Rebel With a Cause

Star Wars’ best new character just quietly made the franchise even better

Leave it to Gollum to improve everything.

One of the best parts about Andor’s “arc” format is that it allows characters to come in and out of Cassian’s life in a way that’s short enough to be succinct but long enough to be memorable. Kino Loy, played by Andy Serkis in a rare non-motion-capture role, is a perfect example.

When Cassian is arrested on trumped-up charges, he stages a prison riot. But his biggest obstacle is Kino, the strict foreman of the prison floor. When the riot finally kicks off, Kino is the one who takes the intercom and rallies the inmates to let go of their prisoner mindset and run to freedom.

If you’re wondering how Kino rose to the occasion, Andy Serkis has the answer. Kino may have a past in rallying workers, according to Serkis himself. Here’s how that affects Star Wars as we know it.

Kino goes from mouthpiece of the prison guards...Lucasfilm

Some actors find that fleshing out their characters with a backstory beyond the script helps them to connect with a role, and it looks like Serkis is among them. In conversation with Vanity Fair, he explained how his backstory informed his performance:

“What I imagined of Kino's backstory, before he was in prison, was that he was a union leader. He's used to working as a foreman. I wanted him to come from a place where he was put in prison for, perhaps, standing up for workers' rights, and then put into a position of authority because that's what he does. He is a natural leader. But he really just wants to serve his time. He's got a family. He wants to get out and get back, and assumes that that's going to happen after his incarceration.”

If you consider this canon, it changes a lot about the Star Wars universe. First, it means that unions exist — while we’ve seen unions hinted at in lore (just google “prequels techno union”) they haven’t really had a major role in a high-profile story.

Second, it makes Kino’s turn in the last act of the episode even more powerful. Serkis says that even though Kino fought for workers in the past, his love for his family forces him to keep his head down in the hopes that he’d get out earlier.

...to prison riot leader after realizing it’s the only way out. Lucasfilm

The reveal that the prison was a one-way sentence is what convinces Cassian to plan the riot, but it’s more revelatory for Kino. Suddenly, he realizes he believed the Empire’s propaganda, that keeping your head down is the best path to success. You can see the change in his face — everything he stood for before incarceration comes rushing back.

With this backstory, Kino’s arc makes so much sense and changes Star Wars as we know it. There are more rebellions than just the Rebellion. There are more fights than just the fight against the Empire. There are people who fight for a better life all over the galaxy, and even if it’s just on a small scale, they deserve to have their stories told too.

Andor is now streaming on Disney+.