From the taxation of trade routes to Vietnam War parallels, the Star Wars franchise has always featured pronounced elements of political allegory. And that tradition continues in Andor, the latest Disney+ series set in George Lucas's far, far away galaxy. Set five years before the events of the 2016 blockbuster Rogue One — which introduced the title character, Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna — the show depicts the origins of the Rebel Alliance, which goes on to confront the Galactic Empire run by the Sith lord Emperor Palpatine.
"It's always been very political," Luna tells Yahoo Entertainment. "This [show] is relevant, because it's been made by people that live in this time, and our references are connected to the world out there." (Watch our video interview above.)
In the run-up to Andor's Sept. 21 premiere, Luna's castmate, Fiona Shaw, remarked that the series unfolds in a "Trumpian world" where "people's rights are disappearing." And Luna agrees that the show's overarching narrative echoes the rise of the Resistance that emerged during former President Donald Trump's time in the White House.
"It's about the need for an articulated civil reaction," the Mexican actor notes. "It's a moment to bring change and change is going to come by that articulation. There's not a single man that will bring it."
"There is no one with superpowers that will come and fix things for us," Luna continues. "It's about our reaction. It's about what we can do together, and the strength we have in our numbers. This is the most grounded Star Wars — it's about real people, regular people doing extraordinary things."
One of Andor's difference makers is politician Mon Mothma, who made her first franchise appearance in 1983's Return of the Jedi, played by Caroline Blakiston. Irish actress Genevieve O'Reilly inherited the role in the 2005 prequel Revenge of the Sith and has portrayed the Rebel leader in subsequent live-action and animated Star Wars stories. Andor is one of Mon Mothma's biggest showcases and O'Reilly says that she looked to real-world female politicians for inspiration, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as U.S. congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Liz Cheney.
"I did look to female leaders around the world to remind myself of what those women are fighting for, and to see how standup to navigate, to see how they navigate a still very male-dominated world," she explains. "All those women have moments and very public moments that we've seen recently where they've had to stand up for themselves."
Andor is overseen by Tony Gilroy, who extensively retinkered Rogue One after original director Gareth Edwards turned in a first cut that Lucasfilm and parent company Disney weren't satisfied with. Despite his turbulent behind the scenes experience, Luna says that he's still "proud" of the film, which saw him becoming the first Latino actor to have a starring role in a Star Wars film. (Jimmy Smits had a small part in the prequel trilogy, while Oscar Isaac's flyboy, Poe Dameron, was a supporting character in 2015's The Force Awakens, before getting more screen time in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, both of which were released after Rogue One.) In fact, Rogue One is still the most diverse Star Wars movie ever, with a cast that includes Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker.
"The film we made was risky," Luna says. "It was pertinent in many ways, obviously in the diversity that the film brings in terms of accents, and cultures and races and backgrounds. ... It's quite unique and special. I am very proud of Rogue One and I'm happy for what Rogue One has brought to my life. ... This series we are introducing now is all because of Rogue One."
While Luna is Cassian Andor's biggest fan, he admits that he's also harbored a lifelong affection for his alter ego's nemesis, Darth Vader. "He's just such a strong one to beat, you know?" the actor says with a smile. "The first [Star Wars book] I ever got was a Darth Vader story — that's how long our connection is."
— Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Andor premieres Sept. 21 on Disney+