‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Star Ewan McGregor Admits a ‘Profound Change’ in His Relationship With ‘Star Wars’ Since the Prequels

TheWrap magazine: “The prequels were quite difficult to make and quite difficult to deal with after they came out,” the actor says

Obi wan kenobi
"Obi-Wan Kenobi." (Disney+/Lucasfilm)

This story about “Obi-Wan Kenobi” first appeared in the Limited Series/Movies issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi” seems like the kind of no-brainer, easy layup, slam dunk that is conceived quickly and executed even more quickly. We’re talking a limited series from Disney+ and Lucasfilm that followed the titular Jedi (played, once again, by Ewan McGregor) in the lonesome time between the prequels and 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” But it was not so fast and easy. In fact, for years, McGregor had no idea if he’d ever play the wise mentor again. “There was a constant social media noise about another Obi-Wan project, and I was constantly asked in every interview that I ever did,” he said. “Eventually I would answer truthfully and I would say, ‘Yes, I would totally be up for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi again.’”

About five or six years ago Lucasfilm finally reached out to McGregor, asking if his comments about wanting to play the character again were true. “That’s where this started. And at that point, the conversation was just about the story—taking Obi-Wan into a very broken place, starting with a man who’s lost his faith and has given up on life. And I thought that would be a fascinating place to start the story.”

The project was first conceived as a movie to be directed by Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”). “At that point, the story was very much a story about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker,” McGregor said. It was then developed as a limited series that eventually found the right leader. “Deborah took it and ran with it and made it what it became, which was amazing,” McGregor said.

Deborah, of course, is Deborah Chow, who had directed some of the more memorable episodes of the first season of “The Mandalorian” and directed the entirety of “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” “I had very good timing, honestly,” Chow said. “I feel like I didn’t have much of a step out (from ‘The Mandalorian’). It was pretty close. But it was exciting to take on a different kind of project. To go into something that was more character-driven and was a limited series that had a beginning and end was pretty amazing.”

For McGregor, returning to the world of “Star Wars” forced him to reevaluate his entire relationship with the property. (“Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” was released when he was only 28.) “There’s been a profound change in my relationship with ‘Star Wars’ and with the fans of ‘Star Wars’ and just in my feelings about it,” he said. “The prequels were quite difficult to make and quite difficult to deal with after they came out.”

At the time it was the biggest project McGregor had ever made. Back then, he was known for edgy independent movies like Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting.” After he was done making the prequels, he figured he was “never going to look back.”

Enter “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

“It’s brought me right back into the ‘Star Wars’ world in a really nice way,” he said. “I’m really proud of it now. And it’s made me proud of that work then in a way that I probably wasn’t before.”

Chow relished the chance to tackle a different version of Obi-Wan Kenobi… and Darth Vader, with Hayden Christensen returning under the mask. “We obviously had the challenge of trying to tell a story that’s in the middle of two trilogies and with characters everybody knows before and after,” Chow said. “But it was really interesting trying to do these characters at a different point in their lives.”

An uglier brand of villainy showed itself when racist trolls launched a coordinated campaign against Reva Sevander/ the Third Sister, a Jedi-hunting character played by Moses Ingram. The attacks were so vile that McGregor returned to social media to declare support for Ingram and tell the bigots to knock it off.

“It’s very shocking when you realize racism like that exists. And something has to be said about it,” McGregor said. “That’s tainted Moses’s experience of having played that role. And that’s forever. That’s not something that you just, like, sweep aside. So I feel very sad about that—and just really proud of her. She did an amazing job in quite a tricky character. That’s what should have been talked about. That’s what should have been celebrated.”

The racist backlash was, Chow said, “pretty hard, especially because the show hadn’t come out yet. It wasn’t even based on her performance or merit. It was just reacting to a trailer. It was demoralizing. And we were very proud of her. We’d been together for months working together, and then to suddenly have something like that, it was pretty jarring.”

Though “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is a limited series, it does conclude on a rather tantalizing note. And McGregor is happy to don the cloak again. “I’m just waiting for the call, really. I loved everything about it,” he said. “I woke up every morning just excited to get to work. I worked with great actors, I worked on these phenomenal sets and I worked with great scripts for a great director and I had a nice camel. I could go on and on.”

While Chow wasn’t as openly anxious to return, she admitted that there could still be more story to tell. “Who knows?” she said. “You can never say never.” The Force could still be with them.

Read more from the Limited Series/Movies issue here.