“We’re starting with a nobody,” series creator Tony Gilroy told IndieWire over Zoom. “How does a nobody, absolute nobody, forgotten, careless nobody, become this incredible person? I’m not going to call him a messianic character, but there is an aspect of it that is a journey of someone who has a destiny.”
“Andor” finds Cassian at a distinct low point in his life, grappling with repressed childhood trauma and an adult life that has veered from his limited aspirations.
“He’s just fucked it all up,” Gilroy said. “He’s that guy that nobody really wants to see coming down the street anymore. Nobody wants to give him their keys to their apartment. He’s just that guy you don’t trust anymore. We all know people like that.”
It will take a long time — two seasons, 24 episodes, and five years of the character’s life, to be exact — to build up the Cassian Andor introduced in “Rogue One,” but Gilroy is excited for the journey ahead.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
IndieWire: You’ve spoken about how Cassian at this point is not the Cassian Andor that we meet in “Rogue One,” but I would love to hear more about his journey in the coming episodes.
Gilroy: With the limited information that we have about him from “Rogue,” if you make a PowerPoint of things we know about him, it’s a pretty interesting collection of attributes. He’s sort of all singing all dancing; he’s an assassin, he’s a saboteur, he’s been in the fight since he was six years old — but he’s also the one that they trust with the most important thing that they have to do. On the mission, there’s some problems along the way, but he gracefully navigates through everything and lies when he needs to lie and changes his mind when he needs to change his mind — and then he does what what we all wonder if we could ever do, which is sacrifice ourselves for the greater good, with an open heart.
You want to do a thing that’s five years earlier about this character: How far away from that can you get? How big a hole can you make for this person? That’s the first impulse. As we’re doing the show now, as we’ve really built it out and as we’re working on the second half, we found a lot of other things that are really deep and potent to deal with, about the making of a revolutionary and the making of a passionate, committed human being.
There’s a moment where I believe Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) says something to him about giving it all up, sacrificing it all — essentially what you’re describing.
Instead of stealing and chipping away and doing all this, wouldn’t you rather give it all at once for something that mattered? You seem to be on a self-destructive path anyway, and you seem to be really angry — I mean, anger is a huge part of his makeup and he can’t become the guy in “Rogue” without dispensing with the anger that we see in the little boy. It’s a very important scene when young Cassian goes on that ship and is destroying that ship. That rage is going to carry through that character all the way through his life.
I love that line; the foreshadowing of it, and also unpacking where he’s at and where he has to end up.
There’s some key little things hidden in the first couple episodes that tell us where we’re going…he’s going to be a peripheral and influential character in the background of many important canonical Star Wars events.
As you were working on the wider arc of this series, what was something you set out to accomplish?
If we had this conversation after you’d seen the first 12 it’d be a lot easier to to discuss it articulately…
Oh, we can talk again.
We probably will. I think that’s something we’re gonna have to do on the show because there’s going to be some really big twists. But the path to becoming a revolutionary and the path for him to get where he needs to get at the end of episode 12, which is just really to become part of something — there’s a lot of different chapters to that evolution. There’s the theoretical side, the visceral side, there’s the watching what happens to other people. There’s the empathetic side, there’s the persecution side, there’s the revenge side — all of the different things and making sure that they’re all in there but making sure that it doesn’t look like we’re saying, “Oh, here’s a spoonful of revenge” or “here’s a spoonful of theory,” but to feel his evolution, his character change feel like a complete education, I think that was one of the tricks.
Des Willie / Lucasfilm Ltd.
Tell us about the relationships in Cassian’s life, because he does seem to have a lot of allies and associates but no one trusts him that much.
He’s disappointed everyone in the beginning of this show — and he hasn’t even faced the fact of how much he’s disappointed himself. When we show his backstory and his childhood trauma and some other things along the way, you’ll be a little bit more sympathetic about why things are so difficult for him and why it hasn’t been such an easy path. But he’s had a lot of people try to help him and he’s pushed them away.
What’s his relationship like at this point in his life to his past? Like you said, he’s on a self destructive path and hasn’t faced the self disappointment.
You see the story that Cassian has been telling himself about his life, and then you see Stellan tune him up and go, “Dude, I know the real story of what happened, and even the part I know: You’re full of shit.” That’s the first time that someone really slaps him on the show, and the lie that he’s telling Stellan — if you tell a lie about yourself enough times, you can begin to rewrite your own story. After a decade of not really dealing with what you’ve been dealing with and telling everybody it’s something else, you start to believe it. I think he’s starting to believe his own sob story, and Stellan tunes him up and says, “No, that’s just not what happened.” He’s confronting all kinds of things like that.
What can you tell us about Kenari?
It’s pretty much in those first three episodes. That story is kind of complete by the time he leaves Ferrix. I don’t think we’ll be going back to Kenari.
The kids he never ends up seeing again — what does that leave him with?
Oh, my God. Think of the ways he’s been exiled. He loses his parents, then he loses his community, and then he’s ripped away to this new place — which embraces him and loves him, but we all know the effects of deep childhood trauma, particularly [when] they’re undealt with, can be catastrophic. If this film doesn’t happen, if these events don’t happen, if you just follow the Cassian Andor story on on Ferrix, it’s pretty easy to see him becoming a sort alcoholic ne’er-do-well. His path is not going any place good, and that childhood trauma is really deep — and it’s legit.
What can fans expect for the rest of the season?
I think they should expect a major journey, an odyssey for Cassian Andor, and I think they should demand of us that we better the emotional response. I think they should hold us to the standard that we start in the first three, four episodes. Emotionally, viscerally, action-wise in every way, we plan on delivering and bettering that all the way through the whole show. That’s our plan. That’s our goal.
We’re really going somewhere by Episode 12 — which is so fantastic, it’s the night before Thanksgiving. If what we’re doing works, that should be a very potent moment.
New episodes of “Andor” premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.