At Star Wars Celebration, Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni, Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren), and Sam Witwer (Darth Maul and the Emperor), held a press conference. Questions ranged from the direction of the series to the individual motivations of characters. Here’s some of the things we learned.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn has always been considered for the role as a villain in the show, but the producers of Star Wars Rebels wanted to make sure they introduced him at the right time. The producers are very conscious of falling into the trap of overusing him on a weekly show because of his popularity. If the rebels are seen to constantly escape Thrawn’s schemes, it diminishes him as a threat because Thrawn is so smart and should be able to outmaneuver the heroes.
The producers run into similar problems with using Darth Vader. If Vader goes up against the Ghost crew all the time, they will effectively be crushed very swiftly. To counter Vader and the threat he posed to the main characters, the producers inserted Ahsoka Tano as a balance. Thrawn in the coming season has no balance in that regard, and going up against the Ghost crew is going to be hazardous for the heroes on a military and strategic level.
Asked about whether or not Rebels would start referencing events from Rogue One, Filoni stated that there was always a chance and that it didn’t have to be a big continuity reference.
Tiya Sircar was given more notice about Sabine Wren‘s upcoming storylines from Dave Filoni than in past seasons; sometimes she would only learn of Sabine’s past just before recording the episode. Dave gave Tiya more of a heads-up for this season to give her a better understanding of the storylines to come which led to a deeper understanding of who Sabine is.
With the changes that the Ghost crew is going through, most noticeably Kanan and Ezra, Sabine will find herself thrust into more of a leadership position which, while she is happy to assume it, comes with a level of pressure and responsibility that she has not encountered before.
Asked about the size of Darth Maul‘s role in Rebels Season 3, Sam Witwer stated that Maul cannot be overused or it isn’t special. In that regard, he is like Vader but to a lesser degree. If Maul were to focus his efforts on tracking down the Ghost crew and converting Ezra, it would be a disaster for the rebels.
Maul is constantly evolving with new elements added to his personality with every episode. Storytelling wise, the character is locked into loop, and can’t see beyond the repetitiveness of his motivations. He rises to power constantly and is knocked back down every time. Maul is the epitome of the mantra that madness is the state of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
As Maul evolves, he gains a different perspective as time passes on the show, becoming more of an individual than a single minded weapon of revenge. At his core, though, he is still damaged and misguided.
Even though the Thrawn reveal was the major takeaway from the trailer, Wedge Antilles was also introduced into Rebels but his arrival was heralded with much less fanfare. Filoni stated that as the series gets close to the films, elements from A New Hope will start appearing to indicate the wider, growing rebellion. They chose not to use Biggs Darklighter as that would bring the series too close to touching on Luke Skywalker’s timeline. Sam Witwer pointed out that rendering Biggs’ mustache was too expensive for a weekly series (it isn’t), but a novel focusing on his facial hair origins was forthcoming (it’s not).
Asked about more Inquisitors showing up, Filoni pointed out that Force-users in the galaxy by the time of A New Hope were incredibly rare. As Tarkin says “their fire has gone out of the galaxy.” In terms of continuity it is felt that it is wrong to have this group of overt Force-wielders still hanging around by the time of A New Hope. And with a big dark side presence in the show typified by Darth Maul, their presence isn’t as needed. Asked about the origins of the Inquisitors and who they are, Filoni said we would not be finding out any time soon.
For the upcoming episodes, the main character designs were overhauled to show the progression of time between the end of Season 2 and the start of Season 3. Ezra gets a new haircut, Sabine a new hair color, etc. Dave Filoni’s initial sketches of Kanan portrayed him as “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski.”
While the characters undergo a progression to move them close in design to rebels seen in A New Hope, so did the vehicles. The introduction of A-wings and B-wings shows a clear progression of getting closer to the timeline of the films.
Asked about the two-seater A-wing, Dave Filoni explains that it came about simply for story purposes. He needed a ship that could transport two people to a planet so had the design team alter an existing model rather than design a new ship. Naming the ship the A-wing Trainer, Sam Witwer interjected and revealed that the majority of starfighters described in West End Games‘ sourcebooks had two-seater trainer variants. While Dave insisted it was a production necessity and he would still have designed it that way, he was relieved there was a precedent for the design.
As Season 3 progresses, vehicles and equipment will appear that tie the series closer to the films, such as Y-wings which are an intermediate design between those featured in The Clone Wars and those introduced in A New Hope.
In Season 3, the Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker is providing the voice of the Bendu, a mysterious Force-user who is neither Jedi or Sith but something in-between. As Filoni explains it, the Force is meant to exist beyond the concept of the Jedi and Sith. They are just two ways of interacting with the Force, but there are many other ways to touch it. The intention is for the Bendu to feel like character from an ancient time.
Bendu, along with the words Ashla and Bogan (referring to the light and dark side of the Force respectively), are well known to Star Wars fans. Filoni stated that Ashla was the original name given to Ahsoka Tano, but was changed at George Lucas’ suggestion.