The Mandalorian is already primed and ready to be special given that it’s the first-ever live-action Star Wars TV show, but in a manner fitting a franchise as huge and iconic as Star Wars, it sounds like the approach to creating the upcoming Disney+ series was anything but ordinary.
The show was created by The Jungle Book and Iron Man filmmaker Jon Favreau and takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Actor Pedro Pascal plays the titular Mandalorian, a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.
We still know very little about the story of the series, but when Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with actor Giancarlo Esposito about his role in the upcoming film Stuck, he shed some light on the cutting-edge technology that was used to bring the series to life.
Not only is The Mandalorian the first substantial live-action Star Wars TV series, but Esposito notes that it’s also the first major Star Wars piece to shoot its soundstage work outside of London—in this case, Southern California:
“I’ve got a great costume. We got great set pieces. I’m not giving anything away because [Jon Favreau] is an artist, truly an artist. [He was] working with George Lucas on this particular piece and making it a piece that we can really relate to now in our world that we’re in. Besides the fact that there are so many Star Wars fans out there that really don’t get enough of this, finally we have a [Star Wars] piece that for the first time ever is shot outside of a London studio.”
Esposito says the show—or his scenes, at least—utilized a Volume for production. A Volume is basically a giant, bare warehouse with blue screens all around and tracking cameras everywhere, so as to capture human performances in a digital environment. This is the manner in which the Avatar movies were shot, as well as the virtual reality sequences from Ready Player One, and it’s usually used for motion-capture:
“Jon Favreau’s brilliant. Technically, this show has a new technology [that’s] never really [been] refined as much as it is right now. We’re in a place called The Volume, where we do most of our acting, where set pieces are brought in, where we can control the physical atmosphere of what is projected on the walls and control how gravity is; you get a feeling that gravity is being played with. This is a show that’s gonna be really fantastic.”
It’s unclear if Esposito means he’s playing a motion-capture character, or if the actors performed their live-action movements but were surrounded by motion-captured environments to bring the world of The Mandalorian to life. We know from official images that the show does indeed have practical sets, so I’m very curious to see how the Volume came into play, and how that manifests onscreen.
Additionally, in praising Favreau for handing directing reins over to other filmmakers with diverse points of view, Esposito appears to reveal that Favreau worked with George Lucas to create the series in the first place:
“Well you know what’s cool about Mandalorian is you figure a guy who wrote it, who figured it out with George Lucas, would direct every episode. That would be all ego, right? He has amassed some incredible directors from different parts of the planet to give their take on an episode. I find that to be so phenomenal because then we have new and fresh ideas every single episode, coming into this show, that reflect the fans—because the directors are also fans. They’re from Australia, from England, from wherever you are, it reflects their take of their people on how they saw the original and how they’re going to do it as well. So you get new, fresh energy into a piece that is already energetic because of all the stuff that’s going on on the screen, because of all the technology that they’ve worked out. This is going to be a fantastic show.”
Lucas was famously developing a live-action Star Wars TV series after the prequels, before he sold Lucasfilm to Disney, and he even had dozens of scripts written and ready to go. The hurdle at that time was budget, as no network was willing to spend the money necessary to make a Star Wars live-action TV show a reality. The whole thing was scrapped after the Disney sale, but one wonders if some of the ideas hatched during that time have made their way into The Mandalorian given that Lucas was consulted.
Then again, it’s possible Favreau simply used Lucas as a guide, consulting to make sure he was heading in the right direction and keeping with the spirit of Lucas’s vision for the Star Wars universe. There are still a lot of questions about The Mandalorian, most of which we probably don’t even want answered until we’ve seen the dang series for ourselves. But this makes The Mandalorian that much more intriguing.