Expect to See a Toned-Down Version of Thrawn in ‘Ahsoka,’ Says Actor

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Lars Mikkelsen Thrawn Ahsoka

Credit: Lucasfilm / Inside the Magic

As Star Wars Rebels alum Lars Mikkelsen gears up to bring the sinister Grand Admiral Thrawn to live-action in the upcoming Disney+ Ahsoka series, he’s warning fans that they might see a different take on the character than perhaps expected.

Lars Mikkelsen as Thrawn in Ahsoka
Credit: Lucasfilm

Now that Ahsoka has an official August 23 release date, it’s time to start getting excited about Disney+’s next adventure in the galaxy far, far away. Written and directed by longtime Star Wars creator Dave Filoni, the show certainly has the potential to be one of the best projects to come out of Lucasfilm since Disney purchased the IP back in 2012.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in her own solo series
Credit: Lucasfilm

Rosario Dawson is set to reprise her role as the titular ex-Jedi after making her franchise debut in Season 2 of The Mandalorian. Since Ahsoka will pick up on loose plot threads from the animated Rebels series, she’ll be joined by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who will bring Ghost pilot Hera Syndulla and Mandalorian Sabine Wren to live-action, respectively, among others.

Check out the official teaser trailer for Ahsoka below:

In her attempts to track down missing Jedi Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi), Ahsoka will be forced to face off against a number of dangerous adversaries, including the mysterious Force-user, Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson), his apprentice, Shin Hati (Ivanna Sakhno), and Nightsister Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto), who she dueled in The Mandalorian “Chapter 13: The Jedi.”

But lurking in the background will be an even bigger galactic threat: the sinister Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has the capability to bring the fragile New Republic to its knees.

Grand Admiral Thrawn in 'Star Wars Rebels'
Credit: Lucasfilm

First introduced in the 1991 Legends novel Heir to the Empire, written by Timothy Zahn, the blue-skinned Chiss Admiral is an Imperial military leader who acted as the primary antagonist throughout the latter seasons of Rebels. He was “defeated” by Ezra Bridger in the series finale after the two vanished into deep space, but now, he’s back in Star Wars canon—this time, to lead the Imperial Remnant.

During April’s Star Wars Celebration Europe, it was confirmed that Mikkelsen, who voiced Thrawn in animation, would bring the character to live-action in Ahsoka. The casting announcement was a relief to fans, as Mikkelsen has spent years developing Thrawn and putting his own spin on the source material.

Thrawn close up in Star Wars Rebels
Credit: Lucasfilm

But even though Thrawn will be played by the same actor who voiced him in Rebels, Mikkelsen is making it clear that audiences shouldn’t expect to see his earlier portrayal copied and pasted into Ahsoka.

Speaking with Empire Magazine in their latest issue, Mikkelsen explained that certain aspects of his performance in Rebels would need to be toned down for his transition to live-action to work. However, he clarified that he’s “not losing the voice” and is instead “tweaking” the character for Ahsoka.

star wars thrawn rebels
Credit: Star Wars

The actor explained that when doing an animated character, there’s “a whole melodious approach,” while you’re playing a “real person,” some of those same acting methods can border on “slightly too much” and don’t transfer well to a live-action portrayal:  

I’m not losing the voice, but I am tweaking it into live-action. When you do an animated character, there’s a whole melodious approach. When you’re there as a real person, that would be just slightly too much. I love the way he rises through the Empire, and the way he carries himself in that environment to become somebody. And then of course, how can you not like a very clever villain? Thrawn takes the time to understand his opponent’s culture, and what they’re about. It’s lovely to be playing that.

Mikkelsen has a good point in saying that over-the-top acting decisions that mimic Thrawn’s animated counterpart run the possibility of diluting the desired impact of what should still be a sinister and imposing antagonist for our heroes to overcome throughout the season.

hera syndulla (left) and grand admiral thrawn (right) in star wars rebels
Credit: Lucasfilm

And considering that Mikkelsen’s Thrawn will likely be the big bad of Filoni’s newly-announced “Mando-Verse” crossover movie, the pressure is on for the veteran Star Wars actor to nail his live-action debut.

Ultimately, Mikkelsen seems thrilled to be bringing Thrawn to life in Ahsoka, and based solely on his previous performance, seeing this character in live-action will undoubtedly be a highlight of the series—and hopefully, beyond. 

What do you think of Lars Mikkelsen’s recent comments about the differences between Thrawn’s animated and live-action performances? Let us know in the comments below.

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