‘The Mandalorian’: Jon Favreau and Pedro Pascal on Creating a Western on Steroids

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) strides across a barren landscape towards a solitary drinking hole, his boots clinking like a cowboy’s spurs as he walks. Inside, he swiftly dispatches a group of vagabonds with his two fists and one blaster, whipping the weapon around like a gunslinger who can shoot faster than his own shadow.

“Star Wars” has always been a space western of sorts, but arguably nothing in the world created by George Lucas leans as heavily into the genre of Sergio Leone and John Ford than the new Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian.”

“I think that George Lucas played with the Western undertones with the first movie, ‘Episode IV,’ and now they’re taking the suggestions of that tone and infusing it with steroids,” Pascal tells Variety.

The titular character, whom Pascal describes as Clint Eastwood-esque, is a man of few words — so few in fact that Pascal had to reach back into his acting school days to convey the character’s emotions simply with “posture and gesture.”

Add to that the fact the Mandalorian’s face is almost permanently hidden behind a shiny mask, and playing the role was hardly an easy pod ride for Pascal.

“Because of ‘Game of Thrones,’ I’ve been invited to be a part of these big movies [with] ridiculous sets in China and London, insane locations, and not to diminish the efforts of any of my previous experiences, but I can say sincerely that this is taking it to the next level for me in terms of the world-building and the attention to detail on the costumes, the creatures, the robots, the entire world,” he says. “It feels sometimes like not too much is left to the imagination in terms of what’s there.”

Creator Jon Favreau compares his new drama to “Game of Thrones,” but more in terms of the gripping audience reaction he wants to inspire than the scale. What he loved about the HBO show, Favreau says, was the time the show took to build its story. It “didn’t cascade down,” as perhaps other shows not on a weekly release schedule might do, he notes.

In a departure from the traditional streaming formula, “The Mandalorian” will be released on Disney Plus on a week-by-week basis, and it’s this serialization that Favreau believes will allow him and director Dave Filoni to bring a different twist to the much explored “Star Wars” universe.

“It’s fun not to have a preciousness in the way we’re telling these stories, because next week we’re coming back at you with another one,” Favreau explains. “With the streaming service it’s a bigger budget [and] it has a lot of the qualities and aesthetics of the films, but the novelization is where it opened up a lot of freedom and opportunity for us to not feel like we’re repeating or copying anything else that people have experienced.”

Pascal adds that Favreau and the other producers were never committed to a specific composition for each episode. One will likely feel “much more intimate,” while the next will be “epic and 15 pages longer than the previous one.”

From the brief footage screened prior to launch, the pacing for “Mandalorian” feels slower than for any of the “Star Wars” features, where the two-hour (sometimes two-and-half-hour) format means they can often hurtle from one epic set piece to the next.

Carl Weathers, who plays Greef Carga, the leader of the bounty hunter guild whom he describes as “a combination of a used car salesman and a puppeteer,” says the slower pace will hopefully “hook the audience along for the ride.

“The scenes have an opportunity to play themselves out, it’s not like a commercial where it’s cut, cut, cut and you’re moving on,” Weathers says. “The characters get a chance to say their piece, have an exchange that’s meaningful and grounded in some sort of reality, and at the same time has some emotional content in it.”

Weathers will get a chance to set the pace for himself when he takes the director’s chair for a Season 2 episode, an experience which he admits is “daunting, but also a dream.”

Another who was intimidated by the prospect of joining the “Star Wars” galaxy is Gina Carano, who plays the “tough, but deeply human” Cara Dune.

Carano was called to meet Favreau and says she “blacked out” when he revealed she was being considered for a “Star Wars” project. While she considers herself a fan of the franchise, she says talking with Favreau and Filoni made her realize she had a lot of catching up to do.

“’The Mandalorian’ is a really interesting balance between the old movies and the new: They took the innocence of the older movies — it has that in its characters, that freshness, that feeling that this is new again,” Carano says. “Jon and Dave put this together in a way that protected the new people to the franchise and the old people that adored it and the reasons they adored it.”

Both Weathers and Favreau have a slight glint of nostalgia in their eyes talking about the old serial Westerns they used to watch and bringing their sensibility to “Star Wars.”

Whether or not the legions of infamously vociferous “Star Wars” fans will let out Wookie cries of approval after watching remains to be seen, but Favreau also acknowledges the importance of pleasing “those who have been here since the beginning,” and says their reactions will play a part in shaping Season 2.

“To come back and return to this with the freedom this platform brings, because there’s nothing to compare it to — nothing that’s been on TV like it — is enticing,” says Favreau. “It’s a return back to the roots, in many ways, of the Saturday afternoon serial films that my parent’s generation grew up with that had cliffhangers, adventure, and drawing from that style of storytelling lends itself really well to what we’re tackling here.”

“The Mandalorian” premieres Nov. 12 on Disney Plus. 

More TV

  • Michael Rooker

    Michael Rooker Joins Showtime Pilot 'The President Is Missing'

    Michael Rooker has been cast as a series regular in the Showtime drama pilot “The President Is Missing.” Rooker joins previously announced lead David Oyelowo and cast members Janet McTeer, Medina Senghore, Paul Adelstein, and Gina Gallego in the pilot, which is based on the novel of the same name by James Patterson and Bill [...]

  • Stella Baker The Republic of Sarah

    CW's 'Republic of Sarah' Pilot Casts Stella Baker in Lead Role

    Newcomer Stella Baker has been cast in the title role in The CW’s “The Republic of Sarah” pilot, Variety In the pilot, faced with the destruction of her town at the hands of a greedy mining company, rebellious high school teacher Sarah Cooper (Baker) utilizes an obscure cartographical loophole to declare independence. Now Sarah must [...]

  • Kelly Campbell - hulu

    Kelly Campbell Named Hulu President

    Hulu’s chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell has been promoted to president of Hulu, a move that comes in the wake of Randy Freer’s recent exit as CEO of the company. Changes have been afoot at Hulu internally, now that the streaming service is now fully under Disney’s operational control. Disney TV Studios’ Dana Walden now [...]

  • The Sleepers

    Berlinale Series Market Sets Spotlight on Central and Eastern Europe

    It boasts one of the fastest-growing TV industries on the planet, but that hasn’t cleared up misconceptions when it comes to Central and Eastern Europe. “I would like to kill some stereotypes about the region,” said Kamila Zlatušková, founder of the Serial Killer TV Festival in Brno, Czech Republic, during a showcase of regional series [...]

  • Pete Davidson

    Pete Davidson Thinks He 'Should Be Done' With 'SNL': 'They Think I'm F---ing Dumb'

    Pete Davidson’s time as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” may be coming to an end, the comedian revealed as he discussed the future of his career in an interview with Charlamagne tha God on Monday. In a candid interview, Davidson was asked by “The Breakfast Club” host where he saw himself in five [...]

  • Miriam Haley and Tarale Wulff

    Women Who Testified in Harvey Weinstein Trial Slam His Lawyers for 'Victim Blaming' 

    Six women testified during the Harvey Weinstein rape trial, and now that the former movie mogul was found guilty of two felony charges, those women are speaking out with newfound freedom. Miriam Haley, who was assaulted by Weinstein in 2006, resulting in him being convicted of a criminal sex act (which carries a maximum sentence [...]

  • Mekai Curtis Curtis Jackson

    'Power' Prequel Series 'Raising Kanan' Casts Mekai Curtis in Lead Role

    “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” at Starz has found its lead actor. Mekai Curtis has been cast as a young Kanan Stark, the character played in the mothership series by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. He joins previously announced cast member Patina Miller, who will play Kanan’s mother. The young Kanan is described as smart, driven [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content