In 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, yes, we got the promised conclusion of the downfall of Anakin Skywalker and how he became Darth Vader. What we didn’t get was a lot of interaction from younger versions of characters we met in the Original Trilogy like Tarkin and Mon Mothma. Turns out, we were supposed to meet Genevieve O’Reilly’s version of Mon Mothma, discussing an early concept of a rebellion, but it was cut out of the final film. O’Reilly was just starting out in her career and, watching it now, you can tell how long she worked on it to get the voice Caroline Blakiston originated in Return of the Jedi just right.
Over a decade later Star Wars came calling again (as she explains, literally, while she was at the post office) with an offer to reprise her cut role in Rogue One. And she’s back as Mon Mothma once again now in Andor. As O’Reilly points out, it’s a different Mon Mothma we are used to. The Imperial Senate still exists (it was finally disbanded in the original Star Wars in a retroactively comical way, using almost a throwaway line for something that seems pretty important) and Mon Mothma has to deal with the political bureaucracy (and her lousy husband who keeps inviting her political enemies over because they are “fun”), while also secretly running the what will become the Rebel Alliance that’s still in its infancy.
Ahead, O’Reilly explains why this version of Mon Mothma in Andor isn’t quite the stoic pillar we get to know later on, the time she met Caroline Blakiston in person, and what it was like being asked to play a role again that she figured she had lost out on a decade before.
I remember being excited for Revenge of the Sith because we’d get to see young Mon Mothma and Tarkin, but then we barely got that at all. But your deleted scene is great and I wish that wasn’t cut out.
Thank you. That’s so kind of you. It was extraordinary filming those scenes in Revenge of the Sith. It was one of my first jobs. I was very young. It was extraordinary to be a part of, to do those scenes with Natalie Portman. With Jimmy Smits. With George and all of his team. With Anthony Daniels. It was such an extraordinary, well-oiled machine to step into as a young actor and there was really interesting things in those scenes.
You’re talking about forming the rebellion. It seems like kind of an important scene and I, to this day, don’t understand why it’s not in the movie.
Well, I understand why they made that choice as producers because, what people were interested in, was of course how Darth Vader became Darth Vader.
Not me. All these characters we’ve heard about for so long, I wanted to see how they came together.
[Laughs] Well, thanks. So thanks for watching the deleted scene.
I could tell how hard you worked to get the voice right from Return of the Jedi...
I did! You’re cool to recognize that. I worked very hard. I was, and I will always have great respect for Caroline Blakiston, who played that role originally. It originated with her with George Lucas. That was extraordinary that they did that together back in the early eighties to have a woman as the head.
Have you ever met her?
What was that like?
I met her, actually, it was just before the pandemic. We met in London and we didn’t know each of us were going to be there and we were at a meeting and she said to me, “You’re Genevieve.” And she said, “I’m Caroline.” It was a beautiful moment. She gave me a big hug and we both have such great admiration for each other. She is an actor. I’ve seen lots of her other work. And so we just really, it was a lovely moment between the two of us that we shared this character. Yeah. It was really special.
In Return of the Jedi, she’s only on camera briefly, but she just seems so important. And now you bring that to the character…
I love Mon Mothma. And a lot of respect has to go to Caroline, you’re right, in how she did that originally. But I think she is such a pillar within the rebel community. She is so noble and regal. So even now I go back and watch that scene to remind me of where she started. I feel like in Andor, this is the first time they have really invested narrative space in the woman and I’m very grateful to Tony Gilroy and to Disney for that. Because I think in Andor for the first time we get to see more than that pillar, more than that statue, we get to see the woman behind her. We get to see behind the scenes with her, what she had to wrestle with, the costs to herself.
Just having to deal with her lousy husband. He invites her political enemies over for a dinner party because they are, “fun.”
But that’s what’s so great about where we start in Andor. We start somewhere we don’t really expect to see with Mon Mothma. We start with her steeped in Empire. We start with her, yes, as a Senator who holds the beliefs that we’ve known and we’ve loved for so long, but she is up to her neck in Imperial society. And she’s having to navigate a world of men, a world of power, a world of with an ever looming autocrat and you will know because of what you’ve just said before, you know her history. She’s been a Senator since she was 16 years old. So she was steeped within the constructs of that orthodoxy that is in empire. So I have even more admiration for this character than I ever had before because I see what it had taken for her to become that woman in Return of the Jedi. To become that woman in Rogue One and I hope the fans love that too because we are taking her on a journey from a place we’ve never seen her before.
Speaking of Rogue One, did they just basically call and say, hey, sorry we cut you out of Revenge of the Sith, but we want you for Rogue One now?
First of all, I would say when they did cut me from Revenge of the Sith, I will never forget the kindness that George and his producer, Rick, approached it with. They wrote to me. As a young actor, they wrote to me and said that the work was strong. That it was great. It was just that, narratively, they had to take a different direction. Of course, as a young actor I was devastated, but now I can see they dealt with that with such grace and good leadership. But, yes, they essentially rang me in. John Schwartz, I think who was a producer on Rogue One, rang me and said they were producing it and would I like to come back and play her. What an extraordinarily generous thing. They could have easily recast her. And I was cut from it and I think that shows such dignity within their leadership. So yeah, they rang me. I was in the post office.
With my children. I remember, I think one of my kids was really little and I remember talking on the phone to the producer of Rogue One while wrestling my child who was trying to pick up a highlighter going, “Yeah, I know, stop, stop, what, what? Star Wars. Oh my gosh. Yes, please. Of course. Put it down, put it down.” So it was a really lovely moment as a human being to be in one of those situations that don’t quite make sense, but are wonderful.
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