‘Andor’ Star Diego Luna Says New ‘Star Wars’ Series Is ‘The Most Intense Filmmaking I’ve Ever Been Part Of’

The actor tells TheWrap how Tony Gilroy convinced him there was more story to tell

Andor Diego Luna

“Andor” is finally here.

The long awaited “Star Wars” series, which takes place (initially, at least), five years before the events of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (which itself took place immediately before the events of 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope”), is on Disney+ today. In the new series, Diego Luna returns as Cassian Andor, who in “Rogue One” was an embittered soldier willing to give his life for the Rebellion. The Cassian we meet in the first three episodes of “Andor” (all dropping today) is very different; he’s a smuggler, for sure, eking out a living and attempting to stay out of the way of Imperial authorities. He has yet to be radicalized.

Developed and largely written by Tony Gilroy, “Andor” is anchored by an incredible performance from Luna, whose performance in “Rogue One” was one of that movie’s highlights. This is an entirely different take on “Star Wars,” especially in the series space. This is tough, gritty, emotionally raw. And all of that comes through in Luna’s performance.

TheWrap talked with Luna about where the new series came from, how different shooting “Andor” was to “Rogue One,” and what he thought when he first heard Cassian’s insane electric guitar theme music.

When did you and Tony first start talking about the possibility of an Andor show?

It’s long ago, man. It’s long ago. I think it’s been four years, to be honest, because I think it was a little longer than that that I received a first phone call, and that phone call was just about seeing if I was willing to explore this opportunity, this chance of telling the backstory of Cassian. It was as simple as that and I was shocked because I didn’t think this was going to happen. I never thought I was going to be able to come back to this role and to this universe. And I was like, “Yeah, of course.” Also, because it sounded very smart to me, the idea of, yeah, listen, we know what these characters are capable of, because “Rogue One” is a fantastic film, but it’s about an event. You don’t get the answers of who Cassian is, where he comes from, what needed to happen for him to become that man that is willing to sacrifice everything.

I thought it was a really cool idea, and quite risky and interesting, to go back and challenge every idea you have about who Cassian was and say, “No, no, no. No, in fact, he was so far from that man five years before ‘Rogue One’ happened,” and then that arc was really interesting to build. But back then it was just an idea. Later, I had a conversation with Tony where he said, “Look, this is what I picture, this is what I see. This is the way I would love to approach it. This is what I think can happen,” very structurally and just very simple chat we had for 20 minutes where he pitched me everything he worked on and it felt so right.

I don’t think there’s a better writer to do these, I think his writing always stays in the gray areas. He’s not someone that sees the world as black and white. There’s not good and bad. And it’s quite interesting, that in the world of “Star Wars,” because this is the time where there’s no Jedis, it’s just about humans. It’s just people like you and I, it’s people surviving, and it’s the time where everyone’s living in those gray areas.

Everyone is just trying to make the day and survive, as I said. So I thought it was very interesting, the complexity he was bringing into the story, the contrast you will see. And the beauty of this long format, that gives you the chance to, yes, deliver the action and the adventure that you always expect from “Star Wars,” but at the same time, be more greedy and sometimes intimate with these roles and be close to the characters and the way they relate. Suddenly, it becomes more of a spy thriller, very political and intense, and then it goes back to that big scope, that “Star Wars” that we all know.

I thought it was really bold what he had in mind, and again, interesting, complex, and a very cool challenge, because you never approach storytelling like this. Normally, it’s the other way around. Here, we don’t have to impress you or surprise you with the ending. You know the ending.

The interesting part is the arc to get there and that’s where we can go crazy. So anyway, after that chat, I was so sure that I wanted to be part of this, and that I wanted to be part of this from scratch. My feeling in “Rogue One” is that I was thrown into something already happening. I got there and I had to find my place there and understand where I was.

It definitely was kind of like being in a fantasy and it had nothing to do with the sets and the structures I had been working for all my life. And now, I had time to be there in the whole process, to see things from the moment they were sketches till the moment they started to be built, and then suddenly you go to a set and you know the place, you own it. You can tell, you can say, “Yeah, this is my house, this is my space. This is the droid I love and I’ve been around for years. This is my town.” Anyway, I really appreciate the whole process, but it’s been long, man. It’s been long. Like my answer, sorry.

Music is obviously very important to “Star Wars.” And Cassian gets a very cool, electric guitar theme at the end of episode 2. What did you think when you first heard that?

It’s just, again, I’m sorry, I’m going to go back to Tony and the way he takes so seriously every step and the music, he’s been thinking of the music even before he wrote the scripts. You’ll see, I mean, you haven’t got to that part of the series, but there is a piece of music that existed before we shot a scene, for example, and we could listen to the piece while I was on set knowing what the score was going to be. That doesn’t happen ever.

With an obsessive mind like Tony, where he sees everything before he even writes it, he knew the piece of music that was going to be playing in that moment and for us to shoot and articulate all of that, we had the music there, as if we were doing a music video in a way.

That’s how much attention was put behind the music and I am so happy with the result. But not just the music, I would say the set designs and the costumes and the looks of the characters, the amount of work put behind every decision here is huge. The rigor behind “Andor” is the rigor of the most intense filmmaking I’ve ever been part of.

The first three episodes of “Andor” are on Disney+ now, with new episodes debuting weekly.