Star Wars: Thrawn Creator Breaks Silence on Villain's Live-Action Debut

By Jennifer McDonough Posted:
Thrawn, Ahsoka Tano

Prolific Star Wars novel author Timothy Zahn spoke for the first time about Thrawn’s upcoming debut appearance in live-action.

In 1991, Timothy Zahn and Lucasfilm released the first novel in The Thrawn Trilogy. Heir to the Empire was set five years after Return of the Jedi and dealt with heroes of the New Republic era going up against the fearsome Imperial Remnant. Sound familiar?

In these books, what was left of the Empire was spearheaded by the cold, calculating Chiss strategist known as Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn would later come to figure heavily into the canon series Star Wars Rebels and will also play a key role in the forthcoming Ahsoka.

Timothy Zahn Responds to Live-Action Thrawn

Ahsoka, Thrawn, Disney Plus logo
Star Wars

Speaking to Clone Web, Grand Admiral Thrawn creator, and acclaimed author Timothy Zahn discussed the news that his most famous Star Wars character will make the jump to live-action in Ahsoka On Disney+.

Zahn noted that he’d be a little afraid of Thrawn not being written correctly if series producers Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau were not involved:

“The danger is that the screenwriters write it badly. He is a tactician, always ahead of his enemies. Dave Filoni showed in Rebels that he understood the character. So I think everything will be fine, as long as Filoni and Jon Favreau remain at the helm.”

During this year’s Star Wars Celebration, Zahn revealed that he’s offered to help out Filoni and Faveau in bringing the character to life, remarking that he has indeed met with Filoni regarding the direction in which the producer intends to move Thrawn.

“And I am of course available to help them if needed. We only talked briefly about all this but Dave promised to meet the writers and discuss with them in the near future.“

Zahn also recalled when he was told that Thrawn would be appearing in animation in Star Wars Rebels and how that was an “exciting” experience for him:

“Thawn’s return was very exciting. Lucasfilm called me to show me concept designs for Rebels. At the same time, we were discussing future novels about the character. It was then eight months before the announcement of the Grand Admiral’s return, at Star Wars Celebration London in 2016.”

The author stated that Rebels did his character justice, clarifying that the Thrawn who appeared in his books is essentially the same man who was portrayed in the show, just in a different type of setting.

“There’s not much difference between the original Thrawn and the Thrawn of this new timeline. It’s the same character, in different geopolitical conditions, surrounded by different characters, but he hasn’t changed.”

Furthermore, Zahn spoke on the three in-canon novels (Thrawn, Thrawn: Alliances, and Thrawn: Treason) that he wrote for Lucasfilm that featured the Grand Admiral as their primary character, commenting that the publisher wanted the story to be intrinsically connected to Star Wars Rebels.

“Lucasfilm wanted these new books to be connected to Rebels. So I tried to make as many connections as possible. They gave me the scripts for the episodes in advance, so that I was aware of the plot. For example, in the series, Governor Pryce fights against Sabine Wren. In the book, I expanded on Imperial’s interest in combat. The goal is for everything to fit together. The second book takes place between Season 2 and Season 3. And the third takes place during a period of the series where he is off camera in season 4.”

Finally, looking ahead, Timothy Zahn explained that he’s eager to take on more Star Wars writing work, perhaps doing stories set between Rebels and Ahsoka. As Zahn put it, “There are things to do during this time.”

“I would like to write more novels. And we pitch ideas to Lucasfilm. As for Thrawn, there’s a nine-year gap between the end of Rebels and the character’s reappearance in 'Ahsoka' [which roughly matches the time period of the Original Trilogy]. There are things to do during this time. I’ll keep you up-to-date!”

What Will Thrawn’s Role Be In Ahsoka?

It’s clear that Zahn is extremely passionate about Thrawn and how he’s used, but what exactly will the character’s role be like going forward?

Well, for starters, fans will surely know by now that Lars Mikkelsen, the actor who voiced Thrawn in Rebels will reprise the role in live-action. An exciting prospect, to be sure, as Mikkelsen brought a distinctive, icy vibe to the character.

Audiences will also be aware that Ahsoka Tano has been searching for Thrawn’s whereabouts, perhaps to acquire clues as to the location of Ezra Bridger as well. This is something that will very likely play a big role in Ahsoka.

Beyond the Ahsoka series, with Dave Filoni confirmed to be directing a New Republic-era, MandoVerse crossover movie, logic suggests that Lucasfilm is positioning Mikkelsen’s Thrawn to be the big bad of that outing.

Ahsoka, while currently without an exact release date, will arrive on Disney+ this August.

- In This Article: Ahsoka
Release Date
August 22, 2023
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Natasha Liu Bordizzo
- About The Author: Jennifer McDonough
Jennifer McDonough has been a writer at The Direct since its 2020 launch. She is responsible for the creation of news articles and features. She also has a particular affinity for action figures and merchandise, which she revels in discussing in the articles she writes, when the situation calls for it.