Forest Whitaker’s a familiar Star Wars character hiding in plain sight in ‘Rogue One’

06.22.16 9 months ago

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In the past, I”ve been less than sensitive to the feelings of fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. When they learned that these books that were so important to them for over 20 years had just been wiped away completely, it must have hurt, especially because those fans are the ones who carried the torch at a time when Star Wars wasn”t considered an omnipresent pop culture force. There”s some degree of ownership those fans and frustration feel for these things they love, and those feelings were dismissed in favor of something new, something they may not love in the same way.

Many years ago, I got as close as I suspect I”ll ever get to working on a Star Wars project when my writing partner and I got into the room with the development guys behind the proposed live-action Star Wars series. It was a good meeting, but we never heard back from them, and at least part of the reason was because of the reporting I”d done on the prequels when I was at Ain”t It Cool News. When they described their vision of the show, it sounded terrific, and knowing they have a stack of scripts locked in a vault somewhere for this show drives me crazy.

Now that Lucasfilm has a story group that is responsible for making sure the entire universe of stories, whether told in film, TV, or in print, works as a coherent overall story, with nothing overtly contradicting anything else, they have an opportunity to introduce characters at various points in their lives and they know they can go either backwards or forwards in time to tell other stories with those same characters. The big reveal this morning that Forest Whitaker is playing Saw Gerrera sent fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars into overdrive. Gerrera made four appearances on SW: TCW, and it was a particularly memorable storyline. At that point, he was a young man who was part of an early version of the rebellion. He lived with his family on Onderon, and they were determined to hold off the Separatists from taking over their planet. Saw was a ferocious freedom fighter, and part of what made the episodes important is how clearly Saw”s work was a precursor to the more organized Rebellion.

Towards the end of that arc of episodes, Saw made a choice that cost his sister Steela her life, and considering his one line of dialogue in the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer, it”s safe to say that incident left a real mark on him as a human being. “If you continue to fight, what will you become?” is a hard question to ask someone who is devoted to a cause, and I”m excited to see how he”s introduced into this story. It”s exciting because this is one of the first major places where we”ve seen them bring a character from the animated shows into live-action, and that matters because of one specific character. If Saw Gerrera can show up in a film, then so can Ahsoka Tano, and that would be a huge moment for anyone who knows her from The Clone Wars and, more recently, Star Wars: Rebels. There is no greater question for me in the world of Star Wars than that concerning the ultimate fate of Ahsoka. She is, in my opinion, the best new character added to Star Wars since the original trilogy.

The photo that was released today through Entertainment Weekly features a grizzled Whitaker with a full head of hair, but that doesn”t match some of the other footage we”ve seen of him as the character. I”m curious to see what his role is here, but I doubt Lucasfilm would bring him back and then just waste the character completely.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters December 16, 2016.

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