Thandie Newton had to ''take a moment'' when she first saw Chewbacca on the set of 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'.

The 45-year-old actress portrays Val Beckett in the sci-fi prequel alongside Alden Ehrenreich as a young incarnation of the space smuggler from the original trilogy and Joonas Suotamo as his Wookiee sidekick.

Thandie has long been a fan of the franchise and she admits when she laid eyes on Chewie ''sat there in his full regalia'' she got over-excited about being becoming part of saga.

In an interview on UK TV show 'This Morning', she said: ''This is where Han first meets the fluffy Chewbacca and I've got to say the moment when you walk on the set and you see Chewbacca sat there in his full regalia that's when you know you're in 'Star Wars', I had to take a moment, I had to take 60 seconds before we started filming the scene.''

Alden, 28, is taking over the role of Han from Harrison Ford who brought the iconic character to life in the original trilogy and then in 2015's 'The Force Awakens'.

Thandie admits it was a risk by Disney and Lucasfilm to create a story about Han using a different actor but she has nothing but praise for Alden for what he did with his portrayal.

She said: ''It's quite daring of them to create Han Solo as a young man because Han Solo is it! We all love Han Solo.

''I think they auditioned a thousand people and he was the first person they saw and he ended up getting it. He was so relaxed about it, honestly, and the pressure was felt because Han's such a beloved character and it's a risk to make the film and it's hard to get the balance right, like, does he copy Harrison Ford? But because he's playing the young version of him you just want to see glimpses of where he's going to end up.''

Thandie is the first woman of colour to have a leading role in a 'Star Wars' movie and she admits she wanted to know what the character would be bringing to the story before accepting the part.

She said: ''Very often with action movies I wonder if us women are going to be cast as damsels in distress, or is it going to be something that is valuable and empowering. So to hear that my character was uncompromising, uncaring about hair and makeup and glamour and was going to be really competent and be a survivor and be very much part of the team that inspires Han Solo to be who he becomes. That was the icing on the cake to do that as the character.

''Also part of what made it so lovely is that all the actors were such huge fans, I mean everyone's life has been touched by some way by the franchise. We were just so thrilled to be part of it so there was no ego jostling and everyone was there because they just really wanted to be there and were thrilled to be on set every day.''