"It's more interesting that this is a woman with agency who is not just going to fall at the feet of Obi-Wan," says the actress.
Advertisement

There were a few incarnations of Obi-Wan Kenobi before becoming the final product that is now unfurling on screens on Disney+. Originally, the story was conceived as a standalone film in the same vein as Solo: A Star Wars Story, to be directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Hossein Amini. But after Disney+ was launched, the plan shifted in 2019 toward making a series for the new streaming platform, with Deborah Chow announced as the new director.

However, the production was shut down at the start of 2020 as a new writer, Joby Harold, was brought in to help overhaul the story. (Hello, Darth Vader!) While the inclusion of the Dark Lord of the Sith was the biggest change from the original vision, plenty of other alterations were made along the way as well, even extending to the character of Tala, introduced on this week's episode.

Played by Game of Thrones' Indira Varma, Tala was first shown in the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer as a very intense looking Imperial officer. PSYCH! Because we learned mere seconds into her actual introduction on the show that she was not an Imperial officer at all, but rather a double agent working undercover, and a contact of Kumail Nanjiani's conman, Haja Estree, whom Obi-Wan met on Daiyu.

Indira Varma as Tala in 'Obi-Wan Kenobi'
Indira Varma as Tala on 'Obi-Wan Kenobi'
| Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Tala turned out to be a key character, as it was she at the end of the episode that saved Obi-Wan after the Jedi Master got his butt kicked — and dragged, and Force pushed, and burned — by his former apprentice. (Then again, she also got Leia captured, but you win some, you lose some.) As Varma tells EW, Tala also experienced a metamorphosis of sorts during the production process and at one point may have even been… Obi-Wan's girlfriend?!?

"There had already been different incarnations of the script and the story line," explains Varma. "And I think, originally, she was going to be a love interest."

While the thought of Obi-Wan settling down with a significant other after renouncing his Jedi ways (or at least burying them with his lightsaber in the sands of Tatooine) is certainly intriguing, Chow and Harold ultimately went in another direction. "They felt that it was maybe a bit clichéd where always the woman turns up and they fall in love or whatever," says Varma. "And it's more interesting that this is a woman with agency who is not just going to fall at the feet of Obi-Wan."

But just because Tala and Obi-Wan may not pull a Padmé and Anakin or Leia and Han, that doesn't mean the undercover code switcher doesn't feel a spark for the tormented Jedi. At least that is the way that Varma sees it in her portrayal. "I do think in my heart that she's in love with him," says the actress. "Because she's prepared to give up everything to further his quest and to help him out. So that's my little secret thing that's going on inside."

While producers mulled over different visions for the character, they also discussed various back stories for how Tala came to her current position as an Imperial infiltrator. "We talked about several different versions of what her back story could be," reveals Varma. "They would talk about maybe she'd lost a child in a war and that she had therefore become disillusioned. She'd become an Imperial officer because she thought they were going to do good. There were all these storylines that were being bandied around."

However, as Varma notes, "If not much of it's going to be seen on screen, there's a limit to how much you want to share what your inner life is."

Varma's life has been pretty busy of late. Not only is she playing a key role on the most anticipated Disney+ series ever, but the British actress just started rehearsals for an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, also starring her former Game of Thrones castmate (and fellow member of the Star Wars family) Emilia Clarke, that will open in the West End on June 29.

We spoke to Varma to get more intel and insight on her new Star Wars character and her upcoming return to the stage.

Indira Varma as Tala in Obi-Wan Kenobi
Indira Varma as Tala on 'Obi-Wan Kenobi'
| Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, so how did you end up in a galaxy far, far away?

INDIRA VARMA:  My manager asked me, he said, "Obi-Wan Kenobi's come up, would you be interested?" And I was like, "Yeah, of course I would." And even though I don't come from a place of being a massive fan, and I haven't watched it throughout its entire 45 years, I visited it over the years, and I thought, "Well, I'm going to have to do a little bit of research here." I knew it was Deborah Chow directing, so I wanted to watch The Mandalorian, and also because it had [Game of Thrones costar Pedro Pascal] in there.

I thought it was fantastic, and I was really engaged with it. I loved the humor in it. I loved the humanity in it. And I then I was really up for having a chat with her and I just felt that she's so easy to talk to. And she was obviously so engaged with and interested in us as actors and what we have to bring, and in emotional journeys and in relationships. Which is, of course, why I'm interested in acting. And I felt like, actually, there's a lot here that's going to be fun to do. Plus, who doesn't want to work with Ewan? And who doesn't want to be in the Star Wars world? So many boxes were ticked, I was really excited.

We saw you in that trailer looking very stern and very imperial, so that was a cool pump fake when you show up and then immediately flip the script and start blasting stormtroopers.

Oh my God! I know! And it was slightly frustrating because I had all these friends say, "Oh my God, you're an Imperial officer!" And then, of course, that's literally the first second that you see me on screen. And then my cover is blown 20 seconds later. So that was really hard to bite my tongue with. But it was really nice to play a double agent and to be somebody who's a code switcher and who uses that nasty front to do good.

It's a pretty bold move to start firing her blaster, even in the general vicinity of Darth Vader. I wouldn't do that. I would just cut and run.

What can I say? She will do anything. She's very courageous. She will risk it all.

Did you ever take a minute during filming to be like, "I'm in the middle of a battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is insane. What am I doing here?"

Listen, day one on set was like that. Actually, the Darth Vader scene was also one of the times we were on set, rather than being on the Volume in the studio. And my first day, I walk up and there are a bunch of Stormtroopers and I kept having to stop and take a breath because it was just incredible. And I kept laughing. I kept giggling because it was just too wonderful. And then also, seeing Darth Vader, your heart is beating faster just seeing him there live in front of you. This is in 3D! It was really exciting.

Indira Varma as Tala in Obi-Wan Kenobi
Indira Varma as Tala on 'Obi-Wan Kenobi'
| Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

I was speaking to Kumail Nanjiani recently, and he was saying it was such a trip for him, because not only is he sharing a scene with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he's a big Star Wars fan, but he is working with Ewan McGregor.

Working with Ewan, it was just so easy. He's the loveliest guy and he's such a laugh. I mean, it was dangerously giggly, to be honest. We did get told off a couple of times for giggling, but I think that's what's so lovely. It's kept alive. You feel like this is not somebody who's phoning in some performance that he's already thought of before he got to set. He is playing with you. It feels collaborative. You always feel that there's this huge element of respect for the material and he elevates it in his attitude and his work ethic.

I'm no style maven, but that Imperial uniform was a pretty snappy outfit. Were you kind of bummed you only got to wear it for a few minutes of onscreen action? Although I guess we might see it again.

Might get to see it again!

Now that Tala's officially in the canon now, and they keep doing new shows, have you thought at all about the possibility of playing this character beyond the six-episode limited series?

You can't think in that way. Because if I started going, "Oh, imagine there's going to be a spin-off," and then it doesn't happen — I'm just going to be wishing for something that's not going to happen. Obviously, if it were to be a possibility where we go into her back story or anything like that, it would be amazing. It would be incredible. So yeah, I'd love that. Because you do think, my God, how can this person work for both sides? It's so dangerous. How did it first happen? I was curious about that. I'd like to know too.

What else can you tease in terms of what's coming up for Tala?

Well, I think I've already hinted. I think I've dropped two, actually. That's all I'm saying.

I know you just started in rehearsals for The Seagull with another fellow friend from both the Game of Thrones and Star Wars worlds with Emilia Clarke, which is hitting the West End at the end of the month. How is that going?

We have done three days of rehearsals. We are pretty much all off-book and we are rehearsing in ways where you don't necessarily look at the person you're speaking to, which is really interesting. It's about what happens in the space between things, and the space between people — that void. And it's really fascinating to see where the status in the room is, or who has the most weight and power, just by where they're standing. So we are doing that kind of experimental stuff.

Two-and-a-half years ago we actually did four previews of it [before COVID]. But we're re-rehearsing it in a completely different way. And we have four new cast members as well. So it's very exciting to revisit it. It's one of Chekhov's best plays ever. And it's great to be working with Emilia again. it's a brilliant cast, so I'm excited.

Listen to interviews with Obi-Wan Kenobi stars Ewan McGregor, Kumail Nanjiani, Moses Ingram, Rupert Friend and more on EW's new Star Wars podcast, Dagobah Dispatch.

How well do you know Obi-Wan KenobiTake EW's quiz to find out where your Jedi skills rank!"

Related content:

Obi-Wan Kenobi (TV series)

Ewan McGregor returns to Tatooine to fill in the gaps of what happened to the Jedi Master between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

 

type
  • TV Show
rating
genre
network

Comments have been disabled on this post