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Genevieve O'Reilly tapping into Mon Mothma's looming heartbreak over those dead Bothans for 'Andor'

Genevieve O'Reilly says the pain in that Return of the Jedi line reading is what influences her portrayal of the character. 

By James Grebey
Andor Season 1

Mon Mothma’s solemn pronouncement that “many Bothans died” to bring the Rebel Alliance information about the second Death Star has become something of a meme since actress Caroline Blakiston first uttered them in Return of the Jedi. But, Genevieve O'Reilly, who played a younger Mon Mothma in Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, and who will reprise the role in the upcoming Andor series on Disney+, says that line is the key to the whole character. 

“Each time I go to play her, I go back to that scene,” O’Reilly told Entertainment Weekly. “You can see when Caroline does that in that scene, for me, there was always a pain at the heart of it. You could see that she was carrying a pain, and I was really curious about what that was. What has happened in this woman's life? What has it cost to be her? What are the sacrifices that she has had to make along the way to be that leader of a rebellion?"

Andor, a Rogue One prequel that tells the story of the early days of the Rebel Alliance and how Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor became the devoted spy we met in the 2016 film, will greatly expand on what we know of Mon Mothma, too. Her debut appearance in Return of the Jedi is small but memorable. Her Revenge of the Sith scenes were mostly cut. And though she has a bit more to do in Rogue One, she’s still portrayed exclusively through the lens of a Rebel leader. We don’t get to know too much about who she is as a person or what she’s feeling — grief about dead Bothans aside. 

"We really get to develop her as a character, and we get to learn about her not just as a senator, but as a woman," O'Reilly explained. "[We learn] what her life is like, what she has to wrestle with, what are the dangers to her life, what it costs to be her. [series creator Tony Gilroy’s] writing is so intricate and so taut. It lives in this world of the spy genre, of a sociopolitical drama, and yet it's set within a Star Wars world. So it feels universal and intimate all at once."

Continues O’Reilly, "We see the public and the private. We see her literally and figuratively take off her cloak and reveal herself as a woman in a way we've never seen before."

Andor premieres on Disney+ on Sept. 21.

Looking for more dark sci-fi space adventures? SYFY's acclaimed Battlestar Galactica adaptation is streaming now on Peacock. Looking ahead, SYFY has the new space thriller The Ark coming next season.