Obi-Wan Kenobi writer says all Star Wars timeline and canon questions will be 'answered fully'
Obi-Wan Kenobi has been an absolute delight for Star Wars fans hungry to see the 19-year gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope finally filled in on a grand live-action stage. But in filling in that gap, is the Disney+ series also creating timeline and canon questions of its own with regard to the original movies and previous animated offerings? While it may seem so at times, Obi-Wan Kenobi writer and executive producer Joby Harold asks fans to withhold judgement until the series is complete.
While Darth Vader's classic line in A New Hope of "I sense something. A presence I've not felt since…" now has new meaning thanks to the Dark Lord's battle with his former master on the mining planet of Mapuzo (meaning the last time they faced off is no longer Mustafar), the New Hope line still makes complete sense in its current context.
However, there is another piece of dialogue that has now come under scrutiny. While Leia reaching out in hologram form to Obi-Wan at the start of A New Hope now in many ways makes even more sense considering their current joint adventure, Leia's introductory line of the message does not exactly track.
"General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars," Leia says in the message stored on R2-D2. That's an oddly formal greeting for someone the pint-size princess jokingly teased about his age on Daiyu. It also comes across as if the Jedi would not even know who she was, because the reference point she uses is her father, Bail Organa, and the Clone Wars, instead of this huge personal connection they experienced together a good decade after said Clone Wars.
So we asked Harold: What gives? While Harold won't say a lot, he does note that this was not an overlooked aspect of the broader Star Wars story, and that all the pieces of the puzzle should fit once the series is complete. "We talked about it a lot," Harold says of Leia's line. "And we're looking forward to the show airing in its entirety so that hopefully all questions are answered fully. So it's tricky to field some of those questions mid-process. But yes, all I can say is we're very cognizant of that, and of canon. And it's a massive team, Lucasfilm, so we're all very aware of all the choices that are being made."
One of the other choices that stunned fans of the franchise occurred when Moses Ingram's Reva thrust her lightsaber into the chest of Rupert Friend's Grand Inquisitor at the end of episode 2. Not only was it a shocking lack of respect on Reva's part for the Inquisitor chain of command, but it was shocking because the Grand Inquisitor is a huge part of the season 1 storyline of Star Wars Rebels, which takes place roughly four years after the events of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
While it could be a different Grand Inquisitor who appears later in Rebels (voiced by Jason Isaacs), they look awfully similar, and the backstory for Friend's character that the actor provided to EW matches up perfectly with the Rebels version. So is Obi-Wan Kenobi blatantly messing with canon, or was that seemingly fatal blow not as deadly as it appeared?
"It will be so much easier to speak to these things once we've aired everything," Harold says. "But as I said before, we very much take canon very, very seriously. And there are many, many people behind the scenes who prioritize that. So we have it in mind, and by the time everything has concluded, all things should be in place."
So perhaps the Grand Inquisitor is indeed alive and recuperating in a bacta tank, because if there is one thing we know about live-action Star Wars series, it is that they looooooove a good bacta tank. Plus, this is the franchise that brought Darth Maul back after he was literally sliced in half. (BTW, if the Grand Inquisitor is alive, that does not sound like good news for Reva.)
Whatever solves team Obi-Wan Kenobi has for the Leia line and that dark-side death, it is comforting to know that they do indeed seem to have them. While we eagerly await those answers, we also spoke to Harold about episode 4 of Obi-Wan, the decision to have Kenobi and Vader face off so soon, and what to expect next. (Read the interview below or listen to it on the latest episode of EW's Dagobah Dispatch podcast.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Could episode 4 essentially be titled "How Obi-Wan Got His Groove Back"? Because we definitely see him calling upon and using the Force successfully a lot more in this installment.
JOBY HAROLD: The show, by design, across the six chapters, is a little bit about Obi-Wan getting his groove back. And step by step we get to enjoy that. And I think episode 4 is the rubber's meeting the road a little bit, and a fun opportunity to see him do it.
He looked better, but he was only really taking on stormtroopers, so how powerful is he at this point in terms of reclaiming his old prowess?
Just stormtrooper-level. That's low-hanging fruit, but it's a necessary part of the journey to get to where he needs to be. So he's doing what he needs to do.
We know Leia has the Force, even if Leia does not know she has the Force at this point. So how did you all want to play that scene where Reva tries to break into her mind, because the audience has knowledge that I'm assuming neither character in the scene actually has at this point?
We wanted to not be very overt with Leia's Force sensitivity. It's very much as you said, the audience is ahead of the moment, and we didn't want to lean into it too much whilst acknowledging the fact that the audience, especially the fandom, is cognizant of who Leia is. But at that moment it's really about those two characters in the scene, and we didn't want to step out of the scene and start to say, "Here she is in her journey towards Force sensitivity."
But when Reva says, "You're strong," that's a little bit of a nod for us, right? It's clear that she is not your typical 10-year-old.
You could've thought that, but she's also being quite resilient as a 10-year-old as well.
You're writing for this iconic character of Leia, but also writing for a kid in Vivien Lyra Blair. So how much was figuring out just what level of sassiness and precociousness you wanted to hit without coming on too strong?
It really did come down to finding the right actor. And you have to find somebody who feels like they fit the voice of a young Carrie Fisher. And the word I always looked to was spirit. Somebody who feels spirited. They don't feel precocious. They don't feel like they are speaking as an adult writing for a kid, but you feel the spirit of what Carrie Fisher built. And Vivian's just an amazing little actor, and she inhabits that spirit in quite a miraculous way, especially in her scenes with Ewan [McGregor]. And there's just an alchemy there that I think we were really lucky to find.
Where did the idea come from to show these Jedi in statis in the Fortress Inquisitorius?
We wanted to find something that, in the bowels of that facility, would feel shocking, but still be consistent with Star Wars. You didn't want to have it to be too shocking, but you wanted it to be something that really felt like a gut-punch for Obi-Wan in that moment.
I always thought of it as pinned butterflies on the wall. How sad that is to see? And the horror of everything the show is about, Jedis on the run and in hiding and being hunted — as a visual, it reinforces just how far from home he is. And we just wanted an image that felt resonant in that way. And we set it up a little bit in [episode 3] about nobody really knows what happens. So the idea that we get to see a little bit of that and contribute a little bit to the mythology in that way was just a little bit of an opportunity we tried to take advantage of.
It was super cool. And speaking of super cool, I called the scene with Vader in the town in episode 3 your Rogue One scene because it had that spine-chilling feel to it. Was the end of Rogue One a reference point for you all in terms of re-establishing this guy as the ultimate badass?
Yeah. At the end of Rogue One, it's wonderful. I think it's a terrific scene and a scene that I love. And we got to take him out of a corridor, into a village. But still the point of the scene in episode 3 is to sense that there's a little bit of Anakin under there, because it is a little bit personal. It's not just rage and it's not just the professional ruthlessness of Vader. He knows Obi-Wan is nearby and he's doing what's necessary to try to lure him out. And that is part of the conversation of the show. It's Obi-Wan and Vader. It's Obi-Wan being haunted by that thing that's coming down the street, and it should be scary.
I always assumed Obi-Wan and Vader would not fight each other until the finale, that it would all be leading up to that. Was having them meet in episode 3 always the plan, or how did you get to that decision to have them meet up much sooner?
As a creative idea it's something that had been knocked around for a while within the team, if memory serves. And I think where it becomes interesting is, because you are anticipating the heavyweight fight at the end, to suddenly have this thing happening in the middle is you're just not ready for it, and neither is everyone. And if you're not quite ready for it as an audience, you're in the shoes of the character who's not quite ready for it as a Jedi. And that is hopefully a good example of structure and character meeting in a way that the hopefully plays well for the audience.
That's on the part of production. That was with [Obi-Wan director Deborah Chow]. But the legacy of his voice is so extraordinary that when you do see the dailies and you're imagining what the voice is going to sound like, and then you see those two things put together and it's so dramatic, that juxtaposition. And it speaks to the original trilogy, which is very much the tonal inspiration of the show, to try to find that feeling of majestic, mythic, patient, grounded. That tone's hard to get to, and Vader and James Earl Jones' voice is such a specific part of that, that it was pretty amazing to hear it again.
Indira Varma told me that her character of Tala went through a lot of changes and had different backstories at different points. She said at one point the character was going to be a love interest for Obi-Wan, but she also said she thinks and the way she's playing it is that Tala does love him, even if it's not a love story. Do you agree or disagree?
She's an amazing actor. And she and I would talk about the character and the background of the character. And if that's where she's coming from, what an extraordinary position to be in? Especially if it's a Jedi, knowing that a Jedi can't necessarily reciprocate that. So I think what she did with the role is so good. I love her as an actor. And I think those choices and the internal stuff that she worked on, and she works hard on that, you can see that in the choices she's making in the show.
I asked you before the season started about possibly doing a second season of this, and you and Deborah Chow both said you only saw it as a one-season story. But then [Lucasfilm president] Kathleen Kennedy left the door open, and then I asked Ewan and he said he would love to do more. So are you at least in your head thinking about ideas of season 2, just in case?
It's been very gratifying, the reception and the fact that so many people have been watching it. And it's lovely to hear that there's an appetite for more internally and on the outside. This story was always intended to be a complete limited story in six chapters, so that was my concentration and Deb's concentration and our focus. And what happens in the future happens in the future. But right now I'm so focused on this that I'm just looking forward to the remaining chapters coming up.
We have two episodes left. What can you tease in terms of what's coming up next?
Just that one of the challenges with the show is we know where it begins, and we know where it ends. And part of the fun of it was, in the journey in between, taking us to places maybe you wouldn't expect, and some surprises along the way. But hopefully there's a satisfaction to landing the plane back where we all imagine it'll end up, vis a vis Episode IV and A New Hope. So there's some emotional stuff ahead. There's more surprises ahead. And hopefully when everything is concluded we'll be able to look at the whole thing as a complete story, and some of the earlier choices will make sense. So I'm just excited for all to get out there.
Listen to interviews with Obi-Wan Kenobi stars Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Kumail Nanjiani, Rupert Friend, and more on EW's new Star Wars podcast, Dagobah Dispatch.
How well do you know Obi-Wan Kenobi? Take EW's quiz to find out where your Jedi skills rank!"
- The biggest revelations from episode 4 of Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Indira Varma reveals Tala was originally conceived as a love interest for Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Obi-Wan Kenobi faces off against Darth Vader… and it doesn't go well
- All the major news out of Star Wars Celebration, 'The Mandalorian' to 'Obi-Wan Kenobi'
- Inside the 17-year journey to reunite Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen for Obi-Wan Kenobi
- The top 100 Star Wars characters ever
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.