Rogue One is just beyond the horizon, and while the Star Wars saga’s first feature film that doesn’t revolve around the Skywalker family seems interesting, we’re only just now beginning to learn about it. Today, fans got the first confirmations and details involving the main cast, including a little bit of background information on each character, and a massive bombshell in the afternoon.
Among a cast of new characters like Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, Forrest Whitaker’s role is rather unique. The actor will be playing the first main character to make his way on-screen from other mediums; specifically, Whitaker will be playing Saw Gerrera, a grizzled rebel fighter who has a history of taking things to the extreme. Gerrera first appeared in The Clone Wars and is a character conceived by George Lucas himself, but his first appearance didn’t quite turn out the way things had been planned.
Gerrera started out as a radical fighter on Onderon, where — alongside his sister, Steela — he fought on behalf of his King in order to keep the planet away from the ongoing war between the Republic and the Separatists. Gerrera, his sister, and their band of Rebels ended up working alongside iconic figures like Anakin Skywalker and his apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, when the Jedi Council decided to neglect the rebels’ request for help and sent the Master and Padawan duo instead. Uptight and radical — rightly so, in his mind — Gerrera worked alongside Skywalker to develop strategies in order to take out the Separatist battle droids attacking Onderon.
In the process, Saw was captured, and his sister mounted a rescue mission alongside Ahsoka Tano. At the end of the mission, Steela sacrificed her life in order to provide a way out of their captor’s base, and Saw watched as his sister died for his freedom. Needless to say: If Saw was a hard-ass before, he’s probably ten times meaner this time around.
Nothing else is known about Saw’s actions over time, except that they continued to be fairly extreme, and the Empire really, really, really did not like him. Gerrera’s rebellious tendencies have been referenced in both Star Wars Rebels and the latest book to join the new canon, Bloodline, but the mentions are in passing, and they don’t give a lot of insight into what’s happened to the character by the time we meet him in Rogue One.
What’s known is that Rogue One was not the first time Gerrera was meant to be seen in the flesh. In fact, before his appearance on The Clone Wars, Gerrera was supposed to star in one of the many rumored Star Wars live-action shows that were meant to follow the prequels. Drafted up by George Lucas himself back in the early 2000’s, the character was always meant to be a freedom fighter that took things to the extreme, but his plot fell in with many that were used in The Clone Wars, despite being intended for the never-produced live action show.
As far as his bridge to Rogue One, Saw simply fit the bill for what the writers had in mind. “We already had [a Rebel extremist] in Saw. They took that character, ran with it, and as they started developing a script they realized there was only one person they wanted to play this character,” said the story group’s Pablo Hidalgo. “And that was Forrest Whitaker.”
Rogue One hits theaters on December 16th.