Jyn Erso’s mother was once a Jedi, killed during 'Revenge of the Sith'

By Anthony Breznican
March 22, 2017 at 12:49 PM EDT

Which paths through the galaxy weren't taken? That's a question Star Wars fans still have about Rogue One, and EW will be providing answers this week leading up to the movie's digital debut on Friday. (It's out on Blu-ray April 4.) Next up in our Rogue One Revelations series:

Jyn's mother was once a Jedi, and her death would have happened in the prequel trilogy era.

By now we all know Rogue One touches right up against the start of 1977's original Star Wars, but one early story idea was to have it clearly serve as a bridge to George Lucas' prequel trilogy and the Clone Wars.

"The prologue, at one point a long time ago, was going to be the Empire coming to kill the Jedi," says director Gareth Edwards. "And Jyn's mom was going to be a Jedi."

The math holds up. If Jyn is in her early to mid-20s for most of the movie, and 19 years have passed between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, then she would have been about 4 to 6 years old when the Emperor unleashed Order 66 to exterminate the Jedi.

Edwards says the initial prologue concept for Rogue One was, "We were witnessing one of those kills and Krennic would be the person sent to do it."

Star Wars is full of lost children, striving to survive on their own, relying on the care of others: Luke, Leia and, in a darker sense, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader himself. In The Force Awakens and the animated Rebels series, Rey, Finn, and Ezra Bridger also fit this archetype of the abandoned innocent who finds a new family in a fight against the forces that stole their loved ones. Chris Weitz, one of the movie's screenwriters, previously hinted at Jyn's mother's mystical origin in an interview with Yahoo Movies, but this is the first time filmmakers have revealed details of that alternate storyline.

The fatal flaw in the concept was that Jyn was never going to become a Force-wielder, so the filmmakers feared her Jedi mother would become a distraction. A tease without a payoff.

"Our instinct told us that we wanted a scene where Jyn is orphaned because of what Krennic does, which sets her on her path of being a child of war," says Edwards. "The problem was that the second you make her mom a Jedi you spend the entire movie questioning whether Jyn is a Jedi or not. Eventually, we came up with the idea that her father should have designed the Death Star. That became a stronger way into the stealing of the Death Star plans. We let go of the mother being a Jedi, and she became just a rebellious mom."

Gary Whitta, who wrote the early screenplay based on executive producer John Knoll's concept, says the worry was that fans wouldn't accept a Star Wars story that focused only on Rebel soldiers.

"This would be the first Star Wars film that did not have a Jedi factor," Whitta says. "I was concerned about it for a while. They are basically extinct. There are two left [Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi], and they're in hiding. You're not going to see a Jedi in this film. How do we still get some element of the fact that the Force hasn't gone anywhere? That it's just in the background?"

In the abandoned Jedi prologue, when Krennic and his Deathtroopers arrive at the Erso homestead, they would have ended up facing not a jittery Lyra Erso slinging a blaster, but a calm, collected fugitive Jedi, drawing her lightsaber to protect her daughter — and her husband.

"Her mother was a Jedi Knight who was hiding out. But her father was still the scientist," said Whitta. As the story developed, Galen Erso's involvement in the Death Star and the manipulation of Kyber crystals, which are the key element in lightsabers and the Imperial battle station's planet-killing laser, became Jyn's other motivation.

"We just had to pick a lane," Edwards says. "We ended up feeling like her father should be the reason this thing existed. The guilt for that felt like better motivation in stealing the Death Star plans."

So, Jedi Mom was cut.

"In the end, we decided it was too much. We didn't need an actual Jedi character," Whitta says. "We just needed someone who could feel the Force."

Chirrut Imwe, the blind warrior monk played by Donnie Yen, managed to fill that void. Whitta credits fellow screenwriter Weitz for that: "He came on and had this great idea of bringing in the Guardians of the Whills," a group of devotees who protected sacred Jedi sites and artifacts.

"The movie addressed it in just the right way," Whitta says. "The character that feels the Force is a believer, and he has that faith-based spiritual element but isn't actually a Jedi knight."

But wait.

If Jyn's mother was a Jedi back when the order was still strong, then how could she have a husband and a child? Attachments were forbidden!

"You could ask the same question about Anakin," Whitta says. "[Jyn's mother] wouldn't have been the first!"

But seriously … this was a plot hole they never quite figured out.

"You're talking about ideas that were killed," Whitta says. "I can't fully defend them because part of the reason why we got rid of the idea was because people would ask questions like that."

Check back to EW.com on Thursday for Day Four of Rogue One Revelations week: Riz Ahmed's Bodhi Rook was once an entirely different character.

For more Star Wars news, follow @Breznican.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released digitally this Friday and will be available April 4 on Blu-ray.