The Star Wars universe is one of action and forward motion. George Lucas‘ oft-cited go-to direction of, “Faster, more intense,” perfectly represents the pace of these films. We don’t often have moments to stop and find peace. But even with multiple wars raging across the timeline, one character is continually a beacon of serenity. Calm and measured, Mon Mothma is a steady hand that the entire Rebel Alliance, and later the New Republic, can grasp for support. She has a hard edge to her; she has to, in order to carry the weight she does. But she only shows it when necessary.
It’s wild to think we’ve come to know so much about a character who we first met in her seconds-long appearance in Return of the Jedi. Portrayed by Caroline Blakiston, Mon Mothma made an impact with her words (“Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”) and for being one of the few women with a speaking part in the Original Trilogy. The character returned to the universe in Revenge of the Sith, played by Genevieve O’Reilly, then in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and she got her biggest moments yet as the Chief of State of the Alliance Civil Government in Rogue One, again brought to life by O’Reilly. And now, O’Reilly is reprising the role of the senator turned rebel in the next installment of Star Wars Rebels, “Secret Cargo.”
She was pleased to get the phone call about joining the animated series. She recalled to Nerdist in an exclusive interview, “I had finished filming Rogue One, and they rang and asked if I would I like to be involved in Rebels. I was thrilled. It was such an extraordinary thing to be a part of and to work with the team at Lucasfilm and at [Skywalker Ranch, home of Skywalker Sound]. I would meet them via satellite link-up from wherever I was. I was doing different jobs around–I was in Canada, I was in London, I was in Australia. As an actor you can hop on board the train from wherever you are. It was such a treat to step in at a different point in their storytelling.”
In Rebels, O’Reilly’s portraying Mon a couple of years before the events of Rogue One. A preview for the episode shows Mon Mothma has spoken out against Emperor Palpatine very publicly (an event mentioned in Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide) and is on the run. She’s ready to formally assemble the Rebel Alliance. She’s been building toward this. “Early on when we met her, when she was much younger, we didn’t really see her taking action,” O’Reilly said. “We see her listening a lot, we see her gathering a lot of information. Certainly, for me, in how I can play her as an actor, these were foundation moments for that character and it informed her behavior with the rebels group.”
Though she’s been branded a traitor to the Empire and her life’s on the line, Mon throws down with the rebels and steps into a leadership role. She enters a state of action that doesn’t really take a breather until maybe after the Battle of Yavin. “I think it’s a highly charged time,” O’Reilly said. “The stakes are high for everybody now. Even though it’s earlier, I think what’s great about this is she really shows the traits of a true leader in very difficult, very heightened, dangerous times. I think by her very nature she’s a genuine humanitarian. She has a strong moral compass.”
Those traits are on display again and again, particularly in the Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig. Taking charge in such unstable times requires more than a warm heart, however–it requires a steady hand. “What also makes her a great leader is she’s also a critical thinker and she is a considered decision maker,” O’Reilly said. “We meet her at a time in Rebels, we meet her at those moments–moments where there is a crux, a fork in the road, a genuine point that requires her leadership. That’s what’s really interesting, to see that early leadership and where it grew from.”
Since Mon Mothma has been placed at points on the timeline from the prequel era to the period after Return of the Jedi, O’Reilly could revisit the character again. But will she? She wouldn’t give anything away; she said, “This is Star Wars. Anything can happen. This is a whole universe of stories. I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Hear O’Reilly as Mon Mothma in tomorrow’s (March 4) episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Secret Cargo.” It airs at 8:30p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD.