Of all the long-awaited spin-offs in the Star Wars universe, few hold a candle to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Not long after George Lucas finished his prequel trilogy—The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith—fans already started clamoring for some sort of movie focused on the master Jedi’s adventures between the end of those prequels and his eventual reappearance in A New Hope. Now, nearly 20 years after Revenge of the Sith, fans will get their wish, as the six-part Disney+ series—aptly named Obi-Wan Kenobi—will see actor Ewan McGregor return to the role.
While the series hit a few different speed humps along the way, audiences won’t have to wait much longer to see what exactly it is Obi-Wan got up to in those intervening years. Part of that involves ducking the dreaded Jedi-hunting Inquisitors and, perhaps, a battle with his former apprentice Anakin Skywalker—who now goes by Darth Vader. Obi-Wan is changed, too, as this dark period in Star Wars history sees Obi-Wan without his trademark wit and Errol Flynn-like swashbuckling attitude.
It’s a different side of the character and one McGregor seemed excited to dig into when he sat down for a junket interview with Complex recently. Ahead of Kenobi’s premiere, we spoke with the actor about what he loved about director Deborah Chow’s vision for the story, where the character is during these dark days, and more.
This project has gone through a couple of iterations, but what was it about director Deborah Chow’s version of the story for the character connected with you?
Ewan McGregor: Deborah has an amazing understanding of the Star Wars world and what makes the fans satisfied. She’s also an experienced director [who is] able to look at a character and pick apart a character. I think she always approached this as a real sort of character study of Obi-Wan Kenobi. That’s lovely for me—obviously, as the person who plays him—to get a chance to explore his character in a deeper way through the TV format; we have six hours in which to tell the story. I absolutely love working with her—she’s an amazing talent. You see the crew rise to do their best work for her, and that’s a great sign of a great director. Somebody who’s quiet, fun, and easy to work with, yet people are desperate to do their best job for her.
From a narrative perspective, how impactful do you think it would be for Obi-Wan to discover he didn’t actually kill Anakin and that he’s not only alive but now this entirely new being?
EM: I think it’s a different Obi-Wan than we’ve seen before from Alec Guinness’ creation of the character in the seventies and the prequels. This is a very different time, and I think it’s quite a dark period of time. After episode three [Revenge of the Sith], the Jedi are all but destroyed, and those who haven’t been killed are in hiding in the far corners of the galaxy. It’s a pretty bleak time, and I think it’ll be interesting for people to see. He’s always been very sort of hopeful and cheeky. You know, there was a wit behind Alec Guinness’ eyes that I always felt like I tried to achieve in the work that I did. There’s something hopeful about him, but at the beginning of this story, that’s pretty far down. That’s pretty buried in him. So I think people will be interested to maybe see a different side to him.
The prequel really pushed CGI technology forward. What’s like returning to that bleeding-edge tech but using The Volume this time around?
EM: It’s very exciting. We can’t build some of the worlds that we see in Star Wars. It would be impossible because it’s a different galaxy. It’s a different world, you know? That’s the beauty [of it]; that’s why we love to escape into it. There’s escapism there because it’s not our world—but we couldn’t build that. But now we can on this technology. We can build the worlds that we can actually stand in and feel their presence, and we can shoot against them. We don’t have to put it in afterward. So for the actor, it makes a big difference for us cause it makes us feel like we’re in the environment that we are trying to portray. It makes you feel like you’re there; if you’re flying a spaceship through space, well, I can sit in a cockpit and I see the camera crew, but I also see the stars going by. That’s just cool.
The first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are now available on Disney+.