In honor of her latest book, Queen's Shadow, the author tells StarWars.com about her love of brave handmaidens and building a weaponized wardrobe.
Whether forging an alliance with the Gungans, spying for the Jedi Council, or standing up to the entire Galactic Senate, Padmé Amidala, devoted to her civic duty from the young age of 14 when she was elected as Queen of Naboo, often proves she's a courageous leader who isn't afraid to take part in even more aggressive negotiations.
In writing her latest book, Star Wars: Queen's Shadow, author E.K. Johnston had the chance to explore a previously unexamined period in the character's life. The story is set in the time between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, with a special focus on Padmé and her handmaidens as she transitioned from noble teenage queen to formidable senator from Naboo. When Johnston recently paid a visit to the Lucasfilm headquarters, we asked her to name her personal fan-favorite moments that spotlight Padmé, her forbidden relationship with Anakin Skywalker, and her ingenuity in handling almost any situation that comes her way.
Full disclosure: “Most of Padmé is my favorite Padmé moment," Johnston says. But here are her top six picks.
1. "We are brave, your highness." An invasion by the Trade Federation put Padmé and her handmaidens in a dilemma in The Phantom Menace: The queen could stay on Naboo and risk annihilation or flee to Coruscant and attempt to plead for her people before the senate. Either choice was dangerous. And to make matters worse, Sabé had to make the call, dressed as the queen's decoy. "My favorite possible moment in film is 'We are brave, your highness,'" Johnston says. "I just love that so much. She has to say, 'We need to leave this planet' without actually saying the words. Qui-Gon has probably figured it out by that point, but they’re all agreeing to pretend that he hasn’t so they kind of just have this wonderful moment of synergy. All of them, these girls who are teenagers and running a planet. I just love everything about that."
2. The long way around. "Just from a pure character moment, during the battle of Naboo when the door opens and Darth Maul is there and she’s just like, 'We’ll go around,'" Johnston says, laughing. "They just go around and leave the Jedi behind. I love that."
3. An awkward reunion. "Padmé has one of the best filmed 'Oh no, he’s hot' moments in the history of film," she says. "There’s this moment in Attack of the Clones where she visibly looks into his face and then says the worst possible thing imaginable in front of both of their bosses -- not just his boss, both of their bosses! Which is essentially 'Oh little Ani, you’ve grown up.' And he’s like, I’m gonna die now, this is the worst possible outcome that could happen." That authenticity is what makes the exchange one of Johnston's favorites. "I think it’s fantastic because you have this girl who’s really good at talking to people, but not in a personal way. And then you have Anakin, who doesn’t talk to anybody except for Obi-Wan, who is a terrible role model for that sort of thing. I just love that moment where she totally takes the wind out of his sails and you can just imagine he’s been waiting to see her for 10 years. He’s so excited and she says the worst possible thing and then they have to spend time together, which is hilarious."
4. Basically everything about the lake house retreat. Although the awkward flirting surrounding Anakin's feelings about sand is Johnston's favorite moment from this part of Padmé and Anakin's time together, she's an unabashed fan of the entire sequence. "Basically everything that happens at the lake house. It’s so pretty and it’s the most relaxed she ever gets to be even though she’s still super awkward around boys. Padmé and Anakin have the most amazing have-never-tried-to-flirt-with-anyone dialogue ever!"
For example, Anakin's musings on sand. "It’s awkward flirting by a teenage boy who’s trying very hard to say the right thing but has never had the opportunity to say the right thing so he’s very bad at it," Johnston says. "He has no idea what he’s doing. I like the idea that they really do like each other a lot and they have several really good connections but they haven’t spent enough time with each other to sort of unpack the differences in the way they grew up, which even throughout the Clone Wars is a pretty big stumbling block. I really like that aspect of their relationship and it’s all in that one conversation. Sand is terrible and it’s this wonderful example of the class difference between them because for her sand is the beach and a holiday. For him, sand is a reminder that he grew up owned."
5. The dream team of Padmé and Panaka. There's a moment towards the end of The Phantom Menace, "when they’re having their standoff in the throne room and Sabé comes in and all the Neimoidians turn around," Johnston says. "And without talking about it, Padmé and Panaka both go for the guns in the throne. I love that moment. The whole reason the decoy maneuver exists is distilled into that moment and it’s perfect."
6. Johnston's own decoy scene in Queen's Shadow. "There is a scene in the book where they have to switch places and it’s at a party and it has to be Padmé on the way in because she has to pass the facial scanner. Then they have to switch to Sabé at the party so that Padmé can go and see something that she has to see with her own eyes. She has to read body language," Johnston says. "And while she is up in a tree spying on some people, she realizes she has to get back downstairs and back into the queen’s outfit immediately. The whole scene from there until the end when she trips over Bail Organa is my favorite part of the book."
In fact, Johnston spent a lot of time considering the logistics of Padmé's sprawling wardrobe as she was writing. "I basically built the whole book around her wardrobe and the developments that Dormé makes to it when she takes over. Not only did they have to change it aesthetically to make her look more like a senator and less like a queen, but it has to be a little bit less formal. With her queen stuff, there’s a physical difference; you can’t get close to her because her skirt goes out too far. And so her senator outfits have to be more accessible. She has to make friends and so I did think a lot about he actual mechanics of her wardrobe and what stuff is made of and how things function. A lot of it is at the very least fireproof and sort of reinforced for blaster fire," Johnston says, including dresses with trap doors for ease of escape, fancy-looking shoes that are ready to run in, and multifunctional jewelry. "She has hair pins that are lock picks in Attack of the Clones, so I basically just took that and wrote a book about it. Anything that anyone has ever made fun of a girl for doing is exploited by the handmaidens because they are small and they disappear. They're really good with fabric and blasters and all that. So it was fun to take all those things that are super girly and make them 1) super important to the plot and 2) very, very useful without taking away any of their prettiness, which was also deeply important to me."
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.