[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 3.]
The morning after the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi premiered on Disney+, writer and executive producer Joby Harold went to Disneyland with his kids. “We were at Rise of the Resistance, doing the Star Wars Disney of it all, and it was a really good distraction,” he tells Consequence via Zoom.
Six days later, after Episode 3 dropped, Harold instead spent time talking to press about the series, the highly anticipated new chapter of Star Wars that covers the period of time between Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. (Last Friday was probably a little more fun for him.)
One might have assumed that the new series would focus on one-time Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) living out his days in exile on the planet Tatooine, keeping an eye on a 10-year-old boy named Luke Skywalker. But the scope of Obi-Wan quickly expands after Luke’s twin sister Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) is kidnapped by bounty hunters — all part of a plot to lure Obi-Wan out of hiding to eventually confront his former apprentice, the terrifying Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen, voiced by the iconic James Earl Jones).
In the interview below, transcribed and edited for clarity, Harold reveals what it was like digging into the series as a writer, including why the season was structured so that Vader and Obi-Wan would confront each other for the first time in 10 years at the mid-way point, what kinds of lore he’s been excited to introduce to Star Wars canon, and what elements were key to the show’s depiction of both a younger Darth Vader and a very young Leia.
What’s been your experience working on a Star Wars TV show, in comparison to how other TV writers’ rooms function?
It actually wasn’t that dissimilar to the feature space, in the sense that there was a sort of a feature model here too. There were preexisting scripts and material that other amazing writers had worked on. So there was some stuff we inherited to build off of, but then I was lucky enough to be able to sort of take the ball and run with it by myself for a while.
I just sort of got to write all the outlines and work on that and break the story and figure out what it was going to be, and then start doing the same thing with the scripts and working very closely with Deb [Chow]. She, and I had a very sort of close working relationship — we were very much in lockstep about the character and about our ambitions for the show.
And then we were lucky enough to have some great writers come in and help us get to the finish line, offer an outside perspective and help with the workload — Pam Friedman, who’s fantastic, as is Andrew Stanton, who was invaluable. It was quite a small contained little team and because of that, I think efficient.
We shared a like mind and it was just very much about trying to capture the spirit of a character who’s very beloved by a lot of people, and just be true to the audience. We are fundamentally all Star Wars fans and our greatest judge is ourselves. You want it to be the kind of show you would watch with your family around you. You hold it to that kind of standard.
Was this year of Obi-Wan’s life always the exact year that the show was targeting, or was there any ever any question of doing a different era?
I can’t speak to a lot of the development of the past in regards to when they chose to do it. I can say that this was always the year, as soon as I started talking about it. It was right in the middle of the gap [between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope] and it sort of feels like it’s where it should be.
It obviously speaks more importantly to the age of Luke and Leia at that time, and when they’re most interesting as characters in their nascent form to observe or to get to know. It just felt right, and it wasn’t too far off Ewan’s actual age and the character’s age at that time. If you’re going to tell the connective tissue between the prequels and the original trilogy, why not hit it in the middle, when everyone’s at the right sort of stage in that character’s evolution?