Mandalorian Actress Reveals How Elia Kane May Have Fought the Empire
The Mandalorian and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania actor reveals how Elia’s act of cruelty may have actually been kind.
Katy O’Brian is a rare example of a true franchise actor. This year alone, she’s starred as Jentorra in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Elia Kane (previously only known as the Comms Officer) in The Mandalorian Season 3 — and that’s not counting her previous roles in Black Lightning and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now, she’s moving up, with an expanded role in The Mandalorian and an upcoming leading role in Rose Glass’ Love Lies Bleeding opposite Kristen Stewart.
In Episode 3 of The Mandalorian’s new season, the action diverged from Din Djarin and focused on Elia Kane and Dr. Pershing, now “assimilated” members of the New Republic. While Elia seems to warm up to Pershing with some old Empire cookies, she betrays him to the higher-ups and, when given the opportunity, cranks up the Mind-Flayer to eradicate his memories.
But for O’Brian, there are a number of ways to interpret that scene. In the latest episode of The Mandalorian, Moff Gideon breaks the sad news that Dr. Pershing’s research was lost, which casts doubt on why she would eliminate Pershing’s memory.
“I don't know that she cares about being redeemed or what her game is.”
“It seems to me Elia did it so Moff Gideon didn't have to answer to them about what he was doing with Pershing,” O’Brian tells Inverse. “[He needed] to cover his tracks there. But then well, why didn't you just assassinate him?”
She spins Elia Kane in a much more positive light, revealing how she may have actually harmed the Empire with her “betrayal. “If I'm trying to say Elia's a good person, I say that I am making him no longer an asset to the Empire, so they'll just leave him alone.”
Regardless of why she did what she did, Elia Kane and Katy O’Brian are now more than just superfluous elements: they’re integral parts of the new Star Wars universe. O’Brian spoke to Inverse about what those biscuits tasted like, how she found out about her big episode, and what Elia Kane was almost named.
This interview has been edited for clarity and/or brevity.
Inverse: What has it been like seeing the fan response to your heightened role as Elia Kane?
It's been great. Everything that comes through my filtration system has been generally really positive. It's funny to me how many people are like really into bad guys and, and the Empire and all of that. I appreciate them.
She's just an interesting character and you just kinda wanna know what's going on inside her head. And I'm along there with them because I don't know! They don't tell me anything. I love seeing the theories. I love people coming up with, oh, I bet you're this, and you’re secretly doing this or this. And I'm like, “Great! Yeah! Tell me more!”
When did you know that she was going to have this bigger role?
Maybe a month or so before we started filming, I got the scripts of the lines that I had, and that's it. Just the lines I had for the whole season. I was really surprised, because I obviously was not expecting to have an episode with almost entirely just Omid and myself.
I was also really excited because I knew it was going to be a really polarizing episode. It's so different than the rest of The Mandalorian. But the setup was really important, I think a lot of people might have maybe missed how important Pershing’s character or that research was too.
Then just getting to see that I got to just cause problems the rest of the season was a blast. I love it. I'm like, yeah, gimme more chaos.
How many fan theories did you read about your character leading up to this season?
I had seen a few, because people send them to me. they're like, are you Sabine? And I'm like, “No, I'm not Sabine.” Are you Doctor Aphra? — all these people I've never heard of, by the way. So I was like, “No, I'm none of these. Or if I am, they haven't told me yet. I don't know.”
When I got my name, we actually played with a few different names before landing on that one, because they have to do so much research with just a simple name. If they gave me one name and there's a character in an extended universe that has that name too, then they're shooting themselves in the foot, so they just have to research all these names.
There were a couple of times where it's like, oh wait, we can't use that name. Someone else has it. Over and over again I was like, “What's my name? What's my name?” They finally had me say two or three different names on the day and we wound up with Elia.
“It's funny to me that I faced no consequences.”
What were some almost names?
One was Skilla, and we kind of like laughed at that one. One was Lilia. And then we got to Elia.
What were those Empire biscuits made of? What did they taste like?
They were vegan and gluten-free. I think they were just trying to make sure that it was most inoffensive allergy-free cookie they could get, I guess. It was very heavy on the coconut.
They were really dry and surprisingly heavy. I bit just a small corner and it just expanded in my mouth. On my first bite, I ruined the take because I had put too much in my mouth and suddenly there was an overwhelming amount of food in my face.
In your opinion, was turning up the Mind Flayer controls always part of her plan or was that just a free opportunity?
The chaos-agent interpretation is just she's just a psychopath who wanted to hurt him, but I don't like that one as much. There's just not a fun motivation there.
Obviously, a huge part of that episode is to show how incompetent The New Republic is, and how overly trusting they are. It's funny to me that when the officer came back and Pershing was just completely flayed, they never wondered how that happened. It's funny to me that I faced no consequences.
Do you think she’s evil or just loyal to the Empire?
I think to call someone just purely evil, especially someone that is a more complicated character, is not very nuanced. I think that she has motivations. One thing that I thought was really powerful was when Pershing asked about my childhood. I think it was the first time I was really caught off guard because I had been kind of masterminding throughout that episode. He asked me that question, and it's a very personal question, and I was enshrouded, darkness took over and I didn't have a chance to think about it.
I think there's a lot more to it than just being good or evil. I often wonder why people are specifically so loyal to a particular governing body. I don't think it's as cut and dry as “she's just loyal to the Empire because she's bad.” There's gotta be something to it. I don't know. I'm just as lost as you are. I'm very curious to find out.
Do you think she could be redeemed?
Well, if Darth Vader can be redeemed after slaughtering children, I think I could be redeemed. But again, I don't know. I don't know that she cares about being redeemed or what her game is.
You’ve previously said you no longer wanted to play henchmen roles. Is Elia Kane still a henchman?
Well, I already played her. But if it's interesting, if it's not just “yes sir” or “no sir,” and there's a lot more depth to it, that's more interesting to me. For right now, she has a really fun storyline. But I would like to think she’s not just a henchman, I haven't been given any evidence to the contrary, but I would like to think that she is more a chaos agent or something.