As a creator of Star Wars’ new canon, you don’t go and add a character like Grand Admiral Thrawn to the canon lightly. It’s a character fans have been craving, but he also comes with a lot of questions. Where has he been during the Empire’s rise? Where does he go when the original trilogy begins? In an interview during Star Wars Celebration Europe, showrunner Dave Filoni promised us he has the answers.
“When we start, I always want to know where it’s all going,” Filoni said. “If we bring [Thrawn] in, we have to think reasonably about, ‘Where is he?’ There are any number of reasonable answers as simple as, ‘He’s on a Star Destroyer.’ You can reasonably say that. While there’s the hunt for Luke Skywalker, there’s all kinds of other things going on in the galaxy. That’s a reasonable thing. You usually start off by thinking, ‘Okay. At least we have a reasonable thing in the future.’”
But the reasonable thing is not always the best storytelling thing, especially not for a character like Thrawn.
“Then, as you tell your story, you’re giving them all kinds of real experiences,” Filoni continues. “Those real experiences fuel into the conclusion at the end of the story. We need to know what our end game is for this character, [and] I think [that] is exciting. You go through a number of questions. ‘Does he survive? Does he not survive?’ We’ve been the architects of that as we’ve been going. I think we have a nice path figured out for Mr. Thrawn. I wouldn’t bring him back lightly without that plan.”
The question of what happens to Thrawn once the events of A New Hope takes place could be equally applied to all of Rebels’ characters, most especially Ezra, a character that seems like he should play a much bigger role in the Star Wars universe than this little sliver on Disney XD.
“Here we’re introducing this pretty potent Force-using kid,” Filoni said. “Where is he? You’d think he’d be a pretty important tool for the Rebellion to use in the later films. But eventually [fellow producer] Simon [Kinberg] and I figured out what that means, where they go and what happened to them.”
The key to the fates of the characters is looking at the bigger picture. Yes, the Star Wars universe to this point has mainly been centered on Luke Skywalker. But with standalone films, Rebels, and more, Filoni suggested they’re adopting a more J.R.R. Tolkien-like approach.
“I love to give a lot of Tolkien references,” Filoni said. “But [in those stories] Faramir is kind of doing his thing, Frodo is doing his thing, Aragorn is doing his thing, everybody’s got their different movements. If you really study, Elrond was doing his own thing, Galadriel was doing her own thing, in the Iron Hills they were doing their own thing and it’s amazing how he orchestrated all that. So even bits that weren’t necessarily in the books, he knew what was going on. And when you take on mass continuity like this, that’s what you’re really getting at. You have to understand the world and all the moving parts of it. And I think the challenge is you want each story to be original and exciting.”
Filoni wants fans to remember that the battle the Rebels are fighting against the Empire doesn’t end with A New Hope. Nor does it end with Return of the Jedi. That means Rebels, hypothetically, could go on for a very long time, parallel with the movies.
“We have surmised, over the years, that the Rebellion isn’t technically over until Return of the Jedi and even then there was some additional fighting that lead up to Jakku,” Filoni said, referring to some new canon material released last year. “So when is the ultimate victory that would mean Hera and company are free of the fight? Well, it doesn’t seem to be for a long time. So it’s not impossible and there are probably a lot of stories, I’m just gonna try and tell the most important ones for them, what their saga is, and probably not every saga ends on the same day.”
Star Wars Rebels’ third season begins this fall.