The cast of Ahsoka is full of fan-favorite characters from the Rebels animated series, including Grand Admiral Thrawn. We learned that Rebels voice actor Lars Mikkelsen is reprising his villainous role in live-action for Ahsoka during Star Wars Celebration 2023, and it’s starting to look like the series may be about to pull in some other characters from the recent Thrawn novels to expand upon his story. With The Expanse actor Wes Chatham joining the cast in an undisclosed role, there’s a bit of speculation that he could be playing an important character from Thrawn’s past.
According to Deadline, Chatham will portray Thrawn’s “right hand man” in the upcoming Star Wars series. As far as who that character is, io9 was the first to theorize that Chatham may have been cast as Eli Vanto, a character first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 2017 novel Thrawn who has become an important part of the lore surrounding the Chiss Imperial admiral. But remember, this is just fun speculation at the moment.
That said, if this does end up being the case with Chatham, and the book character makes the jump to live action, you may be wondering who exactly Vanto is in the first place.
Before meeting Thrawn, Vanto was a cadet at the Imperial Myomar Academy. His parents owned a shipping company based on the planet Lysatra, and because of this he got to explore different planets in the uncharted “Wild Space” region of the galaxy beyond even the Outer Rim, learning a variety of languages along the way. Once an Imperial cadet, Vanto’s language skills proved useful to his officers at the academy, which put him on the path to working with Thrawn.
Thrawn was initially a prisoner of the Empire during one of Vanto’s last missions as a cadet, having provoked the Empire in an effort to test their strength and determine if they were worthy allies for his people, the mysterious Chiss. Because of his knowledge of the language Sy Bisti, a language spoken in the Unknown Regions, Vanto was tasked to be the translator for Thrawn. Vanto’s superiors ultimately saw potential in Thrawn as a warrior and took him to see Emperor Palpatine. During their meeting, Thrawn was able to negotiate an agreement that saw him become an advisor to the Empire on the outer, more “wild” regions of the galaxy in exchange for a Chiss alliance with the Empire. Thrawn also convinced the Emperor to permanently appoint Vanto as his translator and aide. I(Hence the “right hand man” speculation!)
After graduating from the Imperial Academy, Thrawn and Vanto continued working together and rising through the ranks of the Empire. The two worked to combat insurgencies throughout the galaxy until Vanto was offered a position in the Chiss Ascendancy, the aristocratic oligarchy ruled by its nine most powerful families. Although the Chiss are generally isolationist in their policies, Thrawn pursued a partnership with the Empire because of the threat the mind-controlling Grysk posed to the Chiss homeworld. It’s a whole thing, look it up!
During his time in the Ascendancy, Vanto learns that Thrawn pushed him to take the position so that he could share information on the Force-sensitive Chiss youth known as sky-walkers. Force sensitivity in the Chiss is rare, and typically only occurs for girls between the ages of about 7 and 14. The Chiss Ascendancy uses the powers of these sky-walkers to navigate Chiss vessels through the treacherous Unknown Regions of the galaxy, and their station is considered to be a high honor. However, the existence of sky-walkers is a well-kept secret among the Chiss, known only by high-ranking officials and military officers.
Now what could this possibly have to do with Vanto and Thrawn in Ahsoka? Well, with Thrawn’s disappearance into space at the hands of Ezra Bridger and the Purrgil in the Rebels finale, Vanto’s knowledge of the sky-walkers and their ability to navigate through space with the Force could prove useful in the search for Thrawn. Whether or not Vanto would be helping the Empire, the Chiss, or simply working on his own to find an old friend is unclear, but he and the Chiss sky-walkers could be crucial to bringing Thrawn back to New Republic space to exact revenge in the name of the Empire.
Star Wars: Ahsoka will hit Disney+ in August.