“The Education of Cassian Andor”: Creator Tony Gilroy Explores the Nuance of Andor

The executive producer tells StarWars.com why it's important to get behind the heroes and the villains of a story.

Tony GilroyIt’s hard not to root for Dedra Meero sometimes. The ISB inspector on the trail of the burgeoning rebellion is the hero of her own story, overcoming obstacles and staggering odds on the quest for a complete picture of the anarchy in store for the Empire.

And that’s exactly how Andor creator and executive producer Tony Gilroy wants you to feel. Through a motley crew of new characters and some familiar faces, the writer behind the acclaimed new Star Wars live-action series, now streaming on Disney+, purposefully explores the gray area between good and evil with deft nuance.

Even when we know the minions of the Empire are the bad guys, we still can’t help but find them a little relatable in their struggle. “I can’t imagine writing black and white. I mean, I have believed in every villain I’ve ever written, you know?” Gilroy tells StarWars.com. “You’ve really gotta believe in him. You gotta love him. You gotta know why they’re doing it. You gotta feel for it. And there has to be a reason for it. You’ve gotta get behind everybody.”

Supervisor Meero arrives

For Meero in particular, Gilroy was hoping to build in a sense of empathy from the audience. “You go quite a few episodes where this is a woman who’s fighting her way up in a male environment. This is a person that’s really trying. I’m on her side and she’s doing the right thing and other people aren’t listening. She’s better at her job than everyone else. And then all of a sudden you go, ‘Oh my God, I wish she wasn’t so good at her job.’ If you’ve been rooting for somebody all that time, can you stop rooting for them just because they have some occupational flaws? I don’t know.”

Beyond the Imperial allegiant, Andor explores new territory, giving Cassian Andor an origin story and a home planet populated by a thriving community of average denizens of the galaxy unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“This is a chance to do a show about the ordinary people of this galaxy and these tectonic, revolutionary pressures that are being put on them from all sides,” Gilroy says of his spy thriller. “Thrillers are always people under pressure. Usually there’s an outer problem, but what’s great is all of the outer pressures that weigh down on people expose all of the other problems that they have in their lives. So if someone’s marriage is bad, whether you’re gonna inform on the neighbor across the hall puts a whole new pressure on that. It’s regular people under pressure and, in a thriller, that’s the buy-in from the beginning.”

Tony Gilroy and Diego Luna on the set of Andor

Using one Cassian line from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as a jumping off point — “I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old!” — Gilroy has introduced the world of Kenari and a Lord of the Flies-like tribe of children living unsupervised in the jungle. “He’s on a planet that’s been environmentally destroyed and all the adults have died,” Gilroy explains. “It’s a bunch of kids that have been left to fend for themselves and they get into some trouble there. He gets separated from the pack.”

From there, salvage hunters Maarva and Clem Andor decided to bring young Kassa to their homeworld of Ferrix, for fear of him being captured or killed by the Republic, and raise him as their son. It was important to Gilroy that fans could become immersed in the Ferrix culture from the start. And although we’ve never visited it before in Star Wars storytelling, the tight-knit community of scrappers and salvagers has a familiarity to it.

Maarva hears the people of Ferrix come together, banging pots and pans as an alarm

“We spend a lot of time building it with a big social structure and all of its own hierarchies and rules and allegiances,” Gilroy says. Chief among the esteemed citizens is Maarva, Cassian’s adoptive mother, who owns a salvage yard. “She’s a daughter of Ferrix and she’s a big proponent of Ferrix,” Gilroy adds. And, like Meero, Maarva is flawed but relatable. “She’s done her best. She loves [Cassian] as much as she possibly could love him. When we start the show, he is a bit of a disappointment to her. He’s not trending in the right direction.” Throughout the season, we’ll get a deeper appreciation for their bond, Gilroy teases. “Their relationship through all 12 episodes…it’s very emotional between the two of them.”

At its heart, the first season of Andor takes us along for the journey Cassian Andor must take to become the rebel hero we know from Rogue One. Early on in the development process, without an established code name or a title for the production “we called it The Education of Cassian Andor,” Gilroy says.

“He has so much to learn,” Gilroy says. “It’s the road to Damascus for him. It’s a real education. There’s a pivotal moment where he can no longer pretend that he’s completely unaffected by the Empire anymore. He can no longer pretend that he’s gonna be a mercenary. He can no longer have one foot in and one foot out. He’s in such a deep, deep problem….He has to make some really big decisions about who he’s gonna be.”

Hear more from Tony Gilroy in a special interview in the latest episode of This Week! In Star Wars below.

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Associate Editor Kristin Baver is the author of the book Skywalker: A Family At War, host of This Week! In Star Wars, and an 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. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.

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