Thursday, December 31, 2015

Can Nick Saban read Alabama's mindset in pregame warmups?

Are they ready?

How does the team look?

Are their heads in it?

They come in different variations but there's a constant theme to the pregame inquiries. They might, perhaps, fill an email box or Twitter mention for a beat writer. It's a question not easily answered since the interaction before game day is limited.

Turns out, even those closest to Alabama's football team have a tough time with it too.

"I don't really think ― I can't tell," Nick Saban said before Alabama's Cotton Bowl semifinal with Michigan State approaching at 7 p.m. CT Thursday. "I mean, maybe somebody can tell. I can't even tell that we're going to play for 60 minutes in the game once the game starts."

Alabama (12-1) has appeared focused all week, eager to correct the problems it had playing Ohio State in last season's semifinal. The mindset was not right entering that game, Saban and players have said all year.

The issue in the Tide's lone loss of 2015 wasn't a lack of focus. Saban said they were too fired up to play Ole Miss in September. Five Tide turnovers later, the Rebels left with a 43-37 win and

They've said all the right things in the days leading up to kickoff. Ultimately, however, it's impossible to know how they'll respond when the three-plus week layoff ends.

"I think you're always trying to focus on playing the next play," Saban said, "and making sure your guys are staying focused and doing the best job you can to sort of teach them as the game goes on, any adjustments that they need to make and things they need to do better. And so sometimes I think we have the right mindset and all of a sudden we have a lapse in the game and the other team goes on a three-play drive for 81 yards and scores a touchdown and gets right back in the game.

"And you're sitting there saying, "What happened?" So I don't think that you ever know for sure. I think you're always trying to work to make sure that you're keeping the right focus and mindset on your team as you play a game."

Cities around world tighten New Year's Eve security amid terror attack fears

Brussels has cancelled its official celebrations, Paris called off an annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées and London increased the numbers of firearms officers on the streets as authorities across the world stepped up security measures for New Year’s Eve.

Belgian police detained six people during house searches in Brussels on Thursday in an investigation into an alleged plot to carry out an attack in the city. Earlier in the week two other people were arrested on suspicion of preparing attacks on “emblematic sites” in Brussels during the celebrations. Another man was questioned over links to last month’s Paris attacks.

Authorities said a firework display and festivities that attracted 100,000 people last year would not go ahead after revealing the alleged jihadi plot.

“Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for tomorrow [Thursday] evening,” the mayor, Yvan Mayeur, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. “It’s better not to take any risks.”

In Paris, where 130 people were killed by extremists last month, the annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées has been called off and 11,000 police, soldiers and firefighters will patrol the French capital. In all, 60,000 police and troops will be deployed across the country.

However, France’s biggest public gathering since the atrocities will still go ahead on the Champs-Élysées.

“The people of Paris and France need this symbolic passage into the new year,” said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of the French capital. “After what our city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world,” she told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine, is to release a special issue one year after the attack in which 12 of its staff were killed by jihadis. The 32-page double issue – featuring a selection of drawings by the cartoonists who died in the attack, as well as by current staff and messages of support – will be released on 6 January. Nearly a million copies will go on sale.

Moscow’s Red Square, traditionally a place where people gather to ring in the new year, will be closed. “It’s no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists,” the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said recently.

In London, thousands of police, including increased numbers of firearms officers, will be on duty. Scotland Yard said there would be about 3,000 officers across central London as a fireworks display brings in 2016.

Metropolitan police spokeswoman Supt Jo Edwards said: “New Year’s Eve is a major celebration in the diary and the Met has been working with colleagues to ensure celebrations run smoothly and the event is safe and enjoyable for everyone who attends.”

In Madrid, 600 police will be deployed to Puerta del Sol square, where the number of revellers has been limited to 25,000.

In Turkey, officials said two Islamic State suspects, reportedly both Turks, were planning to stage suicide bombings in the centre of Ankara. Turkey has been on a high security alert since October, whentwo suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, killing 103 people in the worst attack in the country’s modern history. According to the private NTV television, counter-terrorism police arrested the pair in the Mamak district on the outskirts of the capital.

“They are suspected of being affiliated with Islamic State and were planning an attack on the new year in Ankara,” a Turkish official told AFP.

The two intended to stage an attack in Ankara’s main Kizilay square, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing the prosecutor’s office.

In New York city, where 1 million gather in Times Square every year, officials said 6,000 officers, some plainclothes, would be on hand to watch over celebrations. Bill de Blasio, theNew York mayor, said the security measures this year would be “more extensive than ever” and include more than 500 police trained in preventing terror attacks.

“We’ll have a huge number of police out on New Year’s Eve, including a lot of our new anti-terror force, the critical response command,” he said.

In Somalia, the government has banned celebrations of Christmas and New Year for fear of attacks. In Germany, which has received 1 million refugees this year, many shelters have banned firecrackers and pyrotechnics to protect people from reliving the trauma of wars they fled.

Sydney kicked off the global celebrations with its biggest fireworks display ever. Despite safety concerns, a million-plus crowd watched the extravaganza from the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the chimes of midnight began their move across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally the Americas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Trump: 'Schlonged' is not vulgar

Donald Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to defend using the word "schlonged" to describe Hillary Clinton's primary loss in 2008, saying the word is "not vulgar."

"Once again, #MSM is dishonest. 'Schlonged' is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got 'schlonged' that meant beaten badly," he said in one tweet.

He then attacked the mainstream media, MSM for short, for being unfair to him.

"For those on TV defending my use of the word 'schlonged,' bc #MSM is giving it false meaning-tell them it means beaten badly. Dishonest #MSM," he said.

Trump may have confused "schlonged" -- a vulgar Yiddish word for a penis -- for "shellacked," which does indeed mean to be beaten badly.

But Trump cited Tuesday what he said was a 1984 NPR report in which "schlonged" was used similarly to how he used it Monday.

"NPR's @NealConan said 'schlonged' to WaPo re: 1984 Mondale/Ferraro campaign: 'That ticket went on to get schlonged at the polls.' #Hypocrisy"

The controversy began Monday night when Trump used the word to slam Clinton over her 2008 primary loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama.

RELATED: Clinton will play victim over 'schlonged' comment, Bush says

"Even a race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama. I don't know who would be worse, I don't know, how could it be worse? But she was going to beat -- she was favored to win -- and she got schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost," Trump said.

The comment was widely criticized, and Clinton's campaign said Tuesday that Trump's "degrading language" hurts women.

'Tis the season for a holiday trip

AAA has predicted a record 100 million people will be traveling over the Christmas holiday, including thousands flying through Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

RDU officials said an estimated 30,000 travelers would pass through the airport daily on Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday and next Monday – 30 to 40 percent more than a typical day. They advised flyers to arrive two hours before their flights to provide enough time to find parking and make it through check-in and security lines.

Francesca Aaron and her husband made a point of getting to the airport early Tuesday, and rainy weather, traffic and long lines haven't dampened their Christmas spirit as they head to Chicago.

"(We're going) to see our only daughter and our granddaughter, who just turned 3, and our daughter's expecting a baby a month from today," Aaron said. "We're excited. Santa Claus is definitely on the way."

Although many people might want to avoid RDU because of the holiday crowds, a number of volunteers braved the rush to help travelers.

"It's kind of overwhelming, especially if they've never been here before," said Joanie Richards as she helped people navigate Terminal 2, from pointing them to the right check-in area to clueing them in on where to find a restroom or buy a sandwich.

Richards and fellow volunteer Jean Spargur said the travelers they've seen have been in a pretty good mood.

"I think people are excited at Christmas time. They're looking forward to their journeys," Spargur said.

Another group of volunteers was welcoming some special travelers coming in – art students from Orange High School brought handmade cards to give to arriving service members.

"I want to say happy holidays and we all care for you and appreciate you for everything. Have a wonderful Christmas and stay strong, and remember, you are always cared for and loved," ninth-grader Brittany Moore said.

Art teacher RaeAnn Daughtry, along with fellow teacher Micki Saad, said her students undertook the project as a way to thank military members for their service. Even though their school is already on holiday break – and there are a lot of other places students could be – about a dozen went to RDU to hand out their cards personally.

"Students, if you give them an opportunity to give back, that's all they want to do. They want to make people happy, and the fact that they created these things, they're so proud to give it to someone, and a lot of them have family in the military, so it means a lot to them as well," Daughtry said.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jeremy Carter, dies at 28

Former President Jimmy Carter told his weekly Sunday-school class at Maranatha Church in Plains, Georgia, that his grandson, Jeremy Carter, had died, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Two weeks earlier and before the very same crowd, the 91-year-old Carter had delivered the cheerful news that he is cancer-free due to cutting-edge surgery and medicine. This Sunday, Carter was about 25 minutes late to the church in Plains, Georgia. It was the first time he had ever been tardy, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The former president explained that his grandson had not been feeling well and laid down for a nap at his family's home in Peachtree City, just south of Atlanta. Jeremy Carter's mother later discovered that his heart had stopped. The family attempted CPR, and then rushed their son to the hospital, where doctors tried to resuscitate the 28-year-old. "They took him to the hospital and we got there I guess about 1:30 this morning, " the former president said. "After we were there about 20 minutes his heart stopped beating again. So they tried to give him CPR but he passed away. He was just 28 and a wonderful young man whom we loved very much." Jeremy Carter was pronounced dead early on Sunday morning. The cause of death is still unclear.,

The former president urged the congregation to “be filled with a sense of joy and thanksgiving,” despite his family's obvious sorrow.

“I should be joyful and thankful to God for giving me both life and freedom,” Carter continued, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Churchgoers at Marantha Church described Jeremy Carter as a “great, fun-loving guy,” who visited his grandparents in Plains, Georgia, as often as he could.

"(Jimmy Carter’s) decision to come teach Sunday school is indicative of his character, how important this church is to him, teaching is to him,” said Maranatha Church Pastor Jeremy Shoulta, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

"The past few months have been a very emotional time for this church. There have been moments of great joy, of sadness, of grief. The church has done all it can to lift the Carters up during this difficult time.” Shoulta continued.

Jeremy Carter was the son of Annette and Jeff Carter, Jimmy Carter's youngest son. Jeremy Carter had also accompanied his Nobel Prize-winning grandfather on initiatives with the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: Second Quarter Open Thread

Toget their Week 15 match-up underway, the Minnesota Vikings won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, meaning that they kicked off to theChicago Bears. Things got off to a rough start, as Deonte Thompson took the return out to midfield to get things started for the visiting team. Matt Forte then broke off a big 35-yard run, but a holding penalty on Hroniss Grasu negated the play. A sack byTom Johnson followed, and the Bears were forced to punt it away. The punt from Pat O'Donnell was downed at the 7-yard line, and that's where the Vikings picked up their first possession of the day.

The Vikings went to Adrian Peterson early, as he picked up a first down on two quick carries. That was followed up by a nice 12-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Kyle Rudolph on third down to keep the drive moving. The Vikings then found themselves facing third down again, but Bridgewater found Jerick McKinnon for a nice 25-yard gain into Chicago territory at the 39. After another first down for Peterson, Bridgewater foundJarius Wright for 7 yards, and an offside penalty put the Vikings into the red zone. The Vikings then finished the drive in style, as Bridgewater lofted a beautiful ball into the back left corner of the end zone for Stefon Diggs, who hauled it in for a 14-yard touchdown reception. Blair Walsh connected on the extra point, and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead after an impressive 93-yard drive.

Minnesota forced a second consecutive three-and-out on Chicago's next drive, highlighted by Chad Greenway sacking Cutler on third down. O'Donnell came on to punt again, and Marcus Sherels called for a fair catch at the Minnesota 29-yard line. Peterson got the first two carries of the next drive as well, resulting in a Minnesota first down. Bridgewater then hooked up with McKinnon again for another big gain, this one for 31 yards down to the Chicago 29-yard line.

As we move to the second quarter of play, the Vikings are facing 3rd-and-6 from the Chicago 25-yard line.

After one quarter of play at TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings lead the Chicago Bears by a score of 7-0. Can they keep the momentum going as they approach the Chicago red zone?

Panthers survive Giants; Chiefs keep winning — NFL Week 15 Cheat Sheet

The New York Giants, a team that has specialized in ruining previously unblemished records, simply refused to go away. Once trailing 35-7, New York tied the game at 35 with a dramatic late-game touchdown. But in a season marked by near-misses, the undefeated Carolina Panthers would hand the Giants another, after MVP candidate Cam Newton led his team down the field for a game-winning 43-yard field goal by Graham Gano. The win improved the Panthers to 14-0 and likely ended the Giants’ playoff hopes.

It was a heated affair throughout the game, as Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. struggled early against shutdown corner Josh Norman of the Panthers, with the two incurring multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penaltiesthroughout the game.

The feud started after it appeared Beckham would strike first, but he dropped a deep pass that would have been a sure touchdown in the first quarter.

It was downhill for the Giants from there until late in the second half when they rallied to tie it late in the fourth quarter after blocking a field goal that would have pushed the Panthers up by 17. Beckham caught the game-tying touchdown on a fourth down just inside the two-minute warning.

The game was crucial for the Giants’ playoff hopes in the NFC East, as the Redskins beat the Bills with the Eagles set to play the Cardinals Sunday night.

Elsewhere in the NFL, the AFC South lead was on the line, as the Texans topped the Colts with Brandon Weeden at the helm after Texans QB T.J. Yates left Sunday’s game with a torn ACL. Weeden, late of the Dallas Cowboys, has now placed the Texans atop the division and in strong standing for the playoffs.

In Minnesota, the Vikings beat down the Bears, but may have suffered a serious blow to their playoff hopes as Adrian Peterson limped off the field after apparently injuring his left ankle. He later returned to the game.

Peterson wasn’t the only high-profile back forced from the game Saturday, as LeSean McCoy left the Bills’ game against the Redskins with what looked like a knee injury. He will not return.

Bernie Sanders Falls Behind in a Race Centered on Security

In his opening remarks at the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday, Senator Bernie Sanders railed against “establishment politics and establishment economics” and then the nation’s “rigged economy.” He moved on to the “corrupt” campaign finance system, then the “planetary crisis of climate change.” Only after that did he say he wanted to destroy the Islamic State.

It was a litany of priorities that made good sense when Mr. Sanders announced his presidential bid in April. But after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he made fighting terrorism sound like an afterthought.

These are challenging times for Mr. Sanders as the chief opponent toHillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. His progressive political message, so popular with liberals for much of 2015, now seems lost in a fog of fear. Americans are more anxious about terrorism than income inequality. They want the government to target the Islamic State more than Wall Street executives and health insurers. All of this plays to Mrs. Clinton’s strengths — not only as a hawkish former secretary of state but also as a savvy politician who follows the public mood. After months of pivoting to the left on domestic issues to compete with Mr. Sanders for her party’s base, she is now talking about security and safety far more than Mr. Sanders — and solidifying her lead in opinion polls.

At Saturday’s debate, Mr. Sanders struggled to undercut Mrs. Clinton. He pointed out aspects of her record, including her relationships to Wall Street executives and her years at the State Department, in relatively respectful fashion rather than seizing on them to strongly question her judgment. He apologized to her for a breach by his campaign of her voter data, and he complimented her on being a transformative first lady. In his treatment of Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders was more gentleman than giant killer.

“Hillary is now in the driver’s seat in a way she has never been before,” said Arnie Arnesen, a New Hampshire liberal and talk radio host who admires Mr. Sanders but is uncommitted in the race. “It’s Bernie’s turn to pivot.”

“I don’t know if he can,” she added, “or whether his base will approve. They love him for the man he is, not the leader he needs to become.”

Most candidates evolve: Barack Obama and George W. Bush became better at communicating and campaigning during their first presidential races, and their agendas developed overarching themes. Mr. Sanders, by contrast, was repeating old talking points on Saturday night — like breaking up big banks and increasing taxes on the rich — without convincingly saying how he would achieve those goals or presenting them in powerful new language. As the debate demonstrated, he has yet to grow from a movement messiah into a national candidate whom many people can imagine as president.

Mr. Sanders has few options at this point. Barring a scandal or another extraordinary event that consumes Mrs. Clinton, his only way to beat her starts with a lightning strike: winning the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 and then the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. Such victories would instantly raise questions about Mrs. Clinton’s strength and electability and provide political momentum, fund-raising energy and far greater visibility for Mr. Sanders in the next major contests, in states like South Carolina, Colorado and Texas, where he is not well known.

But Mrs. Clinton has been ahead in Iowa for three months, while Mr. Sanders has a slight lead in New Hampshire polls. Mrs. Clinton held a lead in Iowa in 2007, too, before losing there to Mr. Obama. But he had far more endorsements from state leaders and a sharper line of attack against Mrs. Clinton (over the Iraq war) than Mr. Sanders has. Mrs. Clinton is vulnerable this time around on her ties to Wall Street, and there is also an opening for a candidate to run to the left of her on national security issues.

But Mr. Sanders, who has ruled out negative campaigning, has not done anything memorable on either front. When he did challenge her on Saturday, accusing her twice of being “too into regime change” to topple dictators and enemies, he did it as respectfully as possible — after which Mrs. Clinton hit him hard both times for voting to oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan leader. Mr. Sanders could have brought up the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that occurred on Mrs. Clinton’s watch as secretary of state, but instead he all but surrendered, saying that Mrs. Clinton was “right” that dealing with dictators was a “complicated issue.”

On Wall Street, meanwhile, he said that corporate chief executives “may like” Mrs. Clinton as president but would not like him — a contrast that could have been made more sharply.

Mr. Sanders has many strengths, but moxie is not one of them. He speaks the language of a high-minded policy wonk, not a street fighter. Gutsy aggressiveness has been so lacking in his campaign that it was one reason the news media paid so much attention on Friday when his advisers went to court against Democratic National Committee officials after they punished the Sanders campaign over a data breach.

The bold move showed that the Sanders team could throw a punch — including against the Clinton campaign, which Sanders aides suggested had also breached data. Yet Mr. Sanders himself backed off the issue at Saturday’s debate, apologizing to Mrs. Clinton for the breach. Just as he refused to attack her at the first Democratic debate over her private email server as secretary of state, he showed on Saturday that he would rather repeat his policy priorities than shake up the race by trying to score political points by challenging Mrs. Clinton.

At one point in the debate, Mr. Sanders agreed that Americans were “fearful and anxious” about the security issues that Mrs. Clinton has focused on.

“But you know what else they’re anxious about?” he asked. “They’re anxious about the fact that they are working incredibly long hours, they’re worried about their kids, and they’re seeing all the new income and wealth, virtually all of it, going to the top 1 percent. And they’re looking around them, and they’re looking at Washington and they’re saying: ‘The rich are getting much richer. I’m getting poorer. What are you going to do about it?’ ”

Mr. Sanders seems willing to rise or fall on his message about a rigged American economy, even if 2016 is looking more and more like a national security election.

Will Kylo Ren Be In ‘Rogue One’? There’s A Timeline To Consider

Did you walk out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens wanting more of Darth Vader-obsessed villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)? Or maybe you haven't seen the movie yet, but you are intrigued by the three-pronged lightsaber-wielding villain? Perhaps you want to know if he'll be in 2016 flick Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and you want to know now? You say you don’t have the patience you must have? OK, then. Here is your answer, young Padawan: Kylo Ren probably won’t be in Rogue One, the to-be-released Star Wars offshoot. And why is that? The vague answer: It would not be consistent with the franchise's timeline.


What do Kylo Ren's parents have to do with whether or not he'll be inRogue One? Don't worry, I'm getting there. Given that the first movie of the Star Wars Anthology takes place some time after the prequel trilogy and before the original trilogy (i.e., before Han and Leia met), it'd be a head-scratcher of a twist if Kylo Ren was a Rogue Onecharacter. Because Kylo Ren didn’t exist yet. (I am going to go out on a Dagobah swamp tree limb and say it is safe to assume Han and Leia did not conceive a child together before their first interaction.)

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': All About the New Characters

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hits theaters across the country today and viewers will see a slew of new characters in the film, in addition to the usual suspects, like Luke (wherever he may be), Leia, Han and Chewbacca.

Rey is a scavenger and the fact she has no last name has been said to be on purpose. Rumors have her possibly tied to one of the "Star Wars" icons, but that remains to be seen. Harrison Ford either gave away a nice spoiler or could be yanking our chain when he said his favorite scene was the lightsaber battle between Rey and new villain Kylo Ren. So maybe she has skills with the ancient, elegant weapon, as well.

According to Star Wars wikia and from clips we've seen, Rey, who is played by actress Daisy Ridley, trades her finds while scavenging on the world of Jakku.

Rey becomes good friends with new droid BB-8.


Meet the new, cutest droid in the galaxy. BB-8 belonged to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, but in most of the footage we've seen, the little rolling ball of spunk is hanging out with Rey.

Ridley, who plays Rey, spoke to Time magazine about working with the new droid.

“I had a chat with BB-8, and I remember J.J. [Abrams] saying, ‘He’s not a child’ and obviously the impulse because he’s small and cute is to infantilize. The impulse is to baby talk, but he’s not a child. He’s a droid with a mission,” she said. “But after they created him and treated him like a puppet everyday and they gave him so much life that it didn’t really feel any different to acting with a person. He’s there moving around, he’s making noises, he’s responding to what I’m saying. It really is just like having a conversation.”


Played by John Boyega, Finn is no one to be trifled with. We've already seen that he is going to have an epic showdown with baddie Kylo Ren, but Finn was also trained all his life to be a new breed of Stormtrooper.

After Finn realizes he's "got nothing to fight for," according to one clip, he goes on his own and meets Rey. We eventually see the young man also connect with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, so he's fully entrenched against the First Order, the modern-day Empire.

According to Wookieepedia, "After leaving the First Order, [Finn] wielded the lightsaber that once belonged to Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker," so he holds a powerful piece of history in his hands.


One of the leaders of the Resistance, Poe flies under the moniker of "Black Leader."

Poe's parents Shara Bey and Kes Dameron both served the Alliance, the rebel group that helped bring balance back to the galaxy.

In the clips, we know that Poe is captured and tortured by Kylo Ren of the First Order. Ren looks to be using the Dark Side of the Force against him.

Kylo Ren

Ren, played by Adam Driver, is a fan of the work Darth Vader did many, many years prior to "The Force Awakens."

In one scene, Ren tells the melted mask of Vader, "I will finish what you started."

"A dark warrior strong with the Force, Kylo Ren commands First Order missions with a temper as fiery as his unconventional [three-pronged] lightsaber," according to

Ren is a follower of the Dark Side and we know for sure he faces off against Finn in one scene. Ren is usually surrounded by his Knights of Ren and is not technically a Sith lord.

Maz Kanata, Supreme Leader Snoke and Captain Phasma

We still haven't seen much or don't know much of these characters from the clips thus far. We've only seen Phasma stalking ground while other Stormtroopers under her command burn a place to the ground. We also recently discovered that Phasma wasn't always going to be played by a woman, namely Gwendoline Christie. One of the film's co-writers revealed that came later.

As for Maz, we know that character is played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and she had to use motion-capture to bring Maz to life.

"It was an opportunity to play a character that wasn't limited by my physical circumstances," she told IGN last week. "It's not everyday you get to play someone who is really not you."

Maz, a tiny, goggle-wearing alien, has also been heard in one of the clips, revealing she's "lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people."

The actress also spoke to ABC News' "Good Morning America" recently and said the character is a pirate, possibly with eyes that have powers or are important.

Snoke is even more mysterious. We haven't seen or heard much from the great actor Andy Serkis, who plays the Supreme Leader of the First Order, and also uses motion-capture. We should expect plenty from Snoke in the actual film.

Serkis did tell Empire magazine that Snoke "is severely damaged. Although he's a powerful leader, he comes across as vulnerable. Very scarred and disfigured."