‘Andor’ Creator Tony Gilroy Talks Luthen Rael’s Future and Being Surprised by Certain Easter Eggs – Hollywood Reporter

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Gilroy goes deep into the creative process of the acclaimed ‘Star Wars’ show in a wide-ranging interview that includes a few season two tidbits.
By Brian Davids
[This story contains spoilers for Andor episode ten, “One Way Out.”]
On the heels of Andor’s latest showstopper of an episode, creator Tony Gilroy wants to preview what lies ahead for Stellan Skarsgard’s fan-favorite character Luthen Rael in season one and beyond.
In episode eight, “Narkina 5,” Luthen met with Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) in an effort to convince the Partisan leader to form an alliance with Anto Kreegyr, the point man for another Rebel faction known as the Separatists. But Saw balked at the idea of joining forces despite Kreegyr having intel that could potentially destroy Spellhaus, an Imperial Power Station. 

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However, Luthen’s plan quickly changed in episode ten (“One Way Out”) as his ISB mole, Lonni (Robert Emms), informed him that the ISB captured one of Kreegyr’s Rebel pilots and uncovered his plan to raid Spellhaus. As a result, Luthen told Lonni that he’d sacrifice Kreegyr to protect his secret Rebel spy.
“[Luthen is] a chess player, man. He’s sacrificing a castle to protect his queen. So I don’t think the Kreegyr story is over yet,” Gilroy tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Luthen is in a very tough spot, and his position over the next five years is only going to get more complicated. You’re seeing the beginning of those issues in episode ten. That’s also one of the major food groups that we’ll be dealing with in the second season.”
Gilroy told THR previously that he urged his Andor collaborators to put aside their Star Wars reverence in order to achieve verisimilitude, and that also meant resisting the franchise’s tendency to foreground Easter eggs. However, this edict didn’t stop his art department from tucking away a few notable items, much to the surprise of Gilroy. 
“Every now and then, they sneak shit in there that even I didn’t know,” Gilroy says. “I was reading online about the antiquities in Luthen’s gallery, and the provenance of some of those antiquities was news to me. So it was fantastic that the art department snuck those things in there.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Gilroy also addresses the minimal number of alien characters on the show, as well as the series’ lack of deleted scenes.
Well, Tony, I loved this show through four episodes, but now, after ten episodes, are you absolutely certain that you don’t want to revert to the original five-season plan?

(Laughs.) I would think that you’d have some pity and look at what we’re doing and go, “You physically couldn’t do it.” I mean, everyone can see how much we had to pour into this, and we’re not even at the end yet. We have a couple more to go, and so it would be insane to do that to yourself. We’d just be too old. 
Pardon my gluttony. Anyway, you’ve received rave reviews every step of the way, so what’s the temperature right now at Lucasfilm? Are Kathy Kennedy and co. over the moon? 
I think so, yeah. Everybody’s really [happy]. I’ve never had reviews or affirmation like this in my life, for anything. And the passion of the people who’ve been following along is just overwhelming, man. I don’t know what else to say. It’s humbling. So yeah, I think everybody’s happy with that. Everybody’s pleased that [House of the Dragon] and [Rings of Power] are now out of the way, and I think a lot of people have been waiting for someone to tell them that it’s okay to watch [Andor] now or whatever. So the plan is that we’ll have a pretty long tail as we go, and everybody seems pretty pleased, unless you know something I don’t.
In hindsight, do you wish they had avoided Dragon and Rings altogether?
It’s interesting because we changed our original date [from Aug. 31 to Sep. 21]. We were going to come out right with them, but it really wasn’t on our radar. I’m not sure that streaming dating has reached the level of military articulation that movie releasing has. It’s weird. I know that massive chess pieces of money are moving around the table on these shows, but a lot of people are doing things for the first time. I mean, I’m doing a second round of interviews on something that I’ve made. That’s a new thing. How do we do this? All this is new. “Oh my God, we have to have PR that keeps rolling for five months? We have to do advertising for five months?” Everybody’s doing new shit, but I’m not sure everybody was really on point about when that was going to happen. So it was good that we moved later.

The one odd nitpick that I’ve seen has to do with the number of aliens, which is funny since episode ten has a bunch of them in the background. [Director] Toby Haynes actually told me that you wanted that sort of thing to be in the fabric of the series, not the foreground. So how would you describe your rationale?
There’s already so much politics in the show to begin with, and we’re trying to tell an adventure story, really. So adding strong alien characters means that all of a sudden, there’s a whole bunch of new issues that we have to deal with that I don’t really understand that well or I just couldn’t think of a way to bake them into what we’re doing. You’ll see more as we go along, but it’s a legit question and one we’ll be answering as we go along. There is a more human-centric side of the story and the politics of it. There’s certainly no aliens working for the Empire, so that kind of tips it one way, automatically.
Sensibility wise, was there any calculus to why [writer] Dan Gilroy got the heist arc and [writer] Beau Willimon got the prison break arc?
Well, Danny and I came in with the same sort of skill set; Beau had a different skill set. Beau is the guy who really beat the shit out of us in terms of the plotting and the whiteboard. We really only did the writers’ room for five or six days, but Beau hadn’t really done any action before. So maybe that had something to do with it. Danny and I have done a lot of stuff like that so it was familiar territory, but it could have easily gone the other way. 

Did they help you crack season two?
Yeah, we did the same thing that we did last time. We just did a slightly longer version. I think we did seven days [in the writers’ room], and we brought in another writer as well. We brought in a guy named Tom Bissell, who’s a really strong writer and has a really interesting resume [The Mosquito Coast (2021), Author of The Disaster Artist]. He also has a very powerful interest in Star Wars, and he’s almost a nerd Star Wars fan. And as you know, we’re coming into Rogue, so we’re covering four years [in season two]. And a lot of it is canonical, so it was really helpful to have a stronger canonical voice in the room as well.
Episode six was quite an achievement. Was that the toughest edit in season one? Was [co-editor] John Gilroy beside himself on that one?
Six was very hard to put together, so I would say yeah. I’m trying to think of where Johnny and I had the most arguments. (Laughs.) Yeah, six was tough. Twelve was very, very tough, but in a fun way. It’s just a very big meal. It’s very abundant and it has a lot of things to deal with. But yeah, six was tough. A lot more editorial went into six than most episodes. 
The irony of this next question is that I’m currently sitting in a Star Wars Imperial-themed chair …
But I’m stunned by how much I enjoy watching ISB Supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough). So why did you want to put the audience in the shoes of a fascist?

Well, I want to be in everybody’s shoes. The whole gig is empathy. I mean, that’s what the gig is. If you’re going to do it well, you’ve got to be with everybody. I can’t imagine writing a character where I couldn’t get behind their point of view for the moment I was with them. When we wrote her and built her out, we had the exact same experience that the audience is having. We were like, “Oh my God, she’s this woman who’s trapped in this thing, and there’s only one other woman who works there. She’s also working harder than everybody else, and she’s getting no credit. She’s a freaking underdog. We’re rooting for her. How do we make her strong?” And then we got to Ferrix, and we’re like, “Oh my God, look at her. What is she doing?” There has to be another term for walking in someone’s shoes. You don’t have to endorse somebody’s thinking, philosophy, sadism or whatever, but you’ve got to get in there and be with them if you really want to have a strong character.
Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) remains utterly fascinating as well, and during your first round of press, I heard you push back on someone who called him a fascist through four episodes. So how do you see him at this point in his arc, having basically confessed his love to Dedra?
Well, I don’t know if he’s confessed love to her yet, or if he will, but he’s not a fascist. He’s unformed, really. He obviously likes rules. He likes order. We see the chaotically emotional landscape that he has been brought up in, and the simplicity of things being the way they are supposed to be and people doing their jobs is what keeps him sane. Fighting chaos is what keeps him sane, and that energy and that motivation is, ideologically, up for grabs. I don’t think Dedra’s ideology is up for grabs. I obviously don’t think the ISB’s is either, but there’s something unformed about Syril. It’s just as easy to see him going in a number of directions. So his issues are much more personal at this point; they’re more behavioral and psychological than they are ideological.

People continue to speculate about what they’re building on Narkina 5, and until I spoke with Andy Serkis recently, I thought the answer didn’t really matter. So what can you say about those building blocks?
They’re building season two. (Laughs.) It’s the spine of season two. I’ve heard all kinds of things; it’s great. All of the material that the Empire has, I look at everything like, “Economically, how does this work? Who built Scarif? How do you build that? How do you build Eadu? How do you build The Death Star and this armada of ships?” There’s a lot of things that need to be built, and there’s an incredible amount of material. So, to me, what they’re building is not as important as the scale of it. When you go to the Imperial Bureau of Standards where Syril works, you go, “Oh my God,” and he’s just working at the Fuel Purity desk. But that’s what it takes to run this Empire. So the scale of it is really what we’re trying to suggest here.
For the look and feel of Narkina 5, was [production designer] Luke Hull actually inspired by THX 1138 as so many have theorized?
That’s fascinating because when we got into the room, I knew that Cassian goes to prison. But everyone was like, “Oh my God, a fucking prison. How do you do anything new?” Because we were not going to do what anybody had done before. We were just absolutely adamant about that. That’s the rule. So I honestly don’t know who said electric floors first in the flurry of all the shit happening, but someone said electric floors. And all of a sudden, we were like, “Oh my God, what does that mean?” And so we spent the whole day building the prison, and Luke was there with us, building the prison.

We got so crazy about this stuff. A lot of people think the prison is just white, but there’s a billion kinds of white. When we were doing the ISB conference room, we also had to figure out our whites and how much gray was in it. But I think there were pictures up from THX 1138. I know we had pictures up from The Conformist, so I’m sure there were pictures up from THX, of those whites. So it’s a happy convergence, and it’s really pleasing and cool that it’s George Lucas’ first movie. But we definitely went back and looked at it afterwards, and were like, “Oh my God, look at those whites.”
“I can’t swim” is such a heroically tragic moment since Kino (Andy Serkis) led his fellow prisoners to freedom knowing full well that he wasn’t going to make it out. Do you presume Kino was executed shortly thereafter?
I don’t know. He’s not dead. Is he dead? I don’t see him dying [in episode ten]. 
Cassian (Diego Luna) is on the run with Melshi (Duncan Pow), who was also in Rogue One. Did the idea for Melshi come from just rewatching Rogue and hand picking certain deep cuts that you could reintroduce on Andor?
I love the character. Duncan Pow, who plays Melshi, was a great hang on Rogue, and I just really liked him. So I was just like, “How can we get him back in?” There will be some other things along the way that we’ll do, but the prison just seemed like a great place to show where and how they meet.
I honestly prefer that level of detail, as opposed to someone like Darth Vader.

Oh, good! That’s what we’re excavating. That’s where we’re at.
In episode eight, Luthen (Stellan Skarsgard) wanted Saw (Forest Whitaker) to meet with Sepratist leader Anto Kreegyr, but now he’s willing to sacrifice Kreegyr to protect Lonni (Robert Emms), his ISB mole. So where’s Luthen’s head at right now?
So you saw his big speech.
I sure did! Incredible stuff.
Well, he’s a chess player, man. He’s sacrificing a castle to protect his queen. So I don’t think the Kreegyr story is over yet. Luthen is in a very tough spot, and his position over the next five years is only going to get more complicated, because how do you build this network? Earlier on, he says that he’s been building it for 10 or 12 years, but all of a sudden, with Aldhani, they’re going loud. All of a sudden, they’re going to expose themselves. And in a classic political sense, he’s an accelerationist. He believes in the fact that you have to make it hurt really bad in order to bring people to change.
Once you make that announcement [via the Aldhani heist in episode six], once you do that, you’re no longer in charge of the thing that you’ve put out there. So how do you juggle your paranoia? How do you maintain your secrecy? How do you go big and stay small and tight? How do you expand while expansion makes you more vulnerable? Those are going to be issues. You’re seeing the beginning of those issues in episode ten and in this tranche. That’s also one of the major food groups that we’ll be dealing with in the second season.

Provoking the Empire into making things worse is quite a recruitment tool.
Yeah, it’s called accelerationism. I think that’s the dialectical term. It covers all sides of the political spectrum. It could be left, right; it could be anywhere. But it’s the idea of, “I can’t get people to do something unless they really feel it.” And that’s a classic revolutionary leadership move all the way through. I mean, you could go back 2000 years and find people that were doing that.
Vel (Faye Marsay) being Mon Mothma’s (Genevieve O’Reilly) cousin, did you guys have to check canon for anything contradictory? 
The canon on Mon is not as extensive as you would think. She’s from Chandrila. She became a Senator when she was 16. We know when she leaves the Senate; that’s canonically on our calendar. But her family life was up for grabs.
We talked before about how you weren’t a Star Wars zealot going into Rogue, and prior to Andor, I presume Dan and Beau weren’t either. So once you’d write your scripts, would a Lucasfilm brain sprinkle in the technical Star Wars jargon after the fact?
No, but we have Pablo Hidalgo. He’s sort of the curia of the Vatican up there at Lucasfilm. He’s the final voice, but we have a lot of people on the show. Mohen Leo, our visual effects supervisor who was on Rogue as well, is a huge part of our show and a really important feature on our show. Mohen and his team know everything. We have a lot of people around the show that are really deep. So if we have a question, we ask it, but it’s kind of an organic system, really. Every now and then, they sneak shit in there that even I didn’t know. I was reading online about the antiquities in Luthen’s gallery, and the provenance of some of those antiquities was news to me. (Laughs.) So it was fantastic that the art department snuck those things in there, but by and large, it’s a collaborative, organic, rolling process. 

Your job is filled with plenty of compromises, but what turned out to be the most beneficial one along the way?
Aldhani was originally conceived to have six or seven-thousand people in the valley, but with Covid, my God, you can’t put that many extras together. You can’t get them up the hill, you can’t put them in vans, you can’t do any of those things. Beyond an economic hardship, it was just a physically impossible thing to do. So there’s a problem. The whole thing is written one way. It’s a huge deal. So you think, “Oh my God, it’s all ruined. It’s all for shit.” But what comes out of it is something even better because the answer is actually sadder and more important. It’s just the dead-enders. It’s just the end of the line [for the Dhanis]. It’s a culture that’s being wound down, and then that becomes the dominant thing.
And then, oh my God, that monologue at the top comes out of that, and the whole concept of the engineer comes out of that and a whole new approach to the shabbiness and shittiness of it. So all of a sudden, it’s more real, it’s better, and I’m very pleased with how that turned out. Most of the limitations that we’ve been presented with are entirely budgetary. We don’t really get any pushback on the show itself, but budgetarily, we have some limitations. And I would say that eight times out of 10, it leads to an improvement.
Will you share any deleted scenes with us at some point?
There’s one or two small sequences that we shot but didn’t use. Other than that, we ate the entire cow. The hooves, the horns … We don’t have any waste. We’re well funded, but we’re not overfunded. We’re not one of these shows with an unlimited budget. There are some shows out there that have unlimited budgets. They don’t care. But we’re not on that. We have a very, very tight hold on what we do, so we don’t have anything that we didn’t use. There’s a couple things we retasked and moved around, and there’s one or two things that we reshot along the way because we had a chance to do them better. But no, it’s not that kind of show. We can’t afford it.

You rewrote your first block of episodes when Covid hit. What was the biggest change?
I was so naive, and everything happened so quickly. It was all so tentative. “Are we really doing this? Can we really get the money?” So we just kept tiptoeing forward for seven months or something like that. And I was just at the point where I was prepping and starting to cast, but I didn’t really know what level we were going to have to take this. In the end, the scripts have to be absolutely perfect. We needed 600 pages, and we just didn’t know. Beau kind of knew from House of Cards, but the requirements are a little bit different. All the design elements and the budgetary elements. It was really just a matter of, “Oh my God, if we’re really going to make this, every single moment of it has to be dug out.” And the realization of that just takes you back [to the keyboard]. (Gilroy laughs and holds up his keyboard.) This is where I’m at today, too. You just have to get it perfect, and I was blithely surfing, thinking that it would take care of itself or that it would be okay or that I could handle it. But I didn’t realize what I was up against, so Covid really saved the show. (Laughs.)
Any of the Rogue characters would’ve made for an interesting prequel, but ignoring the fact that there was already an Andor show in development, is Cassian the character you would have gravitated towards anyway for a prequel?
I guess the Jyn Erso [Felicity Jones] show would be pretty fascinating, too. My attitude is you could do anybody. I mean, the Bodhi Rook [Riz Ahmed] domestic drama … Everything can be interesting if you get into it. If you dig down, it’s all interesting. Whose life isn’t, really? Cassian’s life is just a little bit juicier because he’s going to end up on that beach and he’s going to give it all away, consciously.

The conversation around prequel storytelling has always frustrated me. For example, some people have floated the fallacy to you that the show has no stakes because we already saw Cassian’s demise in Rogue. However, you’ve been rejecting that notion by saying that our own lives still have stakes even though we know we’re going to die. 
So thank you for that.
I’m very pleased with that. That came out of a conversation we had at dinner one night. I was like, “I’m using that tomorrow.”
Toby told me that Maarva’s (Fiona Shaw) interior set was so cold on the day that they just rolled with her breath being visible, but story wise, why does she insist on sitting in the cold? Cassian and Brasso both commented on it.
She’s a tough old bird, man. That’s who she is. It actually fits perfectly. She’s like, “I turn my thermostat on only when it only gets below so and so.”
I saved my worst question for last. It’s actually more of a coordinating conjunction joke, if such a thing exists.
Let’s go for it!
If the name Andor exists in the Star Wars galaxy, does that mean the name Butyet also exists?
(Laughs.) You know what, let’s save that question. I will give you the answer for that when we do this interview for part two of season two. We’ll both have that much time to think about it.
Andor is now streaming on Disney+. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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