How ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Director Deborah Chow Crafted an Epic, Close-Ended ‘Star Wars’ Story

The filmmaker also tells TheWrap about the primary challenge in getting the “Star Wars” series off the ground

Ewan McGregor on "Obi-Wan Kenobi." (Lucasfilm/Disney+)

The Force is strong with “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

The new series from Lucasfilm, premiering May 27 on Disney+, imagines the Jedi knight’s life 10 years after the events of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” with Obi-Wan (once again played by Ewan McGregor) camping out on Tatooine and trying to avoid various villains being sent his way by the evil Empire, including his old friend-turned-foe Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen). (All other plot details are still walked away in a vault on Scarif.)

Still, TheWrap spoke with director Deborah Chow, a veteran of “The Mandalorian” who helmed all six episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” We talked about what she finds so appealing about the “Star Wars” universe, how the show changed after a shutdown that saw scripts getting reworked, what it was like working with Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton and whether or not she has seen how much Twitter wants her to make a “Star Wars” movie.

What is it about “Star Wars” that appeals to your sensibilities as a filmmaker?

I think for me, I’ve always been a genre person. I really truly love sci-fi/fantasy and grew up reading it and just loved it. I think “Star Wars” is the epitome of that in many ways, because it’s got this huge galaxy and I love the world-building aspect of it. And I love how detailed this world is and that every single thing is so well thought out. I think for me the excitement of just getting to do this huge galaxy, but then also tell character stories within them was really exciting.

This project went through quite a transformation, first from a film and then to a series and then after a shutdown, where the scripts were reworked and production moved from London to Los Angeles. Can you speak to that evolution?

Yeah, obviously there was development done before I came on board, but from the point that I came on board, I think the biggest thing is that it was a difficult story to tell. We’re in between two trilogies, we have really huge legacy iconic characters, so it was quite a challenging story to figure out. And I was grateful that they gave us the time and that we were allowed to have more development time in order to try to get the story right or as right as we could going into production. And of course, the other thing that happened in the middle of it was COVID so, yeah, so that was like a complete U-turn on everything. It was a bit of a combination of both.

One of the writing credits that stood out to me was that Andrew Stanton on episodes 5 and 6 – I was wondering what it was like working with him?

Yeah, through the writing and obviously because it is such a challenging story, we did have different writers. Joby Harold was very much the main writer for us, but Andrew was amazing and came in and worked with us and brainstormed quite a bit. He was great. And I think anybody, all the writers that worked on the project with us, a lot of times you just need a fresh set of eyes and a lot of them provided that.

This is coming right after the prequels and you’re using the volume and these more tactile approach to filmmaking, but it was coming after this kind of hermetically sealed look of the prequels. How did you reconcile those two approaches?

Yeah, a lot of the stuff, obviously that we did on “Mandalorian,” I took it and ran with it into “Kenobi” and I was really excited to get to do StageCraft again, but StageCraft has its strengths and its weaknesses, so we didn’t use it for everything. It just depended on what the scene was or what the location was. But we did do a combination of StageCraft, location, backlot and traditional studios. It felt like an epic story to me. And so I was just trying to give it as epic a canvas as we could.

It seems like with “Mandalorian,” you were in your own little pocket of the universe. Was it more constricting to be following this blueprint that had been laid out by Lucas?

Certainly there’s several locations like the Lars farm or whatnot where you really are trying to get it right to the detail. But within that we’re telling a story that’s at a different point in the timeline. And we’re also telling a point when these characters are at a different point in their lives. There is some give there obviously, but then I think another thing that we felt was quite important is that we… One of the things I’ve always loved about “Star Wars” is that you do get to go to new worlds, you see new planets, new characters. That was something that we felt was quite important. We do actually go out and we do have quite a bit of surprises and new stuff coming.

From your understanding, is this a close-ended story or is this something that could go on for additional seasons?

It is a limited series and we really did look at it as one big story. It really, truly has a beginning, middle and end. There’s no cliffhanger at the end, it really ends. Who knows in the future, obviously there’s still 10 years to go, but it really was conceived as one story.

What are you most excited about fans of McGregor’s Obi-Wan experiencing with the new show?

I think one of the main things we were trying to do was really go deeper into the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, because he is this character where I think so many people love him and he’s such an iconic character, but in truth, we don’t know that much about him. I think it’s a real opportunity to get to know him better and Ewan brings such a soul to the character and he’s at a different point in his life and that I think there’s something quite special about having Ewan in this role again at this age and this moment.

Do you know how much Twitter wants you to make a “Star Wars” movie?

No, I try not to go down that rabbit hole, so I have no idea.

Is that something that’s interesting to you?

I mean, I love this galaxy and obviously I’ve told two stories in this one already. It’s amazing, I get to direct Darth Vader, how can you argue with that? But I think at the end of the day, it’s just about the story. It’s just about feeling passionate, this one, to put three years of your life into it, you have to truly love it, and I did. I think it’s just about story at the end.

The first two episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” start streaming on Friday on Disney+, with new episodes every Wednesday after that.