Ahead of the phenomenal tenth episode of Andor, Drumpe’s own Steve Weintraub sat down to chat with the show’s creator Tony Gilroy to discuss many aspects of the Star Wars series. Andor stars the incomparable Diego Luna as the titular rebel that audiences first met in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, though in this series he hasn’t yet figured out what it means to be a hero. The series is a lot more than just an origin story for Cassian, with Gilroy finding ingenious ways to reintroduce characters like Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and Ruescott Melshi (Duncan pow), while also introducing brand-new characters to root for—and against.
During the interview, Gilroy spoke about which directors they’ve secured for Season 2, when the new season is set to begin filming (sooner than you think!), where they’re headed in their collision course with the events of Rogue One, working with Andy Serkis on the Narkina 5 arc, and why he has an adapted-by credit on Armageddon. Check out the interview below.
Drumpe: I just really want to thank you for making the show, and your brothers, and everyone else who’s gone into it to bring this to life. I know you’re knee-deep in Season 2, but what do I need to do, and what do fans need to do, to keep you making more Star Wars after Season 2? Because we will literally do a GoFundMe.
TONY GILROY: It’s another two years from now before I’ll be done. It’s just such a supreme drag to hear people who are in the movie business and being well paid and doing what everybody wants to do… But it’s a fucking lot of work, man. It just never ends. Every day, it just doesn’t stop. Literally, working on two dairy farms, everybody has to be milked every day. It doesn’t stop. It’s just simply too much to consider anything else. I can’t imagine what I’ll do other than curl up in a fetal position when this is over, man.
I want to live through it. We want to maintain the standard. We want to stay as obsessed. We don’t want to take our foot off the gas, and we want to do something better and even more. We want to go farther if we can. I can’t possibly imagine what I would do after this. I really can’t. It’s too hard.
I’m teasing you with that, but I’m just thankful that you’re making a Season 2 and that Lucasfilm is making it.
GILROY: Oh, we’re breaking ground for a lot of people who either couldn’t get a break trying to change it up, or be brave enough, or even what the possibilities were. As we said before, it’s like taking the Latin Mass out of the Roman Catholic Church in a way. Once you do that, it’s like, « Wow, everything changes. » Well, what will other people do with it? That would be the coolest thing. The coolest thing would be for other people to come along and start taking the next level, or the next road. There’s all kinds of things you can do with this.
It’s really funny you say that because over the last week I’ve been on the phone with unnamed directors that you have heard of, and all I say to them is, « Have you watched Andor yet? Because I need you to watch Andor because Tony is showing what can be done, and I need all of you looking at this because I want you thinking about Star Wars in this way. »
GILROY: Everybody hates me now, Steve. Everybody hates me now. That’s great. Okay. That’s great. I need big-name colleagues hating me as well.
First of all, no one’s going to hate you.
GILROY: No, I’m kidding.
You’re showing what Star Wars can also be, and I want more people thinking of it like that. I’m sure you learned a lot making the first season. What are you taking from your experiences on Season 1 to Season 2 in terms of what you can accomplish because I’m sure it was a learning curve making this first season?
GILROY: I mean, scripts just have to be dead tight, just dead tight. I mean, that we learned along the way. I was so naive at the very beginning. I don’t know. I mean, when I think back, what I didn’t know when we started is shocking to me. Really, it’s like I said before, it’s like having kids. If you knew what it was going to be, you wouldn’t do it. Once you do it, you’re like, « Oh my God. » Because you think about it, « Oh my God. » And so having a second child is like, « Well, we already had a kid. I know what to do. » And then you get into it, and you’re like, « Well, wait, this is just as hard as it was before. »
There’s some things that we’ve learned. We certainly have a great system, and we have so many of our team: Luke [Hull], and Michael Wilkinson, Mo, Leo, John Gilroy, Nick Mortel, and Sanne people that are there. We have a team. So we don’t have to learn who we are. We don’t have to learn how to communicate. We don’t have to learn how information flows. I don’t have to set a tone for the company to make sure everybody talks. Everybody knows what’s expected on that.
What’s harder? What do you learn? We have to make everything. We have to design everything. So we’re much more conscious. And I think it gets a little spooky sometimes where you realize you have to design absolutely everything you’re going to do, and that’s daunting and there’s no shortcut to that. And there’s no shortcut to getting stage space. Sometimes we’re just really limited. “My God, there’s no more stages. I’d like to do that, but we can’t do that because I can’t get another stage. There’s no more stages available. We can’t do that because…” Also, it’s a lot more difficult to book the actors now because everybody’s much more complicated. We’re getting into legacy characters now as well. It’s very complicated to get everybody to book out and book everybody’s schedules. Everybody’s very busy. Nobody knew that we were going to have this many characters when we started – my fault.
So juggling all of that is, you can imagine what the air traffic control on scheduling is here. It’s pretty complicated. So a lot of that stuff is really daunting and new, and that’s a new terror that I didn’t feel the first time around. But the things you learn, get it on the page. Someone said to me the other day, « Who’s your writer on set? » I go, « We don’t have a writer on set. We never have a writer on set. We never have a writer on set, but the director’s on set and the script is there. Everybody knows what they’re doing. By the time we show up, we know what we’re doing. »
You can see it when you’re watching the episodes that this is not some improv moment, that it’s all on the page. I have to ask you, because I’m a fan of all the directors and all the writers that worked on Season 1: How many of the directors are coming back for Season 2, or do you have any new ones?
GILROY: Well, not for lack of trying, but I had too long of a conversation, and nothing nefarious or whatever, but it’ll be all new directors this time around. It’s very hard. Man, hiring directors is a really hard thing to do. I never hired a director before. I mean, when you’re hiring directors, it means you have to watch so many things. It’s also like Supermarket Sweep because there are all these other shows that are out there and everybody’s going for the same people. Then you have to convince people, « Oh my god, I don’t want to come in on Season 2. You already did everything.” And you’re like, « No, we’re doing the second half of a thing. » And there’s all these conversations and stuff. But we will have three new directors this time.
Ariel Kleiman is going to come in, and kind of do what Toby did last time. He’s going to direct our first block and our last block. The way we go, you can only do the first block and the last block because there’s too much. Wouldn’t have time otherwise. The first block we’re shooting is not the first block chronologically. So he’ll actually be directing the first six episodes in the end. And then Janus Metz is coming in to direct a block, and then Alonso Ruizpalacios is coming in to do a block of three as well. So we have three new directors that we’re very excited about. There’s an incredible amount of competition for directors right now.
I’ve heard that from other people. Was there any temptation for yourself to helm any episodes, or because of everything you’re doing you just don’t have the time?
GILROY: It’s just impossible. It’s absolutely impossible. I couldn’t even think about it. I have way too much else to do. I can’t do it. And also, you know what? It’s not good for the show because it’s really good when they come in if they can get infected with what you’re doing. They have three [to] four months to prep and 55 days to shoot. It’s big. They get a lot of time. We spend a lot of time with them. But if they can really be infected with the vibe of the show, and do everything, they come in and they bring all their new energy, and they bring all their new ideas, and they bring all their stuff, and they go farther. There are scenes where if I directed them, I would’ve been half as ambitious as the directors that did it.
Toby’s interrogation scene between Syril and Dedra where she brings them into the ISB and there’s a two-part scene? My version of that would’ve been like, « Oh my God, it’s like a police interrogation room and there’s a mirror and there’s a thing…” I was tired, and when I saw what they were doing, I was like, « Really? We’re going to have this set and this whole thing. Do we really need it? Is that going to be okay? Go ahead. »
Man, when I saw what he did, I was like, « Man, God bless you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. » So that’s what they do. When it works well, but there’s another version where you don’t get exactly what you want. But mostly it’s up and you really need that.
My last question on Season 2, when do you actually start filming?
GILROY: I want to say November 21st. It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving because I’m going to stay in London. I’m going to London on Saturday. I’m staying through the first shot. I’m going to watch them get the first shot off then I’m getting to the airport and I’m coming home.
I’m just going to say good luck at Heathrow. So this is a question someone gave me on Twitter and I found it funny and wanted to ask. What did you contribute to Armageddon to earn the rare “adaption-by” credit for a movie that wasn’t based on a book?
GILROY: That’s an hour-long story about a whole bunch of weirdness and guilt. Let’s put it this way, when that credit was awarded, it had all kinds of financial implications for me. And when ICM went back into their records, no one had negotiated for that credit, or bonuses, or anything because that credit had not been awarded for 25 years. I have no idea. I haven’t seen it since. What is it, “adapted by?” Or some weird shit?
Anyway, it’s a very long, very interesting Hollywood story about grantsmanship, and arbitrations, and everything else, but I don’t know what that credit means. What did I contribute to the movie? I worked on the first half of that movie with all the character stuff. I worked on that movie to get it launched. A lot of writers worked on that picture.
Oh, believe me, I saw it. Jumping into Andor. I think one of the reasons the show is so good is you have your brothers working with you, and I’m just curious who was the toughest to convince to do it? Or did they both jump at it?
GILROY: No, I mean, look, it’s a different commitment. Danny, comes to the writer’s room for five days and writes his scripts, and then goes off and talks to me on the phone. John Gilroy is needing to go to London on Sunday, and he’ll be there for two years. He’s my hostage there. He’s there every minute. So for Johnny, it’s a five-year commitment like me. But he has to live there the whole time. And for Danny, he can cavalierly go on and do whatever he wants to do. So it’s a little different.
Did you convince Dan to write anything for Season 2?
GILROY: Yeah. Danny came out. We had Danny and Beau, and then we added a guy named Tom Bissell. Tom Bissell is really cool and really, really interesting, versatile, really good writer. But also a very, very, very big Star Wars fan, which we really wanted to make sure we had another pro because we’re going into Rogue, and we’re going to Yavin, and then we’re going into places where we eventually need to really weave our way back to the source. So Tom came in, and he’s been great. So he’s got some episodes too.
In episodes eight and nine, they’re building what I think are pieces of the Death Star. Is that what they’re building?
GILROY: No. It’s a writer’s room in there. They’re building a script. They’re building a spine for the second season, man. That’s what they’re doing.
You know what I’m talking about?
GILROY: Is it in Clerks? Doesn’t he talk about the guys with the janitors and the Death Star, right? I mean look at all the material that they have all over the place. That’s one of the things that was just blowing my mind. I said, « Who built all the shit? Who built Scarif? Who built Eadu? Who did all this? Who builds these ships? » So, what are they building? TBD.
I spoke to Andy Serkis yesterday, and he made it sound like he knows what they were building. And then I’m like, « Well, are they building the Death Star? » Or, I guess it could be a piece of a Star Destroyer.
GILROY: Yeah. Well, maybe we’ll have to just wait and see what Andy says. I heard one theory. Someone said, “My daughter sent me something: they’re building something in the next room, and then they’re taking it apart,” which is not true. It’s totally nihilistic. I go, « We’re not that dark. » I guess we’ll figure it out. Yeah. Yeah. To be seen.
One of the things I really am stunned by with Andor is that in most shows, you introduce characters and they’re on the show for the entire season, or seasons, and you have one or two locations, whatever. But with Andor, you had that whole heist of the Empire’s money, and then you’re going to this whole prison sequence. You have all these different locations, and people come and go on the show. At what point during the making of this series did you say, « The fuck did I do? »
GILROY: Oh, man, I wasn’t the only one. I had a whole bunch of people staring at me going like, « What the fuck am I doing? » No, I mean, I don’t know where the moment… I mean, look honest to God because it’s just been going on. First there was the whole lead-up to it, and then I went there to prep all winter, and I had some of the scripts together, and we’d had the room, and we knew the shape of the show, but the other scripts weren’t perfect, but those guys were gone. And then I was going to direct, and then COVID hit. And quite honestly, COVID really saved the show because that stall really gave everybody a chance to reset and go, « Oh my God, can we do this?” And it gave a chance to re-tailor the scripts for everything that we were going to do. It also pulled me away from being a director so I could do the other work of making the show.
Man, I can’t tell you how many times along the way, I was like, « What have I done to my life, and why did I do this, and it’s not worth it… » I had friends come to me, going, « What are you doing?” And everybody wonders what you’re doing, and you could be doing other things now. It really wasn’t until about this time last year that we had everything shot, and we really started to put it together and really started to show people what we had, that it really started to feel like, « Oh my God, maybe this was really worth it. »
This job, in general… you talk to everybody who does it. I mean, it’s such a weird mix. You have to be ridiculously overconfident, and then you also have to be just horrifyingly insecure. So you just swing back and forth between terror, and vanity, and glory. That swing on this show is about as distant as I would want to make. It does feel worth it now. It certainly was doubtful along the way. It’s just too much time, too many risks.
One of the things that the show does very well is little Easter eggs to Star Wars here and there. How do you decide when you want to nod to the audience, or put something in there for the fans? You know what I mean? Where is it in the writing process, or on set? How does that get figured out?
GILROY: Well, there’s the big ones, the ones where I go, « Okay, here’s canon, and here’s where we’re going to stick to canon, and here’s where we’re going to hijack canon, » in the big strokes. Then also there are things along the build, along the way, where we’re like, « Okay, we need this ship, or we need this planet, or what uniforms were they wearing here? What does that mean? Or we’re going to do the gallery? What are the artifacts? » There’s all kinds of conversations. Then that’s the secondary level, where I’m party to what’s going on and saying, « Yeah, that’s cool, whatever. » But I have to tell you, there’s all kinds of things that the art department, and whatever, have put in there that’s news to me. I didn’t know about the shield in Stellan’s gallery, I don’t know all the artifacts. I don’t know the provenance of all of them.
It’s fun when that happens. I see a prop and I go, « Oh my God, this blaster is actually the same blaster that they had in so-and-so that people will know, that’s fantastic. » For me, sometimes I’m surprised, pleasantly. I can’t think of any place where there’s ever been a controversy about it. No, we have a good mix of people on the show. A lot of people in the show completely have no Star Wars experience whatsoever, or have gained it making the show, but then we also have a lot of people that are really hardcore deep. So that collaboration is really helping.
One of the things that people might notice is that the Bix interrogation scene is very reminiscent of the Leia interrogation scene from Star Wars. I even saw a video online that basically showed the shots and how much they mimic each other. And I just wanted to know who decided on that homage.
GILROY: Well, this goes to what’s newest to me. I got a text from Toby two days ago where someone had called it out and he goes, « Well, I snuck that one in. » And he sent me the video. I did not even know that that was a reference. So I wrote him back, I go, « You’re fired. No, I’m kidding. »
There you go. That’s Toby as a Star Wars fanatic putting something in. That’s really cool. That works. Because obviously Johnny and I, we’re just like, « Does that cut work?” And, “That cut passed through dailies and through the first ending process, or the secondary editing process, and made it all the way through.” I bet John Gilroy doesn’t know that. That’s the answer to your question, I guess.
When you first got involved, and you’re breaking down the show, how much had you figured out the two-season arc, and how it was all going to go early on? Do you know what I mean? How did you figure out that ultimate master plan of two years, 24 episodes?
GILROY: We were going to do five in the beginning, but we were going to end in the same place. I knew what the first year was going to be – and I don’t know how the hell we felt we were going to do five seasons of this – but I did know where we were going to end because we’re going to end up with him and Rogue. I mean, we have to walk into Rogue. I mean, everyone should know it’s coming, man. The final scene, or next-to-final sequence, is Cassian walking across the tarmac to get in the ship with K2 and go to the Ring of Kafrene to go see Danny Mays.
I mean, that’s where we’re going, so we know where we’re going. So I knew that. The first year I knew exactly where we needed to go. And now we’re just condensing. In the second half, we’re saying, « Okay, here’s the four years in tranches of three using a lot of negative space, and using time as our friend – what happens to these people over time. »
Cassian’s childhood that was depicted in the first few episodes really struck a chord with a lot of people. Can you talk about why it was important to show that, and what influenced that choice of what happened?
GILROY: I mean, again, this goes to my very same thing with the building of the prison, and whatever. My first thing is, « Oh, I would really like to explain his accent. » I mean, let’s just deal with that. If he’s going be from Ferrix, or he is going to be from anywhere, why does he have this accent?
Well, I want to deal with that. So sketch that out for a couple of hours, and that leads to one thing then leads to the next. And I wanted to enhance the source of his rage. I wanted to enhance the sense of his exile. I wanted to enhance his fundamental, almost pre-memory hatred of authority and the institutions that had destroyed his home world. It comes from that. But in the very first moment in front of this is: I’ve got to explain his accent. What should I do about that?
You’ve shown some pretty brutal stuff with Bix’s interrogation and with Ulaf. Were there any moments that you wanted to pull back on, or did you get any notes from anyone, because it’s been a pretty honest depiction of things.
GILROY: No. I mean there’s a limit to what we can do. I mean, there’s a limit to the violence that we could show obviously. And there’s a limit to, obviously, anything sexual that we can do, and language. We have a pretty rigorous standards and practices. But also Star Wars itself, I mean crawling out of the lava, bone’s burning. Anytime anybody tells you that it’s not violent, there’s a whole bunch of film clips you can pull out where things have been pretty heavy. So I think maybe it matters more, or it feels sometimes, a little bit more graphic if you’ve been patient about getting there and it’s a little bit more molecular sometimes. I don’t know. But no one’s pushed back on our level of tragedy.
Again, I can keep on listing the things I love about the show, but I love that the show has no Jedi, no lightsabers, nothing that we’ve done before. Was there ever any conversation, at any level, including for Season 2, of someone saying, « Hey, it would be great if we had a Jedi walking by, or having some lightsaber thing?”
GILROY: I’m sure I’ve heard that. We’re not Calvinistically going to ignore Cassian’s destiny. That’s as far as I’m going to go. I mean, you should be feeling it already. I mean, he’s like Selig in a way, isn’t he? Not in that he’s a shapeshifter, but that he’s where all these events seem to be happening.
Now he’s in a prison because of the thing that he did. He goes back to tell his mother, « Hey, I got all this money. Come with me, let’s move to Florida. » And she’s like, « No, I can’t do that now because, maybe you didn’t hear about it, but there was this robbery.” And he’s like, « I can’t tell my mother. » Then he’s in prison because of that thing, and that thing is causing the sentences to be over.
He’s just going to end up in a lot of places. And four years is a long time. The second season is really… Four years is a huge length of time in the revolution. Things will happen where there will be some elements where the synchronicity of his life becomes something to consider.
I love Andy Serkis’ performance in these episodes. He just delivers. Can you talk about casting him and when you knew that he would be the guy?
GILROY: Oh, I hounded him for months and months. I thought he was so great in Black Panther. I knew he was good and great, but I was like, « Wow, man, that is just such a charismatic and intense performance. » I just thought he was great.
Anyway, I just started hounding him about this really early on, and he wasn’t going to be available. He was directing, he was doing Venom, and I just kept going, going and finally it lined up. It was very pleasing to have him. It’s a very demanding part.
Is there anything that you ended up cutting out, or couldn’t do, due to time or budget that you had actually written?
GILROY: Yes, we’ve had some budgetary things along the way. When we had COVID restrictions, at one point, I think the original conception for Aldhani was going to be a couple of thousand people showed up there, I think they were going to do that in the beginning. And then, when we couldn’t do that because of COVID, it actually got more interesting.
A lot of times – I don’t want to say “all the time” because then everybody will just put you in a box all the time – but most of the time, the solves to problems end up being better. Limitations are good. The problem that you solve pushes you deeper in it. And so to make the Aldhani culture be so diminished, and so on its last legs, and so, at-the-end-of-the-road, really made it better in a weird way. But there’s other things along the way. There’s things we can’t afford to do. I’m in the middle of changing something right now that was completely written and built out that we can’t afford to do.
Well, I don’t like hearing that news, but I have confidence that you will.
GILROY: No, but I think the solve is an improvement in a way. I do.
One of the things that I’ve been trying to tell people about Andor Season 1 is, I’ve never been afraid of a single TIE fighter like I have been watching Andor. I want to commend you on that because when it’s flying by on the planet, you feel like if they get seen it’s the end. The TIE fighter’s going to take them. It’s done. So, can you talk about that? You’re making the Empire… I’m really fearing them in a way that I haven’t feared them in a long time.
GILROY: It just seemed like good grammar. I mean, it just seemed like that’s how they should be and it should be scary. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I’m surprised to hear people say that they’ve never been that scary before.
No, we want to do that fly-by, and that buzz-by, and just the arrogance of it, and the evilness of it. And I don’t have a good answer for that. I mean, we’re trying to make everything real. I mean, that’s what we’re trying to do. That is the mandate for, “What’s the reality on the ground?” Before we write the scene, “What’s the reality?” The actors want to know, “What’s the reality? Where am I walking in from? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” So it’s just part of that whole, what’s written on the blackboard every morning, we just keep it real.
Andor is available to stream on Disney+, with new episodes premiering every Wednesday. Check out our interview with Andy Serkis below: