Character studies seem to be quite the trend as of late. Many stories have chosen to flesh out the person on screen, prioritizing it over the action of it all. Some of the biggest examples of this in recent years have been DC’s Joker and Fox Studios’ Logan. Even more recent big-name titles, such as Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight have been more engrossed with the people on screen than the action the genre is generally known for.
Now, another is just around the corner in Obi-Wan Kenobi, which will see Ewan McGregor return to his iconic role.
This time around, Star Wars will be exploring the character of Obi-Wan deeper than ever before. After the events of Revenge of the Sith, the former Jedi Knight is not in the best of places. In fact, he is hiding away in seclusion watching over Luke Skywalker from a distance.
Now, at a virtual press conference, the show’s director has openly discussed what it was like to bring the iconic character back and what some of her inspirations were.
During the virtual press conference for Obi-Wan Kenobi, the series' director Deborah Chow talked about her approach to working on Obi-Wan Kenobi, how she utilized StageCraft technology, and how big films such as Joker influenced this new story.
She said the most exciting part for her was "getting the opportunity to do a character-driven story," in the same vein as "something like Joker [and] Logan:"
“I think I was most excited about getting the opportunity to do a character-driven story. You know, in a similar way—you know, obviously, it’s a different tone, but something like Joker [and] 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 characters. So that to me seemed really exciting to do in Star Wars.”
Sitting between Revenge of the Sith and The New Hope, the series is "starting in a pretty dark place," so it was important for them to "try and keep the balance... [of] maintaining the hope coming from the character" despite the darkness of it all:
"Yea, the tone—obviously we're starting in a pretty dark time period, and that was kind of quite interesting. Not only to start with Obi-Wan's character in kind of a dark place, but also starting in a period in the timeline that's quite dark. So [it] kind of actually gave us a very interesting starting place for the series. But I think with the character of Kenobi, for me he's always felt like there's so much warmth, there's so much compassion and humor, that it is kind of a character of light and hope. It was interesting for us to try and keep the balance of that, of the darkness, but also still maintaining the hope coming from the character."
The director took a deep dive into the character, asking herself "what are the relationships that were meaningful [to Kenobi]?" One of the key topics to explore was that of the character's bond with Hayden Christen's Anakin, something that "just felt natural" to include:
"I think when we started developing the material, and we were really looking at the character of Obi-Wan, and going, 'you know, what was important in his life? What are the relationships that were meaningful? And 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... that there'd be so much weight coming into this story that was connected to Anakin-Vader. So I think it just felt natural that it would be Hayden [Christensen], and that we would continue this relationship in the series."
The world is much different than when Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi was last seen. These days, filmmakers have access to the cutting edge technology that is StageCraft, something the director "started using [on] The Mandalorian:"
"I started using that technology, Stagecraft on The Mandalorian, so I was actually incredibly excited to be able to use it on Obi-Wan as well. I think one of the interesting things is, in [the] first season [of] The Mandalorian, a lot of the tech [has] advanced so much. So every passing year there's advances, so by the time we came to Kenobi, you know, already there were things that we can do that we couldn't do on [The Mandalorian's first season]. But it was also really exciting to be able to design and develop material knowing that I was going to shoot Stagecraft. So a lot of times I'd be looking at the scene even as we were writing it, thinking about, 'how is this gonna translate into the Volume. How can we take advance of the tech as best as possible."
Chow also elaborated on what she felt was the biggest challenge working on the series, which for her, was working with "these huge iconic characters... between two trilogies," as they wanted "to respect the canon... [and] what's been done;"
"I would say that was definitely one of the biggest challenges with the series, is that obviously we have these huge legacy iconic characters, and we're in between two trilogies, so in large part we're telling the second act of a story; which is often challenging enough. So I think, you know, the biggest thing we were looking for is to respect the canon, and respect what's been done, but we also needed to have an original story and have an original vision for it. I think that was the biggest challenge, bu at the same time it was very exciting that we were bringing back two of these huge iconic characters and telling a new story with them."
She also went on to reveal how Rogue One served as inspiration, as she "was really looking a lot at the atmospheric sense [found in that movie]:"
"One of the [Star Wars projects] that I think is really interesting visually is Rogue One. And I was really looking a lot at the atmospheric sense in that, and a lot of the visuals in that, which was, you know, pretty awesome."
Having worked on Obi-Wand Kenobi "for almost three years," Chow is "very excited to finally have it come out:"
"Yea, it's intense. I've been working on this for almost three years. So it's been a pretty long journey with this. But on the other hand, I'm very excited actually to finally have it come out and to be able to talk about it. So, it's exciting..."
The Joker Influence Reaches Disney+
Both Joker and Logan are loved by fans across the board—especially Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine. So introducing comparisons to such critically successful projects will undoubtedly create anticipation, alongside some hefty expectations by the fans.
Even though Chow seems to be hyping up the character aspect of the show, fans shouldn’t expect less action. According to rumors, there are at least two lightsaber duels between both Anakin and Obi-Wan, and that’s not even counting the inclusion of the Inquisitors, who will undoubtedly try speaking with their blades.
Chow's sentiment is right on the money when it comes to television series, or any long-form storytelling medium. The time afforded to the tale unfolding allows the creatives to explore the character in a deeper way than movies can generally afford to do. Hopefully, Obi-Wan Kenobi does just that and lives up to the insane hype surrounding it.
Obi-Wan Kenobi drops its first two episodes on May 27.