"We were so blessed to have him working with us. He made all of us better," Rosario Dawson says of the late Ray Stevenson
While Dawson, who plays the title character in the latest Star Wars series from Disney+, spoke with PEOPLE about State Farm's Haunted Mansion-themed property damage commercial — before the Screen Actors Guild went on strike July 13 — the 44-year-old actress remembered Stevenson's performance in the series as "really beautiful and so thoughtful."
"He'd have these crystals that had all these different meanings from where, you know, he felt like spiritually, where he came from and what he wanted to be resonating. And we'd sit and have these conversations about the divine feminine," Dawson recalls of working with Stevenson, who plays a character named Baylan Skoll in the new show.
Stevenson died in May at age 58. At the time, sources told PEOPLE that the actor was rushed to an Italian hospital from the set of a movie he had been filming, Cassino in Ischia, one day before his death.
The actor's cause of death has not yet been announced. Representatives for Stevenson and Paramount Global Content Distribution, the production company behind the upcoming movie, did not respond to PEOPLE's previous requests for comment.
Dawson remembers Stevenson as an "almost, like, Nordic kind of man, you know, who was very heavy-handed and then just like the most gentle, brilliant, like loving divine feminine spirit."
"You just had the most extraordinary conversations with him about his family and philosophies," she says. "I've had so many people who I know are friends with him. We were so blessed to have him working with us. He made all of us better."
The actress also recalls how Stevenson was a formidable opponent when it came time for the production to film lightsaber duels between Ashoka and Baylon.
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"I was like fighting for my life [while filming fight sequences with Stevenson]. I was talking about that with Dave [Filoni]. I was like, am I gonna be able to talk about how heavy-handed he was?" Dawson tells PEOPLE. "'Cause he was just like, woo. I was like I'm really having to protect myself here. We're putting in the work."
Prior to starring in Ashoka, Stevenson had made a name for himself in the 2000s playing Titus Pollo in HBO's Rome. He also played the famed Marvel character the Punisher/Frank Castle in 2008's Punisher: War Zone.
Stevenson was first featured in the greater Star Wars universe with occasional animated voice roles as Gar Saxon in the Rebels and Clone Wars.
Ashoka picks up where the Rebels series left off, pairing Ashoka with old friends Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) as they search the galaxy for their friend Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi).
"It really brings a lot of smiles to people's faces and, you know, it brings out really deep conversations," Dawson tells PEOPLE of making a Star Wars project. "'May the force be with you,' people get real serious about it and it's nerdy, which I love. I'm in absolute delight these days and hoping that people love it so I can do more of it."
Ashoka premieres on Disney+Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.
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