The name of the show might refer to a male character, but as the saying goes, behind every great man, is a great woman, and Star Wars has plenty of that, even if the women aren’t the lead characters.
From the likes of Princess Leia Organa, Ahsoka Tano, Padme Amidala and Sabine Wren, the world’s biggest sci-fi fantasy franchise is seemingly never short of female characters, and the latest Disney+ series, Andor, titled after the popular Star Wars Rogue One character, Cassian Andor, not only charts the early life of the Rebel Alliance spy, but also follows the steps of a revolution and a potent moment in Star Wars history, including the many women that played a big role in it. One of whom is the famous but lesser known character, Mon Mothma.
A stoic Rebel leader that fans have seen appear in various Star Wars movies, including Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith and most famously, Rogue One, the Mon Mothma fans will meet in Andor is different from past iterations, as this series will give audiences the opportunity to know her on a deeper, more personal level as it delves into her private and personal life.
“We’ve met Mon Mothma before in different iterations, in different versions of the Star Wars storytelling and each time we’ve met her, we’ve met this kind of composed, regal, dignified woman who often, like with Cassian in Rogue One, sends people out on a mission,” said actress Genevieve O’Reilly in a press conference Geek Culture attended.
“I think what’s extraordinary about how Tony [Gilroy] has written Andor and where he has chosen to begin this story is so very different to where we find Mon Mothma in Rogue One. She is still that very dignified senator but for the first time, we get to see the woman behind the robe. We get to see the private face of Mon Mothma. We get to flesh out not just the senator, not just the would-be leader of a Rebel Alliance, but also the woman.”
Where in past appearances Mon Mothma had little screen time, and in some unfortunate cases, was not a speaking role, Andor, according to creator Gilroy, is just as much a story on the senator as it is on the Rebel spy. Here, fans meet the woman who is steeped in the Empire (a male-dominated Empire for that fact) and is attempting to find her voice as she navigates a space that holds different ideals and values from herself. It’s a rather isolating experience, but as actress O’Reilly puts it, it’s a journey worth travelling.
“We find her in Andor very alone, living in a world of orthodoxy and construct. We see a woman who has had to navigate her ideals and her beliefs within systems of oppression and so, we find her in a place we’ve never seen her before. We find her in a bit of a gilded cage,” adds O’Reilly.
“To journey with her as a woman and finding her voice, reaching for voices that are fighting for similar things, finding community, finding collaborators to be able to eventually be the leader that she becomes in Rogue One – there’s a journey to travel and I’m excited for people to hop on that train with us.”
Mon Mothma isn’t the only woman on a journey in Andor. Dedra Meero is an Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) officer, who throughout the series, is on her own personal journey involving chasing power and recognition in the male-dominated organisation.
“So Dedra is an ISB officer and when we meet her, she’s at the low end of the ladder. She’s incredibly ambitious and meticulous. She’s in this very male-dominated world and she’s clawing her way up the ladder,” explains Irish actress Denise Gough, who plays Dedra.
“I love portraying the effect that power has on a person, like the danger of that pursuit of power and control, regardless of gender. I love that you’re thinking ‘Oh, go girl!’, and then you remember, she’s in a fascist organization. I’m getting a real thrill being able to play her.”
The third woman to play a key role in the series is Adria Arjona’s Bix Caleen. The owner of a scrapyard on Ferrix (yes that’s a new planet in the Star Wars universe), Bix is a loyal friend to Andor who often uses her off-world connections to help her friend whenever he’s in hot water.
“I think she’s fearless and she’s bold, yet really deep inside, she’s incredibly loyal and compassionate and cares a little too much for the people around her. I think that’s sometimes at her own detriment,” says the Puerto Rican actress about Bix.
“I think this boldness and powerful thing is sort of like a facade that she puts on. She almost puts that as a show but deep down, she cares deeply about the people around her.”
Perhaps the most empowering bit about Bix is that she brings further inspiration and representation to the diverse world of Star Wars. Whilst Andor is at its heart a spy-thriller and drama, the film does dabble in socio-political issues, particularly the immigrant experience that many People of Colour face in their everyday life. And where that storyline is effectively explored through Mexican actor Diego Luna’s Cassian, Arjona’s Bix is yet another character that young Hispanic children can look up to and see themselves in.
“Diego has been doing it for way longer than me but it gives me hope that now a little girl’s gonna watch it (Andor) and be like ‘Oh my god, that girl kind of looks like me and maybe I want to be like her for Halloween!’ or whatever that may be. It sort of comes to show how things are sort of shifting and I’m happy that Tony sort of brought me along,” smiled Arjona when asked about representing the Hispanic community in the galaxy.
“But it wasn’t part of the conversation, which was I think the most beautiful thing about it. It wasn’t like ‘Oh, you’re Hispanic, so you need to be in this.’ Tony was like, ‘Oh, you’re Bix,’ and it’s never justified, or we never even had a conversation about my own ethnicity. I think it was really just about the work and I truly hope for in the future, that that question kind of isn’t asked as much anymore, that it sort of becomes this normality where seeing two actors like Diego and I in Star Wars is cool and it’s the norm.”
With the first three episodes of the 12-episode series released on premiere day (21 September), fans still have plenty to learn and admire about these three female characters who in their own way, played significant roles in the events leading up to the revolution and Rogue One. Without these women, there’s no telling if there would have even been this monumental and prominent shift in Star Wars history.
Andor is now streaming on Disney+. New episodes are released weekly.