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How 'Andor' staged the first rebellion in the 'Star Wars' universe

David Viramontes, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"Star Wars" has always been about rebelling against authority, but prior to "Andor," visitors to the galaxy far, far away had never been so deeply immersed in the workings of the revolution. Zeroing in on a single character's radicalization and the effects of his actions on a community, showrunner Tony Gilroy's Disney+ series explores the nascent rebellion with a keen focus on how financially unstable and politically perilous it is for its organizers. And with returning star Diego Luna, Gilroy revisits the steely Cassian Andor, a character he helped shape in 2016's "Rogue One."

In building out this show, Gilroy was faced with a question: How do you make a prequel to a prequel? The answer was to make something wholly original. "Why would I want to do anything that anybody had done before?" he asked in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, "Andor" is unlike anything in the "Star Wars" galaxy. There are no Jedi, lightsabers or physics-defying displays of the Force. "I think there's a greater utility to our show if it works, which is that it opens a whole bunch of lanes for a whole bunch of other imaginations to come in and use this galaxy for all kinds of things," said Gilroy. "What about a three-camera comedy 'Star Wars'? People just need to be, you know, disruptive."

Just about the only visible sign that "Andor" is part of an enormously valuable intellectual property is the finale episode's post-credits scene. Previously, in a story arc that takes place in a prison labor camp, Cassian and his fellow inmates were forced to build large, seemingly unimportant pieces of machinery. But in the final seconds of Season 1's last episode, it's revealed that the prisoners were building components for the Death Star's massive laser dish. The moment is the first part of the series that could be described as fan service, but the reveal provides a full-circle moment for viewers who realize that Cassian was unknowingly building the weapon he would later sacrifice his life to help destroy.

Gilroy talked to the L.A. Times via Zoom to discuss what it was like working with Luna, how he introduced two new characters to the "Star Wars" universe and what to expect in Season 2. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: Your work on "Rogue One" started once that movie was already in motion. Developing "Andor" gave you more of a blank canvas on which to work. How did that change your approach?

 

A: They're vividly different experiences. The experience on "Rogue" was clinical in a way. You come in as a fixer and a doctor. ... Even as naive as I was about what we were undertaking [on the TV series], I did realize that it was an enormous commitment. You don't just go out and get an "Andor" tattoo and sign on to the show. There's a very long dance that you [and the studio] do. I've always believed in doing a lot of free work first. I'd much rather expose a lot of things that I'm thinking about doing or want to do prior to getting involved. The main attraction was threefold. It was the size of the frame. ... The idea of having 1500 pages to write into is just a tremendous opportunity I had. On the second hand, I had a partner in Diego [Luna], who I knew from "Rogue" and who I knew was capable of doing anything. I was really terribly impressed with him as an actor. ... Who's number one on the call sheet is just really determinant, and I've been blessed. I've had a couple of really great partners in that regard,but he's just as good as anybody. He's just an absolute pleasure to work with. And then the last thing is, the big canvas was about revolution. And the five-year period that I was going to be allowed to curate is this incredibly dynamic moment where this established revolution is going to sweep across a gigantic galaxy. The opportunity to do "War and Peace" was like, "Wow. OK, well, let's try that." That's the gravitational pull.

Q: You've talked about a version of this show prior to your involvement that was along the lines of a "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" series. Why take "Star Wars" down the path that you did with "Andor" instead of something a little bit more conventional, maybe with more of the iconic props like lightsabers?

A: Well, they've done that. … That's probably my primary motivation. We're not going to reinvent oxygen or gravity, but my starting point for everything is, let's do something nobody did before. … If you're asking me, "You want to do a show about a guy who's going to be in 'Rogue One,' and he's going to be this tactical leader, he's going to be an emotional leader, he's going to be so complicated a leader that he knows when to lie [and] when to change his mind, he's going to be a soulful compatriot, and in the end, he's going to be somebody who, with an open heart, is going to willingly sacrifice himself for everybody?" If you're going to do a show about that guy, don't you want to take him as far away from that as you possibly could and watch him become that? That seems to me like the show.

Q: The character of Cassian isn't a mythologized hero of the rebellion, and the show's more about him becoming radicalized and joining a movement bigger than himself. What interested you about this community of people who rise up?

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