Meet Andor's Vel Sartha, The Hardened Rebel Soldier With A Surprising Backstory [Exclusive]

Whenever I'm in a situation where I have to use my legal name and pronouns — as in, the ones I was assigned at birth, not the ones I've chosen for myself — it's like I'm wearing a mask. It's not that I, per se, act like a different person in these situations. But it does afford me and, at times, those in my near-orbit a sense of security that we might not otherwise have. Besides, who cares if the rest of the world (save, of course, for the people who really know me) think I'm this-and-that? I know who and what I am, and I honestly feel no need to make it clear to anyone else.

Except, there's more to it than that. Because every time I'm out in public, whether any of this comes up or not, I'm enjoying all the privileges that come with someone who looks like me (with a legal name like that). And that's no small thing, as hard as that can be to swallow. It's that prickly feeling, where you know the benefits you gain from "passing" for one thing are as useful to others as they are to you, that the character Vel Sartha (played by Faye Marsay) on "Andor" knows all too well.

/Film can exclusively debut a new video that highlights some of the qualities that make Vel an engaging and relatable hero in the "Rogue One" prequel/spinoff series. But as you might imagine, this is but a primer on the hardened Rebel soldier.

Meet Vel Sartha

Vel, as Marsay puts it in the video, is "an heiress to a fortune," a fact she has decidedly mixed feelings about. On the one hand, this means she has access to funds and resources that other Rebels do not. It also means she can mingle with the upper-class civilians on Coruscant, allowing her to act as a go-between for her cousin Mon Mothma, the cool-as-a-cucumber Rebel commander Luthen Rael, and the other Rebels. Most importantly of all, to everyone but Mon and her fellow Rebels, she has the perfect cover to ward off snooping Imperials — what Mon dubs a "spoiled rich girl."

Speaking of which, Mon and Vel have a bit of a complicated relationship. With Vel being unmarried, having no children, and no real need to work (seeing as she comes from money), that makes her the ideal candidate to act as a field operative for the still-blooming Rebellion. Mon, on the other hand, was already a parent and politician prior to the rise of the Galactic Empire, which means it's better for the Rebels if she keeps up appearances and continues to discreetly finance them for as long as possible. That being the case, Mon can't help but live "vicariously" through her cousin (to quote Marsay).

Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side, and so it is with Vel. It's clear that no matter how often she reminds herself her reputation and wealth are critical to the Rebel cause, Vel is also understandably resentful of the fact that she's someone who stands to benefit from the Empire being in charge, along with every other rich individual in the "Star Wars" universe. Nothing she can do will ever change that, either. She just has to live with it.

'Passing' in more ways than one

Her Rebel activities aren't the only secrets Vel is sitting on. She's also one of the very few openly queer characters to be featured in a live-action "Star Wars" series or film to date. It's clear, however, that Vel would prefer to keep this aspect of her life private, even from select members of her family. Notably, when Mon's oblivious husband Perrin bluntly asks Vel if she's on the hunt for a husband at her age, Mon wrily smiles at her cousin's quietly cutting response. ("Yes. All the good ones are taken.")

Vel's decision to consciously avoid discussing her love life with certain in-laws while otherwise being open about her girlfriend and fellow Rebel Cinta is relatable, to say the least. And while we've yet to see the pair lock lips on-screen (let them kiss, Disney!), the way "Andor" goes about normalizing their relationship is the type of real LGBTQ+ representation that we could do with more of — as opposed to the blink and you'll miss it "queer moments" that the Mouse House has become infamous for.

To that point, "Andor" actually shows Vel and Cinta having intimate one-on-one conversations about matters of personal significance, including Cinta's commitment to the Rebel cause above all else and Vel's insecurities about her public life as a rich Chandrilan woman. It's not the be-all and end-all of queer representation, but it is a valuable bit of character development that adds yet another layer of meaning to Vel's struggles to "pass" for something she's not (knowing it's vital to those closest to her).

Will the real Vel please stand up?

Is Vel a "spoiled rich girl" who's doing her best to play the role of a scrappy Rebel, or is she a revolutionary at heart who knows the value in maintaining her cover as a member of high society? Not even Faye Marsay is sure about the answer to that question. If anything, that's the key to the character's arc on "Andor" and keeps her ultimate role in the battle against the Empire shrouded in mystery (for the better).

Circling back to my earlier point, we all have to reckon with the different masks we put on for various occasions. No one is ever just one thing in every social situation; even the most powerful individuals in the "Star Wars" universe (like Emperor Palpatine) present one face in public while adopting another one in private or among their closest associates. Like Vel, we can't pretend that our ability to disguise ourselves is a privilege that others may not enjoy. It's on us to figure out the best and, preferably, the most selfless way to use it. That Vel has so far chosen to use her own personal advantages to fight for the freedom of others at great risk to herself? That's what makes her one of the heroes.

Episodes of "Andor" are streaming on Disney+.