‘Andor’ Actors Reveal Why Star Wars Needed This ‘Gritty, Human’ Disney Plus Series

The first three episodes from Andoro landed on Disney Plus On Wednesday, kicking off the new feature-length Star Wars show. The Rogue One prequel series reveals the dark backstory of the morally questionable Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who will become a hero of the Rebel Alliance as he faces the Galactic Empire.

Since this show takes place five years before Rogue One (itself a prequel to the original Star Wars movie, A new hope), Cassian isn’t quite the freedom fighter we know he’s going to be. The Rebel Alliance has not yet formed either. It is simply a scattered group of rebel cells making feeble attempts against Emperor Palpatine’s totalitarian regime.

Andor is not your typical Star Wars show. Instead of the usual lightsaber swinging space wizards, attacks on planet-killing battle stations or armored Baby Yoda Fathers, it focuses on the dark realities of life under the Empire and the dangers of standing up to oppression. These are the hard corners of the universe that series creator and writer Tony Gilroy enjoys having previously written the first four Bourne films and co-wrote Rogue One.

Genevieve O’Reilly, the future leader of the Rebel Alliance, Mon Mothma (a role she previously played in Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, and CGI animated series Rebels), joins Luna in a galaxy far, far away. Adria Arjona as Cassian’s faithful friend Bix Caleen, Fiona Shaw as his adoptive mother Maarva and Kyle Soller as Syril Karn, an uptight security inspector determined to track down our hero, come to the Star Wars universe for the first time.

I had the chance to have fun chats via Zoom with O’Reilly, Arjona, Shaw and Soller about exploring a new side of Star Wars; what their characters fit into; and – most importantly – what equipment they think their action figures should come with.

Here’s a transcript of our conversations, edited together for clarity.

Q. This is the most grounded Star Wars effort we’ve ever seen. Why do you think it was important to take that approach with this show?
Soller: Rogue One had elements of the 70s thriller, action movie, but was also very raw and human. In one of the first scenes, Cassian shoots one of his friends because of the rebellion, but he makes many questionable decisions.

Building on that great movie, you can invent and explore these other characters who are in that same gray area, and are all in the process of genesis — to become who they think they want to be, and figure out what they believe in. .

Syril Karn stares at a hologram of Cassian Andor in Andor

Syril Karn is determined to bring Cassian to justice.

Lucasfilm

We also see sides of the empire and rebellion that we have not seen before. The realm you meet in A New Hope is not the realm you meet in Andor. It’s fat and lazy, as Cassian says, and you get a glimpse into the kind of business structure system — like a work environment.

And then on the side of the rebellion, you see this planet that’s just full of people trying to survive. And it’s real domesticity — rugged and human. There is a focus on human lives as they struggle to survive. Each of these characters is in their own little mini-rebellion in their own lives.

It was so refreshing to read: it’s a socio-political drama; it’s a spy thriller; it’s a domestic drama; it’s almost a workplace comedy. It is also Star Wars, told over 12 episodes that can reach this level of detail.

O’Reilly: I think when you put someone like Tony Gilroy as the lead creator and writer of a series, he’s going to be interested in exploring the people, relationships and textures — complications rather than broad outlines. It will always be rougher.


Now playing:
Watch this:

Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser: What It’s Really Like…



29:28

Shaw: Having written Rogue One, [in Andor] Tony Gilroy dared to dig up the emotional relationships between people. People of all ages, backgrounds, upbringing and countries can relate to the family.

And he doesn’t try to jump to conclusions about the characters. Instead, we have people in the mess of human emotions, values, slow travel, immoral travel.

Arjona: It’s about people on the brink of a revolution. Tony did a really great job presenting and mirroring our real world. There is no good and bad, it is all dark. This show — every character — lives in that gray area. To understand someone’s morality, you also need to understand that person’s intimacy. It’s incredibly human, incredibly grounded and darker. It’s not so lucky.

Bix Caleen looks concerned as she climbs a ladder in Andor

Bix Caleen has a complex relationship with Cassian.

Lucasfilm

Adria, where does Bix fit in this dark corner of the galaxy?
Arjona: When we first met Bix, she’s very stable. She has a business, she is successful and people respect her. But she’s in a relationship with Cassian — second, you see, you think, “Oh, these two have been through it together and they trust each other.” But there is also that tension.

Does she help her boyfriend? Doesn’t she help their friend? “This is someone I love and who is difficult at times, but I’m going to help him.” She understands the moment in history she is in and makes a big decision. When people are on the brink of a revolution, there is camaraderie.

Fiona, there’s a point where you warn Bee-Two, the droid, that you’ll be “so mad” at him if he gets knocked out in one of the rooms. The way you deliver that line is excellent.
Shaw: I think the droid is like having a dog pee on the floor. He needs to keep charging, his battery bladder isn’t as good as it used to be.

Cassian Andor squats next to the cute red droid B2EMO in Andor.

B2EMO is a charming droid, but gets a bit creaky.

Lucasfilm

An old droid stands next to an old woman; meets Maarva very late in her life. It was also a pleasure for me to play someone much older, and then someone younger than myself [when the show flashes back to The Clone Wars era]. I was no age, I reached for the Maarva who is sick, old and has a very old droid, and the younger one with a young droid.

You mentioned that we meet Marva in two time periods. How does that fit with this grounded view of Star Wars?
Shaw: It plays on the story of how Maarva and Cassian are mother and son. He has a very different accent. We’re going to understand that.

andor-disney-plus-series-1

Maarva lived an adventurous life but has slowed down by the time we meet her on the show.

Lucasfilm

We also see the kind of life Maarva had [in the flashback scenes]. She is someone with a very broad mind who has traveled all over the universe with their man collecting bits of metal. She meets his boy and takes him home — he must have been a huge change for her life, as she was for his. He may have saved her a little.

Genevieve, this is Mon Mothma’s biggest performance yet. Was that exciting for you?
O’Reilly: Yes. She’s a woman I’ve had to play before — she’s usually surrounded by rebels; a leader who sends people on a mission. How did she get there? What sacrifices did she have to make? Since we’re starting Andor in a very different place than Rogue One, we have time to research what those costs are.

andor-disney-plus-series-2

Mon Mothma is playing a dangerous political game.

Lucasfilm

When we meet her in Andor, she is not surrounded by rebels, she is steeped in the Empire, she is a lone female voice of opposition to Palpatine in the Imperial Senate. It’s a dangerous position to be in.

She worked for many years as a senator, trying to bring about change from that imperial system. She has now reached a point where she must step out of it – she must risk everything for what she believes.

We know from Star Wars lore that she has been a senator since she was 16. What are the realities of such a life? What are the customs? What are the rituals of the planet Chandrila that a teenager has in such a structure, how many choices did she really have? And is this the first time she’s willing to risk making a real choice?

Mon Mothma already has some action figures based on her Past apparitions; they both come with batons. To the actors new to Star Wars — given that your character is an extension of your personality and Star Wars has always been associated with action figures — what accessories do you think your figure should come with?
Soller: Well, Syril must have a comb and probably a travel steamer too. Also something to polish his shoes, such a quick cloth. It should be a Star Wars dopp kit, his personal gear to make sure he’s put together solidly.

Arjona: In the first scene I’m wearing this vest, my work apron. And I just think it’s the worst. If I had an action figure, I’d really want that outfit. And I want the device that I unclip when Cassian walks in. I want to hold that and wear all my leather.

Shaw: Oh my God. That is too hard. I’m probably just thinking some kind of jumpsuit [laughs].

Leave a Comment