Star Wars: New Grand Inquisitor Actor Purposefully Avoided Watching 'Rebels'

By Savannah Sanders Posted:
Obi Wan Kenobi Grand Inquisitor

Are there more villains in Lucasfilm's new Disney+ series than heroes? Leading up to the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi, that certainly appears to be the case. In addition to the much-anticipated return of Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader, Obi-Wan will face Inquisitors played by Moses Ingram and Sung Kang; and leading this crew of Jedi hunters is the Grand Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels, who's making the jump from animation into live-action for the first time. 

Inquisitors were first introduced in Star Wars Rebels as Force-sensitive beings who are affiliated with the Sith. Not only are they tasked by Darth Vader to wipe out any surviving Jedi, but they're also responsible for locating any Force-sensitive children throughout the galaxy.

Since Obi-Wan Kenobi is watching over Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, this puts him on a collision course with the Grand Inquisitor and his affiliates in more ways than one.

Rupert Friend was the actor chosen to portray the live-action incarnation of the Grand Inquisitor; and now, just days away from the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the actor isn't just sharing how he prepared for the role, but also what he didn't do. 

Obi-Wan Kenobi's Grand Inquisitor Star Didn't Watch Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rupert Friend
Star Wars

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Rupert Friend discussed how he prepared for the role of Grand Inquisitor in Obi-Wan Kenobi and why he avoided watching Star Wars Rebels, saying, "I almost deliberately did not see the animated interpretation:"

"I really wanted to honor the character as I saw him, and so I almost deliberately did not see the animated interpretation. Myself and [director] Deb Chow and [writer] Dave Filoni and all of the guys really wanted to do something fresh that honored and was faithful to the spirit of the character without doing a kind of impression of anybody else’s interpretation."

In Star Wars Rebels, the Grand Inquisitor was voiced by Jason Isaacs and, just like Obi-Wan Kenobi, is tasked with hunting down Order 66 survivors. In the show's first season, he serves as Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger's primary antagonist.

When asked about creating the voice for the villain, especially since he wasn't familiar with Isaacs' work, Friend explained it came from the fact that the Inquisitor is "a being who enjoys the sound of his own voice:"

"It was interesting because, as I say, I deliberately didn’t want to sort of use anybody else’s interpretation of this character. So it was really something that I felt very instinctively when I read the script. And one of the lines that [Joby Harold], the writer, had written was when the Grand Inquisitor speaks, he’s a being who enjoys the sound of his own voice. He’s one of those guys who, if you didn’t stop him, would just talk and talk and talk. And I’m not giving anything away by saying we’re going to experience that in the show. He has this very juicy way of enjoying himself. And I just thought, what does the guy who enjoys the sound of his own voice sound like? And that’s what we got."

While the Grand Inquisitor is a villain in both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Wars Rebels, he didn't start off that way. Much like Obi-Wan, he's a former Jedi and was even a member of the Temple Guard from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where he escorted Ahsoka from the Temple and served during Barriss Offee's trial. 

His surprising and complicated history is explored in the second season of Star Wars Rebels where his redeemed spirit helps Kanan Jarrus become a full Jedi Knight

As to his Jedi background, Friend wouldn't say if the Grand Inquisitor's personal history will play a part in Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, the actor is aware of it and he claims "it really helped me" and that it "brought an enormous kind of feeling of power beneath the performance:"

"All will be revealed in a couple of weeks, but I can say it really helped me to have as my backstory this sense of awesome power and knowledge where he’s effectively hunting the folks he once was. So he has all this insider information on them, and on the way that they might fight or evade capture, and that just brought an enormous kind of feeling of power beneath the performance."

Lastly, Rupert Friend addressed the current Star Wars Disney+ crossover trend and whether his character will be part of that new tradition, admitting that he "would be completely open to it" as it "would be pretty thrilling:"

"Well, it’s a really good point because one of the things I’m loving about seeing the Star Wars universe unfold and expand is that crossover thing. It’s seeing characters who are in a limited world, are crossing over into a movie or back into a game, even. And I think that the characters are so thoroughly created and so exciting to watch that the world lends itself to that sort of crossover.So I would be completely open to it. I loved playing the part and would love to see what happened if he were to interact. Or, if you read his kind of timeline, there are some really fascinating things where he is turned into a hologram, and he decides to jump to his own death because he says that there’s some things that are worse than death, referencing Vader’s punishment. And obviously our period doesn’t cover that. So if they decide to explore that, I would think that would be pretty thrilling."

Obi-Wan Kenobi's Other Fallen Enemy

Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi
Star Wars

Anytime an actor or creator chooses to not familiarize themselves with the work that came before, it's startling and even disappointing. 

After all, fans want continuity in their characters and storytelling. And, considering the Grand Inquisitor's rich, layered story in Star Wars Rebels, along with Jason Isaacs' masterful voice performance, it's hard to imagine Rupert Friend being unaware of that in his portrayal. 

However, his comment about not wanting to do "a kind of impression" goes a long way in explaining his reasoning; and for the sake of the show itself, it's probably the right call. This particular role calls for a dramatic performance, not mimicry or imitation.

But even though Friend hasn't seen Rebels, it's great to hear that he's familiar with his character's past and future and that it contributed to his performance. While fans won't know until the show airs, it's worth noting that he didn't deny the possibility of the Grand Inquisitor's past being part of Obi-Wan Kenobi

Even though the contrast of Kanan Jarrus and the Grand Inquisitor's paths in Star Wars Rebels was fascinating, it could be even more so with Obi-Wan. Not only was the Grand Inquisitor a friend and colleague of the Jedi Master and another instance of betrayal, but his dark path also mirrors that of Anakin. 

Finally, while Friend didn't give anything away in terms of his character returning to another Lucasfilm project, he certainly seems familiar with the current trend of Star Wars cameos and crossovers, as is the fact he's open to it. And, with Andor and Ahsoka on the horizon, there's definitely an opportunity. 

In the meantime, the Grand Inquisitor's live-action debut is only days away; and from what has been shown in the show's trailers and TV spots, the showdown between Vader and Kenobi isn't the only action that fans can look forward to.

The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi premiere on Disney+ on May 27. 

- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.