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SYFY WIRE Jabba the Pod

Obi-Wan Kenobi is Star Wars' truest believer (and more from The Clone Wars' James Arnold Taylor)

By Brian Silliman & Caitlin Busch
Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) on Star Wars: The Clone Wars

We love Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but things during this period in the galaxy far, far away aren't very bright. Every character is being tested, and some characters get tested more than others. By "tested" we mean they get the kriff beaten out of them on a regular basis.

Few characters on the series suffer (again, and again, and again) like Obi-Wan Kenobi suffers, but thankfully prequel-era Obi-Wan is a sass-master general. No matter how bad things get and no matter how hard his heart gets ripped out, Kenobi keeps on going with a quip and the strength of a true believer. The man behind Obi-Wan on this series, actor James Arnold Taylor, is very much the same. 

Taylor is downright historic when it comes to lending his vocal talents to animated properties — throw a rock at a franchise that has dabbled in animation, and he's likely been a part of it. He's been voicing prequel-era Obi-Wan ever since the Genndy Tartakovsky iteration and then went on to voice both Kenobi and Plo Koon (and tons of others) regularly on the newly returned series. He's also lent his talents to every Star Wars film in the Disney era, the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge ride Rise of the Resistance, and much more.

The man behind the man who makes Maul scream with anger every other second joined our heroes at Jabba the Pod for an interview on all things Clone Wars, some Star Wars-related hope and wisdom, and what he'd like to see from the upcoming Kenobi series on Disney+.

James Arnold Taylor

The series is back, but it's back during this crazy time in the world. How has that been for you? 

Well, it's wonderful to be back. The one July where they announced at Comic-Con we had known since February that the show was coming back, so for all those months we were having to hold our tongue. And then it comes back and we still can't talk about it, and now it's out and we can talk about it, but not fully until it's done.

So there's also all these little elements that surprise, and that's what it's like being an actor working in Star Wars, is that you're always kind of waiting for these wonderful moments to happen. And so now, I don't know, it's different. We feel the anticipation maybe a little more because we're all going, "Let's sit at home and watch Clone Wars."

It's what we all do as a cast, too — we really are a family. And we really do love this show, we're all very passionate about Star Wars. It's an exciting time ... yet at the same time, we're hoping for the best for everybody.

In one of our favorite scenes from the new season (when Anakin gets on a holocall with Padme), it seems pretty clear to us that Obi-Wan definitely knows about their relationship. How long do you think he's known? 

I think he's always sensed it. He's known ever since the beginning that there was a spark between these two.

Dave Filoni and I have discussed this and he's said it in interviews as well, so I know it's safe to say that Obi-Wan's not an idiot; he knows what's going on, but he doesn't know the intensity and magnitude of it. He certainly doesn't know they're married, I think. 

Do you think having an honest, cards-on-the-table conversation about all of this with Anakin is something he wants to do? Is the Jedi Code holding him back? 

I always feel like with Obi-Wan, he's the true believer in all of this, even more so probably than Master Yoda or Qui-Gon. He's just a true believer in the code ... he wants to do the right things, and I do believe that if you were to sit down in a one-on-one, if Obi-Wan Kenobi was here on the podcast, and he was just talking one-on-one and he said, "Well, nobody's gonna hear this, right? Yoda won't hear this? Yes, I do believe that the Jedi should be able to express their feelings more in this way."

It'd certainly be something that could come from Obi-Wan, because he's got a big heart. Clearly he's got a big heart because Dave Filoni gives me a bad time about it all the time, like, "If you'd just finished the job down there on the lava banks everything would be fine."

You had the high ground and everything! 

I had the high ground! So yeah, I think he would love that. 

Obi-Wan goes through a lot in this series, especially from Season 4 on, he gets whipped by slavers, goes on a really unpleasant undercover mission, gets beaten repeatedly by Maul, and then watches the love of his life be killed in front of him. Where does he get the strength to keep going and stay somewhat positive?

It does go back to the true-believer aspect of the character. It's one of those things that I always made certain, when we were in the series, that I didn't watch (although it's one of my favorite movies) Revenge of the Sith that much, because I thought he's not there yet. He's still in these other places, and it was interesting to see those seasons.

You know the funny thing is, there was an article that had come out where people were saying [around] Season 2 or 3, "We want more Obi-Wan," and I did a little snarky comment like, "Yes, me too." [Dave Filoni] goes, "Watch it, careful, I'll give you more Obi-Wan."

And he did. And [in] every episode. Obi-Wan was getting beat up and all that ... but I do think that so much of it does amass where he is finally, when we see him even in shows like [Star Wars] Rebels, getting to give that hologram message that I got to give. To have it there, finally, it made it — for my journey as the actor, portraying the character — so much more powerful to think of all the things he's gone through.

If you just watch the movies, you can't get a sense of what these characters went through together and why that battle in that film [Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith] is so important. 

As one of the people who fans have known as Obi-Wan over the years, what are you hoping to see in the Kenobi series when it comes out on Disney+? 

I was a huge fan of the book Kenobi, which is not considered canon now, I wish it was, because I think it's so great. What I loved about it was it was like the old westerns; it was like Shane, this classic old film where this drifter comes into town and secretly kind of helps everybody even though he's not taking credit for it and he's mysterious. Who is he?

I'd love to see a story like that where he's on Tatooine, he's dealing with the people there, he's helping people — not undercover, but in a subtle way where nobody realizes who he is. I'd love to see some storylines like that. While he's trying to protect, of course, Luke.

Is there any Star Wars wisdom that's stuck with you through the years that may be more applicable now more than ever? 

Being Obi-Wan for 18 years now in this wonderful franchise, it's great to be a character that is so kind of zen in it all and is able to look at things with a positivity that is beyond most people. And so it's infectious to me in that way. I really try to take that on myself.

It's beautiful that Star Wars would be about a new hope, and that we would all have that hope in us.

For the rest of our discussion with James Arnold Taylor, give a listen to our special bonus episode of Jabba the Pod right here ... or wherever you get your podcasts.

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