ANDOR Showrunner Tony Gilroy on Season 1’s Powerful Themes and the Future

Andor is a television miracle. Disney has delivered one of the most political and progressive shows of the 21st century under the banner of Star Wars. This show is a masterclass in writing, directing, acting, and storytelling. Andor showrunner and creator Tony Gilroy has put all the cards on the table. Nerdist had the chance to speak with Gilroy about the show; we discussed season one, the finale, and what awaits Cassian in the future.

Tony Gilroy smiles sititng in front of a black background
Star Wars YouTube

Editor’s Note: This interview is lightly edited for clarity.

Nerdist: I want to start with the final scene of the season. What brought Cassian to Luthen’s ship?

Tony Gilroy: For what he says—to make the oath. For clarity, for closure, as we say, right? If everybody is out hunting you, do you want to live like that? Plus he’s made his peace. I think he’s absolutely legit. I think everything they’re saying at the end there is completely legit. He really means it, Like, “Man, I can’t take it.” He doesn’t really have much left to live for, does he, if he doesn’t go that way? What’s the point? And he doesn’t want to run anymore. He wants to be inside himself. To be outside yourself and be wrong with yourself and realize it? He means that, “Kill me or take me.”

Do you think he expected Luthen to kill him?

Gilroy: I don’t think he knows. I think he’s hoping. But I don’t think he went there to try and game [the situation]. I think it’s legit. I know that’s how Diego played it. It’s a legit question.

Luthen on his ship on Andor

You referred to the series before it started as “the education” of Cassian Andor.

Gilroy: This season, yeah.

So what are the most meaningful lessons he learned during the season? And which ones still await him?

Gilroy: To piggyback and go backwards, as I said, when you’re outside yourself… the guy you meet is not right with himself at all. He’s utterly disillusioned. He’s completely self-interested. And he’s lying for things that aren’t even really worth it. He has a temper he can’t control. He has impulse control that he can’t control. You take that guy and then you give him the worst day of his life, he’s becoming right with himself over the course of this long odyssey.

Nemik shows Cassian his technology in Andor

So you want to see him wake up. And you want to see him learn. And you want to see him radicalized without having a shopping list where, “Oh, this is this week’s lesson of the week.” You want to make sure that along the way you tick all the boxes. “Oh my God, look what the Empire is doing here. Look what it’s doing here and how this place is being ruined. Look how these people are being oppressed and look what’s happening to me.” And, “Oh my God, here’s someone who comes along and puts a dialectical spin on it with the manifesto.” And, “Here’s people who’ve been affected by it. I thought I had it bad? What happened to Cinta’s family when storm troopers slaughtered them? And why is Sergeant Gorn doing it? Why is he turning?”

Diego Luna with a beard as Cassian Andor

Everybody has a different reason. As Vel says on the way up the hill, “Everybody has their own rebellion.” And all the variations of what that means, and all those motivations, are going to become the colors of his holistic coming together. So by the end of it, he’s right with himself. He’s where he needs to be. “I’m going to do this one thing.” And going forward, what do you do with that? How do you become a leader? How do you survive? And how is everyone going to survive scaling up and getting to Yavin and Rebel Alliance? If paranoia and secrecy are your product, Luthen Rael has been building a startup company in his garage, and when he does Aldhani, it’s like he opens the garage door. As Kleya says, “We’re going to go loud.” And Denise Gough (Deadra) says, “It’s not a robbery, it’s an announcement.”

That difficulty going forward for Luthen—and then for everybody else the same thing—is if everything you’re doing is based on secrecy, how do you collaborate with people? How do you join up? What happens to the original gangsters and what happens to the outliers and what happens to the people who really sacrificed? And so that’ll be the issues going forward.

Mon Mothma and Vel watch Leida's group on Andor

Even though there’s so much death, sadness, and suffering, I find the show incredibly hopeful, just not in the manner that Star Wars typically is. In what ways do you find this story hopeful?

Gilroy: I get emotional about community. That’s why it was such a joy and why we put so much time into building Ferrix and building the culture of it and really going deep into the civic organizations and the Daughters of Ferrix, the gloves on the wall, Grappler’s Hall, the Time Grappler, and all these rituals and all these things. That place has such a sense of community and it’s such a non-dystopian place. It’s not utopia, but it’s such a good community.

And when the prison riot is happening—rather than having Attica where a bunch of guys are taking revenge on each other and shanking each other and doing whatever else normally happens in a prison riot— you’ve got Andy Serkis telling them to help each other. And if you see somebody who fell down, pick them up. Even when you say it, you feel it. And you don’t want to be cheesy about it. It’s not like some Hallmark card. You want to really earn it. But those are the things that are the warmest parts of the rebellion.

Kino Loy speaks into the prison's comm system during the riot on Andor
Marvel Studios

Andor is a show about sacrificing the true cost of changing the world. Why was that an idea you wanted to explore and why do it in the world of Star Wars?

Gilroy: If you’re a dramatist, what great raw material. My god. Sacrifice, betrayal, what will you give? What are you afraid to give? How far will you go? When do you quit? All in the midst of a landscape that preexists as revolution is coming. In five years time the Death Star is going to be built. The war is coming. The Rebel Alliance will be there. All these things are happening and all these normal people are just being swept aside. How are they going to deal with that? That’s the big attraction.

The series clearly positions the Empire as the evil fascist organization it is. However, it does not take a definitive stand on the morality and actions of Luthen, who uses the same type of unethical tactics. He says he’s doomed to use the tools of his enemies. But do you think he’s justified in what he does? And how does the show’s most important themes reflect your own views?

Gilroy: The second part is absolutely not important. The second part, I wouldn’t answer that even on a bad day, what my politics are. I wouldn’t get into that. And I don’t have to because it’s Star Wars and because I can point back to a thousand different things through history that keep us from a contemporaneous comp.

Luthen Rael tells Lonni what he sacrifices on Andor

For Luthen, I can’t approach it that way. When I’m inside any one of these characters, to make them all legit, I have to believe everything they believe. So that is an age old question: who’s a terrorist and who’s a freedom fighter? There’s a lot of people that think Thomas Jefferson or Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Or the building of Israel is built on terror. We can go back on that [idea]—whether it’s the Haitian Revolution or the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution—they just go on and on and on.

I’m proud of [Luthen’s speech] because he doesn’t shy away from raising that issue. He’s aware of it. And he’s aware about how much ego has to do with it. Ego, you don’t get too many revolutionaries who rise up as leaders…they are performers, they are actors, they do crave an audience. That’s a dynamic that’s problematic. But I don’t take a judgment call on any of that. I let everybody speak for themselves and I don’t have any need to pin my politics down to make this work.

Orange hued Andor poster featuring the show's main characters

I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of responses to season one. Which ideas are viewers taking away from the show that you’re happiest about and which ones do you wish got more attention?

Gilroy: Wow. The second part is really hard to answer because I’m not on social media. But over the last couple months because of this show—probably at least once a day just to do a little survey/ego boost/whatever the hell it is—I just go out and see. I’m blown away by the conversations people have. I’ve seen people chew up all kinds of things that we didn’t think they would ever get to. As well as ideas and concepts and things I never even thought of. So that was the second part of the question.

The first part… it’s very pleasing people are treating all of the characters as if they’re real. Even people who are barking about the show in one way or another, or arguing with one another or whatever it is, there’s never one single time where anybody is looking around the margins and saying, “Well, this character is kind of indistinct.” Or, “This character? We don’t know about.”

Cassian looking over his shoulder in Andor

To be heard? Look, what else do you want? You’re writing, or you’re acting, or you’re running for office, or you’re writing articles, you want to be paid attention to. You want to be heard, right? Want people to read this article? And so as a writer, the fact that you’re heard and people are plugged into your characters and using them in different ways, that’s the most satisfying thing. The fact that people are really buying the reality of our people and treating them as if they know them.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at   @burgermike. (Or Hive now, too.) And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.

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