Who Is Saw Gerrera, Forest Whitaker's 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Character?

Yesterday, a bunch of new info about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrived online, revealing (and confirming) a great deal about the upcoming spin-off film's cast of characters. However, special attention was paid to the Rebel operative played by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and rightfully so – this isn't the first time this particular character has had a role to play in the larger Star Wars saga.

It turns out that Whitaker is playing Saw Gerrera, a Rebel extremist who was first introduced in the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as a much younger man. This is the first piece of hard evidence that Lucasfilm was serious about strengthening the ties between the new movies and the various other pieces of Star Wars media floating about. You probably don't need to know the entire history of Mr. Gerrera to appreciate whatever he does in Rogue One, but here's everything we've gathered so far.

Initial Appearances

Saw Gerrera was first introduced in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode "A War on Two Fronts," where he was a resistance soldier fighting against Separatist forces on the planet Onderon. Their insurgency against the occupying Droid armies was unsuccessful until the Republic sent Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ashoka Tano, and Captain Rex to advise and train Gerrera and his fellow soldiers. Ultimately, the resistance took control of their planet from the Separatists, but Saw's sister, Steela, was killed in the process. This particular arc lasted four episodes and if you'd like to watch everything and pick through the finer details, the complete series is currently streaming on Netflix.

Other Appearances

In retrospect, some of the more dedicated Star Wars fans may have seen Saw's emergence as a character watch coming. After all, he's mentioned in Claudia Gray's (very good) novel Star Wars: Bloodline, a storyline that takes place a few decades after the events of Return of the Jedi. It seems that Saw Gerrera and his "Partisans" still cast a shadow over memories of the Rebel Alliance, with one of Senator Leia Organa's rivals citing the "terrorist tactics" that the more extreme cells utilized in their war against the empire. It seems that Anakin and the rest of the Clone Wars cast taught Saw a little too well and he started to use his new skills against them in a new war...

A Different Kind of Rebel

As his future reputation implies, Saw seems to exist on the other end of the spectrum from the likes of Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, two Rebel leaders who specialize in diplomacy, espionage, and more straightforward tactics to win the day. Saw's actions sound like they may be, well, a little more morally questionable. Speaking with EW, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy explained:

Consider him kind of a battered veteran who leads a band of Rebel extremists. He's on the fringe of the Rebel Alliance. Even [they] are a little concerned about him.

She also adds that he is "off on his own" and does not consider himself to be a member of the core group led by Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso and Diego Luna's Cassian Andor. It also appears that the years have not been kind to him, as the EW article throws around words like "shellshocked" and "battle-hardened." The armor he's seen wearing in the trailer also doesn't look like a fashion choice – it looks like something that is helping to keep him alive.

Naturally, the threat of the Death Star is what forces Saw's more extremist division of the Rebels to finally unite with the moderates, leading the united front seen in the original trilogy.


In a new episode of the Star Wars Show (via Star Wars Underworld), Lucasfilm story group writer Pablo Hidalgo explained how a character with origins in an animated show ended up being plucked out and inserted a major movie:

Yeah the way that came about is as the Rogue One story started to gel, the filmmakers realised they needed a Rebel extremist-type character and we already had one in Saw. They took that character, ran with it and as they started developing the script they realised there was only one person they wanted to play this character and that was Forest Whitaker.

Hidalgo also explained that Saw was originally created by George Lucas for Star Wars: Underworld, the live-action TV series that never came to fruition:

Saw's been kicking around for a while. A lot of people know him from The Clone Wars, but he actually started off before that. George Lucas had him in mind for his live-action TV series that was in development, which ultimately never happened, but he found a place to put Saw in the story from The Clone Wars.

Final Thoughts

I'm of the opinion that you really can't go wrong with casting Forest Whitaker in just about anything, as he has a habit of being a bright spot in any movie that utilizes his services (even the bad ones). So the thought of Whitaker playing a zealous Rebel who isn't afraid to break a few eggs in his never-ending personal war against oppression is exciting stuff. That's an angle we've yet to see explored in a Star Wars movie – not every Rebel is going to be a noble hero who plays by the rules. The direct ties to the existing canon are a nice bonus for the already initiated hardcore fans. As long as the movie lays everything out on screen and doesn't require anyone to actually watch The Clone Wars to understand his deal, this is exactly how Lucasfilm can build stronger ties throughout the new canon.