Q&A | Obi-Wan Kenobi director: We get to learn more about the Jedi but also the man

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SERIES: Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.

Channel24 sat down with Obi-Wan Kenobi director Deborah Chow, who talked about working with droids, Baby Yoda, Ewan McGregor, and Hayden Christensen.

I love your work on Star Wars The Mandalorian. Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy said the decision to approach you for this series was because of your phenomenal character development in The Mandalorian. What was important for you to bring to the characters in this chapter of their development?

One of the biggest things we've wanted to do with this series was have it be character-driven. It's called Obi-Wan Kenobi, so we really wanted to get deeper into this character. He's a character that everybody loves and feels like they know, but not much is known about him. It was a great opportunity to get deeper into Obi-Wan Kenobi.

In Episode IV: A New Hope, Darth Vader says I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan, we meet again, at last, you should not have come back - I hope there's a rematch in Obi-Wan Kenobi between the two, obviously, if there is it will be one we've never seen before. What did you decide to give a reinterpretation to in this series?

I think that was one of the most challenging aspects – trying to respect the canon and the legacy of everything but also finding an original story to tell, and obviously, something did happen in these 20 years between Episode III and IV.

The starting point for us was just looking at the question: How did he go from being the warrior at the end of Revenge of the Sith, screaming on the banks of Mustafar, to the calm and peace of Sir Alec Guinness? That's really one of the fundamental questions we're trying to answer in this series.

What was challenging working on this Star Wars series?

Especially with a project like this where we have these huge, iconic characters and we're so tied to the legacy, and we're in the time between two trilogies, you want to be respectful, and we really try to respect the canon and respect everything that had been done within those two trilogies.

At the same time, you still have to find your own original voice and tell an original story, so there are a lot of parameters to it coming into it as a director and developing the material.

At the same time, there's also a lot of freedom, and it is exciting, and the parameters help because you have guide rails for where the story is going. From there, you then work to find another vision.

(L-R): Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) Darth Vader
(L-R): Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) in Obi-Wan Kenobi.

How does a TV series change things instead of being a movie?

Especially in a limited series format, it gives us the time to get into more depth and complexity with the character, which I loved having six episodes to do it in. There's so much that we don't know about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and we felt that there was an opportunity with the show to learn more about the Jedi and the man.

What did you learn from doing The Mandalorian that helped you with this show?

The Mandalorian was obviously pivotal, and I honestly don't think I could have done Kenobi if I hadn't done Mandalorian first just because I got such a good basis in Star Wars and even on just a practical level of going through the process of what is it like to shoot a creature, or a droid or a this or that, and then also the technology.

I think the biggest thing I was excited to do moving from The Mandalorian to Kenobi was to tell a different kind of story. It's set in the same galaxy, but I was quite excited to do something where it's more character-driven. We would still have action and everything else, but fundamentally we're telling a very human and emotional story.

They say be careful when working with kids and animals. And now you've worked with Baby Yoda and droids and animatronics. Did you expect Baby Yoda to pop and become this hugely beloved, cute creature?

For the creatures and droids, honestly, that's a component of Star Wars that I love! I love also doing these scenes in-camera - it's not visual effects; I love that we're doing them that way. It feels so special and so unique to Star Wars. It's something that I really enjoy doing. It is challenging. You get a performer, and depending on the creature, a lot of them can't see, can't walk, takes 45 minutes to go to the bathroom. It is challenging but what they bring to it is so unique and exciting that it's worth all the pain and effort to do it.

With Baby Yoda - we didn't know; I certainly didn't know what The Mandalorian would become. We were just trying to make it. I personally had no idea. I know that on set every time Baby Yoda came to set, we all felt it, but you can just never know how the audience is going to react.

Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen probably know their characters better than you do. What was it like working with them?

I'd say they absolutely know their characters better than I do. They've not only performed these characters in the prequels, but they've also lived with these characters. And even when they were playing them, the public perception is that they really are these characters.

For me, it was a huge asset and Ewan in particular, he was part of the creative development right from the start, and he was a producer on the show, so he was incredibly helpful because he just knows this character so well. In many ways, he is this character. His instincts - when something wasn't feeling right or when dialogue wasn't feeling right - to have him as sort of a check on that was so helpful.

He was also incredibly collaborative, so it was just a great thing for me as a director to have actors who know their characters so well.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is now streaming on Disney+.

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