If Lucasfilm was looking for an exuberant reaction to the news that Jon Favreau would be writing and executive producing a new live-action TV series set in the “Star Wars” universe, picking International Women’s Day to announce it was perhaps not a great choice.
Per the official announcement, Favreau will be developing the series for Disney’s new “direct-to-consumer platform” — aka Disney’s own personal version of Netflix, which it has been developing for launch in 2019.
Favreau’s hiring isn’t too much of a surprise, given his long history of working on Disney-related projects, and he certainly has the relevant experience to take on a project of this scale. But the fact that Disney and Lucasfilm have yet to give a non-white man the opportunity to spearhead a “Star Wars” project on any sort of creative level cannot be ignored.
So, in the official announcement, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy didn’t ignore it: “This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base,” she said as part of her statement. Theoretically, this is a promise that people from marginalized demographics will not only be brought into the “Star Wars” fold, but given some support to grow as a part of the franchise.
It’s an attitude that matches up perfectly with Kennedy’s previous comments about how “We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do ‘Star Wars,’ they’re set up for success,” as she once said, later clarifying that she meant they should have directing experience on a comparable scale first.
It’s worth noting that at that time, Kennedy also said that Lucasfilm had every intention of hiring a woman to one day direct a “Star Wars” film. She made those comments in 2016. Since then, new trilogies led by Rian Johnson and David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been announced. As Variety’s Maureen Ryan recently observed, 96 percent of the “Star Wars” film universe was written and directed by white men.
Favreau has never directed a film or an episode of television written by a woman (the only possible exception is that Irene Mecchi, credited as one of the writers on the original animated “The Lion King,” has a “characters by” credit on the upcoming live-action remake). However, recent shows he’s executive produced (Fox’s “The Orville” and NBC’s “Revolution”) have shown relatively decent representation for both writers and directors — which is to say, it wasn’t exclusively white men working behind the camera.
It’s great that Kennedy and Lucasfilm are promising that a diverse team will be involved with the new series. But change comes from the top, and as the Color of Change report noted last year, “white showrunners tend to exclude Black writers, with 69 percent of white showrunner shows having no Black writers at all.”
Standard operating procedure in Hollywood for far too long has been that those in charge tend to hire who they’re most comfortable working with. That’s more than evident in the choice to hire Favreau, but now it’s up to Favreau to push beyond SOP and bring together an exciting team that reflects a wide range of backgrounds and points of view. At this point, we’ll let ourselves believe that will happen, but we won’t forget this: Lucasfilm could have actually hired a non-white man for the job, and cut out the middleman in the process.