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The events of Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels takes place 14 years after Star Wars: Episode III and five years before Star Wars: Episode IV. The show has it’s own story, but shares characters and universe with the original films. Now, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story out in theaters, the show has even more exciting Easter eggs and character appearances that has Star Wars fans buzzing.
During my recent Rogue One press trip, we sat down with Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni to talk about the appearance of Saw Gerrera, why he likes to keep the show family-friendly, and what it’s like to work for George Lucas.
“With all these big movies coming out,” Dave said, “we still have our TV series. But it’s neat when we can have things kind of coexist. And for me, at least, it continues the adventure.”
He’s a fan, as we all are, which shows in his excitement talking about the series which airs on Disney XD Saturdays at 8:30 ET/PT. The character of Saw Gerrera isn’t just one that Filoni carried over to Rebels from Rogue One; he actually helped create the character.
“You’d never really think in terms of like, this piece is a movie and this piece is a book, and this piece is a TV series… you just know these characters,” Filoni said about the characters crossover. “I know Saw because I helped introduce the character. Clone Wars set him up, but I was excited that anybody could see where that went. So if anything, you’re more involved and that has huge pluses. You get to see it, but at the same time it’s like you’ve seen it and you’ve read it.”
Unlike most of the films and the shows that feature story and character tie ins, Filoni gets to create much of the show’s stories as stand-alone. We asked if her preferred stories that tie-in heavily with the original stories, or if her prefers creating the stories himself.
“He used to say, “Dare to be great.” Which is something I always say to my team. Of course, everybody thinks that when they start out. But it’s amazing how many times you pull yourself up or you hold back or you get afraid. And in Star Wars, as with everything, fear is the root of everything that is failure and jealousy and greed and evil.” – Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni on what it’s like working with great George Lucas.
“I never really have a huge feeling about tying in,” Filoni told us. “The Star Wars universe was great before I got there, it’ll be great long after I’m gone. That’s just how I feel about this, it’s not my story. I’m privileged to be in a position where I get to add to it. I’m very grateful for that. But when I look at the work we’ve done in animation especially, and the characters that we’ve added with Captain Rex, Chopper and Ezra, Sabine and Kanan and Hera; adding those characters can give us dimension in ways that the franchise didn’t have before. Especially when you get to female characters from this.”
Filoni said that he approaches the series as a chance to create stories that need to be told, or that long overdue in their sharing. He likes tie-ins as more of a wink to the original story instead of treating it as something that was missing. He’s careful not to overdue it or to let his fandom get in the way.
“It was a huge benefit to us,” Dave said. “We have an attitude about the characters which is, if the person that kind of originates the role – especially on screen – we want as much continuity for the audience as possible. So when they say the character’s gonna continue, they absolutely would like to continue being the character. They don’t really care what form it’s in. And so it’s always exciting when we have people come and maintain their character. You have great continuity. They’re always incredibly gracious and super fun to work with. It might not be the last one you see in that regard, on Rebels…”
He stops his train of thought, afraid that he may reveal future spoilers. He’s already said too much, so our mind is spinning with possibilities of future cameos on Star Wars Rebels.
“It was great to work with him,” Filoni said of Forest Whitaker, the voice of Saw Gerrera, “and it’s added to a long list of incredibly wonderful performances that we’ve had in Star Wars across the board. Not just on Rebels, but across the board. I just love that they want to do it, is my favorite thing.”
Each time a new Star Wars film hits theaters, one question we’re always asked is if the film is safe for kids to see. Filoni feels very strongly about keeping his animated series kid-friendly.
“It is a goal of mine. I feel very strongly,” he said. “When I talked to George [Lucas], he would always say he created Star Wars for kids. That was the big thing. When I was a kid it was a great thing because my parents liked it. It’s not that they didn’t like everything else but they were very big into opera, very big into the symphony, big into those types of stories. And there is a great relationship between those stories and what Star Wars presented. There were a lot of things to talk about, as a family and characters that we could relate to. My goal is never to take that experience away from kids, to involve everybody in it, to make it a place where the best compliment we can give for the series is that it’s something that the family watches together.”
Filoni said that fans have even requested cameos by scarier Star Wars characters like Darth Vader, but feels that he’s too scary for kids.
“I used to be a little kid and freak myself out just thinking of how he breathes. But that’s what you want – kids to be afraid of the bad guys because they’re evil and they recognize that. I try to make something that’s not as much for myself, but for my younger self. But my older self will still watch it and be like, that’s cool. It’s a delicate balance. There’s a danger of trying to take the material and accidentally change it into being for them now.”
Imagine working with a legend like George Lucas, mentoring you as you develop your career. It was not something that passed Dave Filoni by.
“It’s the greatest education I could have asked for,” Filoni said. “It was like going to film school on a daily basis with George Lucas. And he is incredibly knowledgeable, he’s incredibly patient. I had to earn that relationship, I had to earn the things I got to do. The challenge in Clone Wars was to learn how to do this his way; show him that we could do it as a group. He would let go of it more and more, which he absolutely did as we went on with the series. But it was very challenging, he absolutely knows what he’s doing. It was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”