As someone who has grown up loving the “Star Wars” movies, I have to confess that one of my favorite characters has always been Obi-Wan Kenobi. Whether he was portrayed by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy (AKA Episodes IV, V, and VI) or by Ewan McGregor in the oft-maligned Episodes I, II, and III, there was something about that character’s dry wit and clear wisdom that served as a real focal point of the films for me.
So I’ve been anticipating the upcoming release of the new Disney+ series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” with great excitement, especially as it promises to reunite “Old Ben” with his friend and student Anakin Skywalker, who became his nemesis Darth Vader.
Debut day of this special, limited series is nearly upon us, and I was lucky enough to sit in on a virtual press conference last week with McGregor, reprising his old role while serving as an executive producer, along with director Deborah Chow and newcomer Moses Ingram, who plays Inquisitor Reva.
While the trio was careful not to spill any major spoilers about the upcoming six-part series, they were able to tease a bit of what’s to come, as well as share some behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the production.
Set about 10 years after the conclusion of Episode III, “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,” the series finds Obi-Wan in a rather “broken place,” McGregor said.
“At the end of the third episode, the Jedi order are all but destroyed, and those who aren’t killed have gone into hiding,” he explained. “He [Obi-Wan] can’t communicate with any of his old comrades and he’s living a pretty solitary life. He’s not able to use the Force. So, in a way, he’s lost his faith. It’s like somebody who’s stepped away from their religion or something, if you like.”
The chance to explore that aspect of the character is one of the main reasons McGregor was drawn to put on Obi-Wan’s robes again, along with the chance to play the character at different points in his life.
Chow, who has directed two episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” noted that this chance to delve into the Obi-Wan character was something that attracted her to the project as well.
“I think I was the most excited about getting the opportunity to do a character-driven story,” she said. “You know, in a similar way, obviously it’s a different tone, but something like [the feature films] ‘Joker’ or ‘Logan’ where you take one character out of a big franchise and then you really have the time and you go a lot deeper with the character. So, that to me seemed really exciting to get to do in Star Wars.”
Without giving away too much of the plot, Chow added that taking a closer look at Obi-Wan’s relationship with Darth Vader, one of the most recognizable bad guys in the history of film, does play a part in the show.
“Obviously, the history coming out of the ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is so strong and it’s so powerful, that it really felt like, for us, there’d be so much weight coming into this story that was connected to ‘Anakin Vader,'” she added. “So, I think it just felt natural that, obviously, it would be Hayden [Christensen, who reprises his role as Darth Vader] and that we would continue this relationship in the series.”
“I hadn’t seen Hayden for years,” McGregor noted, “so when I saw him again and was able to talk about this project with him, it was very, very exciting. It was great. And when we were acting together, it was really like some sort of time warp. Looking across at him on set was like the last 17 years didn’t happen at all.”
Despite being new to the Star Wars world, Ingram said that she had no problem fitting in and getting to work with the Jedi veterans.
“I so enjoyed just going to work every day,” she stated. “I feel like we had such a great working atmosphere and there were so many lifelong Star Wars fans who were living their dreams by working on this series. And it’s really nice to be a fly on the wall, for other people’s experiences of the thing as well. And it’s by far exceeded my expectations in the most beautiful way.”
Ingram added that her character, Inquisitor Reva, is subordinate to Darth Vader, but is determined to get the job at hand done, no matter what. The Inquisitors, which originated in the animated series “Star Wars Rebels” are making their first appearance in a live-action Star Wars film, so getting the look and feel of her character right was important… and fun, she added, but also a bit daunting.
“It’s fun to be bad!” she laughed. “We trained for about four months before we ever even got to set. The everyday, regular strength and cardio, and then three days a week of Jedi school on top of that which, at the beginning was a little intimidating. Because I come in, we’re doing lightsaber work and, of course, he’s (McGregor) been doing this for years. So he’s flipping it and wielding it (the lightsaber) and I’m like, ‘Oh, God, I’m never going to get it. I look terrible.’ But, you know, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”
It helped that the fight scenes were carefully coordinated, McGregor pointed out, but his sometimes light-hearted approach to the lightsaber scenes was a plus as well, as both Chow and Ingram observed — McGregor often made the famous weapon’s sound-effects himself as he mock-battled.
“It’s impossible not to!” he laughed. “And if you’re not making them, you’re doing it in your head, I think.”
Although he may joke at times, it’s clear that this series means a lot to McGregor, who’s played roles ranging from the big screen (“Trainspotting”, “Moulin Rouge”) to the small (he won an Emmy last year for the Netflex miniseries, “Halston,” in which he portrayed the famous fashion designer).
“It was one of the difficult things about being in the prequels, that they were not seemingly well-received,” he noted. “And so, once those kids who were my age when the prequels came out, grew up a bit and I was able to meet them and I started hearing that people really liked them… I’m sure it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this again, because of that…. to be able to give them [Star Wars fans] something like this. To make a series, the Obi-Wan series, which it seems that there’s been a hunger for, for some long time. And to be able to give that to them now is really exciting.”
Joining McGregor, Christensen and Ingram in the cast are Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani (who recently also had a turn in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Eternals”), Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell and Benny Safdie.
In addition to directing and serving as show-runner, Chow is a co-executive producer alongside McGregor, Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan and Joby Harold.
This limited six-part series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, May 27, with the first two episodes. Following the premiere, the series will stream weekly on Wednesdays, until the finale on Wednesday, June 22.
You can take a look at the official trailer for “Obi-Wan Kenobi” here: