By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
The Mandalorian. The Book of Boba Fett. Obi-Wan Kenobi. The era of live action Star Wars television is officially in full swing and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Next month, Andor is the next series set in a galaxy far, far away to debut exclusively on Disney+. Diego Luna reprises his role as the Rebel hero from Rogue One and is joined by Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma and Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera, with Stellen Skarsgaard and Kyle Soller making their franchise debuts as new characters.
The HoloFiles and Star Wars Holocron had the opportunity to attend a press conference for Andor as part of promotion for the new series, where stars Diego Luna, Genevieve O’Reilly, Stellen Skarsgaard, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, and Denise Gough joined showrunner Tony Gilroy to discuss the new show.
From a pure conceptual standpoint, an Andor series was one that many audience members weren’t expecting given that the character’s big moment, where he sacrificed himself on Scarif, was already shown in Rogue One. Writer Tony Gilroy discussed Andor’s position as a prequel to Rogue One and why this new story was attractive to him.
“I think the main idea is we have a character in Rogue One. And we know where he ends up. And we know how accomplished and complicated he is. And the idea that we can do a story that takes him literally from his childhood origins and walk him through a five-year history of an odyssey that takes him to that place, during a revolution, during a moment in history in a place where huge events are happening and real people are being crushed by it, the fact that we could follow somebody as an example of a revolution all the way through to the end, that was the walk-in for me.”
Gilroy, who is also credited as a co-writer on Rogue One, spoke about the tense period in the Star Wars galaxy that this show is set in, and how that was also an interesting starting point.
“But it’s a potent moment in history. And a lot of people are facing a lot of really difficult times and difficult decisions along the way. And that’s what the show is about, the opportunity to do that on a large scale, on a big canvas, that’s why I’m here.”
Cassian was one of the two main leads of Rogue One, but the ins and outs of his character and what exactly was going through his head wasn’t explored in that movie. Andor represents an opportunity to dive deeper into the title hero’s psyche, as well as integrating new characters, according to Gilroy.
“[We] really see him inside and out in a lot of ways. See the adventures he goes through and the journey he goes through on an interior sense, right? And to center our story around that. Look, there are a lot of characters in our show. Many of them are here today. But there are others. Everyone is going to be circulating and spinning and intersecting around the Cassian Andor story as we move towards Rogue One.”
Diego Luna, as excitable and vibrant as ever (and seemingly always with a smile on his face), doubled down on the exploration, and the real world relevance, of his character amidst his relative lack of backstory going into the show.
“For me, it’s quite relevant today to tell the story of what needs to happen for a revolutionary to emerge, to exist, to come to live, you know. What gives meaning in the life of someone to be willing to sacrifice everything for a cause, you know? What needs to happen? That that journey matters to me. And the character says stuff that it haunts me in Rogue One. You know that he started to fight since he was six years old. What does that mean, exactly? You know, why a six-year-old would miss his childhood and start a fight?”
“That, to me, is really interesting to know. He talks about a dark past. He talks about doing terrible stuff for the Rebellion. What is he referring to? I think that story matters. That story is interesting. And there is a lot of material there for us to play. So I was really excited to be able to go into that journey and give those answers you know?”
One of Luna’s co stars, and a fellow Rebel of Andor, is Mon Mothma. Genevieve O’Reilly is back as the Alliance leader after previously appearing in Rogue One, and the Irish actress was initially cast by George Lucas for Revenge of the Sith. O’Reilly filmed scenes for the prequel film that were eventually edited out. Mothma has always been a fan favorite since her first appearance in Return of the Jedi, but Andor marks the first time that the character is this integral and relevant to the story, something that allowed O’Reilly and the writers to explore her on a deeper level.
“We’ve met Mon Mothma before in different iterations, in different versions of the Star Wars storytelling. And each time we’ve met her, we’ve met this kind of composed, regal, dignified woman who often like with Cassian in Rogue One, she is to send people out on a mission. I think what’s extraordinary about how Tony has written Andor and where he has chosen to begin this story is so very different to where we find Mon Mothma in Rogue One. She is still that very dignified senator. But for the first time, we get to see the woman behind the role. We get to see a private face of Mon Mothma. We get to flesh out not just the senator, not just the would-be leader of a Rebel Alliance, but also the woman.”
As is typical of the Star Wars franchise, Andor is another amazing example of diversity and inclusion. Along with the obvious presence of Mon Mothma, a female Senator in a vital political leadership role, there are also plenty of other women and people of color in the series. One of these is Adria Arjona’s Bix, a character who the actress is excited to show to fans.
“I liked a lot of things about Bix. I think she’s fearless. And she’s bold, yet really deep inside, she’s incredibly loyal and compassionate and cares a little too much for the people around her. And I think that’s sometimes at her own detriment. I think this boldness and powerful thing is sort of like a facade that she puts on for… She almost puts that as a show. But deep down, she cares deeply about the people around her. And I think that’s the part that I love the most about Bix.”
Alongside Mothma and Bix is ISP officer Dedra Meero, played by the amazing Denise Gough. The actress discussed how her character fits into Cassian’s story.
“When we meet her, she’s at the kind of low end of the ladder. And she’s incredibly ambitious and meticulous. And what I love about playing her is that, you know, she’s in this very male-dominated world. And she’s seeing around her the way that people are missing what she can see is happening. And we’ve been talking a lot about this today, both about Dedra and Syril and how they come into this world. They’re sort of outsiders within the ISB. And so yes, she’s clawing her way up the ladder. And I love portraying the effect that power just has on a person, like the danger of that pursuit of power and control, regardless of gender.”
“I mean, I do kind of love that you’re thinking oh, go girl. And then you remember, she’s in a fascist organization. [LAUGH] And so yeah, I’m getting a real thrill being able to play her.”
American actor Kyle Soller plays another morally ambiguous, semi-villainous character in the form of Syril Karn. The actor credited Tony Gilroy’s writing as attracting him to a galaxy far, far away.
“Well, what attracted me to the role was Tony’s writing. He had created a character that was really three-dimensional and had a big question mark over him as to, you know, he could kind of go either way. He could go into the Empire. He could go into the Rebel Alliance. And he’s got a lot of gray area. And he came from a place of such lack and it’s such a pain in his home life, that he’s trying to fill this void within himself through the fascist, corporate, bureaucratic structure, where he finds order. And he finds a place to be seen if he can supersede his station and climb those ranks. And so really, what Tony created and having a character that wasn’t really sure about himself was what kind of made it the most fun to play.”
Andor is distinct from many other Star Wars titles, including Rogue One, in its tone and the concepts and stories that are honed in on. Gilroy described this as a very purposeful creative decision, and one that he hopes will satisfy both long time Star Wars fans and more casual viewers as well.
“A lot of people that are Star Wars adjacent or Star Wars averse. And [LAUGH] you should be able to watch our show. Our show is designed that this could be your entry point to Star Wars. You could watch our 24 episodes, that could be your way in. We’re doing a show that does not require any prior knowledge whatsoever to get involved. And our hope is, you know, I mean that’s the gamble. Can we satisfy and electrify and excite the dedicated fans? And can we at the same time bring something that’s so intense emotionally and seems so true and is the smallest domestic dramas and the smallest interpersonal relationships that are dropped down in the midst of the epic tectonic revolutionary historical moments where people have to make huge decisions? Can we attract another audience that’s interested in that as well? Can we marry those two things together? That’s the gamble. That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s why we’re here.”
Despite the differences in tone, Andor retains the Star Wars tradition of making the story extremely relevant, with many parallels to the modern day world, something that Luna noted.
“It’s a story I would like to see as audience, you know. Again, that’s why we have to be so real because it doesn’t matter, we pretend to be in a galaxy far, far away. This story matters today in the world we live in, you know. Otherwise, I wouldn’t care and I always saw this potential in this story.”
Andor also continues the trend of the world of Star Wars titles feeling truly lived in, something that begins with the production and set design. Once again, practical effects were emphasized and entire sets were built in order to bring this story to life, according to Soller.
“I remember coming to one of the sets, the town that had been built by the production design and the set units and every little thing had been thought of. Every single drawer had something in it. Every cabinet had, I don’t know, a whole life inside. And there was this whole crowd milling about before we’d started filming, and the crowd kind of somehow was parted and there was this line of Stormtroopers. And at that point I had sort of forgotten that I was in Star Wars ’cause I was like, oh, I’m in this sociopolitical drama that’s also, like, a family drama and a love story and there’s all this, like, amazing stuff going on that’s, like, relevant to today. And oh shit, there are a bunch of [LAUGH] Stormtroopers.
“I dropped my coffee and my inner child was, like, pretty happy.”
Arjona seemingly referenced a similar set as Soller, but remained tight lipped on the specifics as to avoid spoilers.
“I remember like 10 city blocks, that’s how big it felt for me. I think maybe it wasn’t. But I just remember like the first day sort of walking around and-and-and kind of getting lost in it and exploring. And it was so cool. And I also had made like a silly rookie decision of really going into this show and saying like, I’m not in Star Wars. I’m making a conscious decision that I’m not in Star Wars, I’m in this amazing show with Tony, we’re doing this. And then everything was a constant reminder, so it was like, oh, crap, every prop that was given, every set that you would walk in, everything’s like oh, man, I really am in Star Wars and sort of, like Kyle said, your inner child starts coming out, and the butterflies are going. You’re like, what did I get myself into? Like I can’t get out of it now. Yeah, that set was incredible. I remember there was one day where the director, one of our directors, told me to run, and I was like, well, where do you want me to run? He’s like, “Anywhere you want.” ‘Cause everything was filmable. Yeah, if I would go left, we could’ve filmed there, if I would go right, we could’ve filmed there, and it was just me exiting, and he could basically point the camera either left or right, and that was kind of cool.”
Andor premieres exclusively on Disney+ on September 21st, with the first three episodes available that day.