Last night the creators and executive producers of the smash-hit Disney+ live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian took the stage alongside stars Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin) and Katee Sackhoff (Bo-Katan Kryze) at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the television festival PaleyFest 2023.
I arrived at the Dolby Theatre as attendees were being ushered into the venue, and after waiting for showtime to arrive, PaleyFest treated the sold-out audience to a really fun screening of the latest episode of The Mandalorian, entitled “Chapter 21 – The Pirate,” which was released this past Wednesday on Disney+.
This screening was especially energetic because pretty much everyone in the audience had already seen the episode, so the thousands of Star Wars fans in attendance took to hooting and hollering as each of their favorite characters appeared onscreen. Then, after the screening, it was time for the evening’s panel discussion to begin. Host and moderator Ash Crossan of Entertainment Tonight welcomed The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau to the stage, alongside fellow executive producers Dave Filoni and Rick Famuyiwa, plus the aforementioned cast members Katee Sackhoff and Pedro Pascal.
My only criticism of the panel discussion portion of the evening was the sound quality, as I could only make out every third word or so as the talent were speaking. I’m not sure if this was an issue with the Dolby’s sound system or with PaleyFest’s setup, but either way it made it quite difficult to understand everything the panel participants were saying on stage. But regardless, I still was able to get the gist of the conversation, and it was entertaining (as always) to hear these very creative people talk about the evolution of The Mandalorian over its three seasons on Disney+ so far.
During the discussion, Pascal and Sackhoff talked about the progress of their characters, while the executive producers talked about the origins of the show and how it has changed since season one. Filoni addressed this week’s episode and the introduction of the character Zeb Orellios into live-action, while Favreau mentioned legendary stop-motion artist Phil Tippett and his contributions to the second episode of the season, entitled “The Mines of Mandalore.” Then the conversation moved on to the character of Jedi Master Kelleran Beq and how Filoni loved working with actor Ahmed Best on the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Favreau talked about how they try to pull in characters and locations from throughout the Star Wars franchise, so that “the more you’re invested [in the series], the more you’ll understand.” Also, Favreau it made sense that Beq would be the one to save Grogu from the Jedi Purge since the character worked with younglings on the 2020 YouTube game show Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge.
Next, Favreau discussed what he looks for in filmmakers he brings aboard for the “Mandoverse” projects, with passion for the Star Wars universe being the top priority. “I love how much people care,” he said, adding that “this is a world we inherited [from George Lucas].” Rick Famuyiwa mentioned his friendship and working relationship with acclaimed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse director Peter Ramsey, who helmed “The Pirate” episode of The Mandalorian, and Favreau talked about how Carl Weathers (Greef Karga) excels at both acting and directing. Favreau also loves that this is a show that multiple generations of fans watch together, which doesn’t happen that often. Then Pedro Pascal mentioned how floored he is by the intricate world-building that happens in The Mandalorian, saying that “it doesn’t come from an encyclopedia,” a comment that Dave Filoni was quick to correct: “There are several encyclopedias, actually.”
Then Sackhoff talked about growing up watching science fiction with her father, and what it was like taking the popular character of Bo-Katan from animation into live-action. Favreau brought up the first time Katee arrived on set for season two in the costume, and asked whether it was more surreal for her or for Bo-Katan’s co-creator Filoni. Next the conversation moved on to how difficult it is to keep surprises from leaking out, but how pleased everyone was that they managed to successfully keep the secrets of Grogu’s existence and Luke Skywalker’s cameo in the second-season finale. “Lucasfilm and Disney made a big sacrifice by not creating Baby Yoda merchandise beforehand,” noted Favreau.
“Star Wars is as much about the community [of the fans and creators] as it is about the stories themselves,” Favreau continued, adding that he was proud that The Mandalorian helped foster a sense of togetherness during the pandemic. “That’s why we try to keep the secrets.” They then went through the process of how the Skywalker surprise was handled, with two separate shoots actually happening on set– Sackhoff was led to believe that the Jedi Master coming to rescue Grogu was Plo Koon, though Pascal was kept in the loop on Mark Hamill involvement so he could “support the moment of saying goodbye” in his acting. Though everyone was wowed by Hamill’s involvement in the series, Favreau says he was almost more moved by that famous blue-and-white astromech droid R2-D2’s appearance on set.
Moderator asked Favreau and Filoni how much of the show they have planned out in advance, to which Dave was characteristically cagey in his response: “There’s a lot of plans unfolding,” he said, plugging the upcoming live-action series Star Wars: Skeleton Crew and Star Wars: Ahsoka. “We try to make the kind of shows we like, and we really enjoy making it, so we’re just gonna keep doing it,” Filoni concluded. Other memorable moments including Pascal talking about the first meeting he had with Favreau and Filoni and how he knew people were going to love the show, and Favreau discussing his take on Star Wars: Andor and how he was glad the look of the planet Coruscant lined up with what they had planned for The Mandalorian season three. But perhaps the best moment came when Pedro Pascal tried on Dave Filoni’s famous cowboy hat, to thunderous applause and laughter from the Dolby Theatre crowd.
PaleyFest takes place every year in Los Angeles. For additional information on the event and to purchase tickets to future panels, be sure to visit the official Paley Center for Media website. New episodes of The Mandalorian are released Wednesdays, exclusively via Disney+.