Seth Green talks 'Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III' and his desire to redeem Jar Jar Binks
Image Credit: Adult Swim; Inset: Tina Gill/PR PhotosThis Sunday, multimedia comic whiz Seth Green debuts Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III (Adult Swim, 11:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. ET), his third send-up of George Lucas’s ubiquitous space saga. But Green’s involvement in that Galaxy Far, Far Away runs deeper than imagining a “Yo Momma Fight” between Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine. He’s also voiced two characters on Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars (read our recaps here), including the son of George Lucas’s Revenge of the Sith character Baron Papanoida (“That’s like the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. “I just hope they make action figures.”) And now he’s developing an animated comedy series directly with Lucasfilm that will be set in the Star Wars galaxy. We chatted with the man who brought you “Admiral Ackbar Cereal” and “Jar Jar Binks for Gecko Insurance” about his new special, why Star Wars is endlessly ripe for parody, and his effort to redeem the aforementioned Gungan.
On making fun of Star Wars: Star Wars is endlessly available for parody. George has joked that he made the movie as cannon fodder for MAD magazine. For us, I don’t know we would make another episode. Matt and I are looking at this other show we’re making for [Lucasfilm] and we’re thinking there may be greater opportunities for comedy with that.
On the new animated comedy series he’s developing with Robot Chicken co-creator Matt Senreich for Lucasfilm: I literally can’t tell you anything about it, but I will say this: It won’t look like any Star Wars you’ve seen. It’s a whole new aesthetic.
On what separates Robot Chicken Episode III from the previous installments: The first one we made included every joke that every nerd has been thinking for the last 25 years, and we put them on TV in sketch format. With the second one we experimented with the idea of telling specific stories, centering around the same characters and catching up with them in sequence, like following the bounty hunters Darth Vader hires in Empire and showing how they all got that job. Then Matt had the idea of telling the entire series of Star Wars in one episode through the eyes of a few key characters — namely, the Emperor, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and Gary the Stormtrooper — and that’s what this is.
On mining the prequels for humor: There’s so much important storytelling there. With all that character development, that’s where our comedy comes from. Like for that scene in our new special [which parodies Padme’s rejection of Anakin in a romantic candlelit room from Attack of the Clones by showing her stripping for him], we took Anakin’s dialogue exactly from that scene in the movie. Watch that scene. That’s exactly his dialogue. And we were like, what is she doing? It’s unfair, I’ve got to say. I think she’s leading him on.
On rehabilitating Jar Jar through comedy: It was kind of awesome, because there was such an imbalanced [negative] response to that character. Then we made our second special, and Ahmed Best (Jar Jar’s vocal performer) won an Annie Award for his performance. I was so excited to be able to participate in that. I also came to the realization that there is a generation of kids for whom Jar Jar is their favorite character. I always loved C-3PO, and George has said that teenagers and adults hated C-3PO and that’s why in Empire he has Han Solo power him down and say “Will you shut that guy up?” He said the audience cheered when he did that. And I remember thinking “Oh no, not 3PO!” It’s the same thing with Jar Jar. Adults hate him, but kids loved him. In Episode III, we’ve also tried to give him a little redemption, like maybe he wasn’t tricked, maybe he wasn’t manipulated into handing Palpatine power. Maybe he was evil all along, and his way of ruining the galaxy was to act like a bumbling idiot and get in a position of power where he could hand Hitler the keys to the universe.
On claims that Jar Jar was a racial stereotype: It’s tough. A lot of racial sensitivity comes from people’s own insecurities about the way they see things, and they’re concerned about whether or not they’re politically correct or sensitive enough. People tend to overreact when they want a political platform to stand on. Our country’s getting more and more diverse, we’ve evolved enough as a culture to see that there are hundreds of different kinds of people on the planet, and there’s no point in hating people as a group. But within that everyone becomes hypersensitive because they don’t want to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings, so they overcompensate.
On why fans sometimes don’t recognize George Lucas’s sense of humor regarding Star Wars: I think Star Wars has been closely guarded. It’s the most pirated brand on the planet. You’ve got to fiercely protect that legally, every day. I can’t imagine how much [George] spends every day just renewing trademarks and copyrights. Do you know how many different names there are in the Star Wars universe? That’s all out of pocket. So I think it’s easy for people to misinterpret that. George also doesn’t go out of his way to be in the public eye…In today’s culture, we have such an expectation of knowing the most intimate details about celebrities even though we’re not friends with them, and George never plays in to that. So in the absence of an awareness of his sense of humor, people infer the opposite.
On whether Star Wars fans are funnier than fans of other franchises: Well, Star Wars has had more time to cross generations. It’s relatable on such a basic level, and so all these people who grew up loving it and found it hugely influential to their own creativity have kind of discovered that commonality amongst themselves. It’s like, “Oh, we all love Star Wars. I guess it’s now okay for us to celebrate this thing we got our asses kicked for loving when we were kids.”