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'Andor' showunner, star Diego Luna on building stakes in 'Star Wars' when we already know how it ends
"I can be very creative about how to get there," Luna teased.
When Andor, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prequel series, arrives September 21 on Disney+, just shy of six years will have passed since audiences watched the team of Rebel Alliance volunteers, including Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), retrieve the Death Star schematics and then perish on Scarif. The series brings back actor Diego Luna to reprise his Rebel spy character and screenwriter Tony Gilroy to fill in the character's back story, further expanding on the context for the incredible mission pulled off in Rogue.
At the Television Critics Association press day for the series this week, Luna and Gilroy spoke in depth about how they took the small seeds of Andor's back story in the movie and turned them into a two season narrative that will eventually connect, by series end, to the first minutes of the Rogue One.
Asked how the work he did six years ago had any bearing on how he approached the series, Luna told reporters including SYFY WIRE that, "Everything I thought of when I was doing Rogue One was just part of what an actor has to do, create a backstory that explains why you make a choice and understand that perfectly and feel it as something personal. That job, I did. Then we started from scratch."
Luna said he followed Gilroy's lead regarding Cassian's past in this series. And the writer explained that he did make sure Rogue One character revelations, like Cassian joining the rebellion at six-years old and volunteering for the final mission to make all the terrible things he'd done have some worth, were the foundation for many story points explored in Andor. "There were little, tiny navigational points and I just started to build from those. We fit into all of those very well but we completely expand on what it was. It felt very important, particularly for a story, where you're taking somebody on a five year journey to really, really be fully invested in their complete story from his origin and, as we know in Rogue, to the end."
A criticism by some audiences about several post sequel trilogy Star Wars projects, such as the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series, is that knowing what ultimately happens to a character undercuts the stakes. Gilroy said he just recently figured out why that doesn't ring true to him as a storyteller. "We're all living in a prequel. We're all gonna die," he said frankly. "The suspension of disbelief is even more tenuous than that, because you can watch a movie for the third time when you just saw it six months before, and if you love it, you're invested in it. So that is not a concern as a dramatist."
Luna agreed and said that Andor set the challenge of having this creative team make audiences question everything they think they know about the character from Rogue One. "Everything that made sense when you were watching that film is now going to be challenged. I do have that in mind. I know where it ends, and I can be very creative about how to get there. I think it triggers a different part of your creativity when you start backwards."
The pair also said that a big part of the allure of Andor is its scale and ambition to reveal new parts of the Star Wars universe to audiences. "This is a show about regular people in this galaxy. So far, we've seen a lot of the same people over and over again," Gilroy said about the franchises tendency to focus on familiar characters and planets. "Well, how many billions of beings are there in the galaxy all living their lives every day? This [series] is about these huge, titanic forces that are manipulating people's lives, forcing them to make decisions. The story of revolution and what it really means is very complicated, and is very interesting to delve into as a writer."
Because of that scale, Gilroy said they are the rare, new era Star Wars series to not use ILM's Volume system for production. Instead, they built the cities and sets of Andor at Pinewood Studios outside of London just like it was done for the original and sequel trilogies. "The [Volume] technology is extraordinary and it's going to become a larger force in all filmmaking. But our show was just on a massively epic scale," Gilroy detailed. "People would be running off the set all the time. And the problem is right now, there's no good way to do both. You have to make a decision, in a way, to be a Volume show or non Volume show. The width and breadth and visual ambition, and traveling ambition of the show is huge. It just didn't lend itself to that kind of production, and you can't choose between them."
Another novel aspect to Andor will be the show's exploration of the Imperials who are tightening their fist around the galaxy. "It's just a huge part of the show and it's a gas to write it," Gilroy enthused. "They're the dark side of the show. Because there's a very large spy element, we're dealing with the ISB [Imperial Security Bureau]. Ben Mendelsohn, Director Krennic, is part of the ISB so there's some legacy to it, but we're really going into it. And as dark as they are, it's also a work environment. They're regular people. They go to work. They compete at work. They are careerists. They are insecure and they are vulnerable. They are complicated. Denise Gough is playing Dedra Meero, the ISB Inspector that will take us into the ISB. But we have a bunch of other characters there as we expand out, and it gets very, very complicated. They're a very large part of our show and something we're really interested in."
Luna added, "it's interesting to see this angle on these very dark characters. You'll see when they brush their teeth too, not just when they're giving orders to exterminate. It is quite unique to have the chance to visit this universe with this amount of attention to detail and with this intimacy, It's going to be interesting for audiences."
Andor premieres September 23 with three episodes on Disney+.