The first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi shocked fans with one key moment: the reveal of Vivien Lyra Blair as a young Leia Organa. She was every bit the rebellious princess of Alderaan we know and love, down to the escape acts and complex braids — but something else is up with the original Star Wars princess.
This was especially clear Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 1 when Leia exposes her spoiled cousin for what he really is — a bully and a coward — in a brutal monologue that made her seem wise beyond her years. But was this just the work of a precocious child, or the beginnings of some Force sensitivity? If there’s one person who knows the answer, it’s Joby Harold, head writer and executive producer on Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“If it's a Force sensitivity, she certainly isn't cognizant of it yet, neither would the people around her be,” Harold tells Inverse. “But that level of perception would be consistent with that kind of ability. It would be in its most nascent form. That scene was an opportunity to show that she isn't an ordinary kid, she's something else.”
So just like the beginnings of Leia’s rebellious nature, we’re seeing the beginning stages of her full powers, even if nobody is aware of it just yet. Read on for our full conversation with Joby Harold, including how he approached a six-part special and how he paid homage to George Lucas’ original inspiration.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Inverse: How much did the non-canon Star Wars continuity factor into the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Joby Harold: Not in a great way. We tried to tell as simple a story as possible and build out from the foundation of canon. Part of it was asking what's our own story that doesn't step on the toes of Canon that exists. Hopefully, by the time it's concluded it will feel like it belongs as a little chapter in the greater story.
How do you balance creating six interesting episodes on a weekly basis while prioritizing the story arc as a whole?
It is a limited series at the end of the day. You are telling a bigger story in six parts, but each chapter of that story should have its own language or feel while also carrying the bat and passing it on to the next chapter, that's telling the bigger story. Part of that is becoming a student of the structure of an episode of television. I think we have some strong episodes I'm quite proud of that feel like they lead you into the next chapter of the story. Also, the great thing about Star Wars is you go to a different planet each time!
Was there any remaining infrastructure from when Obi-Wan Kenobi was planned to be a movie?
Many great minds had been thinking on this character and thinking on these worlds. We were lucky enough to inherit some of those ideas and characters and run with the creative group that I worked with and with Deborah Chow, the director, who had a very clear vision for it right from the beginning. There were some elements before they came with us, for sure.
Obi-Wan Kenobi follows mythologist Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey pretty faithfully, and George Lucas was never shy about how that influenced the original trilogy. Was that aspect intentional?
Oh yeah. I worked hard to put it in there. There are a couple of refusals of the call. It's a mythic journey and Star Wars, especially in the original trilogy, is an epic myth. And obviously, we all know George built such an extraordinary and powerful incarnation of that journey. I wanted to nod to it a little bit in seeing Obi-Wan be called and refuse it and accept it for the right reasons and ask himself the right questions. That was by design, I’m glad it resonated.
“It's a mythic journey and Star Wars, especially in the original trilogy, is an epic myth.”
How did you approach the Jedi tomb scene?
We wanted something that felt like Obi-Wan was being confronted by the galaxy that he had been hiding from when he was in his cave. The horrors of the empire and the hunting of the Jedi were suddenly visually represented a foot from his face. Getting to see that imagery in a dialogue-free way and watch him be profoundly impacted by it felt like an important companion to the character.
It's also important because he is coming out of the cave and seeing the extent of what has happened and the responsibilities of the Jedi beyond his responsibilities looking over Luke. It was important that we had something visual that felt impactful and that spoke to this specific time in the timeline.
We see a bunch of Jedi floating in that scene, including a youngling. Were there any characters you wanted to include that didn't make the cut? Is one of them Roken’s wife?
You could come up with a few yourself, both big ideas and small ideas, we probably had conversations about all of them.
It was a great opportunity. Fundamentally it's about Ewan and Obi-Wan in that moment, as much as it is like “here's an Easter egg” or “here's something that speaks to another character.” You don't want to pull the audience out of the moment too much. I'll just say that seeing the youngling is the thing that really helps reinforce that moment and we wanted to make it about that.
What part of the fan response to Obi-Wan Kenobi has surprised you?
I'm not surprised by any of the discussion really. I know how passionate as a fan base we are. Those are the things that I talk about with my friends when I watch these shows. We're aware of the responsibility and hopefully we land the plane at the end of it.
We’re also just trying to just tell a story in and of itself and not feel like it’s imprisoned by that kind of the expectation, that it feels like it's true to itself. Hopefully, when all is said and done, everyone will be satisfied.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is now streaming on Disney+.