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See Rogue One's Saw Gerrera return in animated Star Wars: Rebels

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No point hunting for Saw Gerrera. If you watch Star Wars: Rebels, the nefarious “hero” from Rogue One is going to find you.

Forest Whitaker will reprise his role as the Rebel insurgent in animated form on Jan. 7 in a new episode of the DisneyXD series, one of the major crossovers between the TV show and the new film.

It’s actually an example of back-and-forth and back again. Gerrera started out on the earlier animated series The Clone Wars, fighting alongside the Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker. Decades later, by the time of Rogue One, the oft-wounded warrior is as much machine as Darth Vader, although they’re now on opposite sides.

“Forest really wanted to know a lot about the character,” says Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni. “He watched The Clone Wars episodes with his character and I had some detail for him about things George [Lucas] and I discussed. It gave him more time to develop the character as far as, ‘How did he get there?’”

Filoni devised Saw’s return along with Lucasfilm story group chief Kiri Hart and Rogue One director Gareth Edwards. The show is set several years before the events of Rogue One, so Saw is a bit younger, a bit healthier, and a lot meaner.

“He’s not quite as beat up as you see him [in Rogue One],” Filoni says. “I never wanted to go into a lengthy thing about this is how Saw lost his foot. It’s more about his philosophy and who he is and what he thinks about the Rebellion — and how they go about resisting the Empire.”

The news actually leaked over the weekend when a Toys R Us banner promoting the character was accidentally placed into public view before its embargo. But in the video above, you get a first look at Saw in action as he faces down a squad of battle droids from the prequel films.

“Saw really has this feeling that there are things at work, and if [the Rebels] don’t get active, there’ll be no stopping it,” Filoni says. “There’s only a thread of hope at that point.”

The title of the two-part episode is “Ghosts of Geonosis,” another prequel reference to the blighted, insect-alien inhabited world where the Death Star was first assembled. Will we see Saw and the crew of the Ghost do some detective work to reveal the threat to Imperial leadership? “Pretty possible,” Filoni says, with a laugh. “That’s good research. You’re like a Rebel spy at this point!”

To see images of all the Rebels references hidden in Rogue One, check out this gallery.

For more Star Wars news, follow @Breznican.