Diego Luna reprises his Rogue One role as Cassian Andor in a show that begins five years before that film, with a Cassian far less driven or dedicated to the Rebel cause. He is skilled and formidable and hardened by a notably rough life to be sure, and certainly despises the Empire, but lacks any specific focus on what to do with that energy.
The show also features the return of Genevieve O’Reilly, whose unusual history playing Mon Mothma began when George Lucas cast her as a younger version of the Rebel leader we first met in Return of the Jedi (where she was played by Caroline Blakiston) for 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Unfortunately, nearly all of O’Reilly’s screen time and 100% of her dialogue ended up cut from that film, but she would then be brought back as Mon Mothma for Rogue One over a decade later and now once more portrays the character here.
Luna and O’Reilly spoke to Fandom about Andor’s use of shades of gray and moral ambiguity, where we meet their characters, and why they like the parallel paths Cassian and Andor and Mon Mothma are on for the time being, before they inevitably end up on Yavin 4 together as Rebels down the line.
When it comes to Andor really digging into the characters, Diego Luna observed, “I think it’s important that in Star Wars, we also talk about the people, the real people. If you’re going to tell the story about a rebellion, you have to understand why a rebellion happens. Why revolution erupts. Where does that come from? That comes from the real people like you and I.”
The Cassian Andor we met in Rogue One was working for a just cause and was fully a part of the Rebel Alliance, but also willing to kill an ally in order to protect valuable secrets, as much as it might pain him to do so. The Cassian we meet in Andor has that same moral ambiguity but without a touchstone greater good cause yet to latch onto.
Said Luna, “The most interesting storytelling lives in the gray areas. I think it’s quite nice to explore characters that are ambiguous and complex and contradictory. That just brings richness to the universe of Star Wars and then there’s a reason for the story to be told, because it’s different to others and it brings a different perspective.”
THE BELLY OF THE BEAST
Meanwhile, Mon Mothma is firmly against the Empire… and yet working right alongside them on Coruscant. Comparing Mon Mothma’s scenes in Return of the Jedi and Rogue One, where she’s depicted on an Alliance ship or at one of their bases, Genevieve O’Reilly noted, “We’re not used to seeing Mon Mothma in this environment. You know, usually she’s surrounded by a band of Rebels, and when we meet her in Andor, she is neck deep in Empire. She’s living the life of an Imperial senator, representing her planet of Chandrila, but navigating a really difficult Imperial Senate.”
O’Reilly added that Mon Mothma “Is quite a lonely female isolated voice advocating for democracy within Palpatine‘s Empire. It’s not a happy place to be. We know that she believes in democracy but I think when we meet her in Andor, she’s come to the end of the rope in regard to believing that she can affect any change from within. And she realizes that she has to step out of everything that she’s always known and worked in, and risk it all to build or to begin to build a rebellion.”
Andor has a notably different tone and vibe to it from Star Wars as we typically think of it and certainly from what we’ve seen on The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Said Luna, of how this show operates compared to its fellow Disney+ series, “Andor is meant to be different. Like Rogue One was meant to be different to the world of the Saga movies, it’s the same thing with Andor and the [other] Star Wars original series. We are meant to be different and we can explore different tones. Cassian is a great tool to go into a more complex political and spy thriller that, again, has to be real from beginning to end and I think Tony Gillroy has done a great job of achieving that.”
Andor Executive Producer/Showrunner Tony Gilroy has said that for the time being, Cassian and Mon Mothma’s storylines will not directly intersect in terms of the characters sharing screen time together – though presumably that will likely happen at some point during the show’s second season.
Luna said he appreciated that these two characters could show just how important the Rebels’ cause is, remarking, “The Rebellion is needed in the galaxy, not in one community or on one planet. The Rebellion happens on every level, because that’s how oppression feels. We come into the story when the Empire is in complete control. There is no other side. People are marginalized and freedom is not there for most of the people. And yes, the reaction happens at every level. And it’s kind of interesting to see these two worlds, parallel worlds, rooting for the same [thing].”
The actor added, regarding Mon Mothma and Cassian, “It’s also quite amazing, because in Rogue One, even though you understand how important her character is, and Cassian is, you don’t get to know much about them. For me, Rogue One is a film about an event and characters being capable of doing one thing. But you don’t understand the reasons, you don’t understand what triggers them to be so committed and that’s why I think this story is important and interesting to watch.”
O’Reilly had high praise for Gilroy, remarking, “He’s such a brilliant writer, and it’s such a textured piece, but I love that he is interested in the seed of rebellion within. The idea that there is no organized rebellion at this stage, that everyone has to find that seed of rebellion within them. And that’s not just within the Rebel side, it’s also within the Empire. The other characters, within their own sphere of influence, every character has to find their own rebellion. And so it’s far less black and white than we’ve ever seen it. We see people high up in the Empire in this have to fight their own battles. We see no one has it easy. There is not a linear path for any of these characters at this point.”
When it came to the parallel paths Mon Mothma and Cassian are on, O’Reilly said, “I’m fascinated to see how we get to Rogue One. Because when we meet them in Andor, they’re on completely different planets, their lives are so antithetical to each other… Cassian’s world is rich and textured and gritty and there’s muck and dirt and green and earth — it’s very earthy — and Mon Mothma’s is architectural and stark and Imperial and, and cold and almost like from, from my perspective, almost like a gilded cage. I’m as curious as you are as how it all comes together!”
Andor premieres Wednesday, September 21 on Disney+.