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Star Wars fans thought they knew what they were in for with the long-awaited Obi-Wan Kenobi television series on Disney+. What none of them could have anticipated was the return of Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair), who helps kicks the story into overdrive when she's kidnapped as part of a dastardly Inquisitor plot to draw Obi-Wan (once again played by prequel veteran, Ewan McGregor) out into the open. It's simple, yet oh so effective.
"Very, very early on, Leia was a part of the show, and was going to be the call to action for Obi-Wan," the show's head writer and executive producer, Joby Harold, tells SYFY WIRE. "Her presence was one of the few things — if not the only thing — that could pull Obi-Wan away from Luke. Because otherwise, there's nothing else I would believe that would pull him away. No call to action would be profound enough. Seeing him wrestle with that decision, I think, is part of the fun at the beginning of the show. And then seeing him try to navigate that decision is part of the fun of where we go."
Leia's involvement in the narrative also meant a chance to visit a live-action Alderaan for an extended period of time after a brief glimpse of the planet near the end of Episode III. For the last decade, Leia has been raised in the lap of luxury by Queen Breha Organa (Simone Kessell) and Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smitts). She's being groomed as a future political in the Galactic Senate, but a recurring stubborn streak hints at a life defined by rebellion. Getting to see this intimate aspect of Leia's royal upbringing serves as a crushingly poignant reminder of what lies in store for the people of Alderaan once the Death Star becomes fully operational.
"That was one of my early pitches," Harold reveals. "As a fan, first and foremost, I feel like it's one of the few places that right from the beginning, we were all like, ‘What was Alderaan like?’ To see the horror of what happens in A New Hope and to always imagine finally getting to go there, at least in some small way properly."
The writer/producer goes on to recall the magical experience of watching the first two episodes with a crowd at Star Wars Celebration last month and how fans reacted to the planet reveal: "When you cut to the wide and you see it, you could feel the whole room share that emotion of, ‘Yes! We get to spend a little bit of time here.’ So right from the beginning, I wanted to do it. Who doesn't want to go to Alderaan?"
Harold really is the proverbial Youngling in a galactic candy store (or wherever kids in the Star Wars universe go to satisfy their sweet tooth). "I was excited to just have the little toys on my shelf come to life," he continues. "It’s a lovely sandbox to play in and to understand — just as a fan — how the sausage is made, and then to get to be part of that storytelling, is a really unique experience and very challenging, but [also] a lot of fun. It's just purely getting to see Ewan in character on a soundstage in front of you, inhabiting a role that means a lot to me and a lot to a lot of people."
In the grand scheme of things, Obi-Wan Kenobi is only the third live-action Star Wars project to be released by Lucasfilm after the first two seasons of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Several more titles are currently in development, active production, or post-production.
"I think that each show has its own identity," Harold tells us. "And that's the fun of what Star Wars is building and what Lucasfilm is building. Hopefully, this one feels like it has its own identity. That was the intention. I'm excited to see the shows as they continue to come out. Each have their own lane, and there's some amazing stuff coming. I’m first and foremost a Star Wars fan, so I can't wait to see all of it."
Episodes 1-4 of Obi-Wan Kenobi are now streaming on Disney+. The fifth and penultimate chapter premieres this Wednesday — June 15.