Hello there. The now-iconic line uttered by Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi is no doubt the subject of countless prequel memes, but that’s where the lightheartedness ends — according to what we know about the new series at least. Simply titled, ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, the six-part limited series created exclusively for Disney+ centres around the emotional world of our titular character, as the world around him similarly falls into disarray, no thanks to the threat of Order 66.
What’s even more exciting for Star Wars fans is that both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprise their legendary roles, as Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader, respectively. Before we share more about the upcoming series, know this: Obi-Wan Kenobi is set to premiere exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, 27 May, with the first two episodes. The series will then stream weekly on Wednesdays.
Here’s what we know. The storyline picks up from 10 years after the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, a time when the Empire is out to hunt and kills all Jedis, viciously attempting to put an end to the Jedi Order. If that’s not ominous enough, our beloved Jedi Master is also facing his own demons, especially since we already know (not really a spoiler) of his fallout with his young padawan, Anakin Skywalker, on the hell-like landscape of Mustafar.
That said, showrunner Deborah Chow and Obi-Wan actor Ewan McGregor maintain that this one’s a “gritty and emotional character-based story”, at a global press conference conducted a week before the show’s premiere.
Chow also elaborated on where we are in the timeline, sharing that the show pays attention mostly to the aftermath of ‘Revenge of the Sith’, a significant turning point for both legacy characters. “It’s where Anakin crosses the line, and there’s no coming back,” said the director. “It’s also such a pivotal moment in history for the Jedi Order and for everyone involved, and where most of our characters made life decisions that would then set them on the course for our series.”
For McGregor, his return to the Star Wars universe marks a deeper exploration of a character that he had already established in the prequel trilogy. “I’ve really started thinking that there was definitely a story for Obi-Wan between the last one I did in Episode III and Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan,” he explained. Here, the once-unwavering Jedi Master finds himself in a different emotional and spiritual state, “a man broken” by the experience of Order 66 and the fact that he’d lost his faith”, said McGregor.
Chow echoed this sentiment, with what has to be my favourite quote from the dialogue. “For Obi-Wan, he’s one of the few remaining Jedi, and many of the people that he loved are dead or gone. He’s very much alone, like a last samurai trying to uphold a code in a world that’s changing at a rapid pace — and not for the better.” The haunting image of the lone samurai is a chilling one, and very apt for a character we’ve come to love for his steadfast consistency and dutiful dedication.
Where do we meet him in Obi-Wan Kenobi, and how will his moral and emotional struggle play out on the not-so-small screen? We hear from the cast and crew of the series — director and showrunner Deborah Chow, and actors Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader), and Moses Ingram (Reva) — as well as share some major points you’ll need to know before your watch party.
1. Ten years after the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan is a “broken” man who has lost his faith; he’s been forced to live in hiding while the Jedi are being hunted.
The story is set between the prequels and the original trilogy, and with Darth Vader thrown into the fray, it looks like we’re going to explore key emotional beats, especially since it’s been confirmed that the show is focused on the sinister events after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. “Ours is like a movie that just happens to be split up into these episodes,” says McGregor about the series’ in-depth storytelling and singular vision, led by showrunner Deborah Chow.
Still, both of them are eager to share that this one’s a character-driven story, one that has the time and space to deep-dive into who Obi-Wan is. How did he go from, essentially, the prequels’ version of a dedicated, unwavering Jedi hero, “somebody who’s sitting on the Jedi council” says McGregor, to the “sage-like, spiritual man” portrayed by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy? Well, consider this a detour.
“We just started with this idea that he was broken,” said McGregor, elaborating that Obi-Wan is in a very different place, both psychologically and spiritually. “He was a man broken by the experience of Order 66 and the fact that he’d lost his faith. I thought it was interesting to take him into a darker place and then over the course of the series, see how he finds his faith again and gets back to being the Obi-Wan that we knew and loved.”
The series also gives us more context about the fallout of Order 66, and anchors us to a time when the Empire is actively hunting down and ruthlessly killing all remaining Jedi. While much of this lore has been explored in other Star Wars canon, such as animated series and video games, it’s here that we see this aftermath from the very personal point-of-view of a fan-favourite character, now forced into solitary hiding.
“It’s like somebody who’s stepped away from their religion or something. The only responsibility to his past life is looking over Luke Skywalker who he’s delivered to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, so that’s his only sort of link to his past,” said McGregor.
2. New technology, and new worlds. The series was filmed using the same immersive, high-definition LED walls pioneered by ‘The Mandalorian‘, while we get to explore a never-before-seen underground-type world, the Daiyu.
The phenomenal popularity of Grogu aside, The Mandalorian is an Emmy® Award-winning series best known in the industry for pioneering a new way of filmmaking. Gone are the green screens and blue screens typically used for extensive CGI work; instead, Industrial Light & Magic invented a StageCraft process of shooting in sets “surrounded by large, high-definition LED video walls” that displayed computer-generated backdrops. In other words, filmmakers get to create more believable worlds around their actors, who can then be fully immersed in them.
“I wanted to really push the technology and take it in a different direction,” said Chow, who had already been familiar with the technology during her stint for The Mandalorian. “It was also really exciting to be able to design and to develop material knowing that I was going to shoot stagecraft. A lot of times I’d be looking at the scene even as we were writing it, thinking about how is this going to translate into the volume and how can we take advantage of the tech as best as possible.”
For McGregor, it was clearly a step-up since his last time portraying Obi-Wan in the prequels. “It was such a game changer for us,” he said. “Here we were in this amazing set, where if you’re shooting in the desert, everywhere you look is the desert.And if you’re flying through space, then the stars are flying past you as you scout along. It’s so cool,” he shared.
Another exciting thing to look forward to? A new world that’s never before seen in Star Wars. The Daiyu is an underworld-like place that reminds us of the sci-fi’s best futuristic cities, Blade Runner for instance. Chow described how it has a “grittiness and energy to it, but that is sort of weird and a bit shady”.
3. On Darth Vader. There’s still “a little bit of Anakin left”, as the Vader we see here is grappling with his personal identity and his past.
Fans are definitely excited to see Hayden Christensen return to the Star Wars universe, as he reprises his character in the prequels, Anakin Skywalker — or should we say, Darth Vader? Yep, definitely Darth Vader, mask, red lightsaber, distorted voice and all. Then again, some of this confusion can be expected, since showrunner Chow told us that this is “not a Vader who is fully formed”.
“It’s not the Vader that’s in A New Hope. This is the character ten years before,” said Chow. “What we were trying to do was show that while he’s definitely more Vader than Anakin at this moment, there’s still a little bit of Anakin left.”
Christensen also shared about the inner turmoil of his character: “Vader’s hunting down the Jedi because they represent an opposition. It’s mandated by the Emperor but it’s also more than that — it’s personal for him. It goes back to this sort of internal struggle that Vader has with his personal identity. In trying to kill the Jedi, he is trying to kill that part of himself.”
And while we can’t wait to see this develop on our screens, here’s a more lighthearted moment where McGregor talked about what it’s like to work with Christensen on set once again. “I hadn’t seen Hayden for years. So, when I saw him again and was able to talk about this project with him, it was very, very exciting,” he shared. “When we were acting together, it was really like some sort of time warp. Looking across at him on set was like the last 17 years didn’t happen at all, you know. It was really peculiar.”
4. The Inquisitors are the main antagonists of the series, recruited by the Empire to “execute Order 66” — hunt down and kill all remaining Jedi. On top of the Grand Inquisitor, we’ve also got a new character created for the series, the Third Sister, Reva.
Beyond the scintillating drama set up to be explored by our returning characters, Obi-Wan Kenobi also gives us prime antagonists to hate, or perhaps love, depending on which side you’re on. Since the story centres on the execution of Order 66, we see how that plays out via the Inquisitors, enforcers recruited by the Empire and directed by Darth Vader to carry out the ruthless command.
The Grand Inquisitor, a character introduced in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, will now feature in this live-action take, played by Rupert Friend who brings the terrifying villain to life, complete with his double-bladed spinning lightsaber. Then, there’s Reva, played by Moses Ingram, the “Third Sister” Inquisitor who’s especially keen on eradicating the Jedi from the galaxy.
“She’s really smart, plays the offence, and is always 10 steps ahead,” said Ingram of this new character. “She is a subordinate of Darth Vader and she’s going to do everything she can to get the job done to the best of her ability. I was most intrigued by just her fervour for what she does.”
Just, two things to note here. One, that Chow felt that it was important to bring an original new character into a story where “we have so many legacy characters”. Furthermore, this one’s a more complex exploration of villainy, as expressed by Ingram as well. “The darkness in her is her own pain, her own frustration, I think in other people’s weakness, because it mirrors her weakness that she had for a period of time.”
Secondly, Chow also said that it was exciting to create a dark side, female character, one that, even while on the dark side, can be inspirational to a new generation of Star Wars fans. “I remember growing up and watching certain things and with my brothers and [them going] like, you’re not strong enough, it’s for boys, you know what I mean?” Ingram elaborated. “But I think what’s cool about this is you can fight like a girl and still, you know, be badass.”
5. The lightsaber duels are better than ever, thanks to some stunning choreography. Fun fact: Ewan says “it’s impossible not to” make the now-iconic lightsaber sound effects while filming those scenes.
While the original trilogy was beloved for its expansive, triumphant, and heroic story, a high point of the prequel trilogy has to be those lightsaber fights. Who can forget the fated duel between Qui-Gon Jinn and double-bladed lightsaber-wielding Darth Maul, Yoda’s light-on-his feet dance, or the climactic one between master and padawan against the backdrop of a fiery Mustafar?
Here to surpass those tall orders are Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio, a celebrated veteran known for his work on Marvel’s Black Panther, and most recently, 2021’s The Matrix Resurrections. McGregor was, certainly, in awe of his work for the upcoming show.
“We were under the great JoJo, an amazing, thoughtful man. He’d taken the fights that we did in the original three films and sort of studied them with his crew, his stunt crew, and developed them, so it was very thoughtful,” he shared, also adding that the fight choreography of his character and that of Ingram’ was totally different.
Said Ingram on her lightsaber training, and that steep learning curve: “We trained for about four months before we ever even got to set. The everyday, regular strength and cardio, and then three days a week of Jedi school on top of that which, at the beginning was a little intimidating.”
Other than that, McGregor divulged how “it’s impossible not to” make lightsaber sounds while wielding them, whether in your head or otherwise, just as the actors shared that they had also played composer John Williams’ epic soundtrack on set too, to get in the mood. “We’d be, like, stepping off the ship or doing something else, and the music would swell and you’re just feeling like you’re 10 feet tall, you know. It’s very, very cool,” said Ingram.
6. A New Hope..? Despite all that darkness, Obi-Wan Kenobi has always been a character of “light and hope”; the series strives to maintain that balance.
Still, it’s hard to ignore that the series does delve into dark times — for both Obi-Wan, the character, and in the overall timeline of the Star Wars universe. How then, do we traverse from that to, well, A New Hope?
Showrunner Chow was candid about respecting the canon, the world established by visionaries that came before her, while also needing to have “an original story, and original vision”, which she shared was her biggest challenge.
Another challenge? Maintaining balance in the force, or, at least within the inner world of Obi-Wan. “The character of Kenobi, for me, he’s always felt like there’s so much warmth. There’s so much compassion and humour, that it is kind of a character of light and hope,” said Chow. “It was interesting for us to try to keep the balance of that, of the darkness, but also still maintaining the hope coming from the character.”
“OBI-WAN KENOBI” will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, 27 May 2022, with the first two episodes. The series will then stream weekly on Wednesdays, until the finale on 22 June.
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