When Lucasfilm and Disney announced a sequel to 1988’s Willow, fans wondered if the show could capture the film’s spirit so many decades later. The movie overflowed with magic, adventure, and pluck. Willow the series delivered that, and more, handily. Willow brought back all the film’s familiar touchstones, while adding new sparkling facets to the jewel of a fantasy tale. A gorgeous queer relationship, a teacher trying his best to guide an apprentice, wild needle drops—these all weave into Willow‘s story. And maybe most key of all, Willow answers a lingering question: what happened to Elora Danan after Willow saved her? Prophesied to become an empress who would unite the lands after stopping the evil Queen Bavmorda, Elora carried a lot on her infant shoulders.
Nerdist talked to Willow executive producer Jon Kasdan about the show’s themes, character arcs, Elora stepping towards the future, and more.
Nerdist: First of all, is Kenneth okay?
Jon Kasdan: [Laughs] Yes. He is. And I gotta say, it was a subject there was some debate over. I was like, maybe something happens to Kenneth… And they were like, absolutely not. We’re not letting you mess with this sweet character. He’s definitely out there somewhere, maybe starting a family.
That’s a funny thing about this process. You reflect on all the decisions you made over the course of the thing, and you see certain things that you could have casually gone one way or another on mattered very much to people. And other things that you were very passionate about, no one even noticed existed. It’s a funny reality check, and a good one, for just how unpredictable stories can be in how they work. The thing about these stories that’s great, is they’re unpredictable and they take on a life beyond what you expect or intend.
Throughout the season, we saw the characters confront their perceptions of evil. They learned the Bone Reavers weren’t terrible. Then the Crone presented herself as a positive force. What was it like stepping back and blurring the edges between good and evil?
Kasdan: One of the things that always intrigued me about getting my grubby hands on this property was that—because it wasn’t as fraught as Star Wars with debate, and opinions, and a strong sense from a lot of people of what they wanted and what they didn’t want—I thought one of the things that there was an opportunity to do here, and what I would consider to be an adjacent lore and belief system, was the idea that in our world we get to explore what the dark side sort of meant. And that it was a little more complicated than it is in Star Wars.
What I was interested in with Willow is the opportunity to complicate it and make it more nuanced. To write about what I think is a more fundamental conflict—certainly as you grow older—between your desires and your ideals. I wanted the Wyrm and the forces at play to represent those desires much more than evil. That was a lens through which we could look at our own world and a lot of things. But certainly a struggle that I thought would be interesting, and would be fun for a character like Elora to explore, is the expectations thrust upon her versus what she wants and how she contends with those expectations.
And what the Wyrm offered tempted Elora!
Kasdan: Yes. I hope that one of the things people notice is, in the final moments as Elora’s looking back, that somehow she’s touched the darkness and it’s touched her too. The potential exists for a more complicated future for her.
Speaking of Elora, she learned from Willow over the season but admitted to Airk that magic wasn’t easy for her. What was it like developing her journey?
Kasdan: There’s a big idea that you’re trying to communicate: she’s trying to find a way to connect her heart to her work. That’s another thing that’s fundamental in my life, and in my experience of the world, is it’s only when you make it personal that it can be special and unique and interesting. Itwas all designed so that when the Crone makes it very personal for her with Graydon, something clicks for Elora that combines what she’s learned with what she feels. It takes her to another level of what she can do.
Graydon! He came such a long way from that first episode.
Kasdan: He’s really close to my own heart. Organically ingrained in this quest was this character who was haunted by the traumas of his childhood, and would have to overcome those limitations as well as the ones he was facing. What I’ve been thrilled by, as people reacted to the show, is that he’s very relatable and a lot of that is attributable to Tony [Revolori]. You’re rooting for him by the end of the story. You see the courage and the strength he requires to be decent, and the forces he’s fighting against. Hopefully that’s going to go to an interesting place someday.
Every character on the quest to stop the Crone had a full arc but let’s talk about Kit. She had to step out of her parents’ shadows, but also, Madmartigan helped her in the end. How did you balance that dynamic?
Kasdan: There’s a theme here of reconciling, with her at least, of reconciling your feelings about your parents. Over the course of the season, she’s running toward her dad and away from her mother. Ultimately, the hope is that she finds some balance between the responsibility, and the rewards of responsibility, and love and loyalty and devotion, and the independent streak in her. What I love about what she did in the last couple of episodes is—she does become a real heir to Madmartigan’s mantle. She’s got this cockiness and looseness combined with this real heart, and sense of duty, and loyalty.
Willow struggled, too. He didn’t want to fail with Elora, especially with the stakes being so high. How did you pick up his arc from the movie?
Kasdan: In the movie he’s very much struggling with his ineptitude and his lack of experience. One of the things I related to in the movie that was so strong and left such an imprint on me, is when Fin Raziel says to Willow at the end of the movie, “You’re on your way to being a great sorcerer.” It was an interesting thing for me. I’d watched this whole movie and I’d watched him really struggle and never get great.
But what he had was this strength of character and heart. That was what I interpreted as what she meant. It was something I wanted to explore more deeply. How does one who never quite reached what they imagined for themselves, teach someone with extraordinary natural ability? I thought that would be a fun dynamic that would be complicated, dramatic, and fun.
Season one of Willow came to a conclusion but not necessarily the conclusion. The finale’s mid-credit’s scene showed three volumes of books, leaving two more. Do you have more seasons of Willow locked in yet?
Kasdan: Certainly we are hoping to do more, and no one has told us we’re not. So the intention is there, and the desire, I think, is there from everyone involved. It’s an unpredictable time in the business. I would hesitate to say like, “Oh yeah, we’ll be coming back to you.” But I know that I’m still on the train. It’s been fun getting to explore, in a very meaningful way, where those stories go and what’s in those volumes. Certainly those pages are not blank, they’re rapidly filling with text. I’m excited to see where it can go.