Star Wars: Ahsoka brings Lars Mikkelsen to live-action as Grand Admiral Thrawn.
There’s a lot for Star Wars fans to look forward to in the upcoming Disney+ series, Star Wars: Ahsoka. The main draw is that it’s a series focusing on a fan-favorite character that dates back (in current franchise canon) to the 2008 animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars and its seven-season follow-up TV show. Now, fans have another thing to geek out about: according to Variety, Ahsoka has cast Lars Mikkelsen, the voice of the classic villain form the animated shows, as Grand Admiral Thrawn.
It’s possible (though not entirely likely) that casual Star Wars fans who are familiar with Ahsoka might not have heard about Thrawn, a villain who has never appeared in a live-action TV series or movie before. The blue-skinned Imperial commander appeared as a villain in the animated show Star Wars: Rebels — a series in which the character Ahsoka made regular appearances, though she wasn’t present nearly as often as she was in The Clone Wars. In Rebels, Thrawn, known for his brilliant tactical mind, regularly terrorized (and often defeated) the rebel forces, making him a frightening adversary.
Of course, Star Wars fans with long memories know that neither Star Wars: Rebels nor Ahsoka as a character predates Grand Admiral Thrawn. The character actually debuted 23 years before the first episode of Rebels aired, in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. Taking place five years after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the book details Thrawn taking control of the remains of the Imperial forces following the destruction of the second Death Star.
Heir to the Empire became the first in a series of books known as the “Thrawn Trilogy,” which follows Thrawn’s (often successful) attempts to gain an advantage over the New Republic. Much like in his encounters with Ahsoka, Thrawn possesses a keen tactical mind that allows him to catch the fledgling republic off-guard despite starting at a disadvantage. The trilogy’s publication kicked off an explosion of new Star Wars novels detailing the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after the events of the movies — all of which were removed from the official Star Wars canon after Disney purchased the franchise from George Lucas.
For fans of these novels, Ahsoka‘s use of Grand Admiral Thrawn carries a huge significance: it’s the first live-action appearance of a major character from the previously-discarded novels, now known as “Star Wars Legends.” It opens up the possibility of other previously-noncanonical characters appearing in the new Star Wars universe, such as the Emperor’s former servant Mara Jade, the smuggler Dash Rendar, and the Stormtrooper-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn.
Of course, Ahsoka featuring Grand Admiral Thrawn doesn’t necessarily mean that Disney is open to revisiting more of the characters featured in Legends. The sequel trilogy erased all the post-Return of the Jedi canon in favor of introducing brand-new characters and giving them the honor of rehashing old plot points from the original trilogy. If the long-lost characters do end up appearing, they likely will take on different roles than the ones longtime fans are familiar with.