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What does a Time Lord have to do with the galaxy far, far away? Usually nothing, but in the case of Lucasfilm's Rogue One television prequel, there was some unexpected overlap between the Star Wars and Doctor Who franchises. Chatting with Empire for the magazine's September 2022 issue (now on sale), Andor cast member Denise Gough admitted she placed a collect call to the TARDIS, seeking advice from her friend Jodie Whittaker, on how to best deliver sci-fi dialogue. Whittaker's two cents on the matter? "Oh, mate, you have to imagine all those pictures in your head," recalled Gough, who plays the role of Imperial officer Dedra Meero.
Picking up five years before the heist to steal the Death Star plans on Scarif, Andor tracks the rise of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) from petty thief and downtrodden victim of the Empire to brazen Rebel spy with a major score to settle. The project is showrun and executive producer by Rogue One screenwriter Tony Gilroy, whose previous work on Michael Clayton and original Bourne trilogy made him perfect for a story about the minutiae of espionage and sinister backroom dealings. "Andor comes from that same place as everything else that's come out of this office," he explained. "Clayton, the Bournes, The Devil's Advocate, now this... It's all full-on drama."
"This is very much a spy thriller," added Genevieve O'Reilly, who reprises budding Rebel leader, Mon Mothma. When the story first begins, Mothma is a member of the Galactic Senate, hoping to gather support for the growing movement against Vader, Palpatine, and their authoritarian regime. "Each of the Star Wars live-action shows has its own identity: ours is gritty and messy. There are so many threads here. Lots of intellectual and political intrigue."
In addition to carving out its own unique identity, Andor also separated itself from other galactic projects in terms of production. Gilroy and his team opted not to use the groundbreaking "Volume" technology of highly-detailed LED walls developed for The Mandalorian and later used on The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi. "Yep, we're old school. We didn't use StageCraft at all," the showrunner said, going on to add that practical locations and sets were required for the "aircraft-carried-sized" narrative.
"Our goal with this show is ambitious but simple: we want to blow the hardcore Star Wars people away. But we also want their husband, neighbor, sister — that person in their life who's never got why they like Star Wars. We're absolutely going for both audiences."
Stellan Skarsgård, Adria Arjona, Kyle Soller, and Fiona Shaw co-star. Luna serves as an executive producer alongside Gilroy, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Sanne Wohlenberg, and Michelle Rejwan. Toby Haynes, Susanna White, and Benjamin Caron directed the first 12 episodes. A second season, which starts filming this November, has already been green-lit and will explore a four-year period between the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Rogue One.
"It's not Season 2, it's the second half of the story," Gilroy concluded.
"What we've made is insanely ambitious, dark, and real," Luna teased. "Even as Tony was pitching me, I was like, 'This is amazing. You are sick.'"