When George Lucas decided to sell Lucasfilm, many fans worried that his vision of Star Wars would be lost or forgotten. It's true that Star Wars has been through some major changes in the last few years, but there's one person (well, more than one, but work with me here) who's keeping Lucas' intent and vision very much alive.
In a very real way, George Lucas had a padawan. He imparted his knowledge to Dave Filoni, mentored him, expanded his view of the Force, and tapped him to carry on his legacy at Lucasfilm. As a director and writer of both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, Dave Filoni bridges the gap between the old ways and the new and finds balance in the future of the franchise.
We had a chance to speak with Filoni about what's in store for Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels.
I’ve got … questions ... about the show overall, and a couple that are specific to Season 3. But the very first thing I want to ask you about, there’s been a lot of talk on and off about a live-action Star Wars series. Given your experience show-running for Rebels, is that something you’d be interested in doing? At some point?
Dave Filoni: Yeah I wouldn’t say no to that. That would be exciting. I am very happy doing Rebels now. But, you know, to me the storytelling is the most important thing. The medium of it, whether it be animation or live action, there are obviously things you can do in each, different costs associated and what not during production, but I think it’s always a question of what’s the best medium to tell this story in. Sometimes I think animation works well. George obviously wanted to tell a lot of stories in animation in Clone Wars, and I think that was exciting for him because we could tell a lot of stories in a short period of time. So you never know. I mean, the thing is we live in an exciting time now where there are so many possibilities for Star Wars and there are so many ways to tell these stories. It’s exciting that’s a potential possibility, right?
(GGD note: Dave asked me to reiterate that his answer is not, in any way, a confirmation or even a hint of anything.)
Season 1 was focused on the Ghost crew and Lothal. Season 2 brought them into what we know is building into a larger expanded fight with both the additions of Vader and Maul. So what would you say is the overall theme for Season 3?
DF: Season 3 I think we are really finally challenging the activity of that greater rebellion. Not just hinting at it, not just becoming a building part of it, but, it’s a strange thing to say but I feel like in Season 3 we’re at the point where a lot of people assumed we would have been at in Season 1. When people traditionally thought of what the rebellion against the Empire was like they picture the rebels having a lot of starships ... a lot of battles going on. They picture this vast thing. But we revealed it was actually smaller groups that slowly came together. I feel like you get a lot more payoff for that in this season, where we see them functioning. It’s gonna seem a lot more similar to what your experience at Echo Base is like. It hearkens back where we have this legitimate situation we’ve established. It took pretty much all of Season 2 to establish, where can we even build a base that they’re not going to be able to find us. So I think you find, with that formalized feeling of a rebellion, the characters ... get challenged ... this is becoming real. And what does that mean for each of them? What are their roles in this rebellion? It means very different things for each of them, especially based on their experiences in the past two seasons.
Ezra has some new tricks now, thanks to the Sith Holocron, but I have a canonical question. Jedi never seem to fully explain to their padawans why the dark side of the force is so tempting and dangerous. Obi-Wan, and Kanan, and even Yoda, they all say it’s not good, they all say it’s dangerous, but they don’t necessarily go into detail on where the danger lies. I’m wondering if that’s just something that’s been more of a story device throughout the years, or do you think it’s something where they actually can’t explain the seductive nature of it because they haven’t been seduced by it?
DF: I think both things are actually true. I think on some level when you’re dealing with very strict black and white answers...I think in some ways, and I got into this in The Clone Wars a little bit, they’re all seduced on some level during the Clone Wars. That’s why things kind of get as bad as they do during that time period. They are all straying away from the type of people they should be and allowing themselves to be drawn into this conflict which they really shouldn’t be a part of.
At the end of the day, I think there are ways they think the dark side corrupts you and there are things they don’t think you can come back from. But until you’re in that situation, and people are in jeopardy and you feel you need to stop people from being injured, you don’t really know what the draw of it is. I think the biggest thing is you don’t really ever say, “Oh, today I’m using the dark side of the force.”
It’s not a switch you flip. It’s not a simple thing...I would say that even Anakin, for his part in becoming Darth Vader, it’s not like he goes, “Okay, now I’m using the dark side of the force. He pledges himself to Palpatine, but he’s still trying to hold onto the idea that he’s the one doing good and that the Jedi are the ones that are corrupt.
For Ezra I think, accessing the Sith Holocron, the mistake you always make is you think, well I can handle it. I won’t be corrupted by this. My friends need me to do this and I’m going to do this for them because, if I become more powerful, we’re all going to be safer. Things that happened to Ahsoka wouldn’t have happened if I had been more powerful, things that happened to Kanan wouldn’t have happened if I had more abilities. I could have fought these things off and I wouldn’t have been deceived. Your mindset is going down that path, which is what Bendu is saying in the other clip. Even in trying to do great good, you can actually do evil.
Your point of view and how you’re doing these things and you think you’re being selfless but you’re actually not.
I like to think most people don’t sit out there and think, “I’m going to be selfish today.”
I think part of it is, when I’ve heard Jedi try to explain, it’s the dark side is seductive and it’s dangerous. But...could we go into some detail on that? What this might look like? So if it’s happening you might be able to make it stop?
DF: Yeah, it seems always like such an inevitability, right? Most people named Skywalker tend to really go to the dark side. You’re like, why would you trust those guys?
Of course. I think that’s the thing because it’s hard to tell someone, you can be given ultimate power, even if you think you’re gonna save your friends, you just can’t take that. Because it’s not going to be what you think. Even if you told someone that truth, this power is going to be corrupting even though you can do great good, it’s hard in that moment to turn down that power. You see Tolkien play with that same thing with the ring, what the characters struggle with. But I could save everyone, I could set things right, and I wouldn’t be corrupt. It’s like, yeah, okay, that’s probably not true.
Last season we learned that the Ashla is the Lasat name for the force. The newest episode, Bendu mentions the Ashla and Bogan….Is the idea of the balance in the force also what Bendu actually represents? Does he represent the old ways?
DF: Well, the nod to Ashla and Bogan that I’m giving there is really a reference to the old old old original version of Star Wars, which was penned by George. And he had the name Jedi Bendu was the full name for the Jedi. It doesn’t actually come from the expanded universe, it comes from really old original Star Wars thinking, circa the mid-70’s. Then as things were cleaned up and trimmed down a lot of those names were lost.
That’s where a lot of those things came from. We’re famous in Star Wars, we don’t throw anything away. We keep reusing it. That was just a little wink for me at some of George Lucas’ original thinking which I always like to pay respect to of course. The Bendu, when you’re saying the Ashla and what not, or the Bogan, you’re talking about the Lasats. The Lasats feel like they’re following something that’s much older, much more ancient, and so does Bendu. So I thought there’s a fine correlation there between the two. It’s not like, they’re the only ones that have a concept of God. It’s nice to see that if there are universal things it’s not so singular. A lot of religions have common themes throughout, even if they have different names. It’s tying that galaxy together I’m hoping in a bigger way.
That’s where the names, originally Ashoka’s name was Ashla. When we did the first pitch to Clone Wars. Then George saw that and was like, we can’t call her that, let’s call her Ahsoka. That’s where her name came from. Ahsoka, I believe there was an Indian queen named Ahsoka in history, and that was one of the derivations of the name. He tweaked it around and created the name Ahsoka.
There have been ideas that have been around a long time. As much as I explain stuff, I guess I’m famous for not explaining things, it’s all there in the story. What Bendu is will come out of this season....you’re talking about the balance of the force. So the force will be balanced. It seems a lot of people have come up with the idea that it’s the light side versus the dark side instead of the understanding that those two things exist outside of us.
The Sith, who occupy the dark side, are trying to crush the light, I guess. And use the power of the dark side. And the Jedi, representing the light, are attempting to represent that and keep the dark side from gaining power.
But their prophecy and everything they talk about is about balance. It’s not telling them to go destroy the dark side. That’s why, I believe, when you add it to maybe this prophecy we’re misunderstanding it, we’ve misread it, because of the way we’re trying to combat things.
People don’t want to see the Jedi in the films as people who are learning and trying to understand things and coming into knowledge again, but they are. They’re flawed, which is one of the reasons they lose the Clone Wars.
Bendu is another branch of the tree we got into in Clone Wars, where these Mortis beings that represent the dark side and the light side and the balance, and then the force priestesses who seem to go even beyond that type of division and be more like one person split into many different representations. Bendu is a little more in that realm, which I think is always an interesting character because they’re unpredictable. He’s not good and he’s not bad. We’ll have to see how he reacts to the rebels throughout the course of the year.
I really like that. So far I love him.
DF: Tom Baker. With Tom, I can’t go wrong. Love Tom Baker. When we came up with the character, I’d been playing with the idea of a character like this for awhile. Originally he was massive. I wanted the rebel base to be built on his back. They didn’t realize it. And one day they came back from a mission and the rebel base was gone. It literally got up and walked away. Then they had to go and find it. I was trying to play the other side of size doesn’t matter. Instead of always going small I wanted to go much larger and have Ezra try to comprehend a being that was that big. That it was powerful but it wasn’t using that power.
But production didn’t really enjoy that idea. Because .... on Clone Wars it was so difficult to do, so I scaled it down considerably and we wound up with Bendu as he is. I knew all along, coming up with a character Tom Baker was gonna have to play him. I’ve been a fan of Tom’s for a long long time. I had seen him on a Dr. Who episode with Matt [Smith] where he played an art curator in a museum and it just reinforced, there is such magic in what Tom brings to the screen. He can take any line and just fill it with such depth and magic. There’s a real mystery to what he does. He does little things with a wink and a nod and this character has to have that in there. Tom can be kind of imposing, but also incredibly kind. That’s another part of Bendu, I needed that kind of duality in this character. So I’m very lucky to have Tom.
Speaking of Bendu, there’s a theory that the Convoree that lands on Bendu’s shoulder bears a resemblance to Ahsoka’s markings. Care to comment?
DF: Yeah, that’s funny. Because I told the crew, if we put this owl in anything now it’s gonna cause a fuss. You have to realize I’ve tied these two things very closely. There’s a bit of a trick to the owls. I’m not gonna give up what that is yet. You have to look closely at them to know when you’re dealing with one that might be more than an owl and when you’re dealing with one that might be an owl. So there are just owls, and then there are owls that are a bit more than just an owl. So, there’s a slight difference between the two things.
Off the record, do I need to keep an eye on the eyes?
DF: I would keep an eye on all kinds of things, not just the eyes. That can be on the record.
One thing I know is the fans will solve it all. I really appreciate that because it means they’re doing the work and many of the fans already, in trying to understand the Malachor episodes, have really gone down the right rabbit holes and really found a lot of great information. It’s just because they’re, whether they’re into it or not, they’ve gone back and read all kinds of stories now that relate to the types of stories that inspired me. I’ll admit to that. I’m not trying to be mysterious and coy to be cruel. I liked certain stories growing up and I’m trying to capture the same type of things that inspired me and hoping that inspires other people.
To the structure of these things, they’re intentions that work and it tells the story in ways that we understand. They’ve found some great old stories, people give me things and they’re like here, look at what the fans are saying now. I don’t read a lot of it, but I’m like, oh, yeah, they’re really close to what’s actually happened, they really get it. But then they never know that’s true, because why would they want to know?
It’s that line with fandom, where you really want to know but I don’t think you really want me to tell you. You want to find out in the story. So that’s why I have to play coy so much. It’s much better to be revealed in the moment it happens.
I feel like we answer a lot throughout the course of Rebels. I don’t think we keep it all in the shadows.
So, you’re a fan of fan speculation.
DF: Because I would be doing the same thing so I appreciate it. What’s being a fan if you can’t get together with your friends and talk about it and speculate? You live for that moment when you’re the one of your 5 friends that’s right.
You hold that over them. That’s what it’s all about.
There has been speculation and thought and belief and all of that in regard to Kanan and Hera’s relationship and the nature of it. So. I have two questions. One is, has that been defined? Two, are we ever gonna find out?
Show Spoiler DF: I think it’s been, at least in the minds of the people writing it, we’ve been pretty sure about it from the very beginning. About what it is, and how it works. I think you do find out substantially more about it. Perhaps in this season but definitely going forward. We start to plan things out over a long period of time, it’s like, we want to do these things by this time. For me, I mean, the very simple way I’ve always thought about it, and I don’t know if I’ve ever stated this before, but I always feel like Kanan is the actual one that is more leaning into the idea of the relationship. Hera is the one that’s more resistant to it. Because she feels this greater need to serve this rebellion, and she can’t allow her personal feelings to override things she needs to do. So in some ways it’s playing at themes, that traditionally would be reversed. In the past, you have seen more where the Jedi is the one being stoic. I can’t because I have an Order. Or the knight typically has a service to the kingdom. You know. Whoever it be, the damsel or princess is the one leaning in trying to make things happen. But I feel like there’s a very big mutual respect between the two of them. As they’ve grown in the series, Kanan understands her better and understands why she’s doing the things she’s doing more. It doesn’t mean that he feels any less about her. I do think, and I don’t know if this is too much of a spoiler, but I think they feel very strongly about each other.
Show Spoiler We’ve seen things along the way that lead me to believe that is something that is there and unspoken. It hasn’t been spoken but it’s definitely there in certain things. DF: It’s absolutely intentional that the two of them feel at times like they’re together. I think that barring the galactic situation they’re caught up in they may or may not be even more together. Because Kanan is a rogue of a Jedi anyway. His subscription to certain do’s or don’ts of the order probably don’t apply as much to him. At least they definitely didn’t in season one. I think he’s become a more responsible person as things have gone forward. You know that old thing. He can be more responsible but that doesn’t change the way he feels. He still feels, he’s actually a very deep feeling character and I think that stretches to all his relationships. Kanan’s great, part of that is because Freddie’s so fantastic playing him. He can just land a line so brilliantly. But he’s forged a great relationship with all the characters. I’ve really enjoyed some of the episodes we’ve done with him and Sabine. Where you get that kind of father/daughter on the run banter between them. They’re an interesting dynamic.
Show Spoiler That is... amazing. Cool. And we do more with that coming up. There’s definitely more as far as how they interact in Season 3, which I’m very excited about. We just got that episode back in and it’s just looking great. Hera and Kanan, the big question is are they space married. I understand that question. I’ve been asked that. Space married. Which I’m all for, the space marriage idea, I think it’s great. I think you put space in front of anything it becomes really exciting and exotic. Space whales, we had last season some space whales. I am all for it. We’ll have to see how the characters deal with it. It would be an interesting sit-down if you could interview Hera or Kanan, and say what do you think?
Thank you for that. It’s one of those things.
DF: I love talking about this stuff. You have to imagine my day. I get to work on Star Wars all day, and so talking about it is a thrill. I was talking about this stuff before I was being paid as a job talking about it. I was working on different animated series always talking about Star Wars. So finally things have lined up for me. It’s not a problem. Honestly, I appreciate the interest, especially in our characters and our stories. It means a great deal to us here on Rebels. I appreciate any write-up we get, any interest in the characters, any criticism of the story. It just means people are talking about us and you guys care enough to do the work and to ask us. So thank you for doing that. It means a lot.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 premieres Saturday, September 24th at 8:30 PM ET/PT on Disney XD.