"It's more interesting that this is a woman with agency who is not just going to fall at the feet of Obi-Wan," says the actress. Originally, the story was conceived as a standalone film in the same vein as Solo: A Star Wars Story, to be directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Hossein Amini.
Played by Game of Thrones' Indira Varma, Tala was first shown in the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer as a very intense looking Imperial officer. Because we learned mere seconds into her actual introduction on the show that she was not an Imperial officer at all, but rather a double agent working undercover, and a contact of Kumail Nanjiani's conman, Haja Estree, whom Obi-Wan met on Daiyu.
Tala turned out to be a key character, as it was she at the end of the episode that saved Obi-Wan after the Jedi Master got his butt kicked — and dragged, and Force pushed, and burned — by his former apprentice. As Varma tells EW, Tala also experienced a metamorphosis of sorts during the production process and at one point may have even been… Obi-Wan's girlfriend?!
"And I think, originally, she was going to be a love interest." While the thought of Obi-Wan settling down with a significant other after renouncing his Jedi ways (or at least burying them with his lightsaber in the sands of Tatooine) is certainly intriguing, Chow and Harold ultimately went in another direction. "And it's more interesting that this is a woman with agency who is not just going to fall at the feet of Obi-Wan." "I do think in my heart that she's in love with him," says the actress.
While producers mulled over different visions for the character, they also discussed various back stories for how Tala came to her current position as an Imperial infiltrator. "We talked about several different versions of what her back story could be," reveals Varma.
INDIRA VARMA: My manager asked me, he said, "Obi-Wan Kenobi's come up, would you be interested?" I knew it was Deborah Chow directing, so I wanted to watch The Mandalorian, and also because it had [Game of Thrones costar Pedro Pascal] in there. Plus, who doesn't want to work with Ewan?
And who doesn't want to be in the Star Wars world? And it was slightly frustrating because I had all these friends say, "Oh my God, you're an Imperial officer!" It's a pretty bold move to start firing her blaster, even in the general vicinity of Darth Vader.
Did you ever take a minute during filming to be like, "I'm in the middle of a battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. We did get told off a couple of times for giggling, but I think that's what's so lovely.
You always feel that there's this huge element of respect for the material and he elevates it in his attitude and his work ethic. I'm no style maven, but that Imperial uniform was a pretty snappy outfit. Obviously, if it were to be a possibility where we go into her back story or anything like that, it would be amazing. Because you do think, my God, how can this person work for both sides?
We are pretty much all off-book and we are rehearsing in ways where you don't necessarily look at the person you're speaking to, which is really interesting. So we are doing that kind of experimental stuff.
Two-and-a-half years ago we actually did four previews of it [before COVID]. And we have four new cast members as well. And it's great to be working with Emilia again. Listen to interviews with Obi-Wan Kenobi stars Ewan McGregor, Kumail Nanjiani, Moses Ingram, Rupert Friend and more on EW's new Star Wars podcast, Dagobah Dispatch.
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