wall was a conservative soul. The Oklahoma City resident was careful with how she presented herself and didn’t have a strong interest in his movie project.

But Wall’s conversation with Eman would land her roles in the 1981 screwball comedy “Under the Rainbow” and eventually “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.”

“One dance can change your life,” Wall said.

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1Ioa3Zm ) reports that years before Wall became a store support manager at an Oklahoma City Nordstrom Rack and started visiting elementary schools to give motivational speeches, she’d steal Han Solo’s blaster and pelt Stormtroopers with foam boulders.

Stop and picture the overgrown forest of Endor. Dense woodlands, tall mountains and savannas filled the fictional moon. It’s hard to imagine Endor without also remembering Wall’s character.

At 4 feet 4 inches, she’s still tall for a dwarf. Yet, she was a fit for the Ewok crew. “Return of the Jedi” would be the pinnacle of her acting career, but it afforded her some rare opportunities during her month of filming on the sci-fi sequel.

On day one of filming in northern California, she not only was offered Mark Hamill’s seat at lunch but also costumed up in front of director George Lucas for a wardrobe test. But not everything went so smoothly.

As you can imagine, it’s difficult to hear and see out of an Ewok costume. The costume was hot, too, and fit like a tight, furry glove. Wall had to send in strange, specific measurements before getting on set. She had no idea what sort of character she was in for. The “Star Wars” set was full of surprises.

Especially when Wall caught on fire. During an attack scene, the Ewoks narrowly avoided explosions caused by squibs. Wall got a little too close to one, and her costume caught fire. A fire extinguisher blast later, and she was back to normal.

Wall spent much of her adolescence in Oklahoma. She went to Hefner Middle School and Putnam City High School, and graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a teaching degree in special education.

“I really liked teaching,” Wall said. “A lot of the parents would say to me, ‘Just by you being you, you teach my child so much, because other people might see on the outside that you might have something that would hold you back.’

“I’m not anything extraordinary just because I do those things. That’s one thing about labeling, staring and shunning. That limits your freedom to be who you are. By others doing that to people with any kind of differences, whether they have glasses, braces, they’re too tall in the class or too short, it’s taking away their freedom by not letting them be who they are.”

Wall said she’s used to being looked at as different. During her interview with The Oklahoman, a young woman approached the table. In a soft voice, she said hello and noticed that Wall’s feet hovered slightly above the floor. Wall kindly chatted with her before returning to the interview.

Wall gets stares and prying questions all the time. But she learned from a young age that she was a person, just like any other kid at school. Her grandfather instilled that mindset. Wall remembered skipping around his basement and spelling words with him.

“Can you spell little?” he asked.

“L-I-T-T-L-E,” she answered. “I’m little. I just thought that was the coolest thing. … I think what my grandfather was teaching me is that I was special. That we’re all special.”

She’s OK with being little. It even got her on a touring dance production that landed in Madison Square Garden. Wall also performs in smaller venues, like elementary schools. In The Oklahoman’s archives, there’s a photo of her speaking with her niece’s second-grade class.

Wall calls it her “Take 5” discussion. Armed with the fun-size candy bars of the same name, she urges children to take five minutes to think and be thoughtful to people with differences.

Wall also hits on topics such as the feeling of getting left out and the steps kids can take to include people. It’s the sort of messages that Mr. Rogers would promote. Getting attention for little people has been at the core of Wall’s adult life.

She’s gone so far as to organize a fashion show and brunch at the Nordstrom she used to work at in Dallas. She coordinated it with a Little People of America convention and gave little people the opportunity to shop and get clothes altered before the store opened for regular hours.

Wall doesn’t use being little as a crutch or an excuse for anything. She’s led a full life and happily returned to Oklahoma City about a year ago.

“It’s really enriched my life,” she said.

“I’ve met so many people because of it. People have touched my life, and I’ve touched theirs. It’s made my life extraordinary.”

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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