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When the government was first starting to urge the general public to wear masks over their mouths and noses in an effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Ewan McGregor was hoping to convince Hayden Christensen of putting on a very different kind of face covering. A black helmet and respirator, to be exact.
The nationwide pandemic lockdown had just gone into effect when the two met up "for a long walk" at a park in Santa Monica, McGregor recalled to Empire for the magazine's latest issue (now on sale). The purpose of this little rendezvous was to ask his prequels co-star if he might be interested in returning to the Star Wars universe as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series on Disney+ (premiering at the end of May). "We were outdoors with our masks, I got to see his eyes only," McGregor added. "We walked, we caught up with our lives. We hadn't seen each other for a long time."
Fortunately, Christensen was totally on board, and Lucasfilm confirmed his involvement during an action-packed investor presentation that very winter. Production finally kicked off last spring, reuniting Jedi Master and Padawan for the first time in over 15 years. "On set, it was like walking back in time," McGregor said. "I was looking across at him playing these scenes, and it was like a time warp or something — like the last 20 years didn't really happen. All of my personal feelings — because I love Hayden — were there, but also all of Obi-Wan's feelings about Anakin were there, and it was pretty seamless."
One thing that has changed since the release of Episode III is Lucasfilm's attitude toward practical effects. Since The Force Awakens in 2015, the long-running galactic franchise has embraced some of the old school trickery of the original trilogy and somewhat moved away from the digital-heavy attitude of the prequels.
To see just how differently the wind is blowing these days, look no further than Obi-Wan's faithful steed, the camel-like Eopie. When the Jedi drops off young Luke Skywalker with his aunt and uncle on Tatooine at the very end of Revenge of the Sith, McGregor sat atop "a f—ing blue gym horse. I had to sit on it and pretend to be [riding]." For the Disney+ series, Lucasfilm sprung for an actual camel to stand in for the creature best-suited to desert travel (other than Banthas, of course).
"This time, I had a camel called Silas, and I really, really liked him," the actor continued. "I don't know how Silas felt about me. I had a great trailer who called me 'Cowboy' all the time. 'Come on, Cowboy!' It's nice for a Scottish person to be called 'Cowboy' all day. Silas, he's brilliant. The trainer could see that I really liked the camel and he said, 'He's almost finished his career. He's 20-something years old, and we're looking for a forever home for him.' I was like, 'Oh, don't tell me that.' I'll come home with a cameo, like, 'Hey, guys! We can have a camel in the garden, can't we?'"
McGregor serves as an executive producer on the show alongside director Deborah Chow, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy, and Michelle Rejwan. Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell, and Benny Safdie co-star.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi land on Disney+ Friday, May 27.
Looking for more sci-fi TV? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock. Looking ahead, SYFY has new series The Ark in the works from original Stargate film writer/producer Dean Devlin, as well as Stargate SG-1 producer Jonathan Glassner.