Obi-Wan Kenobi actor Rupert Friend recently admitted that he went out of his way to avoid watching Star Wars Rebels in preparation for his role as the Grand Inquisitor on the upcoming Disney+ show.
Friend spoke to Entertainment Weekly (EW) to promote the show and during the interview was asked by EW’s Dalton Ross, “Did you go back and watch any of Star Wars Rebels to sort of see your character in animated form or did you just want to kind of take it fresh with the live action?”
The actor responded, “I really wanted to honor the character as I saw him, and so I almost deliberately did not see the animated interpretation.”
“Myself and [director] Deb Chow and [writer] Dave Filoni and all of the guys really wanted to do something fresh that honored and was faithful to the spirit of the character without doing a kind of impression of anybody else’s interpretation,” he explained.
That’s a really weird answer. How do you honor the character if you haven’t watched the source material? What exactly would you be honoring if you haven’t seen it? How do you even know you would be honoring it?
Aside from those questions, the second part of his answer is even more galling. First, he claims he wants to honor the character, but then claims he wants to create something fresh. It makes absolutely no sense. The Inquisitor should still be the same person we know from Rebels. He should still be a ruthless dark side user hunting down and eradicating Jedi.
If you are honoring that character it’s hard to envision making him fresh at the same time.
Finally, his justification that he didn’t watch the show because he didn’t want to do an impression of somebody else’s interpretation is absurd on its face. I can’t imagine any actor saying that about James Bond.
In fact, Daniel Craig said the opposite while promoting Casino Royale back in 2006. He not only credits Fleming’s original creation, but Sean Connery as well for the staying power of Bond as a cultural icon.
Craig said, “I think the special thing, really, is a lot down to Sean Connery, in spite of the Ian Fleming character as rich and as complicated as it was. Casting Sean, a Scotsman, in the role as the quintessential Englishman really put the spin on it. And, probably, it’s one of the reasons it’s lasted so long.”
In another interview, Craig would make it clear that Connery and the other James Bond actors influenced his portrayal of the character.
“Look, for me Sean Connery defined the role. So, he’s always going to be someone I look towards, especially when I started this. Dr. No and From Russia with Love are two of my favorite films. So, yeah, he’s an influence for sure. As are many other sort of actors in my life anyway.
The character has been depicted a certain way for a reason. Actors should be doing their best to interpret the character in the same way because that’s how they’ve been characterized especially if you are trying to honor the character. Again in order to honor the character, you need to know the character’s history.
Can you imagine the next James Bond not having the same mannerisms film goers have become accustomed too? Can you imagine Bond not having the same swagger and style that Fleming not only wrote for the character, but how Connery brought it to life?
Nevertheless, Friend would also be asked, “Tell me about the voice. It’s so ominous in that first trailer. How’d you work on the sound and coming up with how you wanted to give this character life through the voice?”
He answered, “It was interesting because, as I say, I deliberately didn’t want to sort of use anybody else’s interpretation of this character. So it was really something that I felt very instinctively when I read the script.”
“And one of the lines that [Joby Harold], the writer, had written was when the Grand Inquisitor speaks, he’s a being who enjoys the sound of his own voice,” he said. “He’s one of those guys who, if you didn’t stop him, would just talk and talk and talk.”
“And I’m not giving anything away by saying we’re going to experience that in the show. He has this very juicy way of enjoying himself. And I just thought, what does the guy who enjoys the sound of his own voice sound like? And that’s what we got,” he concluded.
While Ross appeared to admit he didn’t actually research the character’s previous appearances in Star Wars Rebels, he did provide quite a bit of information on what viewers can expect if they happen to tune into Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“Okay, so basically the Grand Inquisitor is the chief of the Inquisitors, and he reports directly to Darth Vader. He’s a pretty powerful member of the dark side,” Friend relayed. “And some people who aren’t familiar with Star Wars may or may not know this, but he used to be a Jedi. He used to fight for the forces of good as a temple guard. And he also is one of the people who trained Jedi in fighting styles, so he knows all the things that they know about fighting, and that makes him a pretty fearsome opponent.”
Friend would also discuss the Grand Inquisitor’s relationship with Vader and his position in the Empire’s hierarchy. He detailed, “Well, obviously with the rule of two, in the HR chart, you’ve got the Emperor first, then you’ve got Vader. And I’d say [The Grand Inquisitor] is right there, I wouldn’t even say below. In his mind, he’s on a par with Vader.”
“He’s not. Obviously, Vader would probably kill him. But I think it would be quite an interesting fight. Because you’ve got this idea of a fearsome guy, this Grand Inquisitor, who yes, reports to Vader. And I do think he respects the hierarchy and the order of command. But I think if there were ever a slip-up, he would be waiting in the wings,” he elaborated.
What do you make of Friend’s comments?