By George Bate and Josh Reilly B.
Star Wars fans will soon be introduced to a new side of a galaxy far, far away with the latest Disney+ series Andor. The prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuts on Disney+ with a three episode premiere this month that features Diego Luna returning as Cassian Andor and Adria Arjona (Morbius, True Detective, 6 Underground) making her Star Wars as Bix Caleen.
The HoloFiles and Star Wars Holocron recently had the chance to interview Arjona in a roundtable format, where the actress spoke about the use of practical sets on Andor, how her work on the Star Wars series compares to her recent role in Sony/Marvel’s Morbius, meeting Star Wars fans at D23, and more.
Earlier this year, Arjona played Martine Bancroft in the Marvel superhero project Morbius, a film that unexpectedly became a cultural phenomenon upon release. She discussed and compared experiences working on Marvel and Star Wars.
“I have different experiences. I shot Morbius years ago, and we shot in studio but only a little bit outside of the studio. But in comparison to Andor, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. It was a set, and I kid you not and I’m not exaggerating, maybe I’m underselling it, but it was seven city blocks. All outdoors. If it rained in London, then it rained in Ferrix. I had the amazing gift to immerse myself in this city. Ferrix as a real city, it’s amazing. I got to imagine where Bix goes for a drink afterwards, where does she go for a restaurant. I’d open things and there were things in them, all Star Wars-y, the props were just amazing. So it was easier to get myself into the world. It was shocking at first. Cause it’s way bigger than I thought, what did I get myself into and how do I get myself out of this [laughs]. But once I was in Ferrix, it was like oh, this is where Bix belongs. This is where I’m from. It was easier and more immersive than Morbius, very two different scales. I got to meet the Marvel fans too, and some of the Marvel and Star Wars fandoms are intertwined. But then I went off and did a movie [in the spring of 2022] and heard nothing about Morbius, I had no Wi-Fi. Maybe that was a good thing! [Laughs]”
To film Andor, the production team built an entire outdoor city. Arjona spoke about how immersive it was to film in this massive set.
“I was imagining a studio set. I could never imagine a real city. It was beyond me. But the first day of rehearsal, I remember walking in and I was in shock. I couldn’t even do the scene. I said I needed a couple minutes. I had my office, my apartment. It was all film-able 360. They said ‘run!’ and I asked, ‘Where?’, and they just said, ‘Wherever you want, because the camera will follow’…I had complete freedom. But that first day of rehearsal was so scary. It kind of hit home. Like, ‘Holy shit! I’m in Star Wars!’ You get this realization. You’re going to be a part of history. It’s so much more than being in any other show or movie. You’re part of cinematic history the second that you’re in anything Star Wars. That’s when it hit me. I hadn’t thought about it before. I should have, but I didn’t. Diego had been in Star Wars before and he said, ‘It’s good, it’s okay. What you’re going through is normal [laughs].’ Then the next day, I said, ‘This is my town’ when shooting.”
Arjona also spoke about her character in Andor and the theme of oppression that runs through the series. The actor discussed some of the real world parallels to oppression amongst the LGBTQ+ and women of color communities that are present in this new series.
“Bravery, whether you’re part of a movement even if you’re not specifically the one in attack. Bix kind of does that. It’s to her own detriment. I learned the definition of bravery by playing this character. She puts other people’s needs above her own. You do whatever it is that you have to do, even if you know you’ll get some backlash or other people aren’t gonna like you. It’s for the greater good. I feel that very much as a woman of color. We’re kind of an endangered species and being attacked right now. I’ve seen some incredible people that are not Latin American women standing up for us and that’s incredible bravery. That makes a big difference. It’s something that I learned from Bix. At this time in the galaxy, everyone is at a cusp of revolution. Oppression is so present. It’s in the air and you can taste it. It’s so part of their lives. There’s a big question mark, do you join a movement? Do you take a step back, what is your role? In society right now, we’re all finding our roles within all these things that are going on that are so unfair and unequal…So that’s a big question, do you stand up or do you not? I think everyone’s moral compass is questioned when oppression comes in. Like, is it my turn to speak, to stand, to fight? Where do I stand? Every character goes through that in this show. But it’s also what we’re going through right now in the real world, too. You wanna fight but you don’t know how and you almost feel like you’re beaten down because it’s so much bigger than us. That’s the complexity of this show, it unfortunately mirrors a lot of what we’re going through.”
Star Wars has played such a significant part in the lives of so many and Arjona is no exception. The actor discussed her relationship with Star Wars prior to joining Andor.
“I was a big fan of Star Wars from before. I’ve always loved it. I think I watched them a little too young, and then I watched them before filming Andor and realized I must have missed a lot! [Laughs]”
Last week at D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim, California, Arjona was welcomed to a roaring reception from thousands of Star Wars fans. The actor spoke about what it was like to embraced so lovingly by the Star Wars fanbase.
“I did D23 and there’s 7,000 people and I get to see why I did this show to begin with! But as actors, we rarely get to experience that. We’re incredibly shy. We act in this little bubble, in this tiny thing, and then we’re not meant to be in front of 7,000 people. That only happens when you’re working with Disney and Star Wars. I felt like a musician. It was so nerve wracking. But then seeing faces and seeing that people liked it, it was like okay, ‘I’m good.’”
Much like Diego Luna, who has spoken at length on Tony Gilroy’s excellent scripts for the first season, Arjona praised the writing on Andor, along with the set design.
“Tony Gilroy is so smart in his writing. In Marvel and Star Wars, everything is so secretive. But Tony said he didn’t do things like that, knowledge is power. And then when he met me, he told me what Bix would go through all in season one. And I was like, ‘Wow, thank you.’ That really helps a lot as an actor…I didn’t know anything about Bix. But Tony was my first in. I knew because of him that this show was going to break boundaries and be truthful. When I read it for the first time, I was fascinated by Bix’s journey. Even in the first three episodes, you meet someone very different in episode three compared to the pilot. Her bravery is something that drew me into her. And exploring that too. She’s tough, she’s not trying to mimic a man. She’s incredibly stable until Cassian comes into her life. It’s like a habit. It’s always like, she’s pissed that Cassian is here but also kind of happy. I was dying to play that with Diego, who had already explored that character. As the show keeps going, more and more things you’ll be able to see of why I wanted to play this part.”
But I was imagining a studio set. I could never imagine a real city. It was beyond me. But the first day of rehearsal, I remember walking in and I was in shock. I couldn’t even do the scene. I said I needed a couple minutes. I had my office, my apartment. It was all film-able 360. They said ‘run!’ and I asked, ‘Where?’, and they just said, ‘Wherever you want, because the camera will follow’…I had complete freedom. But that first day of rehearsal was so scary. It kind of hit home. Like, ‘Holy shit! I’m in Star Wars!’ You get this realization. You’re going to be a part of history. It’s so much more than being in any other show or movie. You’re part of cinematic history the second that you’re in anything Star Wars. That’s when it hit me. I hadn’t thought about it before. I should have, but I didn’t. Diego had been in Star Wars before and he said, ‘It’s good, it’s okay. What you’re going through is normal [laughs].’ Then the next day, I said, ‘This is my town’ when shooting.”
In crafting the character of Bix, Arjona noted that she didn’t reference existing Star Wars characters, but, instead, leaned into familial influences.
“I can’t draw from existing characters in Star Wars because I’d just end up mimicking them or just want to sit down and have dinner with them, which is impossible because they’re just a character. But I drew a lot from my grandmother from Guatemala. She was a fierce woman, and she crossed the border to make toys to pay her cousin’s debt. But that’s exactly what Bix would do and exactly what she does with Cassian. Puts him first in ways and puts a lot of other things first because she understands her placement in history. She was a mean bargainer too. I would say to my grandma, you’re not even negotiating at this point you’re just stealing! But that’s what Bix does. She’s approachable and kind but has a side to her that’s really strong. I wouldn’t want to mess with her.”
Check out our other interviews with the cast of Andor:
Andor premieres September 21 on Disney+.