While upcoming Disney+ Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi will be set during the eponymous Jedi’s years of hermitage between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, it will nevertheless showcase adventures on which he’ll encounter a sizable array of characters both old and new. Notably, one of the show’s debuting characters will be played by Eternals co-star Kumail Nanjiani, who—despite a Disney-dealt gag order that even his Marvel character, the mighty celestial Kingo, dare not break—recently teased details that, while vague, seem intriguing.
While the main Obi-Wan Kenobi cast set to join star movie-role-reprising star Ewan McGregor was officially announced back in March, the names and descriptions of their characters were (in)conveniently omitted, leaving fans to speculate wildly—at least outside of returnees Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse, who are clearly playing their respective Prequel movie roles as Owen and Beru Lars, and Hayden Christensen, who—in an unknown context—returns as Darth Vader. Yet, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Nanjiani slightly lifts the thick veil of mystery covering his character.
“We haven’t seen this exact thing in Star Wars yet,” teases Nanjiani. “This is like a new version of a type of Star Wars character we’ve seen before.”
Consequently, the endeavor of uncovering the mystery of Nanjiani’s Obi-Wan Kenobi role has gained the crucial clue that the character adheres to a familiar franchise concept, albeit with a purportedly new twist. Of course, that still leaves a stupendously wide range of possibilities for Nanjiani—be it as a droid, Wookie or, considering Obi-Wan’s adopted Tatooine home, maybe even as the franchise’s first unwrapped Tusken Raider. Regardless, his temerarious tease could have been incited—perhaps subconsciously—by a seemingly accidental reveal recently made by fellow cast member Sung Kang (pictured immediately below). In attempting to convey his level of lifelong reverence for the Star Wars franchise, Kang divulged the potent detail to ScreenRant that his character will wield a lightsaber.
“I used to dress up in the cheap K-mart plastic Halloween costumes, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, almost every single day from 8 to 13 years old,” prefaced Kang before his cat-out-of-the-bag moment. “My friends and I would play pretend, we would make our own lightsabers out of toilet paper centers and stuff like that and paper towel cardboard, and to be able to be on set and see Darth Vader and see the Star Wars Universe in front of me, I mean — just as a fan to be able to be part of that history is pretty amazing. I kept pinching myself to go, ‘How did I end up here?’ and, my character has a lightsaber, to go, ‘What? This is.. It’s not a toy. It’s actually the real thing, right?’ so pretty cool.”
With rumors proliferating the notion that Kang’s character could be one of the Inquistors utilized by the Empire to hunt down the remnants of the Jedi—as canonically depicted in acclaimed animated series Star Wars Rebels—the possibility exists that Nanjiani might be set to wield a lightsaber of his own. However, given Nanjiani’s comedic wheelhouse, the idea of him being cast to play a villainous character seems unlikely, leaving the possibility that he’s simply playing a Jedi; one that, per his description, could be classified as unique and unconventional. Indeed, if the era of Obi-Wan Kenobi even closely aligns with the pre-A New Hope setting of Rebels, then there still would be a dwindling population of Jedi scattered across the galaxy, necessitating the Empire to utilize Inquisitors, setting up a conflict for which Obi-Wan would need Force-powered peer allies—allies that could lean in the comic relief direction while carefully avoiding Jar Jar Binks territory.
Of course, Nanjiani was just as enthusiastic as Kang upon hearing that he’d landed a coveted role on Obi-Wan Kenobi. The casting was an especially sweet accomplishment, since it also happened to be his first post-pandemic gig. Moreover, in a possibly-revelatory anecdote, Nanjianji reveals that he shot footage in front of the Volume, Disney’s groundbreaking virtual studio set, which projects CGI backdrops for the actors, facilitating more authentic performances than conventional blue screen methods. Thusly, Nanjiani may have indirectly affirmed the idea that his mystery role will have him in the thick of the action amidst some exotic locales.
“You really feel like you’re there,” lauds Nanjiani. “The first scene we shot, it was Star Wars outside the windows, with aliens walking around and ships flying by and all this stuff, but the rest of it just looked like a warehouse. So I did a couple of takes and then Ewan was like, ‘You know, none of this is real.’ I knew the windows weren’t real, but the walls weren’t either! I looked and I was like, ‘Wow, the walls are projected.’ The only thing that was real in the whole room was the desk I was sitting at. It was wild. It was really, really exciting. I love shooting like that, because you don’t have to pretend that you’re on a spaceship flying through space. It really feels like you’re in a spaceship flying through space. And it’s amazing to be inside the world of Star Wars, the world that I’ve been watching since I was born. I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. In fact, I just went to Disneyland, and I went to the Star Wars world, and I was like, ‘Oh, this kinda feels like being at work.'”
Regardless of the identity of Nanjiani’s character, the Obi-Wan Kenobi role is a clear sign of upward momentum for the actor’s career. Having started with an array of small film and television roles in the world of comedy, he gained significant attention from his co-starring role on hit 2014-2019 HBO series Silicon Valley. From that, he gained billing gravitas, co-starring with Zoe Kazan in 2017 rom-com The Big Sick and opposite Dave Bautista in 2019 buddy comedy Stuber, and will soon bask in Marvel Cinematic Universe splendor as part of lavish ensemble feature Eternals, which hits theaters on Nov. 5.
The Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi series is scheduled to premiere its six-episode run on Disney+ in 2022 on a date to be announced.