The actor joins co-star Moses Ingram and Director Deborah Chow in a chat with moderator Devan Coggan, a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly about the upcoming Disney+ series.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
MODERATOR: Ewan, I’d love to start with you. I know you have talked for years about wanting to return to this galaxy. What was it about this show and this story specifically that really excited you?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Well, it was a very long, slow process of coming back to playing him, I guess. It was born of two things. I think, a) I was just asked a lot. The end of every interview I ever did for years I was asked two things: would I do the sequel to Trainspotting, and would I ever play Obi-Wan Kenobi again. It was always the last two questions as the publicist is poking her head around the door saying, “That’s the last question.” And so, I just started answering it honestly and I think I became more aware of the fondness that the generation that we made the prequels for have for those films. Because when we made them, we didn’t hear that. We didn’t get that response, really. So, gradually, I started realizing that people really liked them and that they meant a lot to that generation. So, that made me — that warmed my feelings about them, I guess, or my experience of being in the Star Wars world. And then, Disney just asked me to come in one day for a meeting because they kept seeing on social media that I’m saying that I would play — I would like to play Obi-Wan Kenobi again. It looked like I was sort of touting for work at Disney’s door. Like, you know, could you cast me? But anyway, they got me in and asked me if I meant it and I said, yeah, just — I said I would love to play him again. I think there’s got to be a good story between Episode III and Episode IV and that’s what we definitely found, you know, after a lengthy process of exploring some different story lines. I think we’ve ended up a really, really a brilliant story and one that will satisfy the fans sitting between those two episodes.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. And Deborah, you’re obviously no stranger to the Star Wars universe, you know, working on The Mandalorian. What was it about Obi-Wan Kenobi, specifically, this character and this story that really excited you?
DEBORAH CHOW: I was really excited at the idea of getting to do a limited series for one just because you get to tell sort of a bigger story, but you also have the time to really get into the character. So, I think, first and foremost, I was the most excited about doing a character driven story and really kind of having the opportunity to get more depth and have more time to really get to know the character.
MODERATOR: Yeah, and Moses, what about you? You’re new to this galaxy. What was it that excited you most about joining the story?
MOSES INGRAM: I think it came to me just like everything else does, but I didn’t know that it would be Star Wars. And I think when I read the script, that was the thing that attracted me the most, even though it was, like, dummy sides. But later on, realizing that it was edgy and fun and cool and I just, you know, I couldn’t say no. I mean, it’s Star Wars.
MODERATOR: Yeah, so what was your reaction when you found out that, oh, this is Star Wars?
MOSES INGRAM: Surprised. I was surprised. I mean from what I knew of Star Wars, I didn’t realize it was that dangerous. It felt dangerous what I was reading and I was like, “Oh, I like this. I’m into this. Yeah.” So, I was really excited.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. And, you know, this story takes place about 10 years after Revenge of the Sith. This is sort of a different Obi-Wan than we’ve seen before. Ewan, what makes this version sort of different than the screen adaptations we’ve seen before?
EWAN MCGREGOR: I think because of what happens at the end of Episode III, Revenge of the Sith… At the end of the third episode, you know, the Jedi order are all but destroyed and those who aren’t killed have gone into hiding and they can’t communicate with one another. So, for ten years or if it’s been ten years, for ten years, Obi-Wan has been in hiding. He can’t communicate with any of his old comrades and he’s living a pretty solitary life. He’s not able to use the Force. So, in a way, he’s lost his faith. It’s like somebody who’s stepped away from their religion or something, if you like. And the only responsibility to his past life is looking over Luke Skywalker who he’s delivered to — we see at the end of Episode III — to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. So, that’s his only sort of link to his past. So, it was just interesting to take a character that we know and love from Alec Guinness’ creation of the character in the seventies of this wise, sage-like, spiritual man. And then, the work that I did in Episode I to III from the padawan, from the student to the Jedi to somebody’s who’s sitting on the Jedi council, you know, to take that Obi-Wan and take him to this more sort of broken place was really interesting to do.
MODERATOR: Yeah, I’d imagine that would be sort of a fun challenge for you to sort of, you know, play different versions of this character at different points in his life.
EWAN MCGREGOR: Yeah, absolutely. And just being closer to Alec Guinness, I guess, in age was interesting. And also, just the — Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan, you know, when we find him as a solitary figure. He’s living in the desert alone and so I suppose and my Obi-Wan now is just a bit closer to his.
MODERATOR: That makes sense. And one of the exciting other things about this story is that you’re not the only person returning. We also have Hayden Christensen back as both Anakin and Darth Vader. Deborah, what was it about — I know you’ve talked before about how much you love that relationship between the two of them. What was it that most intrigued you about, you know, having these two characters together again?
DEBORAH CHOW: I think, you know, when we were developing the material and we were really looking at the character of Obi-Wan and looking and going, you know, what was important in his life, what are the relationships that were meaningful. And obviously, the history coming out of the Revenge of the Sith is so strong and it’s so powerful that it really felt like, for us, that, you know, obviously, there’d be so much weight coming into this story that was connected to Anakin / Vader. So, I think it just felt natural that, obviously, it would be Hayden and that, you know, we would continue this relationship in the series.
MODERATOR: That makes total sense. And you, and what was that like for you to be back with Hayden on set?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Oh, great. I mean we just were so close when we met the first — we made Episode II and III together and we made them in Australia. So, we were both away from home and we had so much time training for the fights together and then, being on set together. But also, because we were so far from home, we spent a lot of time outside of work together as well. And so, we were close. And then, over the years, I guess, we had slightly lost touch. I hadn’t seen Hayden for years. So, when I saw him again and was able to talk about this project with him, it was very, very exciting. It was great. And when we were acting together, it was really like some sort of time warp. Really like looking across at him on set was like the last 17 years didn’t happen at all, you know. It was really peculiar.
MODERATOR: That’s so cool. It’s, like, oh yeah. No time has passed at all. And Moses, tell us a little bit about Reva. You know, she’s this sort of mysterious dark side character. She’s an inquisitor. What was it about her that most excited you?
MOSES INGRAM: She’s really smart and she plays the offense and she’s always 10 steps ahead, you know? She is a subordinate of Darth Vader and she’s going to do everything she can to get the job done to the best of her ability. And I think I was most intrigued by just her fervor for what she does. Yeah.
MODERATOR: Yeah, was it — tell me a little bit about sort of, you know, tapping into that dark side, you know. She’s sort of part of this, you know, she’s one of several inquisitors that we meet. What was it like to sort of, you know, join that — join the dark side?
MOSES INGRAM: It was really fun. It’s fun to be bad. [LAUGHS] It’s fun to be bad and also, I feel like, you know, the weaponry and the stunt work, once you get to a point where your body is confident doing the moves, you know, that plays into it as well as the costumes, you know. Suttirat did such an amazing job, our costume designer. Like, building something that when you step into it, it lends itself to a feeling, you know what I mean? And so, I was happy to be there. I was really happy to be there.
MODERATOR: Yeah, I wanted to ask a little bit about the lightsaber training and some the stunt training you had to do. What was it like to throw yourself into that world?
MOSES INGRAM: It was cool. We trained for about four months before we ever even got to set. The everyday, regular strength and cardio, and then three days a week of Jedi school on top of that which, at the beginning was a little intimidating because I come in. We’re doing lightsaber work and, of course, he’s being doing this for years. So he’s like, flipping it and wielding it and I’m like, oh, God, I’m never going to get it. I look terrible. But, you know, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
EWAN MCGREGOR: It was fun. We started like really, like, months before the shoot together in the fight gym. And it was great. It was a nice way to get to know each other.
MOSES INGRAM: It was, actually, it was.
MODERATOR: Yeah, it’s a good way to get to know each other by fighting.
MOSES INGRAM: Yeah. [Laughs]
MODERATOR: Ewan, did you give any tips, you know, because you are an expert with a lightsaber.
EWAN MCGREGOR: No, we were under the great JoJo, our fight coordinator, is really an amazing, thoughtful man. And he’d taken the fights that we did in the original three films and he sort of studied them with his crew, his stunt crew, and developed them. So it was very thoughtful. It’s not just random. Like, he’s really a thinking fight arranger which was cool to work on. And our fight styles are very different anyway in the piece as they should be, you know. So, I was over on one side doing my choreography and you were on the other side doing yours and we’d sort of try not to clash into each other and we sort of passed each other. It was fun, though.
MODERATOR: That’s awesome. And Ewan, you talked a little bit about, you know, one of the things I loved seeing is how the affection and the fondness for the prequels has really grown over the years. What’s that been like for you, you know, to — what was it like to sort of revisit, you know, those films while making this story?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Yeah, it means a lot. It means a lot, actually. Because it was one of the difficult things about being in the prequels was that they were, you know, when they came out, they were not — it didn’t seemingly well received because there was no social media. There was no sort of direct avenue to the fans at the time. And also, the fans were kids, you know. We made those films for — when I was — when the first film came out, The New Hope, I must have — I was born in ’71. So, I think I was six or seven when it came out. And I’ll never forget that feeling and how my relationship with Star Wars, all those original first three films. I mean that’s one of the crazy things about being in Star Wars now at all is that I’m in it, you know, having been that little kid, you know. And so, once those kids who were my age, when the prequels came out, grew up a bit and I was able to meet them and I started hearing that people really liked them and have a, you know, they couldn’t understand why I thought that they weren’t liked when they came out, you know. It meant a lot to me, so it’s really helped — I’m sure it’s one of the reasons we’re all sit– you know, why I wanted to do this again was because of that. It’s nice to — the Star Wars fans are amazingly passionate and they’re probably some of the strongest fans in the world, you know, for anything. And so, to be able to give them something like this. To make a series, the Obi-Wan series, which it seems that there’s been a hunger for, for some long time. And to be able to, like, give that to them now next week is really exciting.
MODERATOR: How are you guys feeling about — is that — I mean, how — that must be crazy. You’ve been working on this for such a long time.
DEBORAH CHOW: Yeah, it’s intense, you know. I’ve been working on this for, like, almost three years. So, it’s been a pretty long journey with this. But on the other hand, it’s like I’m very excited actually to finally have it come out and be able to talk about it. So, it’s exciting that it’s finally coming out.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. And Deborah, I’d love to talk to you a little bit about the technology that goes into this. I know you guys used that stagecraft, the volume technology that’s been used on Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett. How did you, you know, what was it like to sort of use that technology to, you know, bring Tatooine to life and some of the other locations that you guys get to visit?
DEBORAH CHOW: Yeah, obviously, I started using that technology, stagecraft, on Mandalorian. So, I was actually incredibly excited to be able to use it on Kenobi as well. I think one of the interesting things is, you know, in first season Mandalorian, a lot of the tech, you know, it’s advanced so much. Every passing year, there’s advances. So, by the time we came to do Kenobi, you know, already there were things that we could do that we couldn’t do in first season. But it was also really exciting to be able to design and to develop material knowing that I was going to shoot stagecraft. So, a lot of times I’d be looking at the scene even as we were writing it, thinking about how is this going to translate into The Volume and how can we take advantage of the tech as best as possible.
MODERATOR: That makes total sense. And Moses, I’m curious for you, was there anything that surprised you about joining, you know, this galaxy or anything that you weren’t expecting?
MOSES INGRAM: I mean I think this whole experience has far exceeded my expectations of what it might have been. I so enjoyed, like, just going to work every day. I feel like we had such a great working atmosphere and there were so many lifelong Star Wars fans who would, like, living their dreams by working on this series. And it’s really nice to be a fly on the wall, you know, for other people’s experiences of the thing as well. And it’s by far exceeded my expectations in the most beautiful way.
MODERATOR: So, when you guys think back to filming, was there, like, a particular day on set or, like, a scene that you guys shot that’s particular memorable for you guys?
EWAN MCGREGOR: It’s impossible to pick them out really because they were all, you know, so vivid. All of it. I mean I’d never worked on the stagecraft set before and it was such a gamechanger for us. The experience of the first three, especially Episode II and III, there’s so much blue screen and green screen and it’s just hard. It’s very hard to make something believable when there’s nothing there, you know. And here we were in this amazing set where, you know, if you’re shooting in the desert, everywhere you look is the desert. And if you’re flying through space, then, you know, the stars are flying past you as you scout along. It’s so cool. So, I couldn’t pick one out really. I mean the fight scenes are always something extra when you’re doing something like this because they just require such a lot of preparation and there’s a sort of real nervousness about when you walk on set to do a fight that you’ve been learning and training for, for months. There’s a sort of real — your stomach gets really nervous, you know, because you want to do it the best you can and sometimes you’re shooting them, you know, two-three days in a row and it requires an enormous amount of stamina which is also why getting fit beforehand was really important so we could sort of maintain that. But, yeah.
MODERATOR: Did you guys find yourself making, you know, the lightsaber noises while you were rehearsing or fighting?
MOSES INGRAM: (To Ewan) Everyone knows that you do it now!
EWAN MCGREGOR: I know. It’s impossible not to. And if you’re not making them, you’re doing it in your head, I think. [LAUGHS]
DEBORAH CHOW: But we did play a lot of music when we did the action scenes, so the rest of us didn’t know if you guys were doing them. So, yeah.
MODERATOR: What kind of music would you play?
DEBORAH CHOW: John Williams.
MOSES INGRAM: And it was sick, too, because we’d be, like, stepping off the ship or, like, you know, doing something else and the music would swell and you’re just, like, feeling like you’re 10 feet tall, you know. It’s very, very cool.
DEBORAH CHOW: Yeah, that was the big reason we did it because there’s, you know, the music obviously it brings the emotional component. And what John Williams has done has been so inextricably tied, it is Star Wars. So, you know, if we put it on, all of a sudden I see Moses go like two inches taller and, you know, everybody responds to it.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. So, we’re going to get into some journalist questions. And our first one is from Josh Wilding from Comic Book Movie and this is for Ewan. And this is sort of what we were talking about. Did your old lightsaber training come back to you quite quickly? And either way, how did preparing for this series compare to preparing for the prequels?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Yeah, we did a lot of lightsaber drills with JoJo and his team. And, yeah, it was something that you have to work on. It’s not, like, there right away. There’s two things I think I had to work on was that and his voice. Like, I — we did a casting, Deb and I did a casting with some — for two roles in this series that we wanted. So, we did sort of screen tests with different actors for those roles. And that was the first thing I did as Obi-Wan again since, you know, 2003. So, I arrived. We borrowed a bit of The Mandalorian stage on a Sunday when they were off and some of their crew and I walked into the dressing room and there was a sort of Obi-Wan-ish costume hanging up in the wardrobe that The Mandalorian’s wardrobe department had put together. And putting that on was just really crazy after all that time. And then walking out onto the set was crazy because there’s so many Star Wars fans in the crew, like, which was a new experience for me. So, there was a sort of buzz about Obi-Wan walking back on stage, you know. But then when we came to do the actual scenes with these other actors, I was doing a sort of vague English accent and it wasn’t really Obi-Wan’s voice at all. And I was, oh dear! That’s not — that’s not very good. So, you know, luckily we had months before we actually started shooting. So, I went back and did some homework with Alec Guinness and what I’d done before in the original films. But those, I think, were the two things. Playing him felt totally like he’d always been there ready to come out any minute. But just his voice needed a bit of work.
MODERATOR: Just to, you know, get it back into practice. It’s skill. A muscle.
EWAN MCGREGOR: It is, yeah, yeah, yeah.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. Our next question is from Javier Martinez Salizar from Peru and this is for Moses. The inquisitors became popular in Star Wars Rebels and now they’re making the jump to live action. On your part, how was it to create the essence looking in bearing of Inquisitor Reva?
MOSES INGRAM: I actually — big credit to you (Deborah) for welcoming me in and caring about, you know, my thoughts in terms of who Reva might be. And so, you know, the costume was already made. Hair, in particular, her hair was different in the initial envisioning of the character. And it was just something that my hair didn’t do naturally, but Deb was so great about, you know, hearing me out on that and, you know, that’s how we ended up with the braids, you know. It’s really important for me to do what my hair does.
MODERATOR: I know that was something you’ve talked about is, you know, wanting to, you know, specifically, you know, for what little girls who would want to dress up as these characters to have, you know, like the hair was something that was really important to you. I know you talked about that.
MOSES INGRAM: Yeah, the hair was a big deal. And another thing that I just thought of, too, like, I remember, like, growing up and watching, you know, certain things and with my brothers and, like, you’re not strong enough, like, it’s for boys, you know what I mean? But I think what’s cool about this is, like, you can fight like a girl and still, like, you know, be badass, which is pretty cool.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. Our next question is from Francisco Cangiano from City Express. And this is for Deborah. Obviously, the series is set inside a specific Star Wars timeline. Can you talk about the challenge of telling a story between these lines and also, how fun was it to get to fill in the blanks at the same time?
DEBORAH CHOW: Yeah, I would say that was definitely one of the biggest challenges with this series is that, obviously, we have these huge legacy iconic characters and we’re in between two trilogies. So, in large part, you know, we’re telling the second act of a story which is often challenging enough. So, I think, you know, the biggest thing we were looking is to respect the canon and respect what’s been done, but we also needed to have an original story and, you know, have an original vision for it. So, you know, I think that was the biggest challenge, but at the same time it was very exciting that we were bringing back two of these huge iconic characters and telling a new story with them.
MODERATOR: Yeah, that’s one of the interesting things about this story is it’s a sequel and a prequel at the same time. It sort of slides into that in between bit absolutely. Our next question is from Meaghan Darwish from TVInsider. For Moses, you called the script dangerous and edgy. In what ways is Reva bringing that to the story?
MOSES INGRAM: You know, I don’t even know if it’s, like, just Reva, but I think the thing as a whole and it’s hard because you can’t say exactly what’s happening. But the cat and mouse of it all and so many moving parts in it and the places that we are and the people that are involved, it just — I really wish I could say more to you about what was happening. But, yeah, like, even the text. It just felt very sort of, like, muddy in a way that I really enjoyed. Yeah.
MODERATOR: Yeah, Deborah, how did you want to sort of figure out the right tone for this story? What were some of your goal posts or things that you were thinking about?
DEBORAH CHOW: Yeah, the tone, you know, it’s — well, obviously, we’re starting in a pretty dark time period and that was kind of quite interesting not only to start with Obi-Wan’s character in kind of a dark place, but also starting in a period in the timeline that’s quite dark. So, kind of actually gives us a very interesting starting place for the series. But I think, you know, with the character of Kenobi, you know, for me he’s always felt like there’s so much warmth, there’s so much compassion and humor, that it is kind of a character of light and hope. That it was interesting for us to try to keep the balance of that, of the darkness, but also still maintaining the hope coming from the character.
MODERATOR: Because he can be quite funny, Obi-Wan. He makes quite a few quips.
EWAN MCGREGOR: Yeah. Well, it all comes from Alec Guinness. You know, Alec Guinness had this wit behind his eyes all the time. He had a twinkle, I think, in his eyes. And that’s, I guess, in the writing, but also just for me. I always try and think of him and try to feel him sort of somewhere. Like, hear him saying the lines. And that’s why I think the writing was so, so good in this because right from the word “go”, all of his dialogue felt to me like it could have been Alec Guinness saying it, you know. Then I knew we were on the right path, at least with him, you know, and — yeah, he’s got a wit to him. Mm-hmm.
MODERATOR: Absolutely. For the next question, we have Rachel Harper from Syfy Now. And for Ewan, how does working on a Star Wars TV show compare to making a Star Wars film?
EWAN MCGREGOR: Just felt like, I mean the technology is so different from when we made the original movies that it felt like a different experience anyway. And, but I don’t think because it was a TV show. The beauty of it being a series is that we’ve got longer to tell the story. But because Deb directed them all and it’s her singular vision throughout, it did feel like we were just making one movie. And the episodic nature of our series falls really cleverly in the story line, but it is one driving narrative. I think The Mandalorian feels more episodic, if you like, because it suits that storytelling and it, of course, has a driving storyline through each season. But ours is like a movie that just happens to be split up into these episodes. That’s how I feel about it.
MODERATOR: Yeah, I mean because you think about the original prequels. I mean those were some of the first films to really rely heavily on blue screen and green screen. And so, for you to be able to do that and then come to this where you’ve got these big, you know, screens and the crazy technology. I imagine that would be, you know, something that would take some getting used to.
EWAN MCGREGOR: Episode II was the first — I don’t know if it was the first movie that we shot on digital, but it was my first experience of shooting on digital cameras. And now, you know, it’s so rare to shoot on film, sadly, really. But those cameras were like dinosaurs. They were cutting edge technology, but compared to what we shoot on now, you know, they had huge umbilical cords coming out the back of the cameras. They couldn’t change the lenses. Or they could change the lenses, but it would take like half an hour. So, everything was just shot on a zoom lens. They made — there are two digital cameras on two techno cranes, literally, they just move the cranes and they zoomed in and out. And that was the new setup and the umbilical’s led to this big tent in the corner of the stage that literally hummed. It was so noisy, “brrrr”. And in post-production, they realized at the end, that the noise they made was exactly in the frequency of the human voice. So we had to ADR every single line of Episode II. None of the original dialogue made it through because of that because the cameras were so, like, new, you know, and none of the bugs had been worked out yet. So, compared to what we’re doing now it’s, like, night and day really.
MODERATOR: I would imagine that would be definitely a shift from what it used to be.
EWAN MCGREGOR: Yeah. But that’s, you know, George was, like, pioneering that technology. He was pioneering sound and image and he was pioneering the cameras and the visual effects. And so, of course, he was wanting to utilize it as much as he could. But for us it meant that more and more we were on a blue screen or a green screen and that’s challenging for the actors, for sure.
DEBORAH CHOW: But one thing that was cool with the technology is that actually a lot of the stuff you guys did in the prequels and that George was doing by pushing digital so early, is so much of that groundwork is how we got to stagecraft, you know. Like, a lot of the tools he started developing, like, prevas, all that stuff, is how we ended up on stagecraft. So, it’s really interesting.
MODERATOR: But it’s such a cool evolution to see how it’s grown like that. Absolutely. For another question, we have Jocelyn Buhlman from D23 Magazine and this is for Deborah. What were you most excited to explore in Obi-Wan’s story?
DEBORAH CHOW: I think I was the most excited about getting the opportunity to do a character different story. You know, in a similar way, you know, obviously it’s a different tone, but something like Joker or Logan where, you know, you take one character out of a big franchise and then you really have the time and you go a lot deeper with the character. So, that to me seemed really exciting to get to do in Star Wars.
MODERATOR: That makes sense. Absolutely. And a question from Alexander Navarro from MovieWeb and this for everyone. What is your personal favorite Star Wars movie or series?
EWAN MCGREGOR: My favorite is A New Hope just because it’s the one I — it’s the one that changed my life, I suppose, in many ways. But, you know, as a kid watching that movie and when I hear the words Star Wars, I always think of, like, C-3PO and R2-D2 going through the desert, through the sand and that’s the first image. So, mine would be A New Hope.
MOSES INGRAM: I’m going to cheat and say Obi-Wan Kenobi because it’s attached to now so many moments and memories in my life similar to A New Hope for you. And so, yeah, I feel like that would be my perfect answer.
DEBORAH CHOW: I know it’s hard not to say Obi-Wan after Moses, but yeah, I don’t know. You know, I’ve had to obviously go back over so many of them between the two shows. So, I have such an appreciation in different ways for all of them. But I’d say, like, one of the ones I think is really interesting visually is Rogue One. And I was really looking a lot, like, the atmospheric sense in that, in a lot of the visuals in that which was, you know, pretty awesome.
OBI-WAN KENOBI streams exclusively on Disney+ beginning May 27th, 2022