By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
The HoloFiles and Star Wars Holocron recently had the opportunity to interview Kyle Soller and Denise Gough in a roundtable format ahead of their debut in Star Wars: Andor, the new series that arrives on Disney+ next month.
Soller and Gough both play new characters that highlight the series’ focus on some of the smaller players in the galaxy, which is consistent with the wider theme of showing the inner-workings of the Empire. Soller is Syril Karn, an officer who serves as the first line of defense for the Empire in that he works for a private security firm tasked with keeping certain planet systems in line. Meanwhile, Gough plays Dedra Meero, someone who works directly for the Empire on Coruscant but is equally low down in the Imperial food chain. Both are ambitious and aim to rise the ranks in this new regime in the galaxy.
Soller and Gough, who are very different from their fictional selves, were asked how they were able to convey characters that are villainous, or at the very least morally ambiguous, but don’t see themselves that way at all.
“Tony crafted pretty well rounded, three dimensional characters. That made it easy to understand that we’re not in a world of Star Wars with goodies and baddies. It’s a deeper exploration of the grey that’s in everyone. It’s like holding up a mirror for everyone watching. If you were in Dedra’s situation, maybe you’d do the same thing. Who wouldn’t torture someone to get where you want to be? I certainly think Dedra believes she’s the hero.”
Soller agreed and echoed this sentiment.
“Syril definitely thinks he’s the hero of his own story. I was speaking to Tony at the very beginning when he was fleshing out his arc and he said ‘I don’t really know where he ends up. Is he good? Is he bad? I don’t know.’ So I decided to take that conflict that is there throughout Andor and is there in Cassian, and it was beautifully presented in Rogue One. It’s a really human condition to question the entire time is this the right thing I should be doing? And Syril comes from a place where he craves an identity and power within this structure of fascism.”
Simply put, these two characters are more in line with DJ from The Last Jedi than they are with individuals like Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine, with the latter two serving as prime examples of villains that are essentially pure evil and don’t have much of a grey area (until Anakin returned, of course).
The two cross paths in the course of the first season (and if this meeting is anything like the chemistry that the two have in real life, it’s sure to be great to watch), and Gough discussed how these two self-centered individuals begin to work together.
“She’s working for and with men. But through her own determination and attention to detail, she rises up when he’s going down. So they meet in the middle at this perfect storm because they both need each other. They meet at the exact right time. Dedra is less open to it initially. She doesn’t want to share this with anyone.”
Rogue One was the first time that the Rebellion truly took center stage, with no Jedi in sight and Darth Vader appearing only briefly. The theme of rebellion continues in Andor, but is also more nuanced than ever before, as Gough explains.
“She’s staging a Rebellion within the Empire structure and so is Syril. But there’s mini Rebellions going on everywhere, not just the good and evil one. And long form shows like this make that possible and make it so interesting to work in.”
There’s such a tradition to have compelling villains in Star Wars, something that the two performers were obviously aware of going into Andor. They clarified that they wanted to make their own characters stand out so they didn’t necessarily base them off of any previous franchise villains, but Orson Krennic and Gus Fring are two examples of fictional individuals that they looked to for inspiration.
“We both just took what’s on the page. We had a really good connection with Tony Gilroy. He had arcs for our characters. If you know about Star Wars, you know the ghost of those older characters live on the pages of these characters. But what Tony created is something really fresh. These villains that exist in a gray area. But of course Ben Mendelsohn in Rogue One.”
“Gus Fring in Breaking Bad is always an inspiration. He’s so meticulous and complete detachment and yet his ability to perform in the real world. He talks to normal people and acts normal and then he goes and prepares to murder someone (laughs). I don’t base Dedra on him, but he’s in a tribe of villains that I look at.”
From the trailers, Andor appears to be the most grounded and Earth-like the Star Wars galaxy has ever been, particularly as it focuses less on the battle between good and evil and more on the citizens of the galaxy. Gough noticed this difference right away, noting that it excited her, particularly as she comes from a theater background.
“When I read the scripts for the first three episodes, Dedra wasn’t in any of them. I was just reading a new piece of writing. A thriller, spy, love story that just so happens to be in the Star Wars universe. Before I agreed to pursue the role, I wanted to read the scripts so I would be able to relate because I’m a theater actress and everything I do is very human, very emotional and maybe I wouldn’t fit in in Star Wars. But then I realized that this isn’t really a space show, it’s a human show that happens to be set in space.”
Andor is set to arrive on Disney+ on September 21st.