Finally, the much anticipated series about that mysterious old hermit who was responsible for bringing Luke Skywalker to The Force, Obi-Wan Kenobi, has arrived on Disney+ and with it comes the chance to revisit perhaps one of the most unknown yet familiar characters of Star Wars universe.
Despite being an OG of the Star Wars stories, Ben aka Obi-Wan Kenobi has remained an elusive figure. His main role was that of a guide and guardian – watching over the scions of Anakin Skywalker before slowly introducing Luke to the truth of his heritage – if not entirely all of it. But his motivations, his own backstory, have always been shrouded in a cloud. In particular, the time spent between two of the franchises most iconic and momentous scenes: his duel with former padawan Anakin on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith; and the day Luke Skywalker came to him for help in A New Hope.
This gap year – if we can be so blithe – is where Obi-Wan Kenobi director Deborah Chow focuses, following the broken Jedi as he deals with the trauma of seeing all who he has known and loved either dead or scattered and himself now outcast. ICON spoke to Chow ahead of the show’s release to discuss how she pulled together a story from the fragments known of this time, the passion of the fanbase and how it ties into the larger world of Star Wars that Disney has been been building.
ICON: The story of Obi-Wan is such uncharted territory in the Star Wars world. We saw some of it through the animated series, including an encounter with Darth Maul. Will you be incorporating that preexisting backstory into your series or is this a fresh start for the character?
Deborah Chow: The character has obviously been in many properties and was developed and created by George Lucas. So, we’re very much working with the character as it was created by George, first and foremost. Also, because it’s Ewan McGregor playing the character, I think that Ewan embodies Obi-Wan in such a natural and organic way. I think between Ewan and George, these have been our guiding lights. I also worked with Dave Filoni on The Mandalorian and used him all the time to check in with him about things and then I’m very cognisant about all the work he’s done in the animation.
ICON: Was the lack of a true backstory for Obi-Wan a hindrance or did this free up the creative process?
DC: I think it was a combination, it was a challenging story to tell and develop, we are between two trilogies with a very iconic character and everybody feels like they know everything.
But it was also a really interesting time period to tell, because I think one of the fundamental questions that we were looking at with the starting point for the series was like, how did he go from the end of Revenge of the Sith with all the pain in Order 66 and everything that happened with Anakin to the start of The Common Peace with Alec Guinness in A New Hope and in large part, I think that’s why we felt we had a story to tell.
ICON: That’s actually an interesting point! At the end of the first trilogy, we leave Obi-Wan in a dark place. He was forced to attack and, what he thinks, kill his own student; his friends have been murdered. I did see a story that the original scripts were considered a bit too bleak. So how are you going to find the balance between addressing what must have been or addressing trauma that he has experienced without falling into that trap of being a bit too dark for audiences?
DC: For us, it’s interesting because it is a really dark time period and he’s in a fairly dark place, at this point we’re 10 years out from Revenge of the Sith. But it’s also an interesting place to start a story with a character. So I think, for us the context and his backstory coming out of Revenge of the Sith, there is a lot of darkness. There’s a lot of weight there, but for me, the character of Obi-Wan I think has always been a character that in large part sort of epitomises the light and sort of hope in a lot of ways. So it wouldn’t have been genuine, I think, to tell his story either in a way that was completely bleak, because I don’t think that’s who the character is. So I think for us, it was just trying to find a balance between those two things.
ICON: The Star Wars fandom, to be polite, can be quite passionate about their topic matter. Do you feel any pressure to create a show for them or to create a show that furthers the cultural legacy of Star Wars?
DC: It can be challenging, but I think the biggest thing for me that I’ve found with it is that I try not to get too into the weeds with that. And I just sort of try to focus honestly, on the story and the character. And one thing that Joby and I, who was the writer, would do quite a lot is that we would do check on the material and ask ‘if you take the Star Wars out of it, does it work still? Does it still work with the human characters and the emotions?’ And that was always sort of one of our guiding principles on developing the material.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is streaming on Disney+ from May 27.