While Star Wars fans are salivating over the chance to see two of the franchise's most iconic characters ever return for Obi-Wan Kenobi, which premieres May 27, there is a dark side cloud to that silver lining. The new Disney+ offering is being billed as a six-episode limited series, meaning that's all we get. Or is it?
Searching for any hope (some might even call it… a new hope), we confronted the creative forces that brought the series to life to see if there could be a possibility for more, starting with writer Joby Harold.
"Yeah, I don't know about it being a story beyond the story we're telling now," responds Harold, wiping away our suggestion as casually as Obi-Wan himself might inform a death stick dealer to go home and rethink his life. "With these things, we always think of it as a complete story with the beginning and a middle and an end. That's the tradition of those great mythic Joseph Campbell stories that this was born from and that George [Lucas] built. And so we very much thought of it in that way, as its own story, its own narrative, its own journey for this character between Episode III and Episode IV."
When that didn't work, we decided to try the director, Deborah Chow. "It was definitely conceived as a limited series and it is one big story with a beginning, middle, and end. So that's the way we've always approached it," says Chow. "The approach has always been that it is one full story."
Ugh! Frustrating! It was time to go to the top, and that's exactly what we did by putting Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy into an Imperial interrogation room, asking her if there was any possibility of a second season, especially with nine more open years to play with between the events of the new show and A New Hope. "It's certainly something we talk about," responds Kennedy of a possible extension." Wait, WHAT?!
"Mainly because everybody came together and had such an incredible time," continues the studio head. "Ewan had an incredible time. Hayden had an incredible time. So certainly from that point of view, everybody involved would love to see this not end. But we have to really spend our time asking the question: Why would we do it? If we were to decide to do anything more with the Obi-Wan character, we'd have to really answer the question why?"
With Kennedy providing all the wiggle room we needed, it was time to go back to Obi-Wan himself and see if the Jedi master was ready to pick the lightsaber back up again beyond this six-episode season. "It was made as a one-off limited series," explains Ewan McGregor. "And in a way, it does do what I wanted it to do in terms of bridging a story between III and IV and bringing me closer to Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan in A New Hope. And so, for sure, that's true."
Stop stalling, McGregor! What's the word? Can we start talking season 2 or what? "Would I like to make another one?" the actor ponders. "Yeah, I would like to make another one."
SCORE! For McGregor, it's not just about telling more Obi-Wan tales, but also the experience he had re-donning the cloak. "I had such a great time working with Deb, and the actors that we had in this were so great to work with, and the crew are just… I can't tell you. It was so wonderful to work on. I couldn't wait to get to work every day, and on a long shoot like this, that's something. Right to the end, I just loved the experience of it."
McGregor also points to the comfort in working on a project that is sure to be appreciated on a mass scale. "There's something very nice about doing work that you know people are going to see. I've spent a lot of time in my career making films that very few people ever saw, and there's something nice about going to work when you know this has already got its audience."
For the actor, it's all about delivering the goods. "It sounds a bit pretentious, but it's nice to make people happy. It's nice to know that by all of our efforts in making this Obi-Wan Kenobi series, the fans are going to be stoked. I think they're not going to be disappointed by it. Maybe some will, but you can't please all the people all the time. But knowing that people are going to be happy because of our work is a nice feeling."
While the crew are presumably now busy setting up shop for season 2 — we are now willing it into existence whether they like it or not — we chatted a bit more with McGregor about his return to a galaxy far, far away.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, spoiler alert, we know Obi-Wan makes it out of the series alive. But how do you think our perception of the character will change after watching this series?
EWAN McGREGOR: I don't know that we're going to change our perspective of him, because we know who he was when I played him in the prequels and we know who he is in the original movie, A New Hope, with Alec Guinness creating him. So it fills that gap between those two entities. I always felt that there must be a good story to tell between Episode III and IV, and we spent a lot of time and energy finding that story.
And I think we did a great job. I have to say, I think Deborah Chow is a brilliant director and we're lucky to have her direct all of the episodes. So it really is her vision. It's one person's vision from start to finish. We don't have different directors coming in and out. And she worked tirelessly with the writers to find this brilliant story. And I think it's just going to make us understand him more from where we left him in Episode III to where we find him with Alec Guinness in Episode IV.
You told me the last time we spoke that you went back and watched all the movies to prep, and it's interesting because you look at Obi-Wan in the lightsaber battles of Phantom Menace or Revenge of the Sith and man, you're really cooking there. And then you look at the Obi-Wan and Vader matchup in A New Hope and it's certainly, shall we say, a slower, more deliberate affair. So what kind of swordsman is the Kenobi we find here in between those two time periods.
Well, we don't know yet. You're going to have to wait and see if that happens. You know, at the beginning of our story, we know that it's 10 years after Episode III. So we know that the Jedi Order have been all but destroyed, and everyone who wasn't killed in Order 66 has fled and is in hiding. Yoda and some of the other Jedi who Obi-Wan would've known and loved are unable to communicate with each other.
So he's much closer to the Obi-Wan Alec Guinness played in that he's on Tatooine and he's a solitary man. He's living as normal a life as he can so as not to draw attention to himself, because the Jedi are being hunted down to be destroyed and he will know that. And his last responsibility to his old life is to look over Luke Skywalker, who is with Owen and Aunt Beru, and he's doing that from a distance so as not to draw attention to their family in the moisture farm there.
You brought up Owen. Clearly, Owen and Obi-Wan have a little bit of an icy relationship by the time of A New Hope, and judging by the trailer, it doesn't look too peachy keen here, either.
I think Owen feels like Obi-Wan only cares about the boy because he may show signs of the Force. And he knows that Obi-Wan is pretty single-minded about that, and if it seems that Luke Skywalker shows that he has the Force, that Obi-Wan would want to train him to be a Jedi. And especially at this time when the Jedi are all but wiped out.
Playing him, I was split about this because I feel there's part of Obi-Wan who's given up, you know? That he feels like the time of the Jedi is over, that they lost. And whether he really feels that, he sort of says it. He feels that it's done. They lost the battle.
And I think Owen wants Luke Skywalker to have a normal childhood, to grow up in an ordinary way and not to be bothered by that. And also, there's the risk that, knowing that the Jedi are being hunted down, if Obi-Wan is found out and discovered, then [Owen] doesn't want him anywhere near Luke Skywalker because they would also take Luke.
As you went back and watched the prequels, what was your favorite scene you did in the those movies?
I mean, there's so much of it. There's hours and hours of it because we did three movies. And my memory of making them is so vague, because in Episode II and III, there was barely anything there. It was all blue screen and green screen.
One of my favorite stories to tell is delivering Luke Skywalker to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, because my experience of doing that was that I had my friends there. Charlie [Boorman] and Russ [Malkin] and Dave [Alexanian], we've gone on to do The Long Way Round trips, and Long Way Up and Long Way Down, they were visiting because we were shooting a little teaser trailer for our Long Way Round show, which we hadn't made yet.
So we were doing some motorcycling on the weekends, and I said, "Come on. We're doing the end scene where I deliver the babies." And they came down onto the set. And, of course, it was just a blue stage with blue walls, three sides. There was a blue mound, which is what Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are standing on at the end, and a blue gym horse; no handles, just a gym horse painted blue. It didn't move or anything.
And I had to sit on this gym horse holding the baby, and I had to sort of pretend that it was moving. And I got down and I gave the baby to Aunt Beru. And then I turn around and I give Joel a look over my shoulder on the way out, and I get back on the gym horse and pretend to ride out. And George is shouting, "Look at the moons! Look at the moons!" And it was funny because, of course, in the story and the movie, it's such an epic moment, and the reality of it was just so silly, you know, with the gym horse there.
Listen to interviews with Obi-Wan Kenobi stars Ewan McGregor, Kumail Nanjiani, Rupert Friend and more on EW's new Star Wars podcast, Dagobah Dispatch.
Ewan McGregor returns to Tatooine to fill in the gaps of what happened to the Jedi Master between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
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