How good is Diego Luna in Andor?
When Diego Luna signed on as Cassian Andor in Rogue One, he was a different type of hero in more ways than one. Star Wars is telling more stories of people that don’t wield lightsabers or commune with the all- powerful Force, and is all the better for it. Luna lit up the screen as a leader in a rebellion that is growing in power. Disney decided to delve into his origins in a TV series that continues on the bold path set in Rogue One. Luna is not just the star, but an executive producer. There are precious few Hispanic people in such roles, and the actor talked with StarWars.com about the importance.
“This character represents a lot,” he said. “It’s important that we see ourselves on screen, that we feel represented, that the stories we tell reflect the world that’s out there. This role has been one of the most special journeys as an actor. It represents a lot in my life because it came at the right time… it helped me reconnect with my childhood, which is something very special. It’s really nice to be back.”
Andor is a Kenari refugee before Maarva and Clem Andor take him in, and Luna explained there are obvious parallels between his journey and the one many American immigrants take on.
“I think about the relation between Latin America and the (United) States and that huge border that separates Mexico from the States,” he said. “That energy is going to be represented in Cassian’s journey. The strength of community, that’s what this story is about! It’s about people that by themselves, they can’t do anything. They don’t have Jedi powers. They’re just regular people. But by pulling together, and that to me is a beautiful thing to say today when communities need to step up… I think that message is beautiful to send and this series is sending it. It has a connection with the world out there.”
As one of the millions of kids that obsessed over Star Wars since 1977, I thought it had everything. There were explosions, spaceships, and robots, what could possibly be missing? I was too young to realize there were more people with green or blue skin on screen than anyone Black. Then Billy Dee Williams swaggered onto the screen in The Empire Strikes Back. He owned his screen time, but later admitted he didn’t fully appreciate how important his depiction was. Williams said many Star Wars aficionados felt betrayed that the only Black man in the whole saga sold out his best friend. He eventually did the right thing by Han Solo and the Rebelllion and worked his way up to being a general.
While his decision hurt at the time, it was truly the only choice in a bad situation. Darth Vader would have had no problem slaughtering everyone in Cloud City to set a trap for Luke Skywalker. Despite all the swag, sex appeal and style Lando had, at the end of the day he was a hard-working brother trying to make a living under a corrupt government. He was perfectly willing to role the dice with his own life, but not thousands of others. Gambling at sabacc with the Millennium Falcon on the table is who we’d love to be, the guy who cuts a deal with the Force devil to keep his friends safe is closer to who most us of are.
It’s a straight line from Calrissian’s journey to Cassian Andor’s. Both are trying everything within their power (and some things way beyond their power) to put food on the table. Both realize they can’t work within the system because the system doesn’t work for anyone not at the top of it. Along the way, they discover their natural ability to hustle is a potent match for an Empire not used to having any of its rules broken.
On the franchise timeline, Andor starts five years before the events of Rogue One. The Empire destroyed the main character’s home planet with a catastrophic mining project. He starts this adventure as a cynic and unable to escape the constant torment of the Empire, realizes things have to change. He will evolve into one of the most passionate supporters of the Rebellion. It’s an unflinching look at the kind of people who help fascism spread and the people they step on along the way to power. It’s playing to widespread critical acclaim, including two Critics Choice Award nominations: one for Best Drama Series and one for Luna as Best Actor in a Drama Series. It’s a stacked category including Bob Odenkirk for Better Call Saul’s final season and Jeff Bridges in The Old Man, but don’t count Andor out of this race. It is better than a prequel to a prequel has any right to be, and Luna’s performance is the biggest reason.