This story about “Andor” star Diego Luna first appeared in the Guild & Critics Awards / Documentaries issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
“Andor,” the latest Star Wars series for Disney+ and a prequel to 2016’s big screen spin-off “Rogue One,” feels unlike anything that has happened in a galaxy far, far away. It’s a methodical, intricate look at how one man, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), becomes radicalized after a lifetime spent oppressed by systematically evil forces he once thought were too big to resist. His wins aren’t the flashiest and at the end of the first season he’s still a character in flux — but what an adventure and what a performance from Luna.
Luna, who also serves as an executive producer, had been on the project through earlier attempts at a streaming series from “The Americans” writer Stephen Schiff and “Encanto” director Jared Bush. But then “Michael Clayton” writer/director Tony Gilroy, who had helped reshape “Rogue One” during a prolonged reshoot, had the idea of making the characters more ambiguous.
“To understand who they are and what they are capable of, you have to go through the whole journey,” Luna said. “There is no way you can witness one episode and say, ‘OK, this is it, I get it.’” Gilroy, Luna added, is “the kind of writer that keeps surprising you. You can’t believe that what you’re witnessing is about to happen, and then you go, ‘Oh, my God, how far is this going to go?’ And it goes further.” (Gilroy, in an earlier conversation with TheWrap, likened the creation of “Andor” to “building an entire civilization from scratch.”)
The show is also populated with fascinating side characters, among them Andor’s adoptive mother (played by Fiona Shaw) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), a canonic “Star Wars” character granted extraordinary depth and complexity. “I think it’s quite unfair that the show is called ‘Andor,’” Luna said. “Because of the richness of the show, in terms of characters, context and storylines.”
In Luna’s first conversation with Gilroy, the two agreed: “We are going to be patient. A revolutionary doesn’t get shaped by one event or by the words of a mentor. Things have to happen and you have to digest life in order to transform.” The actor was sold. “By the end of that call, I was in love with his take on it and the risk he wanted to pursue,” Luna said.
And risky it is. In many ways, “Andor” feels like an HBO show that just happens to stream on Disney+, full of morally nebulous characters, grandiose action set pieces and predicaments that our lead can’t resolve in a single episode. Fans and critics alike have been shocked and elated at just what a big swing “Andor” is. And Luna has been keeping up with the response to the show — because even after “Rogue One” crossed $1 billion at the global box office and suggested “that there was a big chunk of the audience that wanted to see something different in the world of ‘Star Wars,’” he wanted people to embrace the new show “for the right reasons.” For him, those reasons are simple. “Yes, I love the action. I love the adventure. I love the big science fiction scope that ‘Star Wars’ has. But when you really care about the characters that happen to be in those action sequences, the action becomes huge in a way money and effects can’t provide.”
Read more from the Guild & Critics Awards / Documentaries issue here.