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Why 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' director Deborah Chow fought for Hayden Christensen's Darth Vader return

The first two episodes of the hotly-anticipated limited series premiere on Disney+ on May 27.

By Josh Weiss
Darth Vader

Darth Vader wasn't always a part of Lucasfilm's plans for an Episode III follow-up about a disgraced Obi-Wan Kenobi living in exile amongst the shifting dunes of Tatooine. But the idea of bringing the dreaded Sith Lord back into the galactic fold was wholeheartedly supported by The Mandalorian director Deborah Chow, who ended up helming all six episodes of the hotly-anticipated Obi-Wan limited series (premiering on Disney+ at the end of May).

Once the tantalizing allure of Vader's return started to take hold, the Disney-owned production banner known for cranking out Star Wars content had to contend with the difficult question of whether an encounter between former student and master might cheapen their eventual Death Star duel. "Would introducing Vader to a story about Obi-Wan’s exile detract from their fateful meeting on the Death Star in 1977’s Star Wars, when Vader strikes down his old friend?" posits Vanity Fair in a new article on the franchise's bright future on the small screen. "Or could a previously unknown encounter actually enhance that moment?"

As explained by Obi-Wan executive producer and Lucasfilm production executive Michelle Rejwan, the good folks behind the long-running sci-fi property are always engaging in "these what-if conversations 24/7." She continued: “It’s fun to, in your head, peruse the Star Wars toy store. ‘Oh, we could have this character, or feature that ship.’ But at the end of the day, we really need to keep it pure about why."

If you really wanted to stage a lightsaber mulligan between Obi-Wan and his corrupted student, however, there is enough wiggle room in Vader's Episode IV dialogue to imply that their Revenge of the Sith battle on Mustafar may not have been their most recent encounter.

For Chow — who, in addition to sitting in the director's chair, also occupies the dual roles of showrunner and executive producer — there was no point in telling this story without an acknowledgment of the brotherly bond Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) once shared with Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). The sudden and tragic dissolution of their loving relationship sits at the heart of the main character's state of bitter regret 10 years after the fall of the Jedi Order.

“Across the prequels, through the original trilogy, there’s a love-story dynamic with these two that goes through the whole thing,” Chow added. “I felt like it was quite hard to not [include] the person who left Kenobi in such anguish in the series ... I don’t think he [Obi-Wan] ever will not care about him [Anakin]. What’s special about that relationship is that they loved each other."

“This is a character that has come to define my life in so many ways,” Christensen said of Vader. “I was originally hired to play a very specific portion of this person’s life. Most of my work was with Anakin. And now I get to come back and explore the character of Darth Vader ... A lot of my conversations with Deborah were about wanting to convey this feeling of strength, but also coupled with imprisonment. There is this power and vulnerability, and I think that’s an interesting space to explore."

Ewan McGregor also serves as an executive producer alongside Rejwan, Chow, series writer Joby Harold (Army of the Dead), and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell, and Benny Safdie round out the cast. Edgerton and Piesse are also prequel vets and will step back into the shoes of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, respectively. 

The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi arrive on Disney+ next Friday — May 27.

Looking for more sci-fi TV? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, EurekaHeroes, 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.