[ Interview by Sally Davies and Michael Nicoll ]
[ Photographs by Joshua Duncan ]

Jason and Francesca Winiata seem like normal folk at first glance but, if you dig a little deeper, you will find out that they are actually everyday superheroes. Growing up with Star Wars, they have a love for the films which has developed into a full-blown lifestyle choice, including owning several Star Wars costumes that they wear to raise money for charity and cheer up sick kids in hospital.

One warm winter’s afternoon, The Fuller Issue caught up with Jason and Francesca to find out how strong The Force is with these two.

When were you first into it?

Francesca: Since 2011. Jason started it. Jason already had a collection of Star Wars figures and was talking with Hugh from Real Collectibles in Queenstown. Hugh suggested meeting up with a couple called Wendy and Centuri because they also have a Star Wars collection – we didn’t realise he meant that they had Star Wars costumes! We met them and hit it off straight away. Jason was blown away by the costumes and immediately wanted one of his own. He wasn’t put off by the 40–100 hours of work needed to create the costume, as you have to cut it, construct and paint it. At the time, I wasn’t too bothered but, when I actually saw Jason working and constructing the costume, I thought – wow, that’s cool; I want in.

If you could be anyone in Star Wars whom would you be?

Jason: Darth Maul.

Francesca: Asajj Ventress.

Who is your favourite character?

Jason: Darth Maul.

Francesca: Obi-wan from the newer episodes – Ewan McGregor really epitomises the character. Alec McGuiness didn’t do the character justice in the original films.

How many Star Wars costumes have you got?

Jason: Just the one; I used to have two.

Francesca: Three. Concept Ventress, Fem Stormtrooper and custom Mandolorian based on Boba Fett.

Light or dark?

Jason and Francesca: Dark!

What is your favourite Star Wars film out of the original three films?

Jason and Francesca: Empire Strikes Back.

Who’s the emperor in the household?

Francesca: Jason thinks that he has power and control, but it is an illusion!

What’s the best thing you’ve ever done in your costume?

Francesca: We regularly visit Ronald McDonald House throughout the year and for Christmas and Easter Egg Hunts. We also visit the cancer ward in hospital to cheer up the sick kids going through chemo and radiotherapy.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in your costume?

Jason: I’m not answering that question!

Francesca: No comment!

Why did you get into charity work?

Jason: After the earthquakes, I was really stressed out having to deal with the trauma, upset and the insurance company. I felt helpless. Then someone suggested to me if you can’t help yourself, help others. So I did.

How does the charity work come about?

Francesca: People contact us via websites and forums to attend events. Lucasfilm have given us permission to use their copyrighted imagery for non-profit purposes, so when we are asked to attend an event we ask for a donation to be made to a charity of their choice. We have spent countless hours on our charity work over the last four years. We are given a stand for free at Armageddon, which is NZ’s largest entertainment expo and runs over two days. All of the money we raise goes to charity.

Have you considered robbing a bank in costume?

Jason: Funnily enough, yes!

Francesca: Can’t say that I have, but it would be amusing.

Place you would like to go wearing your costumes in Christchurch, but can’t?

Jason: Honestly, there is nowhere that we can’t go. It’s amazing how many places you can go, even places with strict dress codes. Everyone seems to want to take photos of us.

Where’s Mecca?

The Star Wars Celebration every three years. It switches location each time between the USA and Europe. Also The Rancho Obi-Wan Experience in California.