Ray Stevenson’s Baylan Skoll Is a Love Letter to a Classic Kind of Star Wars Villain

Ahsoka declares its first episode is "For our friend, Ray" who brings the enigmatic Baylan Skoll to life.

Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll in Star Wars: Ahsoka
Photo: Lucasfilm

This article contains spoilers for Ahsoka episodes 1 and 2.

It’s taken a while, but more than five years after the credits rolled on Star Wars Rebels, we’re finally getting some payoff for its cliffhanger ending in Dave Filoni’s Ahsoka on Disney+. The Rebels creator is effectively giving us a live-action season 5, while also gifting fans the long-awaited solo series for the talented Togruta.

Alongside Rosario Dawson taking the lead as Ahsoka, a mix of new and returning faces sees Rebels alumni David Tennant and Lars Mikkelsen reprise their roles, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Natasha Liu Bordizzo take over from previous voice actors, and the likes of Ivanna Sakhno and Ray Stevenson playing brand-new roles. Sadly for Stevenson, he didn’t get to see the breakout reaction to Baylan Skoll.

Ray Stevenson tragically passed away on May 21, 2023, just four days before his 59th birthday. No cause of death has been revealed, although he was reportedly hospitalized while filming the action movie Cassino in Ischia. Stevenson had come a long way from his movie debut in 1998’s The Theory of Flight – where he played a gigolo. 

Ad – content continues below

Stevenson is largely remembered for playing legionary Titus Pullo in HBO’s Rome, but also portrayed Blackbeard in Black Sails, mobster Isaak Sirko in Dexter, and Frank Castle/The Punisher in 2008’s Punisher: Warzone. Sticking with Marvel, Stevenson then joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Volstagg in the first three Thor movies. 

Despite Ahsoka being one of Stevenson’s final roles, he was no stranger to the galaxy far, far away. Having previously voiced Gar Saxon in Rebels and The Clone Wars, there were theories Stevenson would pop up in The Mandalorian. Instead, Ahsoka marks the end of his Star Wars legacy. With Stevenson meaning so much to Star Wars, the end of the premiere featured a touching tribute that says, “For our friend, Ray.” But, just who is Baylan Skoll, and why is Stevenson destined to be a shining star of Ahsoka?

Star Wars has largely been a hit with its morally complex characters. The long-held idea of Jedi = good and Sith = bad doesn’t really hold up. Even if you hadn’t seen the various Ahsoka promos of Baylan Skoll wielding an orange-red lightsaber you might associate with villains, his opening attack on the New Republic cruiser carrying Lady Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) saw him launch an attack after saying, “We are no Jedi.”

Even if there’s no Baylan Skoll in the expanded Star Wars lore, we’re told he’s a former Jedi and survivor of the devastating Order 66. Like how the Grand Inquisitor was a former Jedi Temple Guard, Skoll has dabbled with the Dark Side after losing faith in the Jedi. The difference is, he’s a mercenary for hire and works for Grand Admiral Thrawn (Mikkelsen) as one of his most trusted allies. Similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Reva (Moses Ingram) and her big back story twist, we’ve likely only scratched the surface of Baylan Skoll.

Stevenson clearly had a lot of fun playing Baylan Skoll, gushing to Entertainment Weekly about Ahsoka’s stunt work and stepping onto the set in his costume. As well as praising Filoni, he teased there’s more to Skoll and explained that while he won’t strike you down if you don’t stand in his way, “There’s something that’s driving him that Dave Filoni and Jon [Favreau] know, and is hopefully going to be revealed throughout the telling,” adding, “It’s just breathtaking.”

Since Baylan Skoll’s first tease, there have been various theories that he’s Heir to the Empire‘s Joruus C’baoth. The 1991 novel featured an insane Dark Jedi clone of Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth (notice the spelling), who was discovered on Mount Tantiss. Author Timothy Zahn originally imagined a mad clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but when Lucasfilm blocked the idea, he created C’baoth instead. Skoll bears an uncanny resemblance to C’baoth, and with an orange-red lightsaber, it fits the bill of him being a Dark Jedi while still fulfilling the “no Jedi” promise. 

Ad – content continues below

As The Bad Batch has been expanding on the lore surrounding Tantiss, and Thrawn is confirmed to appear in Ahsoka, there’s a chance Skoll is just an alias of Joruus C’baoth. Going against this, Huyang (Tennant) identifies Baylan from his lightsaber with no mention of C’baoth. Despite Thrawn being considered canon, it’s much like Boba Fett’s Expanded Universe survival, meaning only parts of Heir to the Empire have made it into Disney’s new era of Star Wars. If we start adapting the Thrawn Trilogy’s cloning arcs, we could stray into the territory of the evil “Luuke Skywalker” clone.

It’s clear there’s more to Skoll, and with him ending episode 2 saying it would be a shame to kill Ahsoka because there are “so few Jedi left,” he’s not an out-and-out hunter like the Inquisitors. In an interview with Yahoo!, Stevenson said Baylan Skoll is “not quite good but he’s quite bad,” which puts him in that sweet spot of grey characters like Fett, Asajj Ventress, and Andor’s standout Luthen Rael. Just like Stellan Skarsgård’s shady antique dealer, Baylan Skoll looks to be one of Ahsoka’s most interesting additions.

Star Wars: Ahsoka is streaming now on Disney+.