For a series like Star Wars, where the smallest plot point can have an unnecessary amount of backstory, it’s kind of remarkable how much we still don’t know about Obi-Wan Kenobi. Here’s a character who appeared in the first six movies and had a starring role in four of them (and even got Sir Alec Guinness a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the original Star Wars) and we really don’t even know what planet he’s originally from. (Yes, a quick internet search will bring up the planet of Stewjon. If you read a little further you will learn this was invented in 2010 when Jon Stewart asked George Lucas this very question and then Lucas inverted Stewart’s name.) We don’t really know anything about Obi-Wan Kenobi other than he seems like a nice man and, at one point, was a great Jedi Knight. When Deborah Chow (who directed all six episodes) and her writers tried to crack this story, that’s what they were always drawn back to: Who, exactly, is Obi-Wan Kenobi? (Of course, once again played by Ewan McGregor.)
Starting this Friday, we are going to find out.
Before this interview, and as I type this, I have seen as many episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi as you have (unless you work for Lucasfilm, then I assume you have seen more), so the chance for any spoilers is pretty low. Though (as we posted last week), Chow does confirm that the droid in the trailer shooting at Obi-Wan is not fan-favorite 4-LOM, but a new droid named 1-JAC.
Ahead, we spoke to Chow about the upcoming series and she told us what she wanted to accomplish and why it’s been so difficult to get the story right about this period in the life of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Why is it so hard to crack an Obi-Wan Kenobi story? There was a movie that never happened, then when this show was starting, the original scripts were scrapped and restarted from scratch. Why is it so difficult with a character that is so beloved?
You know, I think it is because that character is so loved.
It is this hugely iconic legacy character and we’re also in between two trilogies, and it’s just tough. Everybody knows what happened to this character before and after so you’ve got to figure out how to tell the middle acts of their lives. And, also, we’re starting a series where we’re coming out with a directive, “watch over the boy.” So you have to just…you know what I mean?
Right. That seems like the obvious answer: Well, he’s just hanging out, watching a kid in the desert. What do you do with that?
We don’t want a six-part series of him just watching over the kid for the whole thing. It’s just challenging… it was a challenging story to tell. But I think, for me at least – obviously, when I came on there was development before me – but from the point that I came on, I was grateful actually that they gave us the time and they gave us the support. Because this is the sort of story that you really want to feel confident going into production – that you’ve done everything you can to try to get it right.
He’s hiding from the Empire. Do we learn why he changes his name from Obi-Wan to Ben, but keeps the Kenobi?
I think in a large part of those… there are also questions obviously about Skywalker and keeping that. Those are questions for George. For me, I’m just respecting the canon on all those decisions. But I think for us, if you just think about it in a metaphorical way, which is not really going to answer your question. One of the things with our series that we were trying to do is, in a lot of ways, we were interested in Ben, because we were interested in not just the Jedi, but the man.
I’m glad you said that because, obviously Ewan’s great in the Prequels, but even after three of those movies we still don’t really know much about Obi-Wan personally.
Yeah. I mean that really, for us, both the writer and I, we felt the same way. And actually the more research we did on it and the more we got into it. He is a character that everybody knows and loves, but there really isn’t that much about him. So it was a really interesting thing to take this character that was so beloved, and to have some room actually where we didn’t know every single thing about him. So that was something that we were really, really interested in doing. Really exploring more about the character and having more depth.
The new Obi-Wan comic has a flashback with him as a kid, which even that felt like new information.
I mean, that was definitely our intention, to really have this series be about him first and foremost. And also, him at a point in his life, which is a really interesting point, dealing with everything and the history that came out in Revenge of the Sith, and the prequels, which was a very intense dark period. And then moving forward. So one of the things, I think, the biggest question, and one of the biggest questions we always looked at was how did he go from the warrior standing on the banks of Mustafar screaming, to the sort of the zen and the calm of Sir Alec Guinness in A New Hope. And obviously something happened in that character to change. And I think, in large part, that’s why we felt we had a story to tell.
Does this series allow more after this? I know how long it took for this to get made. But is the door open for more Obi-Wan Kenobi after this? Or is this its own thing and that’s it?
We definitely conceived it as one big story: beginning, middle, and end. And there was no thought of going beyond it. Who knows though, in the future. Obviously, we are in the middle. So there are 10 years before A New Hope, so there are obviously still years to go, but really, for us at this point, we were just conceiving it as this show.
We see 4-LOM in the trailer… Actually, is it pronounced 4-LOM or Four El Oh Em?
It actually is pronounced 4-LOM…
That’s what I’ve always said…
It’s actually not 4-LOM though.
It’s different. It is actually a different droid named 1-JAC.
Yes. Everyone thinks it’s 4-LOM.
It looks like 4-LOM?
So it’s like IG-11 and IG-88 situation in that they are similar?
Yes. You’re the first person and the only person to ask that, actually.
What’s 1-JAC’s deal? Is he a bounty hunter?
That you’re going to have to wait and see.
He looks like he’s bad news.
[Laughs] They usually are.
Well, at least we cleared up the pronunciation of 4-LOM?
I know. But honestly, I will always refer you to Pablo Hidalgo. He knows exactly. He’s your guy. I may not always be correct, so I will always refer you to Pablo. (Who I did ask on Twitter about this and he did give his clarification, “That’s the Canadian way of saying it. Honestly say it however you want. I go by the old Kenner TV ad that spelled it out. “Four-Elloem.”)
One of the episodes you directed of The Mandalorian won an Emmy for cinematography. But there’s something about the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer that looks even more cinematic than what we saw from the prior series. As far as I know, it’s the same filming technology, but has anything changed to achieve this look?
Oh, that’s great to hear. Thank you. We use kind of the same tools. Amazing stagecraft. So it’s a mixture. It’s some location, some stagecraft, some backlot and some studio. So it just depended on the scene. But it was something I was definitely trying to do. It feels like an epic story to me. So as much as I could, I was trying to make it feel epic. Obviously, I’m incredibly fortunate on The Mandalorian in that Greg Frazier won that cinematography award and he won the Oscar for Dune. So I had a very good cinematographer. You know what I mean?
And I had a fantastic cinematographer on this one, Chung-hoon Chung, who was amazing as well. So a lot of that is their credit.
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