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Tony Gilroy Unpacks ‘Andor’ Ep. 4: Mon Mothma Is ‘a Nancy Pelosi Character’

"In many ways her story is the most tense story in the whole show," Gilroy tells IndieWire about Mon Mothma.

A woman with short, reddish-blond hair slicked back, wearing a high-nicked white and gray outfit in a light-colored room; still from "Andor."

Genevieve O’Reilly in “Andor”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for “Andor” Epiosde 4, “Aldhani.”]

“Andor” Episode 4 gets right to its rebellious mission, with Cassian (Diego Luna) joining up with Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) and his team. The episode brings back fan favorite Mon Mothma, first introduced in “Return of the Jedi,” and continues to follow the now-disgraced Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), whose delusions of Imperial grandeur quickly crashed and burned last week.

Creator and showrunner Tony Gilroy describes Syril as a character unlike any other. Up until now, he envisioned a very specific path forward in Imperial leadership — but the events of “Andor” Episodes 1-3 have shaken his faith and altered his course.

In his Season 1 review, IndieWire’s Ben Travers noted that “Andor” uses Syril to illustrate “the type of people who are attracted to power for the wrong reasons; people who toe the company line, no matter how cruel or unusual, because they can’t tell the difference between earned loyalty and enforced obedience.” Disgraced and demoted, this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Syril Karn — nor is it the Mon Mothma Star Wars fans think they know.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

IndieWire: Tell me about the different aspects of the Empire we see in this show. There’s the security of Preox Morlana, and I wrote down “space FBI” —

Tony Gilroy: ISB [Imperial Security Bureau]. It’s what Ben Mendelsohn is in “Rogue,” the intelligence service. It’s really like the SS, the highest level — the spy service.

I love seeing the interaction that Karn has with his superiors, and how 40 years ago we just had the Empire from the movies.

It’s really cool, because we not only get to tell the story of where he comes from and have that bit of it, but also that’s really canonically pure. There were a lot of corporate planets and corporate sectors — and as in many fascist state takeovers, as the Empire grows, one of the things they’re doing is nationalizing everything. “We’ll nationalize this. We’ll take that. We’re going to take over the trains.” What happens in the beginning of the show gives the Empire a good excuse to go in and say, “Oh, you know what? You’ve lost your privileges. Here’s another thing we’re going to eat. You’ve given us a reason.” They’re looking for reasons all over the galaxy. But I love the shabbiness and the sort of JV aspect of the security service in Morlana One, and the fact that the Syril (Kyle Soller) comes from a place of great aspiration. His aspirations — my god, the idea that he could ever be an ISB officer — he has a very rich fantasy life.

I get the sense that everyone around him is kind of punching in and out. What else can you tell us about Syril?

I don’t think I ever even came close to a character like that. There’s a purity about him. He really is, he’s not — villain? It’s hard to think of him as a villain. He’s just somebody who has missed the joke of a lot of things, misses the nuance of it. “We’re supposed to do this. This is the orders, this is what it’s supposed to be. And if you say you have a rule then let’s follow the rule.” And there are people like that, and then the world doesn’t make sense to them if you don’t follow the rules. And when you get a little further in the show, the next episode, you will find out his origin story, and I think it’ll come a lot clearer about how he’s become the way he’s become. And he will change over time.

Close up on a man with short dark hair, staring intently at a 3D hologram of another man with long dark hair; still from "Andor."

Kyle Soller in “Andor”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

I feel like at the current moment, he’s sort of on the cusp of being a total clown or a supervillain. It’s so fascinating to watch that interplay.

Yeah, that’s gonna continue. On the show, we were very interested to see how — and we’ve tried to prepare Kyle Soller for the kind of fandom that he may be attracting. It’s a very, very powerful character that he plays, [and if it goes well] I think there’s going to be people that are really, really into what [he’s dealing with] and what he’s going through. More than that, I won’t say.

Mon Mothma shows up in Episode 4. What can you tell us about where she’s at right now in her own rebel journey?

Anyone who follows the canon — she’s sort of a Nancy Pelosi character, isn’t she? She’s kind of trying to do good or whatever she’s trying to do, and she’s losing — I mean, I don’t know. She a powerful presence in the Senate but she’s facing defeat after defeat after defeat as the Empire is taking over here. She’s always presented as very proper and sober and perfectly put together all the time in canon and it just seemed like that was such a perfect opportunity to say, ‘Well what’s really going on behind here?’ It was very exciting to take a sort of still portrait of someone and throw it away and build a real life behind it. She has a much, much, much more complicated life [than] anybody was ever aware, and in many ways, of all the people that walk through this show and face all kinds of decisions and problems and pressures and the hiding and chasing and betrayal — she has to stand out almost in the open for the whole show, in a really dangerous position. In many ways her story is the most tense story in the whole show, because she has to do everything in the open.

Read Part 1 of IndieWire’s conversation with Gilroy here.

New episodes of “Andor” premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.

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