Diego Luna on ‘Andor’ Politics, Filming Narkina Prison Break

Photo: John Parra/Getty Images

Spoilers follow for the first season of Andor.

Compared to the withdrawn, paranoid protagonist he plays on Andor, Diego Luna is a really friendly guy. Within seconds of starting our conversation, it’s clear he shares my enthusiasm — and that of a large, vocal audience of critics and fans — for the series. His answers to my questions spill out in enthusiastic monologues for minutes at a time; he even offers a sympathetic “Oh my God” when I tell him Andor is the only one Star Wars project in my four decades of fandom that moved me to tears.

But Luna is used to that kind of reaction now since Andor is the best-reviewed Star Wars anything in years. Created by Tony Gilroy, it tells a very different kind of Star Wars story: a ground-level look at the birth of the Rebellion through the eyes of Luna’s low-level thief turned budding revolutionary Cassian Andor, a character he originated in the stand-alone film Rogue One. Even with that well-received movie as its pedigree, Andor‘s biting political salience, decidedly flawed characters (on all sides of the conflict), and total lack of Jedi, Sith, and baby Yodas run the risk of alienating audiences.

Luna is aware of that, too: “It was risky from the beginning. The show never wanted to be anything else. I love that people are celebrating that because I know it’s not easy.”

Have you been tracking the critical response? How does it feel to be a part of a project with that kind of reception?
It’s definitely something new. [Laughs.] I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done, but I try not to think too much about that — even though with Star Wars, everyone reminds you of the fan base, the number of people and attention, the expectation. That can confuse you; that can mislead you.

To me, it was important to stay aware of what kind of show Tony and I wanted to do, what kind of show we talked about doing the first time we chatted. We were always reminding ourselves this has to feel like it’s happening. Forget you are in a galaxy far, far away: This should feel as close as home does — as if you were sneaking into the lives of your neighbors.

Reading the reactions, people are celebrating the show for the same reasons I wanted to do it: “The most grounded, realistic Star Wars show.” More mature, more complex. We were always saying, “Let’s go deep. Make sure we stay in those gray areas where characters are trying to be the best version of themselves. Let’s be honest about who they are.”

I mean, when we talk about the audience of Star Warswe are talking about my father and my son And I am part of the audience, too; I wanted to be part of a show I would like to see. There’s a big chunk of the audience out there that wants to see this. We’re not alone.

Did you feel you were making an inherently political show?
We’re telling the story of the awakening of a revolution. There’s no way not to be political. If you wanted to avoid it, there wouldn’t be a show.

Clearly, the show talks about oppression. The show talks about the context needed for a revolution to be born. That is always going to resonate because the need for change is constant for humanity. That’s the beauty of fiction. It’s a great tool to comment on your life and your reality.

In the first episodes, Cassian talks about the Empire, how “fat and satisfied” they are. Everyone listening to that dialogue puts a face on the character Cassian is describing. Everyone can. No matter how far away you are from what you’re seeing on the screen, it always talks about you. For me, this story is saying a lot of what worries me and what I care about.

One of the most unusual things about the show is that, especially in the early episodes, Cassian Andor is not particularly charismatic. We’re used to dramas centered on the most magnetic guy in the room.
You probably were in a room with him and never noticed. Cassian had to be that guy because this is a big show that wants to tell the story of people that big shows never cared about before. It’s the only way to be honest about a revolution.

Yes, there are leaders, but revolutions are not made by leaders. They’re made by numbers, by conviction, by regular people thinking they can do something extraordinary. This is the story of one of those people that was never celebrated. Oh, this person is going to bring change, this person is different — no, not really. The strength of community, that’s what the show is about.

You cannot fall into the trap of making the charismatic, funny guy who you know from the beginning is going to find a way out. You have to think the opposite. You have to ask, Why are we supporting him? I was always saying, “Let’s avoid movie moments as much as we can.”

I wanted to talk to you specifically about the prison break, which was the most emotional I’ve ever gotten over Star Wars.
That was the last thing we shot. Not just that prison — that jump! The cameras were there, the cables and everything, and we jumped. The stunt performers did one by themselves. Then we heard “Wrap her up!” and we finished the show. Emotionally, it was very charged.

I mean, it was suffocating, shooting in that prison. We did that as a block, so we were basically living in that prison, built inside a studio, not seeing the daylight. And the set was huge. All the spaces were big, long, white. You felt like you were an ant.

Conceptually, it’s so strong: This false hope of getting out of there, that number on the wall that keeps you moving forward and it’s all a lie. The only thing you’re there for is to produce nonstop. Therefore, you need to be healthy, you need to be strong — the place is pristine, clean, they feed you, but you are nothing.

And it was always a big chunk of people. There are very few scenes where we’re not around a lot of men dressed in that same outfit designed by Michael Wilkinson. It’s brutal because it takes away all the personality. You’re just a white suit and a number. This idea of ​​being dead while you live because your life means nothing — that was always on our shoulders. And that’s the last thing Cassian has to hear: Your life, your journey, your experience means nothing to the Empire. It’s the first time he had that clarity.

And Andy Serkis? Come on. He was so hard-core, so moving. That sequence where everyone is shouting, “One way out! One way out!” It was strong. I was so affected.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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