/Film Interview: Dave Filoni Talks Darth Vader, A-Wings And The Rebellion In 'Star Wars Rebels' Season 2

The Star Wars Rebels season 2 premiere, The Siege of Lothal, will premiere on June 20. And you do not want to miss it. In an instant, the stakes on the Disney XD show are shot through the roof. However, when I spoke with the show's executive producer Dave Filoni at Star Wars Celebration, I didn't yet know that. We had just seen the epic season 2 trailer and I knew the notoriously cagey producer wasn't going to spoil anything. So, instead, I looked ahead to season to and back to season 1. What did I want to know as a Star Wars fan after watching that amazing series and that awesome trailer?

In our interview, Filoni talks about the shadow Darth Vader will have over the upcoming season of the show. He talks about the weight of holding back secrets, Ezra's lightsaber, as well as how the Rebellion will develop this season and the reintroduction of some iconic ships. Below, read our full season 2 Dave Filoni Star Wars Rebels interview from Star Wars Celebration.

Star Wars Rebels Kanan Darth Vader

Now I just talked to Simon about a couple of these things but I want to get your take too. You guys are always so adverse to spoilers, which is great, but then you show Darth Vader trying to kill Ezra in the trailer. That's a huge, huge thing. He wouldn't tell me how far it is into it, but what was it about revealing that that was important?

Well I think, with the trailer, you have certain responsibilities. You wanna get people hooked. You wanna get people excited and I have this thing about being a TV series where you don't really gain anything by being too coy. I don't want you to find out about something great that happened on TV last night and go "Oh, I missed it." So if we're showing you Ezra battling Darth Vader or Kanan, then you go, "Oh my gosh, I wonder when that's gonna happen? I gotta watch this show." So for me, it's in part that and it's in part the visuals of seeing Darth Vader. I mean, it's so hard to keep this stuff secret. That frankly when it's out...you know...I'm so glad now Rex is out. I had so many people this weekend ask me about Rex leading up to today. And I'm just like please come to the panel Saturday.

And last year Ahsoka.

Right?

She's the reveal.

Yeah, so part of it is just to get it out there so it makes my life less stressful.

Star Wars Rebels Rex

As a Star Wars fan one of the things that really threw me for a loop last season was the Ezra lightsaber. Which is both a blaster and a lightsaber. What were the logistics of actually making that happen? You draw it, but do you question 'Is authentic enough to be Star Wars?' 'Cause we've always known lightsabers as a lightsaber.

The lightsaber itself as it exists is perfect. There'd be no reason to change it. So Kanan has a kind of classic lightsaber. For me, when challenged with looking at a character like Ezra I thought, 'There's no way I can believe this kid can fight one to one with any sort of really character we're gonna have.' You know, he's gonna get his butt kicked. So we had him build into his functioning saber. 'What if it was like a revolver saber where it could actually fire a bit' And that way he can keep people at range and only saber fight as the last resort.

And for [art director] Kilian Plunkett and I, we try to limit ourselves and say, 'If we only had the devices to make a saber as they did in the '70s as a prop, let's go down to the hardware store and see how we would build this thing.' And we instantly started looking at nail guns and staple guns. That if you look at a silhouette, it reminds you of those things and we kind of fashioned it. And I think what I like is that it looks like something that's from the era of the original trilogy in its shape. That 'It's a lightsaber' is a bit surprising more than 'It fires as a blaster' is a bit surprising. I think it's a function that, as Ezra gets better, would go away. But for now it's something he actually needs to survive.

Star Wars Rebels Ezra blaster

Was it something that was hard to get by the story group? 'Cause it is so different from everything else we've seen?

No, I don't think so. I mean, everybody seemed to be in favor of it. Any time you change something like a lightsaber, obviously it's a flash button. You know, you put a little guard on the lightsaber and suddenly it goes nuts for a while. But in a way that's good 'cause it means it's new. It means you hadn't thought of it and it challenges you. And as I've said before, we have to keep challenging the Star Wars viewer not just keep doing what we've always done. But add new and interesting twists of things. Even like lightsabers.

Darth Vader Star Wars REbels

Now you talked about this when introducing Darth Vader last season. He's almost too big of a thing for TV. He's THE guy in the trilogy. Yet, we see a lot of him in this trailer. How much is he in this second season? How much does he play in? We also see somebody else with a red lightsaber, so maybe he employs that person. So does Vader, you know, puppet master this season?

Well I think "puppet master" is a great way to look at it. I think as we showed with the Inquisitor in Season One, Vader definitely has his hunting dogs. His lackeys that he'll send in. But Vader, I mean, I guess I'll say since we're screening some episodes tonight, you'll see a decent bit of Vader right off the bat. He was brought in for a purpose in the beginning. Tarkin called up the Emperor, said, "Hey, my Star Destroyer just got blown up. I'm pissed." So obviously these Rebels have gained a little too much attention than they would probably like. And they're gonna face a great obstacle. And the encounter with Vader that they're gonna have is gonna have ramifications through the rest of the season.

Star Wars Rebels finale 9

I also love that, at the end of the first season, you finally saw these were rebels, but they hadn't met THE Rebels. And I think we sort of got the beginning of that. How much more is that storyline going to expand this year?

I would say that it's kind of woven throughout the season. The idea of what the rebellion is and how it's created is kind of something that has evolved as this series has gone on. I think a regular fan perception prior to the series would have been the Empire was created and here came a bunch of rebels. The truth is when the Empire took over at the end of the Clone Wars, it was seen as a good thing. It was seen as a necessary strength, right? A necessary control.

Now that they've moved beyond that and the Empire has become kind of tyrannical and oppressive, people are reconsidering that and small rebel groups, which we actually set up in Clone Wars in the Onderon Arc. They're loosely knit together. And they're trying to find their way against a much more heavily armored and powerful Empire. So we told the story from the point of view of this small group of people, with the personal, now we've drawn them into a larger group, which you start to experience in Season Two.

Very cool. Also noticed in the trailer some A-Wings and B-Wings, which you don't see too often. 

No! We jumped right to Jedi, right? With those ships.

Star Wars Rebels finale 5

Yeah, exactly.We're just so used to seeing X-Wings or Y-Wings. What was the purpose of that? 

Right. We felt that, I mean, it's not like they invented A-Wings and B-Wings for Return of the Jedi. They did in the production, but the Rebels would have had those all along. So we're trying to focus our cameras in some ways on other groups of Rebels. You know, the Empire, Imperial Fleet disburse in a vain attempt to engage us. You know? So we figured they have spread the Empire out a lot because they're small groups. So our particular small group happens to have A-Wings as their main fighter instead of X-Wings. X-Wings are like the P51 Mustang. Yeah, you gotta, you get those, you're lucky.

As these characters get more popular and more iconic, might we see them in a live-action movie?

I would never say never to that. I mean, now that Lucasfilm is so integrated in story from top to bottom in all different forms of media, we already have had our characters cross over into novels. We're gonna have our crossover into comic books. I would say it's entirely possible. And I would encourage it.

I've talked to the creators of the other films going on and, you know, I've always made it clear if you want somebody, just let me know. They can jump over there. I don't care. I'm all for it. Because I think it makes the experience for fans so much stronger. And what a moment it would be to see some of these animated characters up there live on the screen. It would be great for me too.

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 starts on June 20, and continues in the Fall.