Andor creator, executive producer and writer Tony Gilroy discusses expanding Cassian Andor’s story and the Star Wars universe.
When I ask Tony Gilroy to tell us about his new Star Wars series, Andor, he laughs. “That’s a big tough question! There’s so much in the show,” he exclaims.
Following Diego Luna’s titular character Cassian Andor (who last appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), the show begins five years before that film, and the universe is considerably different. The rebellion that we see coordinating in Rogue One is only just beginning to form, and The Empire rules almost entirely uncontested.
Also starring in the show are Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgard, Kyle Soller and Denise Gough. Genevieve O’Reilly also returns as Mon Mothma.
“It’s a show about ordinary people being thrust into historical events that are beyond their control,” Gilroy, who serves as the show’s creator, executive producer, and writer on several episodes, says. “It’s about people choosing sides. It’s about people ignoring what’s coming. It’s about a rebellion coming together – how does a revolution happen?” In other words, this 12-part series is ambitiously depicting a universe in turmoil, showing all possible reactions of communities that are increasingly in the grip of The Empire’s fascism and the lack of freedom that entails.
Gilroy continues, highlighting the importance of our leading man himself. “It’s also about one person on a rather important odyssey to save the galaxy.”
The hero’s journey
When Rogue One was released in 2016 it included a host of interesting characters, from loveable droid K2-SO to Forest Whittaker’s depiction of war veteran and rebel Saw Gerrera. Gilroy contributed to the script of the film, as well as acting as second-unit director under Gareth Edwards. Why, then, was he specifically interested in further developing the story of Cassian Andor? The producer points out that what we currently know about Diego Luna’s rebel is actually very little.
“The very few things that we know were just a fascinating satellite of ideas,” he explains. “Like, ‘I’ve been fighting since I was six years old. I’ve done all these terrible things for the rebellion. I’m the person they trust to go on the most dangerous, important mission that they’ve ever had.’ As a leader, you watch him go out and lead this mission, and lie to people, and seduce people, and then also change his mind, which is what a great leader does.”
Then, and this is a spoiler if you haven’t seen Rogue One, he sacrifices himself for the galaxy. An interesting character’s tale comes to an abrupt but fitting end. At the time, it seemed that we may never know more about Andor and his origins. Gilroy, however, believes that the character’s long journey to heroism is fertile ground for a new Star Wars story.
“Our show is about ‘how did he get here?’ And how big a hole did he have to climb out of to get there, and how does somebody become that person? And at the same time, use that as the spine of a story that can also tell a whole bunch of other character’s stories about a revolution that’s coming. And about a war that’s coming.”
A changing landscape
The show is planned to run for two seasons, and will cover the five year period leading up to the events of Rogue One. It sounds like a fairly short span of time, but it’s a time of change for the Star Wars universe. “Those five years in Star Wars history are very important,” says Gilroy. “They’re building the Death Star, and if they build the Death Star, they win.”
“It’s a battle to have a revolution, and to fight back before that happens. It’s the five years where the Empire is feeling very confident and pulling all their power together, so it’s an oppressive regime that’s tightening the noose on everyone,” he explains. He adds also that the very last scene of Andor will be the first scene of Rogue One, firmly tying the two tales together.
Given that the majority of his work has been in feature film, working on this series has been a big change for Gilroy. He jokes that his favourite part of making this season was when all of the scripts were finished, but he also sounds half-serious. “My favourite part is when the writing is all finished, which happens really late. That’s when I start to feel human, when I don’t have that homework anymore,” he grins.
Although, he’s also found making the show to be a great outlet for his creativity. “Between the design, the collaboration with all the people, the music, the editing – all the stuff you do on a movie, all the stages that you move through on a movie as a director, running a show you do that four times as much,” he says. “It’s just really a maximum creative process.”
With the entirety of Andor leading into the events of Rogue One, it’s easy to wonder how an audience might feel about a story they already know the ending of. Gilroy has thought about this a lot, and has a smart answer.
“The suspension of disbelief that we have is baked into us. We all know that we’re going to die, and yet we still continue! We get up and go about our business. You watch a movie for the third time and you know in The Godfather Michael’s gonna get Brando out of the hospital okay, but every time you watch it you’re like ‘wow!’”
Given that we’re easily able to enjoy the same stories again and again, Gilroy doesn’t see knowing the ending ahead of time as a problem. “I don’t think it’s narratively important.”
What is important to the showrunner is feeling that the world and the characters that reside in it are ‘realistic’ and genuine. In that sense, the first few episodes of Andor feel like a grittier, more down-to-earth instalment in the Star Wars franchise. Gilroy is known for his work on action thrillers, including the Matt Damon-starring Bourne series, and brings some of those sensibilities to Andor.
“I can’t write a scene if it doesn’t feel real to me,” he explains. “[I can’t write] an action sequence if it’s not really based in a real place. I can’t write a kitchen table scene between two people if I don’t really know where they’re coming from or what they’re really about. Everything has to be real.”
Disney and Lucasfilm were more than on board with this approach, as Gilroy says the companies were “really interested in trying to open an entirely new narrative territory into Star Wars.” Given that it’s the first live-action series to get more than one season, they clearly have a lot of faith in it – and Gilroy. The writer/producer/showrunner says that he’s working on Andor for another 18-24 months, and is entirely focused on it for the time being.
When asked if he’d like to continue telling tales in the Star Wars universe, he makes it clear that he’s focused purely on delivering a great second season of Andor. “I would love to be able to deliver this and then have that conversation. I don’t really know. I know exactly what I’m doing for the next year and a half, so that’s enough for me!”
Episodes 1-3 of Andor are available on Disney+ now, with remaining episodes 4-12 releasing weekly each Wednesday.
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