Martyn Doust, prop master behind the critically-acclaimed Disney+ Original series, breaks down some of the show’s most significant items.
Right from the earliest discussions on what Andor would be, Martyn Doust knew he’d be busy. As prop master, Doust was in charge of realizing everything from blasters to drinkware for the Disney+ Original series. But Andor would be a unique challenge for Doust, who has worked on every Star Wars film in the Disney era. Under the guidance of showrunner Tony Gilroy, it was to be more grounded, more real, and it would go to more places. “We always knew we were going to be visiting lots of different, new worlds with Andor,” Doust tells StarWars.com. “And we knew that each world would have its own distinct look and feel and its own aesthetic. We really wanted to make sure that the props from that world looked like they lived in that world.” As Andor heads toward its season finale, Doust spoke with StarWars.com about how some of the series’ most important and memorable props came to be.
1. Cassian Andor’s Blaster
As the weapon of the series’ protagonist, designing and creating Cassian’s blaster brought with it an extra weight. “Straight from the very, very beginning, we knew we had to have a cool blaster for Cassian,” Doust says. “It had to be something iconic.”
He took initial inspiration from Han Solo’s DL-44, wanting Cassian’s weapon to be just as identifiable, even as a silhouette. “We tried lots of designs, we looked at how they built the original blasters in Star Wars,” he says. “We went deeper into the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, and we went all the way to the computer games.” That led the team to the K-16 Bryar pistol from Star Wars Battlefront, which they presented to Doust. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,’” he says. He felt it could work – the K-16 looked great and it was small enough that Cassian could hide it. But there was one sticking point.
The front end, which gives the pistol its unique look, was big. For Doust, it was important to justify. “I had this idea that maybe it’s the fact that as you use a blaster in a gunfight, you pull the trigger, the blaster’s getting hotter and hotter and hotter, eventually it’s not going to work. And with a little flick of the wrist, this whole center section flips over and installs a new cool, cold barrel into the front end of the blaster.” Even better, the prop makers built this functionality into the actual prop.
“It would completely work,” Doust says. “Diego [Luna] became really great at flicking the wrist, very subtly hitting the button that controlled the mechanism that spun the barrel. You see him do it a couple of times in some of the scenes, and it’s just this nice little detail.”
2. NS-9 Starpath Unit
At the outset of Andor, the NS-9 Starpath Unit plays a pivotal role as a bit of tech that Cassian has stolen from the Empire and is looking to sell. Resembling something akin to a space car battery, it’s fittingly mechanical yet still other-worldly. “That was a real journey, creating that thing,” Doust says. “It’s the MacGuffin. It’s the item that brings Luthen and Cassian together.”
According to Doust, the Starpath was described in an early draft of the script as “a piece of navigational tech.” It had to look valuable, fit in a small bag, and be “very Imperial.” Again, functionality proved crucial in cracking what the Starpath would look like, so Doust and his team devised a purpose. “My theory was that this was the element of the navigational computer that plots the path through the stars,” he says. “When you go into hyperspace, this is what makes sure when you come out the other end -- that you don’t appear in the middle of the planet.” The script also deemed that the Starpath would feature an unbroken seal, which Doust incorporated into his backstory for the device: if the seal was broken, it meant the hyperspace route could be unreliable. “That just adds to the value. This is the one bit of equipment that makes sure that Star Destroyer gets to where it’s gotta go.”
In the final story, the Starpath evolved to be a piece of navigational hardware that uses proprietary Imperial signals and frequencies to coordinate and map the relation of your ship to every proximate Imperial asset. In the hands of rebels, scoundrels, scum, and villainy, it could be very dangerous.
But what would it look like? Doust found “an old piece of military junk” that had handles, and it looked like something you’d plug into a larger machine. That device (whatever it was, Doust still doesn’t know) would form the basis for the Starpath, and from there came refinement, including the addition of platinum- and gold-looking elements, and of course, the Imperial cog. “It all came together from this piece of MOD [Ministry of Defence] junk.”
3. Syril’s Cereal Bowl and Spoon
After losing his gig as a Pre-Mor deputy inspector, Syril Karn returns to his childhood home. Sitting across the table from his overbearing, lecturing mother, Syril listlessly eats a bowl of cereal in one of the series’ most amusing scenes. “We’re showing elements in Andor for the first time that we haven’t seen in Star Wars,” Doust says. “These very mundane, day-to-day pieces of life.”
As such, Doust felt that this wasn’t one to overthink.
“You can’t eat cereal without a bowl and spoon. It’s as basic as that,” he says laughing. “At the end of the day, there are some things you can’t change.”
4. The Ferrix Hammer and Anvil
One of the first images seen in the original Andor trailer is a very tall being driving a massive hammer into an anvil at dawn. As we’d see in the series, this is an important part of life for the people of Ferrix -- whether it’s announcing the start of a workday or sounding an alarm. “It had to be something very iconic for Ferrix,” Doust says. “It’s the village clock.”
Per showrunner Tony Gilroy, Doust’s prop had to actually work, and it also had to make the right sound. The prop team looked at hammers from across cultures and disciplines, eventually taking inspiration from front-heavy Japanese hammers. “That gave us the idea for the shape, so we scaled that up,” he says.
For the anvil, Doust wanted to stay away from traditional versions. “The final design is based on a percussion instrument, which is a musical anvil. It’s a tiny little thing, so we scaled it right up, added a few more layers to it,” he says. “Because it was based on this thing that creates a particular noise anyway, that’s its purpose and form follows function.” Then it was just a matter of adding Star Wars design flourishes and finalizing the look of both pieces.
When the Andor trailer debuted, Doust wasn’t surprised to see the hammer and anvil featured so prominently.
“I always knew it was going to be a very important part of Ferrix, which is why we spent so long getting it right,” Doust says.
5. Metal Detector
In the opening scene of Andor, Cassian arrives at a brothel and is quickly stopped by a bouncer. The guard then scans Cassian with a metal detector, one of the first actual props shown, however briefly, in the series. The prop department had a modern scanner, but Doust didn’t like it, believing it felt too current. Instead, he wanted something that looked more “late ‘70s” and could be held in one hand. That thinking took him from security devices to, surprisingly, kitchen appliances.
“For some reason, I just thought, ‘electric carving knife,’” Doust says. “That shape of the handle, it’s like, ‘Yeah! It’s great!’ It’s ergonomically designed, it’s designed to be held in the hand, there’s a big button on the top to push.”
For Doust, this scanner -- though it has little screen time -- speaks to the Andor methodology in prop building, and how it connects to the past. “It’s very much how they were making the props in 1976 for A New Hope,” he says. “They were taking stuff that was around then and just twisting it up a little.”