The Star Wars Series The Mandalorian Transposes Samurais and Westerns to Deep Space

Pedro Pascal plays the titular helmet-wearing bounty hunter Photo: photo courtesy of Lucasfilm

On Friday afternoon, at the close of a jam-packed two-hour D23 panel event for Disney’s new streaming service Disney+, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy took the stage before 6,000 pumped up fans to make a lofty claim about several new Star Wars spinoff shows headed for the service (which launches November 12). “Lucasfilm will enter into episodic live-action for the first time in history,” she said. “The quality of our episodic series for Disney+ will be identical to our feature films.”

Any doubt about the veracity of that statement was put to bed minutes later with a grand unveiling of the streamer’s first Star Wars TV show offering, The Mandalorian. Set in a time of galactic lawlessness, in the years immediately following The Return of the Jedi, the show follows a mysterious, helmeted bounty hunter known only as the Mandalorian as he stalks the outer reaches of the post-Imperial galaxy, blaster firmly in hand. The show’s trailer — unveiled in Anaheim at D23 and released concurrently online — reveals the parameters of the character’s chaotic surroundings: stormtroopers’ heads on spikes, aerial laser gun battles, Old West–style shootouts, and show regular Werner Herzog gravely intoning, “Being a bounty hunter is a complicated profession.”

The Mandalorian’s writer and executive producer Jon Favreau and director Dave Filoni took the stage to explain that they met one another in 2007, while both were at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch completing postproduction on their respective projects — the animated Star Wars series Clone Wars for Filoni and Favreau’s “movie about an obscure comic book called Iron Man.” After showing one another footage, a friendship bloomed. And when Favreau heard the studio was opening Disney+ up to Star Wars content, he pitched Kennedy a show. “It takes place after the revolution, after everyone was done celebrating because the Empire is gone, and then chaos reigns because there’s no central government in the galaxy,” Favreau explained. “So it degrades into a world like the old samurai movies and the old Westerns where gunfighters are roving, people are trying to build safe communities, but it’s a dangerous world.”

“I said, ‘I want the lead character to be a Mandalorian,’” he continued. “She said, ‘Do you know Dave Filoni? I said, ‘I love Dave Filoni!’” Together, the two produced eight scripts. “What I love about it, it really felt like Star Wars to me,” Filoni added.

Soon several key cast members joined them onstage: Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), MMA star turned actress Gina Carano, Rocky’s Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) and Taika Waititi (who also directed one of the Mandalorian episodes). Asked how it felt to join the Star Wars cinematic universe, Pascal and Carano were unabashed. “It’s like a dream come true,” the Chilean-American actor who plays the Mandalorian said.

“I feel the Force is in me,” Carano added. “I understand it now.”

Waititi, who habitually steals scenes as an actor in such films as Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, instead cracked wise about the inclusiveness showcased in The Mandalorian. “I play IG-11,” he said of his robotic character. “Just for droid representation, it’s very important to me that those characters get enough screen time. They’re very misunderstood. Especially bounty-hunter droids.”

Star Wars Series The Mandalorian Imagines Samurais in Space