With The Mandalorian’s second season, Disney has added old favorite characters, both from the animated series as well as from the films, and even hinting at characters from the books. But a new rumor hints that Disney could be digging even deeper into the books, supposedly adapting Heir to the Empire, with Disney eyeing Karen Gillan to play Mara Jade.
According to the rumor, Disney wants to adapt the 1991 Timothy Zahn book, Heir to the Empire, since it is the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. As a major villain in the books, Thrawn would be an excellent addition to the ever-expanding Star Wars TV universe, and considering the character was mentioned in The Mandalorian’s recent season, it seems the show is hinting at his appearance. But also debuting in Heir to the Empire was Mara Jade, the character Disney supposedly wants Karen Gillan to play.
While Heir to the Empire is no longer canon in the Star Wars universe, it does seem like Disney is willing to pick and choose on a case-by-case basis. But Mara Jade is deeply tied into many known characters in the extended Star Wars universe, as a Force-sensitive woman who worked as a servant for Emperor Palpatine, eventually sat on the Jedi High Council, and even married Luke Skywalker, changing her name to Mara Jade Skywalker. It’s not clear how strictly a Karen Gillan portrayal of Mara Jade would stick to the books, but it could be an interesting addition to this world.
With The Mandalorian introducing a bunch of older characters this past season, Disney working its way into the Star Wars books makes quite a bit of sense. Karen Gillan would be a solid addition to an already stellar cast, but it’s not clear if Jade would be a quick cameo or a more substantial role. In 2018, Timothy Zahn was given more creative control of Mara Jade from Lucasfilm, saying he had to ability to prevent Disney from adding Jade to the new canon without his approval. Zahn has said he would block Disney’s use of the character if it was a cameo, and that she must be integral to the plot of whatever story she’s in. If Mara Jade does join The Mandalorian, it would have to be in a substantial role, it seems.
Karen Gillan has long been a favorite of Disney, first working with the company in 2014, when she joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, and starred in the ABC sitcom, Selfie. Since then, Gillan has also appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. But Gillan has also starred in another massive franchise, as one of the stars in the new run of Jumanji films, only further proving that Gillan is a star Disney should want to keep working with.
It’s unclear at this point if Mara Jade’s appearance in The Mandalorian or Star Wars material from here on out will happen, or if Karen Gillan will play the character. According to the rumor, talks with Gillan haven’t even started yet. However, it does seem like The Mandalorian and Disney, in general, want to try and explore other characters from other media, so the books could very well be the next Star Wars universe to explore.