By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
The HoloFiles and Star Wars Holocron recently had the opportunity to interview Genevieve O’Reilly in a roundtable format as part of promotion for the new Star Wars series Andor, which premieres next month on Disney+.
As the title suggests, Andor focuses on Diego Luna’s Rebel hero in the years before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are, however, other characters in the mix as well, such as Mon Mothma. The Rebel leader who first appeared in Return of the Jedi is back once again, this time in her most substantial role to date. O’Reilly has played Mothma on and off for nearly 20 years at this point as she was cast in Revenge of the Sith in 2003, and later went on to appear in Rogue One.
O’Reilly discussed in great detail how this is a different version of her character. Previously, she’s been seen as a public figure and a hero of the Rebellion, but Andor represents an opportunity to get to know her on a deeper and more personal level.
“We know Mon Mothma from the films over the years where Caroline Blakiston through to the few times that I had the opportunity to play her. But each time, those are quite public roles where she has dignity and serenity to her. She’s like a pillar for the Rebellion. Something strong and calm. But in Andor, we meet Mon Mothma in a very different place. She’s working within the Empire. She feels different, she looks different. But we also get to meet the private side of Mon Mothma. We get to meet not just the figure, but also the woman. And that’s what I think will be as exciting for fans as it is for me to play.”
O’Reilly’s Revenge of the Sith scenes are available to watch online, and the actor explained how that version of Mothma, along with the character in Rogue One, is different from her latest appearance in Andor.
“She is somewhere different than where we’ve seen her before. Usually we see her with like minded people, with Rebels. But in Andor, she’s a lonely voice amidst opposition. She’s trying to have a voice and be seen where everyone else seems to think differently. They’re oppressing her and they’re oppressing her voice and ideas. Mon Mothma and Cassian Andor both feel alone in their fight and their beliefs and ideas. But what will happen going forward is that they will find each other, find their community, and in that community they can collaborate and stand up and seek to make a change by working together.”
“It was so exciting to step into Tony Gilroy’s writing in Andor. Not just the Rebel leader, but he’s writing her as a woman. What it costs to be this figure. How dangerous it is for her to stand up for what she believes in. And I think the wait to finally see her in these political scenes is worthwhile.”
Mothma appeared only briefly in Return of the Jedi, but she certainly left a substantial impact. Despite her limited initial screen time, O’Reilly looked to that scene for inspiration and guidance.
“When I was offered the role to step into the role of Mon Mothma for Revenge of the Sith, it was really important to look at the character that was created originally in Return of the Jedi. In that movie, it was a small scene but really important in the film. She has a lot of gravitas in the Star Wars world because of who she is as a woman and how she stands up with confidence and dignity and serenity. That’s what the Rebels need at that time and they continue to need her for each iteration they see her.”
“It’s wonderful to know the public woman, to know her serenity and dignity. And to have the opportunity as an actor to let that go when she’s in her private space. But maybe in that first scene where you see me take off that Imperial medal. I wanted that to show that in life, sometimes we have to release ourselves from the robes we wear. That’s what we were reaching for, to show the different sides of her. To reassess what we think of her publicly by showing her privately. Her private life is more chaotic and messy, and then how much can that give texture to this public figure that we know going forward if we know the pain and the cost that she’s gone through.”
O’Reilly also touched upon her process of preparing for the role, as well as the cinematic nature of Andor.
“As an actor, I inhabit the role. That’s my job. On television or animation with the voice or the big screen, it’s the same job. I have to inhabit a character and bring her to life. But I think Andor is very cinematic in its scope and scale. So it felt like a piece of film we were making every day. The set design, the costume design. It’s huge. It’s epic. It’s wonderful to get to play Mon Mothma again in that arena.”
“Mon Mothma can carry those holes and believes and idealism that she had in Revenge of the Sith but it can manifest amidst a completely different reality. The reality where she has to stand up against this wall of opposition that is the Imperial regime as a woman.”
O’Reilly is one of many incredible actors lending their craft to Andor. She praised her co-stars and described it as a true ensemble, invoking Rogue One, which also had sprawling and impressive cast.
“In Andor, there’s an extraordinary ensemble of brilliantly talented actors. Diego Luna, Adria Arjona, Kyle Soller, Denise Gough, and more that I’m not sure I’m allowed to mention. It’s a joy to stand alongside actors of that caliber and to push each other and inspire each other. Where you can only work better and achieve more with a special group of people like that. I’m really excited for everyone to see the collective work that is ensemble of Andor.”
Andor premieres on Disney+ on September 21st.