The long and complicated process of bringing back Obi-Wan Kenobi to today
Fact: it has been 17 years since we’ve seen Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Yes, the character has been in Star Wars animated series in previous years, but we haven’t seen the originator of the role from the Star Wars movies for a very long time. Namely, we haven’t seen Ewan McGregor as that original portrayer of Kenobi for nearly two decades, he knew he always wanted to wield a lightsaber again.
“Disney asked me to come in for a meeting one day because they kept seeing on social media that I’m saying that I would play [him again],” McGregor said in the new series’ global press conference. “But there’s got to be a good story in order for us to revisit all this again, too.”
Together with Deborah Chow, the director of episodes of The Mandalorian and director of all the episodes Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi limited-series, McGregor and Chow have collaborated over the past three years to find a story that was worthy of bringing the historical and beloved character back.
For Chow, the story came from the simple idea that we just wanted to know who Kenobi is. “You also really have time to get into the character. … I was most excited about doing a character-driven story with more depth to have more time to really get to know the character,” Chow said.
As for how Kenobi has changed since last seeing him in the movie “Revenge of the Sith,” it takes into account the timeline jump to where the series takes place. “The Jedi Order has all been destroyed at this point. … for 10 years, he’s been in hiding. In a way, he’s lost his faith,” said McGregor, adding that he has known this character through every major point in his life.
That ultimately meant that the show had to touch more on Kenobi’s new reality of having his padawan turn into the major and most iconic villain in Star Wars lore – Darth Vader. Deborah Chow and McGregor knew that having Hayden Christensen reprise his role as Anakin Skywalker would be the only way that this would make the story more high-stakes and authentic.
“We slightly lost touch over the years,” said McGregor about Christensen, whom he calls a very close friend. “Looking right across at him on set made it feel like we hadn’t spent all those years apart.”
And because Darth Vader and Kenobi will see each other again, you can bet that fighting and lightsaber training will be a huge part of this new series. McGregor mentioned that he went back into the fight gym about 4 months before arriving on set to film just to get back into the physicality it took to do these fights that were inspired by the fights choreographed in the previous films. “[Jojo, our fight coordinator] and his team would study the fights that we did in the original three films and develop new fight choreography from those for our show. He’s an amazingly thoughtful man and more light a fight arranger,” McGregor said.
When it came to getting the voice and lightsaber training back, McGregor said that it was a challenging but fun process to “find” Kenobi in all that muscle memory stored up. “He was always there ready to go though,” said McGregor.
McGregor’s revisiting wasn’t the only difficult part in developing the series. Chow said that the overall story had its own unique challenges.
She said that there was some trouble as “we have these huge legacy iconic characters and we’re in between two trilogies. In large part, we’re telling the second act of a story which is already challenging in itself. So we tried our best to respect canon, but put in an original story with original characters that all together would satisfy fans, but allow us to create in the first place.”
To that end, Chow also felt that the Kenobi limited series feels different from The Mandalorian in that it feels like one long movie compared to an episodic series that has an ending to a new beginning with most episodes. “It’s basically a movie split into episodes,” McGregor added.
Both McGregor and Chow also know the pressure they had in making the series too in that the character and the films they come from set an amazing precedent with a fan base that is expecting much.
“It has been a pretty long and intense journey, over three years. But like anything else, I’m finally excited to get it out into the world and talk about it,” said Chow.
“To make an Obi-Wan series which seems there has been a hunger for and to finally do it, it’s all really exciting,” said McGregor.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the six-part limited series, streams exclusively on Disney+ with a two-episode premiere on May 27.
We’ll have more on “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and other things Star Wars with our coverage of Star Wars Celebration 2022 happening in Anaheim this week! Follow us on Twitter @DisneyExaminer for updates.