So let’s get something straight about Diego Luna: my goodness, he loves playing Cassian Andor. Just talking to him, he just seems so excited to be returning to the role he originated six years ago in Rogue One. (And it’s, somehow, been six years since Rogue One came out.) Back in 2016 I had met Luna at the Disney offices here in New York City and, back then, he was almost bouncing off the walls with excitement. So, by this point I had assumed maybe this would be old hat for him and, now doing press for the new series, maybe he’d be going through the motions. I am happy to report, no, he is not going through any motions. He is still almost bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. In fact, the only thing he doesn’t seem to totally like about Andor (streaming on Disney+ starting September 21st) is the fact it’s called Andor, since so many other characters are also involved and it delves into the beginning the the Rebel Alliance.
The first season of Andor takes place roughly five years before the events in Rogue One. When we meet Cassian, he’s not the dashing spy from the Rebel Alliance we met in Rogue One. He’s, well, kind of a fuck up. And he’s just got himself into some local trouble that is about to have bigger repercussions than he even imagined. The first couple of episodes we meet the people close to Cassian and they all basically tell him he’s a loser. Then a mysterious man (played by Stellan Skarsgård) shows up looking for Cassian because he sees potential in the young troublemaker and has an offer for Cassian that might lead to bigger and better things.
At the time I spoke to Luna I had seen four episodes of Andor. It’s a very different vibe than Rogue One. In that movie, because of the director situation, we had elements from Gareth Edwards and we had elements from Tony Gilroy that meshed into kind of a happy accident of a movie that worked. With Andor, this is completely Gilroy’s vision (it’s pretty cool we are getting 24 episodes of a Star Wars series from the director of Michael Clayton) from beginning to end that takes its time to set up where, exactly, this is all going. And as Luna explains, if Gilroy puts something in this series, you better believe it’s there for a reason.
Also, will Luna finally get his wish that Cassian Andor meets Jabba the Hutt? Well … Luna clarifies he doesn’t want Cassian to meet Jabba, he wants to meet Jabba.
I will say, after Rogue One, I was not expecting to see Cassian again.
It is exciting because, also, it’s not just about seeing Cassian again but having the chance to work with an amazing team and to even challenge ourselves in a more, ambitious, probably, in the good way of that word. In a more ambitious journey than the one we took on Rogue One, but it was ambitious already.
Well, it is ambitious. I’ve seen four episodes and we are going to get 24 episodes over two seasons and, from a live-action standpoint, between this and Rogue One, we are, I’m pretty sure, going to spend more time with Cassian Andor than any other Star Wars character. Even more than characters like Luke…
I never even thought of it like that.
It’s true though.
Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. And I mean, I hate that you brought it up because now I’m going to be thinking about it. But it’s true. And I’ll tell you what I feel. I mean, to be honest, if you’ve seen four episodes, you understand that it is quite unfair that the show is called Andor because it is about many characters.
It is, yes.
It is long format to get the chance to go deep into the story of all these people. And I believe we are so lucky to have Tony Gilroy writing this, because his writing is so specific. It’s so complex and so real. There’s not a single moment that happens because someone said like, “Oh, I like the grass. Let’s have that cartoon walking in the grass.” No. No. No. It’s grass because of something. There is an answer for every question in his writing and that, specificity, is beautiful. And this long format allows you to go deep into that specificity. It can still be the big action, whatever, action and adventure piece. And, at the same time, take time for the very intimate stuff that makes characters real. And if that’s going to take longer, well, I’m sorry: yes, it might take longer.
I’m curious what the difference is filming Rogue One and filming this series. Because in Rogue One you have Gareth Edwards’s vision and then Tony comes in later, it’s an interesting mashup because Tony and Gareth are very different filmmakers. But Andor seems like one person’s vision of what this story should be from the very first moment. And so I’m curious what the difference is for you between filming Rogue One and Andor.
No, it is very different. It is very different. This is a show that I received the call first, asking would you be interested in exploring this opportunity and this idea? And I said yes. And then the day I had the chat with Tony Gilroy on, in general, he taught me what he was envisioning and what he was thinking of and the possibilities. And when I listened to that I was like: that is a show I would like to make sure it gets done. Not just because I am the actor playing Cassian or because I did Rogue One, but because of the story you just taught me. It’s important that it matters as it is, by itself, the story. It happens to be part of this universe, which is amazing. It happens to be part of something that started with Rogue One. But by itself, it means so much. It’s a story about how someone transitions from being lost – in a very selfish moment of his life; in a very cynical moment – where he doesn’t know what he’s capable of and how life and the journey kind of transforms, or helps transform, this person into someone that feels useful. For a cost. I think that it’s a beautiful story to tell by itself.
I think that is something Tony brought from beginning to end this time that I really connected with. And that kind of everyone joined already knowing what the journey was going to be like. And I think we owe that freedom to Rogue One and what happened with Rogue One. Even though Rogue One was a very different process, we owe the freedom we have today to what that film was and what that film generated.
Last time we spoke, you gave a really interesting quote about Cassian in Rogue One. You said, “He’s been fighting all his life and obviously coming from a traumatic experience that makes him decide to go all the way and put his life aside and just fight for the cause.” Okay, how did you know that in 2016? Did you come up with that backstory yourself? Or did Tony tell you? Because that’s very similar to what I just saw in these four episodes.
Well, exactly. That is when I go like, “Shit. This has to happen.” When Tony explains to me the story he wants to tell, I go, “Well, that is really close. Really, really, really close to the story I had in my head when I was performing before.”
Okay, so that was your story.
Obviously, back then, it was like a back story that we would create in order to go to set and know what logic is behind the decisions the character is making. And so we decide many things on the process and then yourself, as an actor, you have to do a lot of work. So I created a whole back story that no one will know. Ever. Unless they get me very drunk and I end up telling it, but I promise myself not to tell anyone. But I know a story.
I created a backstory to the character in order to be able to play it. I do that with every role I play. Every answer that’s not in the script, you have to answer it yourself and that’s my job. But when Tony pitched me the story here, there’s a lot of, in essence, it’s kind of like the same struggle. And I tell you why, because I think our references are very real. Our references are very close to the reality we live in. And I think Star Wars has always been a tool for that.
A tool for a voice or a perspective to make comments on reality. That’s the beauty of science fiction. Yes, you can do something that is entertaining and exciting, is everything you are looking for. And, at the same time, you can be saying or raising a reflection that matters to you. Because when you start saying this happens in a galaxy far, far away, you have permission to say things that probably you want … if it wasn’t that way.
Last time we spoke, you said on Rogue One, when you first saw someone in the Darth Vader costume, you said, “Holy shit.” Because all these memories of your childhood came back. Did that happen at any moment during this series?
It happens. I would tell you, when we’re shooting, it happens every week or every day. It’s insane. It’s insane because it’s very little stuff. Suddenly you look at something and it connects with your childhood, or with a dream, or with a moment of one of the films that has been there. It’s been present forever. But I would tell you one thing that I, on this series, finally, I managed to switch from the little kid enjoying the ride to the actor that has to deliver. It was easier for me to switch from one to the other than in Rogue One.
I see. That makes sense.
Also, you know why? Because I was part of the process from scratch. So I was there talking to the designers, seeing everything when it was a sketch. Seeing the costumes and the props and the scenarios when they were a sketch. In Rogue One, I was dropped into something that was already happening. And here, I’ve been able to digest the process since I’ve been part from the beginning.
Well, we are all rooting for you to finally meet Jabba in this series. I hope that happens.
I don’t want Cassian to do it!
Oh, you want to do it.
I said I want to do it!
Because of the curiosity I have. Don’t blame Cassian!
‘Andor’ begins streaming via Disney+ on September 21st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.