Michael Slavin talked to Hossein Amini about the upcoming Disney+ Kenobi series, when production starts, and the series originally being a film.
Michael Slavin: So, one of your upcoming projects is the anticipated ‘Obi Wan’ show for Disney+ and I was wondering what you can say about the current production status of that series, I know you can’t say everything-
Hossein Amini: I can’t say very much. The plan is to start shooting in July, Ewan McGregor is signed on. I think he’s already said that it spans the period between episodes 3 and 4, so sort of after the fall of the republic and the massacre of the Jedi before the events of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’. It’s fascinating in the sense that it’s a period where there is a lot of change in the galaxy and a lot of hardship. So, for Obi Wan’s character, he has a lot to adjust to given the loss of his close friends and the order that he believed in. It felt like a really exciting opportunity to explore a different side of a franchise that I always loved and I’ve always loved it because of its spiritual aspects as well as its fun and action elements, it seems to work on way more than one level which isn’t always true for those big franchises.
Michael Slavin: That actually links very well onto my next question because I want to sort of ask how is it where you’re tackling such an iconic Star Wars character, but you’re tackling it in perhaps the worst span of their life because everything they ever stood for has fallen and everyone they have ever known has been massacred before this new hope is given, so I was wondering how you’re approaching that aspect of the character.
Hossein Amini: For a writer that is a difficult journey to explore because there is so much conflict in terms of internal and external and that’s what you’re always looking for in a story. When things are going great it’s difficult to wrangle a story out of that because there is nothing to struggle against in both the interior and exterior sense. So, I’ve always been drawn to situations that revolve around some kind of crisis.
Michael Slavin: Previously Obi-Wan was actually reportedly planned as a movie so why do you think that this story works best as a six-episode limited series?
Hossein Amini: I think because of what we were speaking about before, the situation is so complex both for him personally and in a way, the state of the galaxy, you sort of need time to explore it and to be honest there are loads of other stories within that period as well, it’s quite a few years. There is so much going on between episode 3 and 4 that hasn’t been explored. The idea of being able to go into a character journey plus the politics and plus all the vastness of the empire and what’s going on is exciting just because it feels like a proper period of history and sometimes that is hard to do in two hours. Sometimes with two-hour movies there is always an imperative for the action and the plot to move particularly fast and quickly and to go from action sequence to action sequence and there are many more aspects to storytelling that I find interesting.
Michael Slavin: So, how did you actually come about joining the project? Did you have to pitch, were you contacted? I was just wondering how you ended up working on the series?
Hossein Amini: I was initially contacted by the original director for the film version, Stephen Daldry and chatted with him and loved him as a director and then with Lucasfilm, it was more of a conversation than a pitch, I am incredibly gracious about it. They didn’t make it feel like an audition.
Michael Slavin: Have you always wanted to- you mentioned you were really fascinated by the period and are clearly a big Star Wars fan. Is Obi-Wan a character you’ve always been curious to explore?
Hossein Amini: Well he was one of my favorite characters, probably because he spans throughout both the trilogy and the prequels and it’s just something about how different he is from one to the next that is really fascinating and makes him such an iconic character. It’s also that I loved Star Wars because I’ve always been interested in different religions, like the whole notion of the samurai I’ve always loved, there are so many aspects of Star Wars that particularly appealed to me when I was a kid and it’s been actually really exciting being able to look at all the animated series and read many of the books it’s a whole world and galaxy that I’ve loved diving into.
Michael Slavin: I was wondering how long you’ve actually been attached to the series because I know Ewan McGregor mentioned that he’s been having to lie to people for years about it. Have you been similarly having to keep things tight-lipped? How long have you been attached to the project?
Hossein Amini: It’s probably coming up to almost two years now.
Michael Slavin: Oh wow, so that is quite a long period that this has been worked on.
Hossein Amini: Yeah I mean obviously, it’s been on and off but yeah.
Michael Slavin: So, I was just wondering how has it been working with the Lucasfilm story group to make sure that this show fits into the wider Star Wars canon?
Hossein Amini: They’re fantastic and absolutely devoted fans but they also know so much so that’s obviously wonderful and inspirational safety net to have. They are incredibly helpful to the process.
Michael Slavin: The director of the series is set to be Deborah Chow, who has done an episode on the Mandalorian, have you taken any influence from the tone they’re going for there where it is much more grounded-
Hossein Amini: I haven’t seen any of it except for the trailer. I’ve only seen as much as you have. I’m really excited to see it, but it hasn’t really affected what I’ve been doing particularly. I am a big fan of ‘Rogue One’, so the trailer for ‘The Mandalorian’ looks fantastic.
Michael Slavin: So with regards to the series, its set in a period as we’ve spoken about where although there is so much to that period and so much intrigue and interest, it’s not one that’s been touched on too greatly within films and the TV shows outside of the cartoons and I was wondering are there any canon or non-canon Star Wars material that influenced the writing of this or have you just very much approached it from a personal standpoint of ignore the rest and just focus on your own story.
Hossein Amini: No, I’ve been researching madly for a really long time and also because I love the research, with other projects too, like I said I studied History so in a way the great thing about Star Wars is that obviously, it started with George Lucas but the fans and writers and comic book artists have all contributed massively to this world that is vast so I think as a fan I have a certain responsibility to that group and I think it’s really important to be respectful and yes I’ve always loved putting something of myself in as a writer but when it’s something like this I think you have to know it like you would a piece of history you would be studying with all the characters and what has come before and in this case what’s come after as well.
Michael Slavin: So, you’ve mentioned in the interview and in other interviews how much for you it’s character first and then the plot comes from that as opposed to how much is driven by plot nowadays. Apologies if I’m retreading ground, I just find this completely fascinating. Is that what with Obi-Wan attracted you was an opportunity to start with a character rather than here’s a plot now make characters for it?
Hossein Amini: It’s a combination of plot and the situation that the character finds themselves in, its possible that Obi-Wan in a different period- like I said before, they have to be in a situation that also makes them interesting so yes it does start with character but it’s a combination I guess of character and situation or crisis. I mean he is a fascinating character.
Michael Slavin: Is there anything outside of Star Wars that you could point to as a potential influence for the series? Is there anything else that you in your research have come across that you find has been a real source of inspiration in writing the series?
Hossein Amini: Again it’s lots of other Sci-Fi’s but also the spiritual aspects of Star Wars that like I said is something that’s always really fascinated me so, yeah I try to keep the research as varied as possible, going into all sorts of books about crisis and extraordinary bits of anthropological stuff and you get inspired by everything and that’s amazing about what George Lucas has done with Star Wars is that it’s just so full of- whether it’s Buddhism or theology or anthropology, it’s got so much it’s just so rich and I sort of feel again that with the research reading all the Star Wars stuff but also all the stuff that George Lucas himself read from ‘A hero with a thousand faces’ to all the studies he did from Samurai costumes to weapons, there are masses to research.
Michael Slavin: Very quickly you mentioned before that you believe television is the direction in which we are heading, therefore how do you feel about the fact that you’re going to be one of the real tent poles for Disney+ starting off which is sure, which streaming is going to massively affect how we consume television and shows and I was just wondering about your feelings on that.
Hossein Amini: I’m really proud to be doing this, and I love TV but I am also a big movie fan. When I say that’s where it is going I mean I think there will be more and more TV done, but it’s getting harder to get films with a certain budget made- I mean I hope that doesn’t go away because I think now there is just so much competition for actors and resources that I think sometimes that smaller budget films can get slightly harder and harder to get done and that is still something that I am incredibly passionate about. I hope the two will coexist and that one doesn’t replace the other.