Obi-Wan Kenobi is back. Over fifteen years since his last on-screen appearance in Star Wars, Ewan McGregor was brought back for the upcoming Disney+ limited series.
To even get to that point was quite the ride, as Star Wars fans endured several rumored projects about Kenobi before finally getting an official announcement in 2019, as McGregor took the stage alongside Lucasfilm President Kathy Kennedy at the D23 convention to announce it. A recent Entertainment Weekly feature on the upcoming series dove into the history of the development, explaining a bit more about what happened. The article says that McGregor’s public comments about being willing to return to the role caught the attention of Lucasfilm, who asked if he was serious about it – because they were interested in it too. He said that he was and a Kenobi film was put into development (set to be directed by Stephen Daldry). But when Solo: A Star Wars Story disappointed at the box office, it caused Lucasfilm to reconsider that direction, putting the Kenobi project in limbo – until Disney CEO Bob Iger made his big push for Disney’s streaming service.
And so, with the door opened up for new avenues of storytelling, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series was born.
In many ways, it sounds like the decision to bring back Obi-Wan Kenobi for this project was a very easy one for Kennedy and Lucasfilm executives. But what wasn’t easy was deciding whether to bring back another iconic character for that project as well: would Darth Vader be in it?
“The debate around whether we should do that or not carried on for quite some time,” Kennedy told EW. “Everybody within our creative team has strong opinions, and all of our fans have strong opinions. So when you realize that you’re under that level of scrutiny, certainly a story point like that is going to be scrutinized at a very high level. We talked about it constantly.”
Eventually, they decided that they would not only bring back Vader, but that they would also bring back Hayden Christensen to portray him (though they wouldn’t say whether James Earl Jones is back as well). They recruited Christensen, and having he and McGregor back together was thrilling for everyone involved, from the two stars to the others on set to fans hearing about it. And while it sounds like we’ll get some moments with the two of them as friends on screen too, the big build-up is with them as villains: Kenobi versus Vader, once more.
Information is fairly scarce on Vader’s role in this series, but writer Joby Harold said that he casts a shadow over the whole thing, while Christensen said that we’d see Vader being quite powerful. The trailer didn’t show anything with Vader, instead focusing on the Inquisitors who are on the hunt, but the ominous and iconic breathing of the Sith Lord as the title card appeared was another clear indication that the true villain of the show is lurking in the shadows. Presumably, the Inquisitors will get things rolling in the series and perhaps stumble upon Obi-Wan Kenobi, which will lure Darth Vader into the mix. We’ve known for a while that this is all heading toward another showdown between the former friends, and I can’t wait.
But I also appreciate the fact that Lucasfilm took this so seriously that they debated whether to bring Vader into this series at all. Initially, I was quite against the idea, thinking that the original trilogy precluded it from happening, but as I re-visited and re-thought the lines from the original trilogy that originally had me thinking that I realized that it could actually work well. But it’s a very tricky thing, and it must be handled with the utmost care. The fact that Kathy Kennedy and the other executives at the studio working on this show had such extensive conversations about it is reassuring. They know what they’re doing, and I’m confident they’ll have a way to handle this well and tell a compelling story that not only fits in with the rest of the saga but adds to it.