Darth Vader speaks to us: Hayden Christensen on his return in Disney+'s Obi-Wan Kenobi

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Hayden Christensen.
Hayden Christensen.
Photo: Lucasfilm

In a South African exclusive, Thinus Ferreira sits down with Hayden Christensen as he returns to his role as the iconic Star Wars character Darth Vader in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries on Disney+.

The new live-action miniseries set in that galaxy far, far away, fills in the gap of what happened between Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker, who has now transformed into Darth Vader in the time period between the films of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

In the miniseries, Obi-Wan tries to hide that he is a Jedi while keeping an eye over a young Luke Skywalker, who is about 10-years old on Tatooine, while Darth Vader – who isn't yet the Darth Vader we meet in A New Hope – is solidifying his power on the galaxy and sending out Inquisitors to hunt down the last remaining Jedi.

I hope we see Darth Vader wield a lightsaber again, preferably in a rematch with his old Jedi master. How much muscle memory did you retain from your original Jedi training? How easy was it or different to take on this role and the physicality of Anakin and where he's now as Darth Vader?

The physical preparation required for this was - there was a lot there for me to do. I had to put on some weight, put on some size, and I do get to swing a lightsaber again. But luckily, it's a bit like riding a bike; it didn't take much to sort of get back to my old Jedi moves!

Vader, of course, isn't the version of A New Hope yet, but 10 years have passed since Mustafar. Where is he in his ascendancy as Emperor Palpatine's Sith apprentice? Where is he in his mind space?

That's what's really compelling about this story – it is a character exploration. For Vader, he's trying to reconcile his past from where we last saw him in Star Wars Episode III. And he's on a mission, and he's very driven to complete that mission. But that mission – to kill off the remaining Jedi and find Obi-Wan again – that's him trying to reconcile what's happened.

I watched everything that had Vader in it. It's a very established and iconic character – there's a continuity that needs to be honoured, and we wanted to make sure we do that. We even had a Vader movement specialist who we got to work with on set just to make sure that everything really felt right and rang true.

Last we saw Anakin; he was flowing down a lava river with limbs chopped off. How much fun is it to finally portray the legend that is Darth Vader?

It's been amazing. I was just so excited by the opportunity. The character of Anakin is one I've spent a lot of time with when we did the prequels and one that I've continued to think about over the years, and now being given the opportunity to come back and really explore the character of Darth Vader was just an incredible thing. It was thrilling and really an incredible experience.

What's the most important thing Obi-Wan Kenobi as a series adds to the whole saga?

It fleshes out these characters a little bit more and bridges the gap between Star Wars Episode III and Episode IV. It's a point in the timeline that hasn't been explored yet, and there's a lot of really interesting stuff there to dive into. The first time I read the scripts, I was blown away; I'm really excited for people to get to see it, and I think they're really going to enjoy it.

Is there anything "good" left visible in Darth Vader's life in this period after he went over to the "dark side"?

I don't want to give anything away, but this is an interesting time in Vader's life. In a lot of ways, it's Vader in his prime, and he's very powerful because the dark side is fuelled by negativity, and all of these negative emotions consume him – anger and pain – and all of that is his fuel. You'll have to tune in and find out.

What did you enjoy about this project working with Ewan McGregor again?

Everything about it! I love the man dearly, and it was just so cool to come back and play these characters again. Everyone I got to work with was – it was just a great experience, from Deborah Chow (director), who I think is an incredible storyteller, to the other actors she's brought on to this; it's a really great group of people.

Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) in Obi-Wan Kenobi
Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) in Obi-Wan Kenobi

What was Ewan's reaction when he saw you in Darth Vader's outfit?

Everyone has a reaction when they see Vader for the first time – that's part of the fun of putting the suit on – it's seeing how everyone responds. There's always a noticeable response. Ewan apparently had a very genuine response of fear when he saw Vader for the first time. That was pretty cool.

A cool memory from the set?

Oh, the first time I saw Ewan again as Obi-Wan Kenobi. That was an incredible moment for me. Ewan and I are very close, but we hadn't seen each other in a little while. Just getting to see him again as this character was just thrilling. Of course, putting the Darth Vader costume on for the first time – that was an incredible experience. There are really a lot of great memories from this show.

A rematch between Vader and Obi-Wan – how do you think the upcoming duel compares to what they had in Episode III?

That Episode III fight was pretty epic. I'm very proud of that whole sequence. Ewan and I worked really hard to bring that fight to life. I think what's so exciting about this show are some of these fight sequences - the choreography is incredible, and everyone worked very hard to do them in a way where we felt like we're honouring what has come before and also trying to create something fresh at the same time. Some incredible battles are in store.

That's perfect; thank you, Hayden, and may the Force be with you.

May the Force be with you.

The 6-episode Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on Disney+ on 27 May with a double episode.

Thinus Ferreira is an independent TV critic with years of experience reporting on the South African television industry.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24