A surprise addition to Andor‘s cast was Andy Serkis, whose appearance in the series was largely unknown until he appeared in episode 8 as the day shift manager for level 5 at the Imperial prison on Narkina 5, named Kino Loy.
While initially appearing as a gruff leader just doing his job – and ensuring that the floor does theirs – while he waits to be released in less than a year. Of course, as the arc goes on Loy comes to realize that no one is getting released and, with the encouragement of Cassian Andor, becomes the leader of a prison break.
We know what got Cassian into the prison – simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being unjustly sentenced by an unjust Empire – but we don’t know how the others got there. But as actors typically do, Andy Serkis came up with his own backstory for how Kino got there, which helped shape his performance of the character. He told Entertainment Weekly that he viewed Kino as a champion for workers’ rights, and that the Empire didn’t like it:
“I wanted to create a backstory for him. I supposed that he was a man — previously, before he was incarcerated — who actually really cared about his workforce. He was probably a shop steward or a foreman who was used to running factory lines, but he was put in prison for no reason other than that he was perhaps outspoken about workers’ rights, for instance. Then he finds himself in this situation where he’s wrongly imprisoned and has no change of getting out, and he discovers that if he just keeps his head down and doesn’t question anything, he will be released. He believes that he will be released, and he just focuses on that. I thought there was something inherently sad about that. He’s been taken away from his family. He doesn’t think about anything to do with rebelling. Then suddenly this force walks in, and Cassian Andor tries to muck the whole thing up.”
In a similar interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Serkis mentioned that for “vocally standing up for workers’ rights” he was viewed as unpatriotic and a troublemaker. That’s why he wound up in this prison. But he also elaborated on why it matters, and why it shaped the way he portrayed the character. When we meet him, Kino just focuses on doing his job and getting released one day, but Serkis views his arc as coming to once again act for the good of others – just like he used to when standing up for the rights of other workers. Asked about the tragic reveal that Kino can’t swim, Serkis responded:
“Yeah, absolutely. And that’s exactly why I wanted him to have been from a place of integrity prior to being in prison, and that the Empire — in all its cruelty and desensitization and its way of holding people down and divide and rule — has just knocked it out of him. But then in [episode 10], he finds that desire to act on behalf of others again, to serve others, to enable others to find their freedom, even though he knows ultimately it’s not going to happen for him. So it really was a wonderful arc. It was a wonderful journey that I was able to go on with all that.”
None of that is considered canon yet, but it wouldn’t be the first time that an actor’s thoughts about a character’s backstory is, if that’s the route that Lucasfilm decides to go. Personally, I think it would be a fitting story for the character: he’s a worker who advocates for others, and because of that he winds up working in an Imperial prison, a captive of an Empire that doesn’t care about anyone. Having seen where that’s all gotten him, Kino decides to just put his head down and do his job, presumably like so many he had previously been advocating for, longing for the day when he’d be released to his family again. Cassian, however, helps him realize the importance of standing up to oppression and fighting for others once more – even at the cost of his own life.
It’s a powerful story about a powerful character, and Andy Serkis’s performance of Kino Loy is one that will be long remembered.