Who plays Darth Vader in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’?

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Where there’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, there has to be Darth Vader. The galaxy-sized franchise kicked off with their final physical battle as the aged Jedi Knight Kenobi let Vader strike him to the ground. That left the defeat of the Empire and the return of balance to the Force to young Luke Skywalker, who would soon find out that Darth Vader was his father. Now the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi is about to reunite the former Master and Padawan.

Darth Vader was such a brilliant movie villain that he shaped the Star Wars saga for 40 years. George Lucas sketched out an overall space saga in the mid-1970s, following the rises and falls of a family in a galaxy far away. He plumped for the more eye-catching middle story of Annikin Starkiller and the heroics that made him Lord Protector of Aquilae in Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars. That was drafted down to the original story we know today — Luke Skywalker fighting and then redeeming his father, Anakin Skywalker, bringing down the evil Galactic Empire in the process.

Shadow of Vader

Obi-Wan_Versus_Darth_Vader
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Star Wars could have gone anywhere after its hugely successful original trilogy were it not for Darth Vader. Hardly anything escaped his shadow. Although the trilogy of trilogies that made it to theaters departed from Lucas’ initial ideas, it’s all about the Skywalkers. The prequel trilogy charted Anakin’s fall to the dark side and a climactic battle with his former Master Kenobi on Mustafar. It ended with his transformation, part man, part machine, held together by the all-consuming power of hatred that is the dark side of the Force. It was 1-1 between Anakin and Obi-wan then, not in the expected order, and who wants a space opera draw?

Not that it stopped the rumor that Kenobi had a new and more important rival in store. The prequel trilogy, Clone Wars animated show, and spin-off film Solo hinted that Darth Maul was roaring back to resolve some unfinished business. Of course, the two have history. Maul killed Obi-Wan’s Jedi Master Qui Gon-Jinn in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and in return, Padawan Kenobi chopped the Sith in half, seemingly leaving him for dead. 

But as far as we know, that reunion will have to wait. Obi-Wan Kenobi is picking up the strands of the Skywalker saga left hanging between the original and prequel trilogies. We know Luke grew up on Tatooine, under the remote but watchful eye of Ben Kenobi. Obi-Wan Kenobi will track Kenobi after the fall and his escape to that sand planet, and catch up with Luke, his twin sister Leia over on Alderaan, and their father. The Dark Lord of the Sith Vader is just getting used to his new life. There’s no mistake Vader’s distinctive breathing backed the end of the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer.

Who’s playing Darth Vader in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’?

Star Wars Anakin Skywalker
Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

*The following features some mild spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+*

Obi-Wan Kenobi is reuniting several cast members from the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In the title role, Ewan McGregor will be joined by Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse. Both return to their roles of Owen and Beru Lars, the guardians of young Luke Skywalker, desperate to keep him safe and blissfully unaware of his family history. 

However, all eyes are on Darth Vader as the Sith Lord returns, played once again by Hayden Christensen

Christensen had very little time in the iconic black suit over the two Star Wars movies where he played the adult Anakin Skywalker. When he did stumble from an operating table as the Sith Lord at the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith screaming “No!” it wasn’t Vader’s finest hour. 

We can expect to see a different Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi than the one we’ve seen before. The cocky, arrogant Anakin of Episode II, whom Kenobi remarked would be the death of him, is a distant memory. The brooding, sulky Anakin of Episode III has been upgraded to pain and vengeance. We’ll meet Christensen’s Vader in the second episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi, where it looks like a Force connection between the two is alive and well.

Christensen returns with unfinished business on-screen and off. He endured years of criticism for portraying the sulking Anakin, carrying the can for many of the trilogy’s perceived failings, including some indefensibly awkward dialogue. After the sequel trilogy, those prequels are enjoying a reappraisal, making it the ideal time for Lucasfilm to dig into this part of the saga and Christensen to make his franchise comeback. Behind the scenes on Disney+, McGregor has called his return “the most beautiful thing of all.”

Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced Hayden Christensen’s return in December 2020, after the series director Deborah Chow met the actor in Canada to pitch the series in person. As for the Dark Lord’s distinctive voice, producers have been noticeably tight-lipped about the return of James Earl Jones to the iconic role he first took on in 1977. We’ll likely see Christensen as Skywalker both pre- and post-transformation as the series delves into the consequences of Revenge of the Sith — a story we never thought we’d see and for some time never knew existed. 

The Great Rematch

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At their final meeting aboard the Death Star in Episode IV: A New Hope, Vader trails off when he detects Kenobi’s presence. “I sense something … a presence I haven’t felt since ….”

It turns out he might not have meant their meeting on the lava planet of Mustafar after all, where Kenobi left his former friend severely injured after making the most of the high ground. If you need a refresher of the prequel trilogy to get the most out of the new series, don’t worry. Obi-Wan Kenobi opens with a recap of the tragic events that left the characters of Star Wars scattered across the galaxy.

While the hunt for Jedis is set to be spearheaded by The Grand Inquisitor, a menacing figure introduced in Star Wars Rebels, it’s clear that there’s one old Jedi Knight Vader wants to take care of personally. While The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett used fan-pleasing cameos, Obi-Wan Kenobi promises to be Star Wars’ first full-on appointment TV series. Franchise history is set to be written by Kenobi and Vader’s reunion, which Kennedy has described as the “rematch of the century.”