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How 'Andor' broke Star Wars rules and reshaped sci-fi TV

Star Wars may be a wild sci-fi fantasy galaxy of aliens, pirates and space wizards, but it actually has a lot of secret rules. Example: Paper does not exist. There are no wheels. The door always slides open – no hinges. Windows can have many shapes, but not square.

So when Lucasfilm proposed that writer Tony Gilroy do a completely different Star Wars series, he felt Surprised he’ll enjoy a ton of creative latitude in it: Prequel to Rogue One, 1439 Star Wars The movie Gilroy helped improve with script rewrites and reshoots. “The initial task was: ‘Can you open us a new lane? Can you find us a new audience?'” Gilroy recalled (in an interview conducted before the WGA strike). ‘ ‘If we back your game and use the down payment of the hardcore Star Wars community, can you do something, take it seriously, and open up a new lane that we might build Where does something new come from?”

The idea is not to break the Star Wars rules, but to find a whole new Atmosphere and setting, within the franchise’s existing signature aesthetic. “We’ve had great success with this,” Gilroy declared, unassumingly but correctly, in light of the resulting series, Andor has received critical acclaim from critics and fans alike for its down-to-earth, sophisticatedStar Wars brand. Two episodes stand out in particular during the show’s first two seasons: a heart-wrenching prison escape on Narkina 5 and a gruesome heist on the planet Aldhani.


The prison workroom.

Prison Studio. Courtesy of LucasFilms/Disney

“I’m not obsessed with dams—just for the record,” says production designer Luke Hull.

Hull is referring to the fact that both his Aldhani base and his striking concept for Andor Prison on Narkina 5 both coincidentally use hydroelectric power as part of their design. Hull is not a Star Wars veteran – his last big gig was in HBO’s Chernobyl – but Jill Roy called him “the main narrative collaborator” on the show.

“He’s the guy I spend the most time talking to because everything we do has to be designed right,” Gilroy said. “He’ll be the last dog to die.”

Narkina 5 is an artful nightmare: a factory prison in the middle of an ocean filled with thousands in paper uniforms Barefoot men (in paper uniforms) are apparently allowed) endlessly building mysterious empire widgets. Over the course of a three-episode arc, the show’s lead, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), languishes in despair as he’s imprisoned, before being confronted by his task force leader, Kino Loy (Andy Serkin). Escape from prison with the help of Andy Serkis).

Concept art for a Narkina 5 guard.

Concept art of Cassian wearing prison uniform. Presented by LucasFilms/Disney

From the beginning, the Andor team had the prison arc in mind Lines are daunting. They had to design a completely original and sprawling sci-fi incarceration system from the ground up that would fit in theStar Warsworld and not break the bank. “There are a lot of epic prison movies,” says Gilroy, citing classics like Escape from Alcatraz and The Shawshank Redemption . “I was like: If we can’t make a better prison, we can’t make a prison – something new.”

Given that Narkina 5 is a work camp, the standard The approach is to draw inspiration from the historically familiar. “The obvious direction is something sleazy like a Russian prison or a Gulag,” Hull said. “But what if it’s more like a lab? What if it’s more like a clean room? And the prisoners are consumables in a machine? That’s actually creepier.”

Empire locations tend to be black and gray. “They’re the Navy,” Hull pointed out. A New Hope shows the Death Star’s detention levels, also in black. But black and gray are also monochrome. So how about all white? “Whether it’s all black or all white, you know it’s an empire setting,” Hull said.

Concept art for a Narkina 5 guard.

Concept art for a Narkina 5 defender.

Concept art for a Narkina 5 guard.

Concept art for the Narkina 5 look.

Presented by LucasFilms/Disney

As for Star Wars how prisons should work, Gilroy says , their first useful thought was “no bar”. He continued, “Then it has to be something that doesn’t need 8 million guards. And then someone says ‘electric floor,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh my God! ”

The team set out to design the perfect, inescapable mousetrap, then had to figure out how to reverse engineer what they had created so that Cassian had a way of playing the game. While escaping is fair with the audience. Every word of Cassian’s conversation while in prison is crucial to his eventual escape.

“It’s such a powerful and interesting concept and such a beautiful statement,” Luna said. “This is a prison about the productivity of the economic system, you have to be healthy, pure and strong. You need to have a little [false] hope that one day you can get out. It makes you reflect on the world we live in.”

However, there is one final design element that doesn’t quite meet Hull’s high standards: Cassian’s cell toilet. “The Star Wars toilet still keeps me up at night,” sighs Herr. “We could probably do more work to make it more interesting.”

Andy Serkis as Kino Loy

Concept Cassian’s art of onboarding. Courtesy of LucasFilms/Disney

For the key role of Kino Loy, Gilroy sees Serkis in Black Panther, but said the actor had him dangling for a long time. He said Serkis was wary of returning to Star Wars after playing Supreme Leader Snoke in the sequel film. “There’s so much confusion about Snoke and Snoke Theory, I just think people are going to freak out and wonder what the hell is going on and assume there’s some kind of connection,” Serkis said. “I thought, ‘This is a minefield.'”

Serkins was moved by Gilroy’s script, which gave him the opportunity to present a very different A physical role: himself. The British actor is best known for his motion capture work on the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes reboot series. Even in Panther he is buried under a series of scars and tattoos and speaks with a South African accent. For Andor, he would be stripped naked to his usual self, dressed in the same attire as the other prisoners. But Serkis said he didn’t feel particularly naked on set.

Andy Serkis as Kino Loy

Kino Loy (Andy Serkis).

Courtesy of LucasFilms/Disney

Concept art for Cassian in prisoner garb.

“In a motion capture suit, you also feel naked,” he said. “A character is a character, it doesn’t matter how you present it. It’s about who that person is, or what that person is, or what they stand for.”

Serkis does for Kino Loy constructed his own backstory to help him understand the character. He thought Loy was “a man with a family, a seditious union worker who would have defended workers’ rights under normal circumstances”, but was beaten into submission by Narkina 5.

Serkis has to deliver arguably the most viral line of the show after Cassian repeatedly tries to convince Loy to attempt a jailbreak by asking how many guards are on each floor. In the last line of episode nine, Lowe finally replies: “Never more than .” Gilroy points out that what makes this line work is its understatement. “The really great lines are the ones that feel like they exist organically and you love them, but you don’t feel like the writer is there,” he said. “That was causal and intense, but no, I wasn’t prepared for [the fans’] reaction.”

Prison rebellion weakens Cassian’s resistance to the Empire and shows he can Become the leader, but before Luna, Serkis and the rest of the cast begin to feel imprisoned.

“The desensitization of wearing a paper suit and walking barefoot was the weirdest thing about the process,” Serkis said. “Week after week, everyone looks like a mirror image of yourself, and you feel like you’ve lost your identity. Everything about that scene is clinically hostile. It does weird things to your head, like It was designed to do that.”

The Narkina 5 sequence is in Andor’s – A month of filming contributes to the fatigue of the actors. “Every day, walking into those white walls in that uniform makes you feel like you’re just another number,” Luna said. “Prison has metaphorically become something different for each actor—everyone has found a way to hate prison.”

The final scene of Prison Break, when the prisoner escapes from the platform Into the Ocean, was filmed on the last day of filming this season. “That was the last shot we did,” Luna said.

Andy Serkis as Kino Loy

Concept art camouflage for Cassian. Presented by LucasFilms/DisneyConcept art of Narkina 5 exterior.


“We Trying to avoid the desert,” Hull recalls. In fact, like Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars fans have grown tired of staring at the sand, which makes Aldhani’s murky green hills (filmed in Scotland) Becoming a rather refreshing choice.

However, the idea of ​​infiltrating an Imperial base is a corny trope. The usual arc is: the good guys go in, they’re found, and they go-go-walk their way out. Broadly speaking, Andor does the same thing, but with many surprising twists.

The team is led by freedom fighter Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay). She and her co-star, Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu), were the first significant queer characters in the moviesStar Wars, but their identities were more than elevating A way for Disney+ to be inclusive. “It’s nothing new—’There are queer characters here.’ It just normalizes the norm,” Marsay said.

Given how groundbreaking this character is, one would expect the writers of Andor to portray Sartha as an invulnerable, fearless superpower Paragon. But when she rolls out an attack, she hesitates and freezes in fear. The move doesn’t weaken the character, but makes the mission seem dangerous, and her final order to “Go!” makes it all the more courageous. “What’s most interesting is her vulnerability and her insecurities. She’s more than just a note,” says Massey.

Once inside the base, the usual firefight chaos is delayed as long as possible, as viewers realize that the rebels are desperately trying to avoid hurting anyone. None of the Imperials wear helmets like the legendary traditional stormtroopers, which prevents them from becoming nameless cannon fodder. When one of them holds a gun to a child’s head and a “bad guy” begs to let the child go, the morals of the rebels are turned upside down – the exact opposite of the action movie cliché of kids being held hostage by villains . “We want to let everyone have their own reality and empathize with everyone here,” Gilroy said.

It takes a little cheating to generate all this confrontational tension. One of the first weapons introduced in Star Wars was the stun gun, used to harmlessly subdue Princess Leia in A New Hope. It’s a deviceAndor conveniently completely off stage. “We wanted it to be hard; [Only Lethal Weapon] made their decision that much harder,” executive producer Sanne Wohlenberg said.

After the fighting broke out, the squad fled and the rebels The sympathizer and idealist Caris Nemick (Alex Lawther), who wrote the manifesto, is killed—but not by the enemy. Instead, he was accidentally crushed to death by stolen cargo. “I tried to make a lot of mistakes with things,” Gilroy explained. “It’s what goes wrong that makes things really interesting. In fact, very few things work the way they’re supposed to.”

Once the group is safe, there’s the final shock : Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), one of the rebels, lures Cassian into betraying the others. Cassian shoots at him out of the blue, a move that surprises and even puzzles the audience. There’s no clarity or explanation for Cassian’s decision, but there’s a complex internal logic that feels real to the character.

Andy Serkis as Kino Loy

Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Credits to Lucasfilm/Disney

Gilroy explained in detail what happened: “Cassian was doing a very quick math in his head of what [betrayal] would mean, what would be the risk, he What the future holds for the future. I’m sure he’s been thinking about it for a while. Cassian just wants to get his cut and go. He’s not a revolutionary at this point, but he sees their promise and [to the rebellion] There’s some respect and interest generated. Also, how could he possibly trust this bastard? What else would he do if he wanted to do that to them? He’s dangerous.”

This scene Naturally reminds Star Wars fans of Han Solo in )A New Hope — in a special edition by creator George Lucas This left fans frustrated after it was re-edited to have Greedo fire in the first place. Gilroy naturally didn’t want fans to think his Cassian beat was some kind of commentary on another scene, and was almost outraged at the suggestion.

“I know what that is,” he said of “Han Xianshe”. “But no. It wasn’t on my books while I was working.”

Andor is now in production on a second season, which will include Include another episodes. While the first season revolved around Star Wars versions of popular genre tropes (heists, prison breaks, local uprisings), season two is a little different. “In terms of genre, it’s not as clearly delineated, but it’s more clearly delineated that each chunk of the three episodes will be separated by a year-long gap,” Gilroy said. “So they’re really separate and in many cases last one, two or three days.”

Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu), left, and Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) in Aldhani. Courtesy of LucasFilms/Disney

Looking back, Gilroy sees Andor as a minor miracle. Given its high cost (estimated at $250 million), expanding the franchise’s tone, and a dense mix of utility and special effects, it probably never would have been approved earlier – and it probably won’t be ordered now.

“We were lucky to do this a few years ago during the gold rush. Now a lot of people are holding back, and you can’t do this show on the cheap,” Gilroy Yi said. “I’m so relieved by the response because we’re making this huge, obscure thing, and we know it’s crazy. It’s like, ‘Is this too much? Have we gone too far? No focus groups or Test audience. Now if only we could hold on to the landing and strike hard.”


Aldhani Concept Art. Presented by LucasFilms/Disney

Concept art of Narkina 5 exterior.

This story first appeared in the June 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 004523Click here to subscribe.



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