Star Wars Rebels

When Star Wars Rebels was first announced, I immediately had a ton of questions. How did the Jedi help start the Rebel Alliance? Does that make Luke Skywalker less significant? Who was this mysterious bad guy hunting down Jedi? Why do we need him if we have Darth Vader? How closely would the series link to the original trilogy? If anyone had the answers to those questions, it was going to be Dave Filoni.

Filoni is an executive producer on the show, which will debut on Disney XD in October, but was also the showrunner of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. As I said in a recent article, he’s the person primarily responsible for keeping the Star Wars franchise relevant for the past decade. So it was truly exciting to get a chance to sit down with him, one on one, at Comic-Con after seeing the series’ first two episodes. I got to ask him everything above and then some. And I don’t mean to brag, but I have yet to read anywhere else some of Filoni’s justifications for who the characters in Star Wars Rebels are, their significances, and more.

Below, read our full Star Wars Rebels interview with executive producer Dave Filoni.

/Film: You’ve been working with Lucasfilm and Star Wars for a while but this, unlike Clone Wars is the first piece of this whole new Disney era.

Dave Filoni: It is, yeah.

So is there any added pressure in that? And how did that change things from how you worked on Clone Wars?

I don’t think there’s any added pressure. Pressure to me was creating a Star Wars film, then sitting alone in a theater with George Lucas and showing it to him, the guy that created the word “Wookiee” and R2-D2. That was pressure. This now is just responsibility. People look to me more than before even for answers because I work with George so closely. Everything I do on this show is based on what he taught me and on my reactions. My editing style, the visual language I bring to it. I’m trying to maintain a legacy and I feel very strongly about being entrusted with that legacy. So I don’t see pressure that way.

It’s different than it was before in that when we worked with George, we were all at Skywalker Ranch. The animation division was almost separate within Lucasfilm. But Kathy [Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm] has brought us down to the Presidio now, so we work right where ILM is and we’re right where all the Star Wars films are gonna be made. We’re all on the same floor. And, you know, I think that gives a better community now. You know, it’s kind of like without George, we’re all banding together. Lucasfilm Story Group, Kathy Kennedy, the directors of all the new films, we all get together and talk about Star Wars and what’s gonna be best for it. So I’m very proud and I feel the responsibility of being this first thing out.

And in a lot of ways that’s why this show is kind of just so unapologetically classic in a Star Wars sense ’cause we all want the fans to feel that this going to be off on the right foot. You’re gonna recognize the music. You’re gonna recognize the look of things. I think there’s gonna be plenty of time in the future to get more aggressively different and exciting and develop new things in Star Wars you’ve never seen. But now is the time of just saying like “Hey guys, this is gonna be a great era for you, just buckle up and get ready.” And that’s what I want.

Totally. Now, what I really loved about the show is it was just this story. It was these characters and that’s it. In the Clone Wars sometimes you’d get lost early because it jumps around.

Right, yeah.

Is this story, at least for now, going to be just the people on the Ghost or will be jump around and meet all these different other people?

This is a story about largely Ezra Bridger and how he’s interacting with this crew. So every episode is about these guys. Sometimes it focuses on different parts of the crew. But it’s about this family unit and their kind of struggle against the Empire.

Without spoilers, can we safely say this band of characters is beginning of a growing thing that’ll lead to Princess Leia and the creation of the Death Star? Is this the beginning of the snowball effect?

I think the way to look at it, Simon [Kinberg] said this beautifully. He described the American Revolution as if this was a show that was about five guys that were locked up in a farmhouse somewhere fighting against the local British military and without any real knowledge of the larger political movements or what’s going on. I think that that’s really how you look at the truth of it with the Rebels. How do you get all these people together? We’re looking at one little small group that’s trying to stand on their own and how does that hook up to what you know is a rebel alliance in A New Hope?  I think that’s one of the things that we’re gonna reveal as this story moves forward.

We started this Rebel activity back in Clone Wars with an arc called “The Onderon Arc.”  Where we see the Jedi empowering local military groups to fight back for their own little planets.  And in George [Lucas]‘s big scheme, it was these small groups that began the fledgling rebellion against the Empire.  So we have this much bigger architecture of a plan that this is all setup against.  So the same way you hear in A New Hope, “The Imperial Senate has been dismissed,” we don’t see any of that stuff.  They just say it.  There are these bigger things that we’ve thought out in the background, but we would like to stay focused on our characters.

Right. Now when I first read about the show, my very first thought was you introduce Kanan as a Jedi. And if he in some way is part of an early Rebel Alliance, was there ever consideration that if Jedi helped create the Rebel Alliance, it makes Luke’s discovery as a Jedi less impactful?

I don’t think so. I mean, the interesting thing about it is when you look at Luke, he’s accepted pretty quickly into the Rebellion. Nobody seems to make that big a deal in the movies about the fact that he’s got these strange abilities. You almost wonder, how many other people in the Rebel Alliance even thought about him him as a Jedi? I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence that people did. Maybe you think it is that, but certainly not in the films. I mean, he wears a lightsaber on his belt almost as if he’s someone who found it. I think that’s frankly Luke’s strength is that remember, he doesn’t even say he’s a Jedi until he’s standing before the Emperor and throws his lightsaber away. So I think one of the things we’ve talked about is how there are artifacts and things out there like lightsabers, remnants of this old religion and probably a lot of people assume Luke just found it. In a lot of ways that’s true.

Yeah.

He did find it. From Obi Wan. Obi Wan said “This is your Father’s.” But Luke, I don’t certainly think, goes around telling people that. So all the Jedi or all the Force wielders are kind of hidden now. You know, Kanan breaks his lightsaber a part and wears it out sometimes, but you think it’s more like a Droid caller or something like that. You don’t think it’s a lightsaber. Because as soon Obi Wan turns his lightsaber on in the Cantina, there are people reporting it like “Yeah, there’s a bounty on these guys.” So I think it’s just all about how we reveal Kanan. It’s very different from Luke.

I mean, on a basic level at this point he’s so much better trained than Luke could ever be. It’s just an interesting take on what are all these other people that have the Force doing? And how do we not have that interfere with the blinding light, the New Hope that Luke Skywalker becomes? Luke’s mission in the Force is very specific. Learn to be selfless. Selfless enough to save your Father. To realize that you can forgive and redeem. And that’s a bit different than where we’re going with Ezra and Kanan for sure.

Okay cool. Now in Star Wars lore, Obi Wan says Darth Vader hunted down the Jedi. But you guys have introduced another villain, The Inquisitor. Why introduce a whole new character to do the same thing? Especially when we already have a Sith Lord apprentice thing with Vader and the Emperor. Now you add a third character into the mix. Talk about why and how it’s gonna work.

I think for me the main idea is that, again, when Obi Wan’s saying these things to Luke, he’s trying to get them explained. And he knows it’s gonna come from Vader. And it’s very specific to Luke. And that’s his destiny. The Inquisitor, is he even around at that point? Who knows?

Sure.

But it was reasonable to believe that, looking at a galaxy, there were 10,000 Jedi in The Clone Wars. That number’s been diminished. How do you find them? Where do you find them? I’m sure Vader is involved in hunting down Jedi all the time. I’m sure that right after the Clone War, when the remnants are very visible and the Jedi are all trying to figure out what happened, that he was luring them into traps and wiping them out several at a time.

At the point we are, so many years later, they are so few and far between that I don’t think he would follow up every lead. Because one of the things that’s muddled the whole operation, in my mind, is kids being born that can use the Force. The Emperor and Vader don’t really want them around either. But they’re so unnotable, you needed a group of hunters, attack dogs. And so we have an Inquisitor that goes out and hunts these guys down. Now if he was to hunt a guy down, let’s say he’s somewhere on Tatooine and he runs into Obi Wan Kenobi, probably the Inquisitor won’t survive that. But if he did, he would call Vader up and go “You better get out here.”

He’s a Jedi Master. This isn’t nobody.

This is a Master. This is somebody significant, right. So I have to believe that, as it went along, Vader got entrusted with more and more important missions, hunting down those stolen data plans. Stuff like that. And the Inquisitor is left to be this kind of hunting dog. He finds you, he analyzes you, even by fighting against them, saber to saber, he’s learning about you. Who taught you, where you came from, how old you are. Sometimes what your name is. Because they have all the records and he’s meticulously studied them. So, you know, he can break down pretty quickly who Kanan is just by fighting him in a lightsaber fight.

Wow, okay. Now obviously you guys want the show to go on for a long time.

Yeah.

But you mention the Imperial Senate, the Death Star. Those are just some example from A New Hope. And there are places the Rebel Alliance has been before – Yavin and Dantooine. How do you balance putting those things in or are they so far down the line from where we are at the beginning of this show that you don’t worry about it yet?

Yeah, they’re so far down the line, they are separate to me.  You know, I wouldn’t really wanna go to Yavin because I think it makes the galaxy seem so small.  The more times you go there, the harder it is to believe that the Empire didn’t find them there. The Death Star plans really don’t come into play at the story at this point.

But the Empire has to build the Death Star and Princess Leia has to become a leader…

Yeah, I think all that’s happening, but somewhere over there.

Okay.

And, you know, if we were to intersect with any of that, we’d have to be just very careful how we did it. I think the galaxy’s big enough to imagine that our crew is having its own adventure and maybe they never know or maybe they hear about a Death Star at some point. Probably not. Maybe they hear about this thing that gets blown up. But it would be an interesting perspective to not be involved with that and just hear about it. I mean, I would be voting on the [Lucasfilm] Story Council to go more in that direction. We’ve got so many stories to tell now in this universe that it really can go anywhere.

For the next few years, you obviously are concentrating on Star Wars Rebels.  But is a Star Wars spin-off movie something you’d want to do? Would you want to get in line to direct whether it be a Rebels movie or some random spin-off movie 10 years down the road?   

Oh, of course. That’s a selfish thing to say, but of course. I mean, if I were to get an opportunity like that A, I wouldn’t turn it down. B, I would see it as a great honor to do it. And I would apply all my Jedi knowledge to doing it as best I can. When I see these spin-offs happening, I’ve got definitely more than a few ideas of things that I would love to see finished and some things that makes them, I think, personally great stories.

So right now I am focused on Rebels and I’ve got a brilliant crew working on that. And I’m excited for Gareth and you know what he’s gonna do. I’m excited for Rian and J.J. and what they’re doing. It’s kind of nice to have other really big head creatives working on Star Warsnow. I can definitely empathize with them, with the pressure and the struggles. And, you know, I’ve got Simon working with me and he’s been fantastic. So we’ve got this great community of creatives now for the first time in Star Wars.

You know, the writers weren’t even up at the Ranch when we did The Clone Wars. They were all down in L.A. working satellite. So it was really George and I there all the time and it’s just fun to have these other guys. I’ll see them come up on continuity problems and I’m just like “Ha, ha, ha, yeah, I’ve been there. It’s great, isn’t it?” But the main thing I tell them is what a wonderful experience it’s truly gonna be and how the Star Wars fan community yes, they’re particular, yes, they know their stuff, but they love it and they’ve always embraced what we’ve done, but they challenge us and they should. They should challenge us to do new things and exciting things and, you know, that’s when our job is done its best.

Awesome. Well I hope you do and I can’t wait to watch the rest of the show. Thank you so much.

Star Wars Rebels premieres in October. For our full interview with executive producer Simon Kinberg, click here. To watch the first 7 minutes, click here. And for a spoiler free  review of the first episode, click here.

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