In less than a month, the galaxy far, far away returns to Disney+ with Star Wars: Andor. The 12-episode first season sees the return of Diego Luna's Cassian Andor, shining a light on the early days of the man who would become a hero of the Rebellion in Rogue One.
Lucasfilm has a trio of prequels on their hands, as Andor is to Rogue One what the spin-off film is to A New Hope - it will just take a little longer for the show to resolve itself. Season 1 will encompass a year of Cassian's life in the Star Wars timeline, and Season 2 will follow up with a dozen more episodes, with four arcs of three taking place over one year apiece until the show leads right into Rogue One.
With so much Star Wars content available from different pockets of the timeline, where things fall into place can get confusing for viewers. The canon is all interconnected, so much so that it's almost mandatory to see or read certain things before diving into something new. As such, producer Tony Gilroy was naturally asked what audiences should watch to prepare for Andor. Given who the project is aimed toward, the answer is surprisingly simple: nothing.
Andor Star and Producer Talk New Series
During the press conference for Star Wars: Andor, showrunner and producer Tony Gilroy stated that diehard fans are the team's "hall card:"
“Well, look, I mean there’s no secret, the show exists because of the important, passionate Star Wars community. And I know it’s not a monolithic community, but there’s many different versions and factions within it, but there’s this huge dedicated Star Wars community that shows up for all. And they have been… That’s our hall card. That’s what gave us the money, and the momentum, and the ability to make a show that’s this insanely big…"
The key for Gilroy was bringing something "completely different" to the table in an "uncynical fashion:"
"That audience is our primary concern and we want to bring something to them that is a completely different lane than what we’ve had before, but we’re doing it in a completely uncynical fashion. There’s nothing cynical about our show…"
Gilroy's aim has been to make something that feels "real" to both the Andor creative team and Star Wars fans:
"The word we use more and more every day, and I was at Pinewood today prepping for [Season] 2, is ‘real.’ We wanna make this real. This place is real to us. And we will bring a lot of things to that community that we hope they’re really interested in, and we hope they really appreciate it, and we hope they really appreciate the passion that we’ve tried to make it real."
With the passionate fans already well-versed in Star Wars, a goal for Andor is serving as an "entry point" into the franchise that "does not require any prior knowledge whatsoever" for new audiences:
"And at the same time, there’s no secret; their partner, their boss, their girlfriend, their boyfriend, their mother, their father, there are a lot people that are Star Wars-adjacent or Star Wars-averse. And you should be able to watch out show… This could be your entry point to Star Wars. You could watch our 24 episodes, that could be your way in. We’re doing a show that does not require any prior knowledge whatsover to get involved…"
There's a risk in telling a story more geared towards those who eat, sleep, and breathe Star Wars, but Gilroy hopes Andor's themes and drama can "attract another audience" as well:
"And that’s the gamble. Can we satisfy, and electrify, and excite the dedicated fans and can we, at the same time, bring something that’s so intense emotionally, and seems so true, and the smallest domestic dramas, and the smallest interpersonal relationships that are dropped down in the midst of the epic, tectonic, revolutionary, historical moments where people have to make huge decisions. Can we attract another audience that’s interested in that as well? Can we marry those two things together? That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Diego Luna spoke on the different Cassian Andor seen at the beginning of the series, describing the character's journey as proof that "anyone can do something" to improve the world:
“I think it’s, ‘How far can someone be from learning he could be a tool of change… how far can you be from that and still find your way into acknowledging that you are capable of big stuff,’ you know? It was that… You see [Cassian] in the first episode and you don’t see any possibility of that happening. That, to me, gives me hope, you know, in the world we live. If that’s possible, anyone can do something. We can all find what we are capable of… "
Cassian's life is defined by his pain and cynicism, and Luna wanted to portray a person who gets "the clarity of someone who suddenly starts" to look towards a better life:
"And I always thought of him as a character that has been forced to move. Therefore, he brings a pain that he’s carrying that is making him very cynical about life, you know? And exploring that person and then finding a way to get the clarity of someone who suddenly starts believing, who goes through a process of acknowledging that articulating something in community can give you enough strength to be useful and to bring change."
The actor "always saw potential" in Andor, as it tells a story that "matters today in the world we live in:"
"I thought that story matters too much. It’s a story that I would like to tell to my kids… to my friends. It’s a story I’d like to see as an audience… Because of where we live in, I always think, and again, that’s why he have to be so real, because it doesn’t matter that we pretend to be in a galaxy far, far away. This story matters today in the world we live in, you know? Otherwise, I wouldn’t care. And I always saw this potential in this story.”
Star Wars for the Fans
It can be argued that Rogue One is the newest Star Wars project with the fans in mind (though The Mandalorian is probably in the discussion, as well). The spin-off film is ripe with unique settings and creatures, deep lore references, and heavy ties to George Lucas' themes of hope against an Empire. To see its prequel Andor following the same path shouldn't be surprising, though it's a welcome approach for diehards.
Gilroy's assessment that the target audience already knows the ins and outs of Star Wars is correct, making the connections to other projects amazing for fans while leaving room for new viewers to enter the universe - and perhaps explore it further after Andor. Once seen as a show that isn't really necessary, Andor is now clearly the most slept-on project in the Disney Star Wars era, boasting a high budget and stellar cast bringing a Rebellion to life.
Though it certainly can't hurt to have seen Rogue One beforehand, new audiences may get more out of Andor if they go in blind. As Diego Luna says, Cassian will be someone unrecognizable at the start of the show, a person no one would believe capable of the sacrifice he makes on Scarif. Watching the character evolve over the five years in the timeline the show covers before his final moments in Rogue One could make for a moving experience as new fans connect with Andor.
Andor won't be a case of the MandoVerse, where audiences who skipped The Book of Boba Fett will be thoroughly confused when The Mandalorian Season 3 comes along. The closest thing to a tie-in the show has before Rogue One is Star Wars Rebels, but the blanks in the deteriorating relationship between Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma's rebel factions will likely be filled in over the course of the second season to piece things together.
Most exciting will be what kind of fresh take Gilroy and his team have in store for fans. There are many who will take solace in the uncynical nature of the showrunner's approach, as a certain film in 2017 was perceived as doing the opposite... much to the chagrin of those supporting the franchise. The stills and footage released to this point have all looked phenomenal, and with the pedigree of the series' writers, the first spy thriller in the galaxy far, far away should be something special.
Star Wars: Andor premieres on Wednesday, September 21 on Disney+.