Even as the franchise giants devour more streaming space by the minute, there are few producing narratives as uniformly good as the Star Wars prequel series Andor. Nuanced and methodical but action-packed and prescient, the Disney+ series follows Rogue One protagonist Cassian Andor as he’s immersed in the burgeoning Resistance against the Galactic Empire, building momentum for the events of Rogue One itself and the 1977 classic Star Wars: A New Hope. Diego Luna stars as Andor himself, the jaded smuggler who inadvertently becomes a target of Empire operatives; their repeated autocratic crimes eventually radicalize both him and his allies. Over the course of the show’s two seasons—the latter of which is currently in production—Andor becomes a political symbol that eclipses the universe of Star Wars itself.
As Emmy voters consider Andor’s magnificent first season for awards recognition, Luna sat down with ELLE.com to discuss what made the series such a success, and what momentum he’s bringing into season 2.
You’ve said before that, as a cast and crew, you’ve learned a lot from filming the first season of Andor, and that those are lessons you’re bringing into the fold for season 2. Would you elaborate on what those lessons were, specifically?
Having 12 episodes to tell a story—it’s a long time; it’s a lot of time. Each episode, more than any other thing I’ve done for TV, has to be something on its own. It has to be something that stays there. And I think we have that in mind much more [in season 2].
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We’re used to doing more film than anything else. This is the second thing I’ve done in this format for streaming. And the same [thing] with many people from the writing, the directors, the production, so naturally, we ended up thinking in three episodes as a block, because it’s like the time you have for a film.
Each block of three episodes, in a way, had a beginning and an end. And when we put out the first season, it was when we were about to start doing promotion that we came up with the idea of putting three out [at a time], because it was something by itself, without us even thinking about it. Then, in this next season, what we’re doing is blocks of three episodes and each block represents a year. We include that as part of the format in a much more structured way.
It’s stuff like that. And also, in terms of the relationships between the characters, the potential of some of the chemistry between actors and the stuff that in the first season really shined—we now are aware, and we are trying to elaborate there.
I’m curious about the dual nature of the timeline you’re in right now: You’re still promoting and talking about season 1, especially as Emmys voting ramps up, but you’re also in the midst of creating season 2. Has that back-and-forth impacted the creative process for season 2 in any way?
We are definitely more tired. I mean, we are naturally doing a lot of things at the same time, but also we are relying much more on one another as a team now. We are willing to collaborate in a much more balanced way because we know we have to cover for each other.
But I think that is the main reason why we are doing just two seasons—two parts, if you want to call it that way. Because it would be impossible to keep going on this track for quite a long time. It’s just impossible for the amount of work put behind this, the amount of time that the writing takes … If we were aiming for more seasons, we would be doing this in the next 10 years and it’s just impossible.
But I believe we all have this extra to give because of what the first season meant for us. Because the beautiful reaction that audiences had, the beautiful reaction also that we got from the press and reviews, all of that is there, and it keeps us going in this effort to close even better.
You’ve also said before that, when you were growing up, you were concerned that the type of stories you loved—these mature, grounded stories—were not necessarily going to be popular ones. In hindsight, why do you think the first season of Andor was able to straddle that divide so effectively?
I think we came to be part of the franchise and to be part of the universe of Star Wars in the right time. The audiences of Star Wars now are very, very diverse. They’re everywhere. And in terms of generations, they do now include three different generations, at least. Now, in the universe of Star Wars, there’s audiences for different material in terms of tone and complexity and matureness. And we came in in a moment where there is that freedom, where we don’t have to aim for the same audience that other shows are aiming for or that other films have aimed for. And I think we learned this with Rogue One.
I mean, it’s just a natural evolution. Rogue One came out, and it was different, and it was darker, and it had a beginning and an end, and it was aiming for something different than the saga movies that were coming out. That film showed us—or showed Lucasfilm and Disney—that there was a big audience that wanted that kind of Star Wars. That’s why they hired us and not someone else. That’s why they hired [creator] Tony Gilroy, because his writing is exactly that, and that’s why the cast is the cast it is. We have very interesting talent that is, for the first time, exploring the universe of Star Wars in many positions. It’s people that are experiencing this journey of belonging to this universe for the first time. Therefore, it’s a new and a very fresh view on it.
Are you filming these season 2 blocks in chronological order, or do you jump around?
We try to keep it as structured in a logic way as possible, in terms of not shooting what we don’t know, not shooting something [where] we need to know where we’re coming from [as characters], but the rules of production are very different these days. A lot has to do with the building of the sets… We wait for the writing to be ready. That tells us what needs to be built, and then building takes it some time. I don’t know if you’ve tried to build anything in your life—
Not on this scale.
I’m the son of an architect, and every time they say, “This will be done that day,” you have to know it would never be there.
Tack on a month.
Exactly. What I mean is there’s so many things that determinate what shoots first and then later. But what we do is, each block has the logic of a director. Each block is shot from a very specific perspective, and we are very respectful to the process of directors. We really want directors to come and bring their voice and their vision to elevate what we have.
What is it like navigating those blocks as an actor? With each block representing a year, how do you put yourself in Cassian’s headspace for each scene, given the time jumps between them?
There’s a lot of previous work you have to do before getting on set and a lot of chatting needed with directors. But I would say that, with this show, one thing that is really interesting is that it is very rich. There’s a lot for us to play with and, most of the time, the teams are already quite full, quite robust. It’s not one of those shows where you don’t have answers and you go like, What are we doing? Not at all. The writing of this show, it keeps changing, keeps transforming, keeps bringing new turns. It’s full of layers. [As an actor] it’s just about being aware of the complexity that the material is asking for.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture writer at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television and books. She was previously an associate editor at ELLE.