Time for another round of Canon Casting, this time we are tackling every major (and some not-so-major) characters from the first three seasons of Star Wars Rebels. If you’re not familiar with how we do Canon Casting here are the rules in a nutshell: we tackle a non-film project and fan-cast it – with a few rules. Actors have to be alive, and age appropriate. So in other words you can’t cast an actor who’s passed away, even if it means a recast. Same deal with not being able to ‘time travel’ to find the perfect actor – 1970 Clint Eastwood isn’t available.. Lastly, if one of my current or previous Canon Casting choices actually gets cast in an official Star Wars film, I have to recast them. Yes, it happens, ask Thandie Newton…. Make sense, good?
Star Wars Rebels presents some unique challenges in that there is a lot of material and we have a general aesthetic for each character to go off of. I found this to be more of a hindrance than a help in most cases. I also approached this entry as a television project, complete with a TV-sized budget — especially with regard to the casting main characters — trying not to overreach if that makes sense. In total we cast 30 characters (thirty!!), as I felt like that was more than enough to cover our bases as we move into the fourth and final season of the show. Also, there are some ***SPOILERS*** that will affect you if you don’t watch the show, but in my opinion these may actually finally push you to watch it, so proceed with caution if you so desire…. Without further adieu let’s go ahead and get the characters who’ve already been protrayed in film out of the way:
Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Saw Gerrera, and Jan Dodonna:
Now let’s hit the returning actors / characters who aren’t quite as obvious, starting with…
Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker
OK, so don’t get confused. For the most part everyone’s favorite Dark Lord of the Sith will be portrayed as he was in Rogue One – by Spencer Wilding with James Earl Jones voicing. However, we do know that Anakin makes two appearances in Rebels – once via Holocron and once in Vader’s suit during his duel with Ahsoka, so of course Hayden would return to portray him in that particular instance. Next up, characters I’ve already Canon Cast prior to this one:
Ahsoka Tano and Princess Leia Organa
As mentioned above, both of these characters have been subjects of Canon Casting sessions before, Ahsoka Tano in the very early days of the site, and Leia when I did Aftermath (and Bloodline, with another different actor due to age issues, obviously). I’m sticking with my original choice for Ahsoka (and yes, I know Rosario Dawson has been lobbying hard for this role in some form or fashion, but she’s already Jas Emari in my book, so there’s that) and I have no problem with it. Everyone has an opinion of who should play Ahsoka, but I kept coming back to Chloe over and over so she’s my choice. As far as Leia, Anya Taylor-Joy has the looks and the chops. This will be a tough role to fill and as I mentioned in the Aftermath Canon Casting I think Anya is perfect. Leia’s role in Rebels is minuscule (at least through season three..), so we are only taking one appearance here. Now a few less obvious returning favorites:
Maul, Ben Kenobi, Yoda, Captain Rex, and Grand Moff Tarkin
Let’s get this out of the way right now – no, Ray Park would not come back to the role of Maul for Rebels if it were up to me (and it’s my site, so it is, ha!). Maul as portrayed in The Clone Wars and Rebels is a much more cerebral villain than we remember from The Phantom Menace, and he was magnificently portrayed by Sam Witwer on both shows. Plus, Sam has all the physical tools and attributes to more than excel in the role of Maul. Next up would be Guy Henry returning as Grand Moff Tarkin. However, a TV show wouldn’t have the budget for a full mo-cap / CGI rendition of what amounts to a side character, so makeup would be required. I don’t think this is a stretch at all, it’s a no-brainer to me. Temeura Morrison returning to portray Clone Captain Rex is so perfect that it’s almost ridiculous this fell into our laps. Age appropriate and he looks just like Rex. Throw a beard on that dude and we’re done! Yoda and Ben Kenobi (yes, Ben Kenobi) make small appearances, and having Frank and Ewan reprise these roles is again, a no-brainer. Now onto some peripheral bad guys, shall we? Let’s start with Vader’s pets, the Inquisitors:
The Grand Inquisitor, the Seventh Sister, and the Fifth Brother
First up I’d simply have Jason Isaacs reprise his role as the Grand Inquisitor, quite frankly the only formidable Inquisitor to date. We’ve all seen him be creepy in the Harry Potter films, and I for one would love to see him shine in the actual physical portrayal of the fallen Jedi Temple Guard turned Grand Inquisitor. Moving on to the second batch of Inquisitors – the Seventh Sister and the Fifth Brother. Now before you start stomping your feet about the fact that I didn’t cast Sarah Michelle Gellar in the role she voiced, I went in a different direction to two reasons – one, I view the Seventh Sister as a younger Inquisitor, more-or-less trained from youth to hunt Jedi by Vader; two, this would be a waste of a role for SMG, and I’m saving her for a bigger, better role in my Canon Casting series when the right opportunity arises for her. Bella Thorn – being a dancer – has the physical tools for the role, and she certainly has the look for it. Easy choice for me. For the Fifth Brother I went with up-and-comer R. Marcos Taylor, who portrayed Suge Knight in Straight Outta Compton. Again, it’s a small role, I think he’d do just fine in it. Moving on, how about some more Imperials?
Governor Arihnda Pryce, Minister Tuo, and Admiral Konstantine
Considering her large role in the Thrawn novel by Timothy Zahn, I was tempted to elevate the lovely Governor of Lothal past the bit-player status I’m placing her in here, but based solely on her work and appearances on Rebels this is where she belongs. I am, however, casting her with an A-list talent in the form of Rachel Weisz, knowing that she will also be appearing when I do the Canon Casting for Thrawn. And yes, I resisted the obvious urge to cast Cate Blanchett, since it’s painfully clear the design team based Pryce’s design on her character in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For the role of overconfident Imperial Admiral Konstantine I chose John Lynch. I am familiar with his work in The Fall, he fits the look, and I think he will do just fine in the role of the competent but flawed officer. For the smaller role of Lothal’s Minister Tua, I chose Sonya Walger. Very talented in her own right, I may be undercasting her here, but I think she would add to the character of Tua, who was essentially a liaison between the Empire and the planet of Lothal in the first and early second seasons of the show, but was a character that could never get out of her own way, ultimately leading to her demise. Now for some of the good guys that played smaller but crucial roles:
Commander Sato, the Bendu, Ryder Azadi, and Cham Syndulla
As we near the meat of the Rebels Canon Casting project, we land firmly on the good guys side. Well, mostly good (right, Cham?…). Let’s start with Gary Young as Commander Sato, leader of Phoenix Squadron, and a big player in the Rebellion all the way through the season three finale. I tapped Gary Young for this role, I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in. I have no doubt he will bring not only a sense of firm and just leadership to the role, but also heart, which the leaders in the Rebellion need to show. The role of the Bendu, the mysterious middle-ground-Force-user, will be voiced by the same actor that portrays him in the show – veteran actor Tom Baker. Of course, the Bendu will have to be brought to life via CGI and/or practical effects, but I would leave the voice work in the very capable hands of Mr. Baker. For the role of the fallen and imprisoned former Governor of Lothal, Ryder Azadi, I looked no further than the man that not only voices him in the show, but was also the actor who the character was obviously modeled after – Clancy Brown. No stranger to Star Wars, I would love to see Clancy shine in an actual live-action role and what better one than his own? Now for the estranged father of our main heroine, Hera, and freedom fighter from Ryloth – Cham Syndulla. Cham is a very complicated character, whose history dates back to the early days of The Clone Wars. I selected veteran actor David Thewlis for this challenging role, which offers up no shortage of moral ambiguity – even when it involved his very own daughter. Man, David would kill in this role, if Cham ever ends up on the big screen this would be a dream casting for all Star Wars fans. Now we mover to the major players, each with their own entry!
Michael Fassbender as Grand Admiral Thrawn
Alright, so here goes nothing. Mitth’raw’nuruodo a/k/a Grand Admiral Thrawn has been a fan-favorite character since he first graced the pages of Timothy Zahn’s landmark Star Wars novel, Heir To The Empire, in 1991. Although reclassified as non-canon and Legends, he was brought back into canon for Star Wars Rebels in season three and he hit the ground running. For the role of the master chess player, the one who’s always playing both sides of the board, always envisioning all possible outcomes of any and all situations, I tapped Michael Fassbender. He has the look, he has the voice, he has the presence. Let’s also not forget that he is the subject of a major novel that just came out (which will be the subject of a Canon Casting soon), also by Timothy Zahn, so I wanted to cast someone who could not only steal the show in Rebels, but could carry a movie in his own right, and we know Fassbender can more than do that. To me he is the ideal and only choice for the Chiss Grand Admiral.
David Morrissey as Agent Kallus
Believe it or not, the role of Imperial Security Bureau Agent Kallus was one of the most difficult ones I had to do – probably second only to Kanan (see below…). When we first meet Kallus he’s a terrible, terrible person who’s committed countless atrocities against the people of the galaxy in the name of the Empire, including wiping out the entire Lasat species with Disruptor Rifles (see, Garazeb Orrelios below…). However, as the seasons roll on we see Agent Kallus have a change of heart, ironically enough after being stranded on one of Geonosis’ moons with none other than Zeb himself, eventually replacing Ahsoka as Fulcrum. Working from inside the Empire, Kallus fed the Rebels of Phoenix Squadron intel until he was finally suss’d out by Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. I chose David Morrissey because we know he can be one of the worst sons of bitches in the galaxy, but also has a softer side needed to make his turn believable. Honestly, for as long as I labored on who to cast here I can’t imagine it being anyone else at this point.
Steve Blum & CGI as Garazeb Orellios
For the role of Garazeb Orrelios, the tough guy (or Lasat) with a heart of gold, I played it safe and went with the voice actor himself, Steve Blum. In his current design, Zeb will have to be a mo-cap / CGI character, and I love the way Blum voices him, always have. So to me it’s a no-brainer to cast Steve to portray Zeb in the (hypothetical) live-action version of the show.
Ian Anthony Dale as Kanan Jarrus
Hands-down the hardest role to cast was that of Kanan Jarrus, the former Jedi Padawan who has taken the young Force sensitive orphan Ezra Bridger under his wing to instruct him to the best of his ability. He has to do this all the while his partner Hera is becoming more and more ingrained in the growing Rebellion as they fight the Empire on multiple fronts. Why was this role so freaking hard to cast, you ask? Well, I’m firmly convinced this character – from the way he looks to the way he talks to the way he acts – is based on Keanu Reeves. It’s just so obvious to me, I don’t care what they say, the powers that be could never convince me otherwise…. However, Reeves is simply too old to portray Kanan, who was only 12 or 13 when he saw his Jedi master Depa Billaba gunned down by Clone Troopers during Order 66 at the end of the Clone Wars (read the Kanan comic, it’s very good by the way). I initially settled on Jared Padalecki of Supernatural fame, and I stress settled. HOwever, after further consideration I’m tapping Ian Anthony Dale for the role of Kanan, and I believe he will do us proud! And although I did enjoy his character arc and evolution (finally) in season three, he’s always come off as such a space jock to me…. Jared, do us proud man, do us proud….
Camren Bicondova as Sabine Wren
I had two actresses in mind from the get-go for the role of former Mandalorian and former Imperial Navy cadet Sabine Wren, and in the end I went with my gut and tapped Camren Bicondova for the role. She has it all – the look, the spunk, the emotion – all of what Sabine needs to be one of the central characters of the show. Sabine is so tough, like all the time, that we forget she’s in her mid-teens when we first meet her in season one. She has probably experienced the most character growth of any character on the show – Ezra included – and I think Camren would excel in this role. Sabine’s turn in the epic season three episode Trials of the Darksaber has been one of if not the best single episode of Rebels so far, and she’s set up for a huge role in season four.
Jaimie Alexander as Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla – mother of the Ghost crew, partner to Jedi Kanan Jarrus, daughter of extremist freedom fighter Cham Syndulla – is the heart and moral compass of Star Wars Rebels. For this role we need someone with a strong voice, striking features, and the ability to get down and dirty when the mission calls for it. Although I went back-and-forth on about a half-dozen actresses for the role of Hera, I kept coming back to Jaimie Alexander. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jaimie has any and all the qualities she would need to portray the leader of Phoenix Squadron (and eventually a General in the Rebel Alliance) and leave us speechless in the process. Plus, I’m sure if she can show up for work everyday and get tattoos applied all over her body she can handle a little body paint and lekku, right?
Kyle Allen as Ezra Bridger
Ezra Bridger, the boy who would become a Jedi. Possibly… Ezra is the de-facto main character of Rebels, so his casting is not one I approached lightly. It was also one of the most challenging, and at one point I had almost thrown in the towel and given the role to Taylor Gray, who does Ezra’s voice portrayal on the animated show. No slight to Taylor, I actually think he’d do a fine job, but I needed more. I was watching season two of The Path with my wife Katrina a few weeks ago and it hit me that the kid who plays Hawk was Ezra. He acted like him. He moved like him. He looked like him. He struggled like him. At that very moment I penciled Kyle Allen into the role of Ezra Bridger and never looked back. Imagine how funny it was to me when he cut his flowing locks of hair a few episodes later, just as Ezra did between seasons two and three.
So there we have it, my entire Star Wars Rebels Canon Casting adventure (at least up through season three). Like it? Dislike it?? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here is the entire cast in one handy-dandy gallery. Enjoy!