“He’s just trying to survive.”
'Andor' redefines a popular Star Wars character in "disturbing" new ways
Diego Luna, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, and Genevieve O'Reilly open up about their revolutionary Star Wars roles in 'Andor.'
“Andor is the story of a refugee,” Diego Luna tells Inverse.
The heart and soul of Andor is, of course, the rebel spy Cassian Andor himself. The series covers his journey from a selfish vagabond to a selfless hero who pays the ultimate price. For Luna, that meant creating a new version of the character with an entirely different worldview, and one ripped from everything he finds comfortable.
“He's been forced to move and leave everything behind more than once you can tell,” Luna says. “He ends up finding a way to regroup and start again.”
“This beginning of Cassian is quite disturbing.”
“We know what he's capable of,” the actor continues, “but how far can we go? How far can we go in a man that has lost faith in himself and his community?”
The answer, apparently, is incredibly far. With 24 episodes ahead of it, Andor has its work cut out in order to turn Cassian into the man we met in Rogue One.
“This beginning of Cassian is quite disturbing,” he says. “He’s in a skeptical and cynical moment of his life. He's just trying to survive, trying to make good choices and not necessarily making them. But he'll meet the right people, he'll witness the right events and he'll put together what he needs to in order to believe he could be part of change.”
Andor isn’t the only character being rebuilt (or built) from scratch. Genevieve O’Reilly also reprises her role of Mon Mothma, but gone is the regal Rebel leader. Instead, she’s a skittish politician trying to keep it together while she realizes the entire system is going against her beliefs.
“Every time we've seen her before, she's been in a bunker or surrounded by rebels, surrounded by like-minded people,” O’Reilly tells Inverse. “In Andor, we meet her at a time where she's far less assured than she is later on. She has an awful lot to lose here, and she has very few friends. She's an isolated woman.”
Star Wars re-Bourne
Reinventing these characters was the task of Andor’s showrunner Tony Gilroy, best known for the Bourne trilogy, Michael Clayton, and for writing the Rogue One reshoots that added in Darth Vader. Now, he’s taking on Andor from start to finish with great results — and putting his spy-thriller roots to good use.
“The beauty of working with a writer like Tony Gilroy is that you have the best possible writer in order to bring complexity that makes sense,” says Luna. “There's nothing there just because it sounded cool. Everything has been thought out and questioned many times before it even gets to the page.”
“Sexuality is a big part of that.”
It’s this kind of care that shapes the rest of Andor’s cast. New characters flesh out the show’s world and tone. Not everyone is trying to save the galaxy or destroy it. Most of them are just trying to get by.
One of the first people we meet is Bix Caleen, Cassian’s connection with some shady characters. But Bix is more than just his introduction to a bigger world. Bix does something very few Star Wars characters have been allowed to do in the Disney era.
“This show is so grounded and it's so real and portrays real characters, real people, and sexuality is a big part of that.” Arjona tells Inverse.
Over the course of the three-episode premiere, we see Bix go from a mechanic with a side hustle to losing some of her most beloved friends after a corporate security siege.
“A lot happens to Bix,” Arjona says, “and it all stems from a decision that she took, knowing that it would be to her own detriment, in order to save or help a person she loves dearly.”
While it’s unclear how far that story goes — Arjona didn’t confirm whether or not Bix will return for Season 2 — she’s a much-needed addition to Cassian’s story and Andor in general.
Tale as old as time
But the most important person in Cassian’s life by far is his adoptive mother, Maarva, played by renowned actress Fiona Shaw. Shaw is well known for her portrayal of Greek theatre heroine Medea on stage, and that ancient work featured in her development of this brand new character.
“For inspiration, I used classic characters like Clytemnestra and Medea, women who have been forced into making decisions not because they wanted to, but because circumstances forced them to,” Shaw tells Inverse. “I think people assume that those characters in classical dramas are very strong. In fact, they usually come like Maarva from a very ordinary base. They're often put right down and then they pop out. They sort of revolt into who they are, and I think Maarva is that way.”
“Revolt into who they are” describes every single character in Andor, from the heroes to the villains. The series captures the moments just before the rebellion boils over when everyone is forced to make a choice about where their loyalties and moralities lie.
“These people live under quite a lot of pressure,” Shaw says, “and they continue to try and struggle and make their lives work.”
Andor airs Wednesdays on Disney+.