Things To Know Before You Watch the Star Wars Series

 

Andor, the long-awaited Star Wars series starring Diego Luna as his breakout Rogue One: A Star Wars Story character, arrives Wednesday on Disney+. The second of two shows announced for the service back in 2019, it took much longer to develop and produce than The Mandalorian. It is something different, while also still firmly a part of the Star Wars universe.

Viewers who aren’t plugged into the latest Star Wars news and rumors online may be going into the series with a different set of expectations, so we’ve put together a dossier of the five most important things to know about the show before you watch.


1. It Is a Prequel To Rogue One

Star Wars: Rogue One L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley ©Lucasfilm 2016

(Photo by ©Lucasfilm 2016)

Although Star Wars is known for doing prequel stories, one of the major points the cast and crew of Andor often reiterate is that it is set before Cassian Andor’s appearance in Rogue One — five years to be precise. Now, considering the events of Rogue One, it is clear why it has to be a prequel story — spoilers for those who have not seen the movie – Cassian dies alongside Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) on Scarif after they successfully transmit the Death Star plans to the Rebellion.

The definitive status of Cassian’s final days has been something Andor executive producer Tony Gilroy has been discussing ever since he took over development duties on the program. Last July, he told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that, ultimately, the fact people know how Cassian dies is not important to the series.

“We’re all going to die and we’re all in a prequel,” he said, adding that knowing how Cassian dies does not prevent people from enjoying Rogue One on repeat viewings. “If you love it, because you’re watching it again, you’re invested in it.”


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Diego Luna as Cassian Andor (Walt Disney Pictures)

(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures)

Of course, Cassian’s ultimate sacrifice is itself a starting point for the series.

“This guy gave his life for the galaxy, right? I mean, he consciously, soberly, without vanity or recognition, sacrificed himself. Who does that?” Gilroy asked in a Vanity Fair article earlier this year. So, as opposed to Star Wars tradition of putting its heroes in physical jeopardy, the series explores the why of Cassian’s choice.

And, as Gilroy told the audience at the Star Wars Celebration in May, that question will also lead up to the moment he shoots his informant at the beginning of Rogue One.


2. The First Season Spans One Year of Cassian’s Life

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The first 12-episode season will cover one year of Cassian’s life — the fifth year prior to his Rogue One choice, to be exact. “I’m going to challenge everything you think about Cassian,” Gilroy said at the TCA press conference. And as he told us at Celebration, “[When] you see Cassian in the five years before Rogue One, you wouldn’t believe he was capable of what he did [in the film].”

“It’s about him being really revolution-averse and cynical, and lost, and kind of a mess,” Gilroy said in the Vanity Fair article.

This particular year, five before the Battle of Yavin (or BBY as the Star Wars calendar would have it), is a big one for the Empire. As Gilroy explained, the Empire is expanding. Its ultimate weapon is nearing completion. And just as Cassian’s homeworld was destroyed, Gilroy said, “we see another planet that’s completely taken apart in a colonial kind of way.”

Considering the scope of the series, it is unclear if this world is one we’re yet to see or Ferrix, the planet Cassian appears to call home in the first three episodes. There, we meet Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) and Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) — Cassian’s mother — among others in a fully-realized Star Wars community. The sights and sounds of the town Cassian wanders will feel familiar to those who’ve grown accustomed to Tatooine settlements or spent time at the Black Spire Outposts in the California and Florida Disney parks. But a key difference will also become apparent, and that contrast may be the reason it becomes, as Gilroy teased, “radicalized.”


1664674927 65 5 Things To Know Before You Watch the Star Wars

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

As Shaw noted when we spoke to her recently, there are plenty of reasons for the “industrial community” on Ferrix to become radical. “Like everybody else outside the powerful Empire, they’re not well off. They just survive,” she said. Nevertheless, there is some symbiosis as the people mine resources and sell recovered systems from older ships back to the Empire.

Of Bix, Arjona told reporters in August that she is “bold, yet really deep inside, she’s incredibly loyal and compassionate and cares a little too much for the people around her.” At the D23 Expo in September, she added that her loyalty to Cassian may also have an aspect of “broken trust” to it.

Shaw, meanwhile, told us Maarva is “a very old, very sick person” when viewers first meet her in the series, but it will soon come into focus what a “strange pair” she and Cassian really are.


3. Cassian Is Not the Only Focus

Genevieve O'Reilly in ANDOR

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Although Cassian takes up the greater part of the screen time across the first three episodes, he is not the only character viewers will become familiar with. In terms of established characters, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) provides not only a link to the mainline Skywalker saga and the animated Star Wars Rebels, but also a vital look into politics on the galactic capital–world, Coruscant. Beyond that, Mon Mothma’s part in the program represents a major chance to further develop her as a character. At a press conference in August, O’Reilly mentioned “each time we’ve met her, we’ve met this kind of composed, regal, dignified woman,” but Andor offers a “story [that] is so very different … she is still that very dignified senator, but for the first time, we get to see the woman behind the role. We get to see a private face of Mon Mothma.”

As Gilroy told Vanity Fair, “Her story will run parallel to the title character, whom we know will eventually become one of her key agents,” but he subsequently told fans at Celebration that it might be “some time” before the two characters actually cross paths.

Also, as teased in the various trailers, Forest Whitaker will return as Saw Gerrera, another character whose life ended in Rogue One. Of course, thanks to appearances in Rebels, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order video game, we know he is a particularly active Rebel whose tactics generally seem on the outs with the emerging structure of the Alliance. Perhaps this appearance will cement why the organization and he remain at odds.


Kyle Soller and Diego Luna in Andor season 1

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Another character we expect to become important is Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), a security officer in the employ of the business concern near Ferrix. One of the big questions we expect viewers to ask is whether or not he is a true believer in the cause or a career-minded opportunist. The Empire and its adjuncts seem to feature both types in equal numbers, and as Soller suggested in August, he could be in for some soul searching.

“[He has] a big question mark over him,” the actor said. “He could go either way.  He could go into the Empire.  He could go into the Rebel Alliance.  And he’s got a lot of gray area.”

The question of loyalty is something we can also ask of Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), a member of the Imperial Security Bureau primed to be a major thorn in Cassian’s side. Although, from our earlier glimpses of her, we’re more interested in her being a window into the Empire’s security apparatus. Gough herself noted the ISB is a “male-dominated world” during a press conference last month, but Dedra is “incredibly ambitious and meticulous” in her aims to raise through the Bureau’s ranks.

“She sees [what others] are missing [and] what is happening,” she added.


Denise Gough in Andor season 1

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Of the two antagonists, Gilroy said, “They’re regular people. They go to work. They compete at work. They are careerists. They are insecure. They are vulnerable. They are complicated. And they’re a huge part of our show.”

Luna added, “It is quite unique to have the chance to visit this universe with this amount of attention to detail and with this intimacy.”

And though it may seem strange to devote time and care to the bad guys, Gilroy told Rotten Tomatoes during Star Wars Celebration, “I treat [all my characters] the same.” He has to love them even if they fall to dark side, adding, “if you’re going to write fifteen-hundred pages or 24 episodes of a show, you better have some really important people on the [opposing side].” He also said it is “pretty complicated to be in the Empire.”


4. It Was Shot Without “The Volume”

Diego Luna in ANDOR

(Photo by Des Willie / Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The Star Wars series on Disney+ have become famous for their use of a technology Lucasfilm calls “StageCraft,” but is known elsewhere as The Volume. It is, essentially, a giant wrap-around television which allows an empty soundstage or partially built set to become a full Star Wars environment. This generally creates a convincing sense of Star Wars scope and makes Star Wars television a more financially feasible proposition.

So, naturally enough, Gilroy did not use it for Andor. Although, he insists the choice was down to location and the availability of the StageCraft tech.

“We were making our show in London [and there was no Volume available],” he explained at the TCA press conference in July. “The technology is extraordinary. My God, it’s going to become a larger and larger force in all filmmaking.”

Another concern: the workflow did not allow the production to jump between locations and a Volume stage.

“Believe me, there are some things we wish we could’ve done on the Volume and they might’ve been simpler [to film],” he said.


Raymond Anum, Diego Luna, and Ian Whyte in ANDOR season 1

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

And though it may be a practical concern, it also leads to a show that maintains the slightly darker Star Wars feel of Rogue One.

“The width and breadth and ambition, visual ambition and traveling ambition of the show is huge,” Gilroy added. “I mean, we have 211 speaking parts.”

Shaw also appreciated having a fully-realized set to interact with: “[It] was just stupendous that it was so real and so entirely textured — strange plants that get watered very rarely under a strange window that is made out of a bit of a spaceship against walls that are made out of metal and lots of screws and a door that has very modern opening, but actually vaguely works. And outside, there are gullies and gutters and chutes and water spouts all made from all metal.”

Although she mentioned spending some time on a green-screen stage, she said it was “very inspiring to be around” the sets.


5. K-2SO Awaits the Rest of the Story

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, l-r: Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk (as K-2SO)

(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Lucasfilm Ltd. /Courtesy Everett Collection)

While the first season expands on Cassian’s life five years before its end, the second season will pick up the pace. Gilroy said at Celebration that season 2 will cover the final four years of his life, but, as he later explained to reporters in July, “every three episodes will move one year closer [to Rogue One].”

In terms of real-world practicality, Gilroy mentioned this plotting occurred because the program’s directors shoot in three-episode blocks. Also, there is a narratively satisfying resonance in every three episodes being a mini-story onto itself. Granted, it remains to be seen if Andor’s first year will use a similar structure.

The change in pace also means fans of Rogue One robot K-2SO, pictured above and voiced by Alan Tudyk, will have to wait to discover how and when he linked up with Cassian.

“It’s a story that, ultimately, we have to [tell] and we’re really are eager to tell, and we have a very interesting way, we think, to do it.” Gilroy teased.


Rogue One, The Death Star

(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Lucasfilm Ltd. /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Also, if we can speculate, it is possible the second season may see guest appearances from other established Star Wars characters like Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and live-action versions of the Rebels characters (who are starting to be cast thanks to the in-production Ahsoka series).

Gilroy seems to like his corner of the Star Wars galaxy to himself, but these five years of Cassian’s life coincide with the Rebellion ramping up into a force capable of attacking Scarif in Rogue One and the Death Star in the original Star Wars. So, it may yet prove to be a galaxy of star cameos for Cassian Andor.

Andor: Season 1
(2022)
premieres with its first three episodes on Wednesday, September 21 on Disney+.