Obi-Wan Kenobi launches on Disney Plus today with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen returning to the world of Star Wars for the first time in 17 years.
Set 10 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, where Obi-Wan faced his greatest defeat – the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader – the character returns in a new limited six-part limited series.
Ahead of Obi-Wan Kenobi's debut, T3 spoke to director Deborah Chow – who previously worked on The Mandalorian – about the new series, the differences between working on the two shows and what it was like being the first female in history to direct Star Wars.
Please note this interview has been edited for clarity.
T3: Can you tell me what it was like to have Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen on set together for the first time since 2005?
Deborah Chow: It felt very special. You know, these are characters that have been with us for so long. Also, they did it so long ago in the prequels and were these characters. But then they’ve lived with these characters for so long. So they also have a relationship between the two of them. So it felt very special and quite emotional.
T3: Were there any particular moments that stood out?
DC: There are a million moments. I can’t really get into them without spoiling too much. But, yes, there are definitely a lot of special moments. I think the first time Ewan came to set – I think it was a camera test, just dressed up again as the character – he just fell into the role so seamlessly. And for me, it was just a real moment of going, “Oh, this is Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is the show".
T3: Without giving away too much, do you have a favourite episode of the series and why?
DC: You know, it’s really different. All the episodes are quite different. I don’t really have a particular favourite. I think I have love for all of them, honestly. They’re all very different and very interesting to me.
T3: Obi-Wan Kenobi is confirmed as a limited six-episode series. Do you think there’s more story to be told than what happens in the series?
DC: Well, we definitely did conceive of this as a limited series – you know, beginning, middle, and end. One big series [and] done. It was never conceived of as a series to go on. That said, you never say never. Who knows? You know, he’s obviously got another 10 years out there before A New Hope. So I don’t know. You know, we’ll see what the future holds.
T3: Would you personally be interested in doing a series 2? Or do you think it’s just better left as a one-off?
DC: I don’t know. Right now, I need to finish series 1 [laughs]. So, yeah, I think the only thing I’m thinking about right now is going on vacation.
T3: What do you think about Liam Neeson’s comments about being interested in reprising the role of Qui-Gon Jinn but not on television? Effectively confirming he’s not in Obi-Wan Kenobi.
DC: I did not. I didn’t even actually know he’d made those comments. So I’m sorry, I’m a little bit out of the loop on this one...
T3: Did you have any conversations with the actor about bringing him back?
DC: That was not a conversation with me, for sure, no.
T3: Can you tell me what was the biggest difference between shooting The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi?
DC: You know, I think there were a number of differences. I think one of the biggest differences with The Mandalorian is that we were in a different time period, and we were with a lot of new characters. So there was a lot more sort of freedom and we didn’t have the legacy aspect as much.
So I think the biggest challenge, and the thing that was honestly also very exciting about this project, is that it is legacy characters. So we’re right in the middle of the two trilogies. So there’s a lot more responsibility and a lot more weight that came with it.
T3: Is there anything you can say about the effects in Obi-Wan Kenobi and the differences between the movies and shows? For instance, the original trilogy and The Mandalorian to a lesser extent is known for more practical effects, as opposed to the prequels which were more CGI-heavy?
DC: One thing that is really interesting for me, at least, is that in the prequels when George [Lucas] was doing them, he was obviously pushing digital technology. And he was right at the advent of that. He used it to do sort of a different form of storytelling with the prequels. And for me, it feels like we’re sort of continuing that tradition by using StageCraft and The Volume. It’s been a really exciting creative tool to use... and we used it on Kenobi to great effect.
T3: Amid the numerous reports and rumours surrounding an Obi-Wan movie/series starting and stopping for years, do you think it would have been possible without Disney Plus?
DC: It’s a good question. I don’t know. You know, there was obviously a fair amount of development on this project. I came in and inherited this project at a certain point. So there had been different iterations before I came on board. But for me, honestly, I think the streaming model and “limited series” gave us the opportunity to do something that we really couldn’t have done in the future, which is to do a much more character-based story and to take more time with it – to be able to have more time for character moments.
T3: Do you know how much, if any, of the scripts were brought along to your Obi-Wan Kenobi series? Or was this completely an overhaul?
DC: It was a mixture. There was a lot of development done on it. You know, you’re always looking for the best ideas. It was sort of an ebb and flow with the creative ideas. In a large part, we were all starting at the same place, because George had defined that and we had the character’s starting place in Revenge Of The Sith. So it was telling this story, and moving forward. It was definitely a collaboration on many fronts to get there.
T3: You made history in 2019 for directing The Mandalorian episode “The Sin” as the first female director on a Star Wars live-action project. Why do you think this took 42 years to happen and what did it mean to you personally?
Oh, that’s a question not for me [laughs]. I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s just Lucasfilm, honestly. It’s a bit of a systemic problem. You could ask that, pretty much, of the entire film industry. Yeah.
It was a huge honour. Honestly, when I was doing it – and I know it might sound a bit naïve – but I didn’t actually realise it until I was about halfway through. I completely underestimated how fan response would be. I honestly was just focused on the work and doing the show. I wasn’t really thinking about it too much. In retrospect, it’s a tremendous honour.
Patti Jenkins is next set to direct a Star Wars movie with Rogue Squadron. Are there any other female directors you’d like to see helm a Star Wars project?
I think there’s a number and there are certainly people doing it, obviously, already on The Mandalorian. Like, Bryce [Dallas Howard] is fantastic. There’s a number of amazing female directors out there. Steph Green did some great stuff on Boba Fett. For me, it’s just about opportunity, and about just giving people the opportunity to do it. But I think there are so many strong directors out there right now, across the board.
I’d love to see Bryce do more. She’s obviously continuing on. Patti will obviously be really interesting to see.
Obi-Wan Kenobi stars Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen with Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell and Benny Safdie all set to appear throughout the series.
The first two episodes are available to stream on Disney Plus now with the remaining four rolling out weekly.