The genesis of Andor, an original, live-action series, was the fan-favourite 2016 feature film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. After the movie had wrapped, Tony Gilroy, who is credited with the screenplay and brought a clear creative vision to the film, found himself continuing to think deeply about the early years of the Rebellion, and he felt strongly that there was much more to explore about Cassian Andor, in particular.
Andor is an original, live-action series exclusively for Disney+ that explores the Star Wars galaxy from a new perspective, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings to light the story of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.
“The series is a prequel to ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,’” explains creator and showrunner Tony Gilroy. “It rewinds back five years from the events of Rogue One to follow Cassian Andor on his journey to get to the movie. We’ve done twelve episodes for the first season. The twelve episodes that we’ve done cover one year in time. We’re going to do another twelve that are going to take us over the next four years into ‘Rogue One.’”
A thriller rife with political intrigue, danger, tension, and high stakes, “Andor” is at its core a story about revolution. “This is an incredibly intense five-year period of time,” says Gilroy. “The five years beforehand is where everything is fermenting and cooking, and bubbling up, and all these nascent revolutionary, rebellious ideas are percolating all over the galaxy in all kinds of independent, improvised and ad hoc ways. People are trying to build a revolution and the tactics that are used in revolutions are uncompromising.”
“‘Andor’ is a story about many things, but at the center of it is a story about revolution and about everyday people making decisions in a very extreme moment in Star Wars history. We’re treating it as a very serious story about the education of a leader and the building of a rebellion. Characters really have to make decisions all the way down the line—how people make decisions, how they fail to make the proper decisions, how they betray each other when they’re weak, what bravery means, what altruism really means, what evil and oppression really mean. The chance to chew on all that material is why I’m here.”
“When we did ‘Rogue One,’ it was fascinating to work with the different characters that were there, but the movie was such an ensemble piece, we only got snapshots and glimpses into all the different characters’ lives,” Gilroy says. “I tried to make them as interesting as possible, but they were glimpses. Digging deeper into the life of Cassian Andor, you realize that this guy has this incredibly complicated and long history. He arrives in ‘Rogue One,’ and he’s the consummate spymaster warrior. He’s the one person that the whole Rebel Alliance is going to trust with this assignment. So, he’s the tip of the spear. How did he get to be the tip of the spear? How did he get to have all of the skills that are required for that?”
Tony Gilroy notes that a profoundly painful incident from his childhood has shaped much of Cassian Andor’s character. “There is a trauma, and an anger and a bitterness inside of him,” says Gilroy. “It’s just a fire that will not be banked, and he’s suffered for it. His life has been really distorted and messed up by oppressive colonial powers since he’s six years old. He’s lost his whole civilization along the way. So, he has a lot to be angry about. It’s an unfortunate combination of circumstances that finds him in the first episode of this show.”
As showrunner for “Andor,” Gilroy and his fellow filmmakers knew exactly what they wanted the tone and look of the series to be even before they began drawing together all the elements the ambitious project would require. “One thing that we really wanted to make sure was that in this show everything is real,” Gilroy comments. “That was our initial instinct going forward, and that’s what we’ve tried to adhere to. Everything has to be real and that filters down from a design, it filters down through the camera department, it filters down through the actors, for sure, and it really filters down into the writing and the behavioral writing and the kinds of scenes that you can write and the topics that you’re going to deal with.”
For Tony Gilroy, setting “Andor” up as a thriller made sense to execute the story and pay off the characters. “The thriller genre provides a chance to dig deep into complicated behavioural problems between people, and watch people make decisions that are difficult,” offers Gilroy. “We’re going to start with one thriller by having the Cassian Andor story go all the way through this. But as he impacts other people all around him, and as other people get involved, we spread out and go wide with the story. We’re carrying a lot of characters, and as they spin out, they all have their own thrillers. I’m really pleased with the fact we could keep so much combustion, so much kinetic tension, and so much adrenaline in all of our subplots. And it means when they collide in the story, and when they come together, it just adds all this extra heat. From a storytelling point of view, it’s pretty exciting.”
With the advent of streaming, the ability to do a series that could potentially answer those questions by examining the untold story of the formative years of the Rebellion and the personal history of the hero who gave his life for the cause became more of a reality. “I do remember when it stopped being wishful thinking,” says Diego Luna (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Narcos: Mexico”) who returns as Cassian Andor.
For Luna, “Andor” was the perfect opportunity to delve into the backstory of his character: “The film can only tell you so much. There are many questions about who these characters are, even though there are moments in the film where Cassian talks about his recent past and what he’s gone through and why he’s making the choice of going all the way. But, with this show, we have the chance to be very specific in telling the story of how a revolutionary start, in what triggers this clarity, this conviction. There’s room for subtle and different layers that bring richness to what you’re seeing.”
Eager to investigate the darker corners of the character’s psyche, Luna happily partnered with Gilroy to find the nuance and complexity of this younger incarnation of Cassian. “Diego is just a gem,” says Gilroy, who grew close to the performer during the making of “Rogue One.” “He’s a brilliant actor, he’s a great collaborator, he’s a gentleman, he’s wise, he’s sweet. He is your dream partner.”
For Tony Gilroy, the creative challenge of working backwards from the end point of “Rogue One” proved to be an exciting one. As he conceptualized Cassian’s larger story arc, he sought to map out a narrative journey for the character that would feel compelling and complete—that meant re-introducing him in the world of the series at an especially low point in his life, five years prior to the events depicted in “Rogue One” at a time when the Empire is consolidating its power across the galaxy.
The character of Cassian Andor is naturally at the heart of the narrative, the center around which all the other characters and stories must flow. Explains executive producer Kathleen Kennedy: “We’re fortunate to have Diego Luna come back to do this show because he became such a huge presence in ‘Rogue One.’ To go back in Cassian Andor’s life several years prior to when ‘Rogue One’ took place and get a better understanding of what led Cassian to become who he is—the family connections, where he grew up, all of the things that go into defining him and defining his character—has been really important.”
Toby Haynes, who directed six of the twelve episodes of “Andor,” was drawn to the narrative through Tony Gilroy’s writing: “I think what’s really exciting about what Tony is doing with this series is that Star Wars has always been about the battle between good and evil, and I think what ‘Andor’ is, and how it’s unique, is that it’s about the gray areas of life. It’s very realistic to life where people are more nuanced and not just one thing or the other.”
He adds, “Every character that you’ll meet in ‘Andor’ will have two sides to them, and it’s about peeling away the layers of those characters and showing all sides of people—the choices that they make, which side they are on and who they affiliate with. Star Wars is this incredible galaxy with loads of interesting planets to explore, but what I really think is interesting about what Tony is doing is that he’s exploring the mind and the ideas of what it is to be a rebel.”
There are 195 speaking roles in “Andor,” a challenging prospect, but one that executive producer Sanne Wohlenberg was prepared to take on due to the quality of the material: “When you bring Star Wars to the small screen, you get more time to really spend with characters, so it automatically becomes more about character. And that’s also what I think the audience will come back to every week. Of course, they’ll want to be dazzled, and of course, there has to be some action that will be part of the adventurous journeys that Star Wars ultimately sets you on. But the engagement with characters is ultimately what drives you back and what will give it longevity. Tony Gilroy is a very character-driven writer in the first place, and he writes a family ever so well. I think when fantasy is at its best, you always deal with problems and conundrums that happen in our real world.”
From its wide-ranging galactic vistas to its cross-section of characters and complex storytelling, “Andor” takes the Star Wars saga to new and unforgettable places. “The depth you can go, being able to fertilize a field with characters, is pretty exciting,” says Tony Gilroy.
“I want the audiences to experience everything,” he concludes. “We have aspirations for every single part of the audience’s emotional life and expectations. This is a show that has incredible adventure and heart-pounding action. We crescendo from episode to episode, but we’re also telling a story that is heartbreaking, angering, and even shocking, in some places.”
The Writing Team
The creator and showrunner for the series is writer/director/producerTony Gilroy, who also wrote Episodes 1, 2, 3, 11 and 12. Gilroy, who co-wrote “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” is known for writing and directing the critically acclaimed feature films “Michael Clayton” and “The Bourne Legacy” and wrote the first three Bourne Films: “The Bourne Identity,” The Bourne Supremacy,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
Additional writers on the series are writer/director Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler,” “The Bourne Legacy”), Episodes 4, 5, 6; Emmy®-nominated Stephen Schiff (“The Americans,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”), Episode 7; and Beau Willimon (“House of Cards,” “The Ides of March”), Episodes 8, 9, 10.