For all of its films, animated shows, and ill-fated holiday specials, the Star Wars universe has never managed a live-action television series…until now, that is.
We're a little less than two weeks away from the global launch of Disney+, the Mouse House's subscription streaming platform that will contain all sorts of original programming like The Mandalorian.
To help get you ready for the Star Wars series' Season 1 debut on Tuesday, Nov. 12, Your Money Geek has put together a comprehensive primer as big as the galaxy far, far away. Ok, maybe not that big, but we do cover a lot, so let's hop to it, shall we? Gentlemen and ladies, start your podracer engines…
THE CREATOR, WRITERS, & PRODUCERS:
The Mandalorian was created by Jon Favreau, the director behind the first Iron Man film in 2008. You know, just the superhero movie that launched the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since that time, Favreau has become one of Disney's biggest storytellers, having helmed two live-action remakes of The Jungle Book (2016) and The Lion King (2019). He also voiced the character of Rio Durant in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
In addition to creating The Mandalorian, Favreau also serves as showrunner, head writer, and executive producer. His fellow writers consist of Dave Filoni (creator of The Clone Wars and Rebels), Rick Famuyiwa (writer of 2015's Dope), and Christopher Yost (writer of Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok).
Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy (current president of Lucasfilm), Karen Gilchrist (Cowboys & Aliens, The Lion King), and Colin Wilson (Avatar, The Meg) are executive producing alongside Favreau.
“I wrote four of the episodes before I even had a deal, because I wanted to do this but only if they wanted to do the version that I wanted to do,” Favreau said during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in August.
The Mandalorian is sort of a buffer between 1983's Return of the Jedi and 2017's The Force Awakens. Set shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star, it will show fans what the galaxy was like once the Rebel Alliance ended the Empire's reign of dictatorial terror. The New Republic is soon established after the fall of Palpatine and Vader, but it's not nearly large or powerful enough to govern planets in the outermost reaches of the galaxy. The Outer Rim is where you'll find the most wretched hives of scum and villainy—two words that describe such occupations as bounty hunting, which just so happens to be the profession of our main character.
“Our guy is operating in a much more unforgiving landscape,” Favreau told Entertainment Weekly in September. “A place where survival is difficult enough, let alone flourish in that atmosphere and the politics have dissolved. It’s ‘might is right.’ And how does somebody earn a living when there’s no structure to society anymore and everything is collapsing in on itself? How do you work your way through the world?”
“This doesn’t turn into a good guy universe because you blew up two Death Stars,” Filoni also said to EW. “You get that the Rebels won and they’re trying to establish a Republic, but there’s no way that could have set in for everybody all at once. You have in a Western where you’re out on the frontier and there might be Washington and they might have some marshals, but sometimes good luck finding one.”
And while the First Order is still years away from rearing its ugly head, Favreau did tease that the series could eventually tackle how the Empire-inspired organization came to be.
“What could happen in the 30 years between celebrating the defeat of the Empire and then the First Order?” he said. “You come in on Episode VII, [the First Order are] not just starting out. They’re pretty far along … “So somehow, things weren’t necessarily managed as well as they could have been if [the galaxy] ended up in hot water again like that.”
Ah yes, the reason you're all here. You want to see a guy dress like Boba Fett and kick some butt, right? Of course, you do! Here's The Mandalorian‘s roster of principal characters…
The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) — This currently-unnamed bounty hunter is a native of the planet Mandalore, a world that places great value on warriors and their armor. Described as a lone gunslinger akin to Clint Eastwood in the old Spaghetti Westerns, the show's main character wears battle dress (shoulder pads, a helmet with a T-shaped visor, etc.) similar to the ones seen on Jango and Boba Fett—fellow Mandalorians, although one was a clone of the other—in the original and prequel trilogies.
The Mandalorian also carries a rifle that should be familiar to anyone who has seen the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, which first introduced Boba Fett to the world before The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Seemingly a man of few words, we finally got to hear Pascal's character speak in the second trailer released earlier this week. Said trailer also provided a glimpse of carbonite, the freezing metal used by bounty hunters to transport their bounties to clients (see: Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi).
“I was the one who was bringing the holiday special to the table. That’s my generation,” Favreau told Entertainment Tonight after this year's Saturn Awards. “I love the Star Wars Holiday Special, certain sequences more than others. But I love the introduction of Boba Fett and that rifle that he had. That animated piece still holds up. It’s pretty cool. And I still draw inspiration from that.”
Cara Dune (Gina Carano) — A former Shock Trooper for the Rebel Alliance, Cara (now a mercenary-for-hire) looks like she'll be one of the Mandalorian's allies in the Wild West equivalent in the galaxy far, far away. If she had the moral compass to fight with the Rebels, then she's trustworthy…or as trustworthy as a person can be in the Outer Rim.
“She’s gone from planet to planet,” Carano told EW in September. “She’s a loner. She’s strong. She runs into the Mandalorian on one of these planets that she’s hiding out on and thinks that he’s there to take her in and then their relationship escalates from there.”
Kuiil (Nick Nolte) — This character is an Ugnuaght. According to Wookieepedia, they are considered to be “the hardest-working species in the galaxy.” Despite being natives to the planet of Gentes, many Ugnuaght sought new lives on Cloud City, the location where Lando Calrissian betrayed Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. In fact, it was Ugnuaghts who helped Vader freeze Solo in carbonite. Sadly, Gentes was often visited by slavers who kidnapped Ugnuaght and sold them across the galaxy as unwilling servants and laborers. Not much is known about Kuiil, but if he warrants his own character poster, he must be very important to the overall plot.
Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) — The head of a “bounty hunter guild,” Carga hires mercenaries for jobs in the Outer Rim. Since this is the lawless part of the galaxy we're talking about, the jobs are probably not all that savory.
“[The Mandalorian] is one of the most exciting projects as a result of just that,” Weathers told SYFY WIRE. “There is so much that you get a chance to learn. You learn a lot about yourself. Let me just listen and see what happens here. Somebody's gonna come up with something that's really brilliant. I don't have to be the sharpest tool in that box, but I can take credit for it when I'm directing somebody else. They come up with the answer, I'll take credit for it and it's okay.”
Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) — “Moff” is a term in the Star Wars universe that equates to “governor” in ours. Just like Peter Cushing's Moff Tarkin, Moff Gideon was a high-ranking leader of the Empire, but with the Emperor gone, he's in need of a new vocation. You could even say that he's a war criminal akin to the Nazis who fled Germany after WWII was lost. Just like those individuals went into hiding in the jungles of South America, Gideon is keeping somewhat of a low profile on the edge of the galaxy, although it seems like he's keeping the old ways alive with some Stormtroopers at his side for protection.
“I play a guy who was a warden of the universe. He was in power before the [Empire] collapsed. You don't know if he's good or bad … but he certainly is a guy who has order in his life. He's an exciting guy because he has all of the equipment and spaceships at his ready,” Esposito said of his character while appearing on the red carpet for this year's Primetime Emmys.
“He has knowledge of everything and seems to know everyone's movements. … Big brain, very very smart,” added the Breaking Bad alum at D23 Expo over the summer.
IG-11 (Taika Waititi) — While he is modeled after the bounty hunting droid known as IG-88 in The Empire Strikes Back, IG-11 seems like he'll be more akin to K-2SO from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That's because Waititi himself has described the robot as “very innocent and naive and direct and doesn’t know about sarcasm and doesn’t know how to lie. It’s like a child with a gun.”
“So a droid like IG-88, if you know the Expanded Universe and the Star Wars history, there are a lot of stories around him or what might've happened to that particular droid. So out of respect for people that have been with this franchise a long time, it's like, ‘well if we do something with this space, would that be contradicting those stories?'” Filoni said during a chat with IGN. “So it's better just to say, ‘Well, there's other droids,' it's not like it was a unique assassin droid. And then we have a little more free-range. I mean, people forget in Empire, you never even see him walk or take a step – the prop was actually bolted to the floor. So just giving him feet was something new and original. But yeah, I just gravitate to the open field that you get with new characters, and then when you do bring up something, if you choose to, like when we brought Obi-Wan finally into Star Wars Rebels, I think it becomes significant and special.”
Werner Herzog (The Client) — How do you get one of the most revered documentary filmmakers in the history of cinema to play a character in a Star Wars show? We have no clue, but Jon Favreau managed it, and Herzog's mysterious character has factored prominently into both trailers for the series. Based on the most recent round of footage, the Client has an intimate knowledge of the Mandalorian and the suffering of his people. In any case, hiring Herzog was totally worth it just to hear him say the word “parsec.”
Bill Burr — Another strange casting choice that is welcome all the same. The well-known comedian joins the galaxy far, far away as “an outlaw … with a shoulder-mounted laser cannon,” according to EW.
During an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, Burr (a fan of darker, more heady sci-fi projects like 2001 and Moon) said that by the time the first Star Wars movie opened in 1977, he was too old. In the decades since, he's made fun of the Lucasfilm output, but his outlook was entirely changed once he boarded The Mandalorian.
“I ran into Jon somewhere … and he was like, ‘Hey, I’m doing this Star Wars thing, would you wanna do something?'” Burr recounted. “And I was like, ‘I kinda always make fun of it.' [Favreau] said, ‘I think that’d be funny. I think your fans would get a kick out of the fact if you went into that thing.' Then I went in there, and they were shooting it like a Spaghetti Western. And I was immediately so psyched to be a part of it.”
Ming-Na Wen — We know virtually nothing about Ming-Na's character, who was only confirmed at D23 in August. When asked by SYFY WIRE what she could divulge about the role, all the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress could say was: “I certainly don't play a farmer.”
Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtah) — Pershing, who appeared in some footage at Star Wars Celebration back in April, was described as “a scientist of some sort,” by EW.
“I just think fans are going to be very happy with the final product and the work going into it, I know it’s a TV Series but you wouldn’t know that stepping onto the set, they are putting a lot of money and effort and a lot of use of technology that I’ve never seen, and from the scripts and the final product in, I think it’s something to be proud of,” Abtah told Discussing Film last December.
Aside from the actors mentioned above, the project co-stars Emily Swallow, Mark Boone Junior, Julia Jones, and Natalia Tena.
BEHIND THE CAMERA:
The Mandalorian has assembled so truly great directing talent for its premiere season. Last October, StarWars.com unveiled the roster, which includes: Filoni, Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard (Black Mirror), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), and Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones).
In particular, Bryce will be the second Howard to direct something in the Star Wars universe after her dad, Ron, helmed last summer's Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“After Jurassic [World: Fallen Kingdom] I stayed and shadowed my dad on Solo,” she said while speaking with Variety at the Toronto International Film Festival. “What he just kept saying again and again and again… ‘This is just the most incredible sandbox that you will ever get the opportunity to play in.'”
Touching on the main character, Dallas Howard said:
“We’re going to connect with the character. Things are very character-driven. I come from the background of being an actor and understanding not just making leaps because it says something on the page, but really being like, ‘Okay, the emotional logic is really adding up here and really paying off.'”
Disney+ has already ordered a second season of The Mandalorian, which is already in production. Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in July, Favreau revealed back in July that Season 1 had wrapped and he was already writing part of Season 2. At the end of September, he and Filoni appeared from the show's set to deliver a special video message for Triple Force Friday. They began the message by stating that they were prepping for Season 2. During a press conference for the show in late October, he confessed that production on the second season had already kicked off a week before.
“We actually have the first week of the second season under our belt. Our cast, especially Pedro may be a little tired because he was there quite late last night,” he said, according to CinemaBlend.
And you never know, we could end up receiving a “Mandalorian Saves Christmas” special sometime down the road.
“I would love to, maybe someday on Disney+, we’ll do a Holiday Special, too. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I gotta pitch that to them. We’ll see. If you want to see a holiday special, let Disney+ know,” Favreau said during the abovementioned Saturn Awards chat with Entertainment Tonight.
The Mandalorian premieres on Disney+ Tuesday, Nov. 12. Like traditional television, the series will air a single episode a week. Season 1 consists of eight episodes.