Canon Casting – Thrawn

We are back at it with a brand-new addition to our awesome fan casting series, Canon Casting! So far we’ve tackled some theoretical projects, Bloodline, the Aftermath series, and Star Wars Rebels. Now we are tackling the heavy lifting of casting the novel Thrawn, by legendary Star Wars author Timothy Zahn. This was no easy task mind you, as even though there weren’t a ton of major characters introduced (as was the case with the Aftermath series) and focused on in Thrawn, each of the characters we decided to cast played an integral role in the plot and were well fleshed out.

***Real quick, If you’re unfamiliar with our Canon Casting series, here’s how it works really quickly. 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? OK, let’s get to it:

Let’s start out with two smaller players in the film, both of whom have storylines that intersect heavily with our anti-heroine, Arihnda Pryce (don’t worry, we’ll get to her shorty..):

Ottlis Dos and ISB Agent Gudry:

For the role of the love interest of Arihnda Pryce (if she’s even capable of such emotions, seriously) Ottlis Dos we went with David Lee McInnis, a lesser known but fully capable actor. His rugged good looks are perfect for the role of the bodyguard-in-training, who’s actually a plant working for the despicable Moff Ghadi (more on him below as well) who seemingly shatters what could be construed as Arihnda’s heart. For the small but important role of ISB Agent Gudry we tapped up-and-coming actor Corey Hawkins, of Straight Outta’ Compton and 24 fame. We are a fan of his growing list of work, and even though this is a small role in terms of screentime, we needed someone who could pull it off, and his role from the revived 24 series proves Corey is more than capable. Now let’s get the returning Star Wars actors out of the way:

Emperor Sheev Palpatine and Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin:

These were both easy choices, as it’s a complete no-brainer that Ian McDiarmid would don the makeup once more for Emperor Palpatine’s small but pivotal role in Thrawn. We are also calling on Guy Henry to reprise the role of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin for this project, a role he has already tackled via mo-cap in Rogue One. For Thrawn however, we are eschewing the mo-cap and going with prosthetics just like we did in Rebels. Sticking with Imperial scum, let’s tackle…

Moff Ghadi and Senator Domus Renking:

Man, these were fun to cast. Initially these were the two characters I dreaded casting, as I didn’t get a great aesthetic sense of them in the novel. That worked to our advantage in the end, as I went with my gut and cast a pair of actors from two of my all-time favorite shows. First for the role of the disgustingly awesome and conniving Off Ghadi we tapped veteran actor Lance Reddick. Every project I’ve seen him in he has had a very commanding presence, whether it’s Lost or Fringe, this dude rules. For the role of the Senator from the Lothal Sector, Domus Renking, we are rolling with David Zayas. As Angel Batista in Dexter, Zayas won us over big-time, and this role seemed a perfect fit for him. We have no doubt that Zayas would do the character justice, from the time we meet him and he’s manipulating the Pryce family out of their mining business, to the end where he ends up the bumbling fool left holding the bag. David, you’re our dude!

Juahir Madras and Driller MarDap:

Another fun pair to cast — the roles of Arihnda Pryce’s ‘good buddies’ Juarhir Madras and Driller MarDap! For the part of bubbly-yet-devious Juahir Madras we went with Laura Vandervoort. A veteran of the sci-fi and fantasy genre’s, Vandervoort’s has the resume, the physical attributes and the looks to pull the part off. From playing the part of Pryce’s roommate and friend, to her role training potential bodyguards in the dojo, I have no doubt we will hit a homerun with this casting choice. For the role of Madras’ best friend and Arihnda’s boss at the Higher Skies Advocacy Group we tapped the charismatic and hilarious Andrew Rannells. Make no mistake, these are huge roles and not to be taken lightly. We are confident in our choices here, and if you follow Canon Casting you are aware we like to take chances here and there.

ISB Colonel Wullf Yularen:

Star Wars Fan Casting - Jeremy Irons as Wullf Yularen

Jeremy Irons as Colonel Wullf Yularen

So we finally get to cast the role on ISB Colonel (and Admiral of General Anakin Skywalker’s fleet in The Clone Wars) Wullf Yularen. This was a tough one, as we already have a look and voice established thanks to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of him aboard the Death Star in A New Hope, and of course his stint on aforementioned animated series The Clone Wars and more recently Star Wars Rebels. Age was a potential issue here, but we decided to go with our initial gut feeling and cast veteran actor Jeremy Irons in the role. In Thrawn, Yularen plays a pivotal role, as a sort of mentor and supporter of our favorite Chiss, even though supporting Thrawn wasn’t in fashion within the Empire’s military, mainly due to xenophobia and jealousy.

Arihnda Pryce:

Star Wars Fan Casting - Rachel Weisz as Arihnda Pryce

Rachel Weisz as Arihnda Pryce

If you’ve been following our Canon Casting feature you know we already cast Rachel Weisz as Arihnda Pryce when we did Rebels. Of course we are sticking to this casting choice, and if anything, after reading Thrawn we feel even better about it. Weisz has the perfect combination and range of emotion to properly portray this pivotal character. Arihnda Pryce has an air of vulnerability throughout the book – especially in the early stages, but that has to be balanced with a ruthless mindset in which nothing will hold her back from her ambitious goals, stepping on and over whoever gets in her way in the process. She’ll also be able to rock that signature bob hairstyle when the time comes, which is also key.

Eli Vanto:

Star Wars Fan Casting - Ansel Elgort as Eli Vanto

Ansel Elgort as Eli Vanto

Eli Vanto is one of the best and most fleshed-out characters in the new Star Wars canon. His character arc in Thrawn is fleshed out in amazing detail, and he is constantly the moral compass of the novel. For the role we went with the obvious choice – Ansel Elgort. Yeah, this is playing it safe, very safe, we get that. But sometimes playing it safe yields the best results. I also have to admit that upon hearing Marc Thompson’s voice portrayal of Eli in the audiobook and then seeing Baby Driver, Elgort’s fate was sealed – he was Eli Vanto to me.


Star Wars Fan Casting - Paul Sparks at Nightswan

Paul Sparks as Nightswan

Ok, so we played it safe with the role of Eli Vanto, that’s been acknowledged. Here is where we get back to taking the chances that make Canon Casting so much damn fun. Bring it on, Paul Sparks, you’re our Nightswan. There’s just something about this actor, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s there. His versatility is on point, and his role as Thomas Yates in House of Cards is what sold me on his ability to play the antagonist of the novel, Nightswan. When we first meet him under the alias of Nevil Cygni, he comes off as a simple criminal. In the end it’s alluded that he is quite possibly one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance. There’s a subtlety to Yates’ acting style that has drawn me to him for this role, and I think this casting choice would pay off in spades.


Star Wars Fan Casting - Michael Fassbender as Grand Admiral Thrawn

Michael Fassbender as Thrawn

Again, if you’ve been following Canon Casting the notion of Michael Fassbender portraying Thrawn in television and/or film won’t be a shock, as we had already cast him in the role for Rebels. We are sticking to this steadfastly, and yes, we think he’s a better fit for the role than Benedict Cumberbatch (we know you wanna ask…). Look at him. Watch his films. He is Thrawn. He has a patience to his performances that the title character has to have, and he can be intimidating and understanding at the same time. Fassbender, you’re our guy!

So there it is, the official Dork Side Productions Canon Casting of the excellent novel Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn. Agree? Disagree? Love the choices? Hate them? Hit us here to discuss!