For fans of Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, The Mandalorian has been a great opportunity to see some favorite characters come to live-action for the first time. In The Mandalorian’s second season, the show has already introduced Bo-Katan Kryze, played by Katee Sackhoff and Ahsoka Tano, played by Rosario Dawson. Recently, Ahsoka Tano mentioned Grand Admiral Thrawn in The Mandalorian, making many believe it’s just a matter of time until this villain makes his appearance in the show. One artist on Instagram has already tried to visualize what this character would look like, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
ApexForm on Instagram often creates art based on casting rumors or castings that never came to be. His page includes Will Smith as Superman, Leonardo DiCaprio as Spider-Man, and Matthew McConaughey as Hulk. One of his most recent posts featured Benedict Cumberbatch as Grand Admiral Thrawn. In the photo, Cumberbatch is blue with red eyes, standing in the shadows amongst a rising fog.
Grand Admiral Thrawn was first introduced in Heir to the Empire, Timothy Zahn’s novel from 1991. Thrawn is an Imperial military commander who, after Return of the Jedi, has taken over the few remaining forces of the Galactic Empire. Despite his series of books from the 90s being considered no longer canon, Thrawn was reintroduced into Star Wars canon with the third season of Star Wars Rebels, and has since had a new book trilogy, starting with 2017’s Star Wars: Thrawn, and continuing with 2018’s Thrawn: Alliances, and 2019’s Treason. Another trilogy of books called Thrawn Ascendancy started its release in September 2020. Benedict Cumberbatch has already played one major villain in the Star Trek universe, no reason why he can’t do so in Star Wars as well.
In Chapter 13 of The Mandalorian, Ahsoka Tano mentions Grand Admiral Thrawn, saying that he is still alive five years after Return of the Jedi, and that he has survived the events of Star Wars Rebels. Through the animated series and multiple books, Grand Admiral Thrawn has become a fan-favorite villain, and considering the Star Wars universe is currently limited on their antagonists, introducing Thrawn into The Mandalorian – especially after name-dropping him – would make a lot of sense right now. With season two adding such big names as Timothy Olyphant and Rosario Dawson, it’s possible The Mandalorian could want another star to fill the shoes of Thrawn.
Even though Benedict Cumberbatch is currently working with Disney through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems that he’s going to have his hands full in that world to the point that he wouldn’t also be able to make time for a major villain in Star Wars lore. In addition to starring in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, planned for release on March 25, 2022, Cumberbatch will also be playing Doctor Strange in the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home sequel, which is currently filming for a December 17, 2021 release.
Yet it also makes quite a bit of sense that Disney would want Benedict Cumberbatch or someone else to bring Grand Admiral Thrawn to life on The Mandalorian. With The Mandalorian tapping into the Clone Wars lore more and more each week, this synergy is boosting the numbers of Clone Wars on Disney+ as well. The Verge is reporting that The Mandalorian has a direct correlation to the popularity of Clone Wars on the streaming service, showing that viewership of Clone Wars hit a huge spike when the show first debuted in November 2019.
Clone Wars viewership hit high again when the seventh season of Clone Wars was put on Disney+, but the third spike came with the season two premiere of The Mandalorian in October. Ever since the premiere, Clone Wars has also been trending higher than usual. Google Trends also shows there was a spike in viewership over the last week, likely due to both the appearance of Ahsoka Tano and the mention of Admiral Thrawn. To continue such trends, it would make sense for The Mandalorian to bring in someone to play Thrawn, whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch or some other actor.
This type of synergy between television, films, and books has become a major part of Disney’s plan with Star Wars going forward, and it makes for some interesting introductions of characters in mediums we’ve never seen them in before. Now that The Mandalorian is using characters from the Star Wars animated series, it might not be long before we see Thrawn in The Mandalorian. However, this art does suggest that Benedict Cumberbatch would be a pretty great addition to this already great cast.