‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Grand Inquisitor Rupert Friend almost avoided watching ‘Star Wars Rebels’

obi-wan kenobi inquisitor
Image via LucasFilm

When the first Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer revealed our first look at the Grand Inquisitor in live-action, fans had a lot of thoughts. Many thought the show hadn’t done a great job of transplanting the imperial villain’s look from the Star Wars Rebels animated series to reality, with much criticism coming in about his strangely bulbous head. Actor Rupert Friend’s latest comments on his role offer us some context for why the GI looks so different, however — the production team wanted to start from scratch with the character.

Friend even admitted that he almost didn’t do his research and watch the Grand Inquisitor’s original appearances in Rebels, in which he was voiced by Jason Isaacs. By the sounds of it, though, he ultimately elected to check it out. The star explained to Entertainment Weekly that he and the other chief creatives working on Obi-Wan decided to “do something fresh” with the villain that wasn’t reliant on what had come before.

“I really wanted to honor the character as I saw him, and so I almost deliberately did not see the animated interpretation. Myself and [director] Deb Chow and [writer] Dave Filoni and all of the guys really wanted to do something fresh that honored and was faithful to the spirit of the character without doing a kind of impression of anybody else’s interpretation.”

As revealed in Rebels, the Grand Inquisitor was once a Jedi himself before he turned to the dark side and started hunting those that survived Order 66. Friend was asked whether his origins will factor into Obi-Wan at all, with the actor teasing that he can’t say too much about that but knowing where the character started certainly informed his performance.

“All will be revealed in a couple of weeks, but I can say it really helped me to have as my backstory this sense of awesome power and knowledge where he’s effectively hunting the folks he once was. So he has all this insider information on them, and on the way that they might fight or evade capture, and that just brought an enormous kind of feeling of power beneath the performance.”

The Grand Inquisitor’s presence is far from the only connection to the animated side of the Star Wars universe in Obi-Wan, as Fast & Furious veteran Sung Kang is also boarding the franchise to play the Fifth Brother, another Inquisitor who was previously voiced by Phillip Anthony-Rodriguez in Rebels. The show will likewise invent a new Inquisitor, the Third Sister, as portrayed by Moses Ingram. The hunters will be hot on Kenobi’s trail once he temporarily travels off Tatooine for reasons still unknown.

Obi-Wan Kenobi gives up its secrets when it premieres next Friday, May 27 on Disney Plus.