How Lars Mikkelsen Brought Thrawn to Life For ‘Ahsoka’
Season 1 of the Disney+ series Ahsoka has brought the next great Star Wars villain into live-action in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Thrawn was originally created as part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe’s Heir to the Empire book trilogy. Considered the original sequel trilogy by many Star Wars fans, the cunning former Imperial officer has been a widely popular character for decades.
When Thrawn made his official canon debut in the animated Star Wars Rebels, the cunning tactician was voiced by Lars Mikkelsen.
A Different Kind of Star Wars Villain
As opposed to Darth Maul, Kylo Ren, or even Darth Vader, Thrawn doesn’t rule through brute force or power, but instead by remaining steps ahead of his opponents.
“He’s brutal to a certain point, but he’s not stupid,” Mikkelsen explains. “He utilizes the creativity around him, and I like that. He doesn’t just kill people off for the fun of it. He’s sort of seven pages ahead of everybody else.”
Mikkelsen’s Star Wars Journey
While Mikkelsen voiced Thrawn in Rebels, it was no guarantee that the actor would also be the one to bring Heir to the Empire into live action.
According to Mikkelsen, when he was recording the final Rebels episode, Star Wars guru Dave Filoni (who would eventually helm Ahsoka) called him and hinted at a possible return of Thrawn.
Filoni asked Mikkelsen if he had ever visited Los Angeles. When the actor responded “No,” Fioloni replied, “Well, let’s see if we can make that happen.”
“I didn’t really understand what he meant by that,” Mikkelsen says now with a laugh. “But then, about a year and a half after, he phoned me up, and I was game.”
When bringing Thrawn into live-action, Filoni encouraged Mikkelsen to make the character his own.
“He sort of thrives on the creativity of the people he hires,” Mikkelsen says of the Ahsoka showrunner. “It’s a very good quality to be a boss like that. He gets so much more from people.”
The Challenges of Becoming Thrawn
Still, becoming Thrawn had its challenges.
“There’s a barrier because I’m not English; I’m Danish. And it’s quite elaborate English. He’s so poised, and he’s so calm in what he’s doing this character. So, the challenge is to believe in what you’re doing. He’s not a man who goes for a cup of coffee. He’s in the room giving orders but in a very calm, rational way.”
Like co-stars Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mikkelsen also had to spend hours in a makeup chair each day in order to transform into the blue-skinned Thrawn. Mikkelsen for his part, didn’t mind the transformation process
“I mean, you can’t go out in the rain,” Mikkelsen says. “That’d be stupid. And after 16 hours of shooting, the contacts will hurt you. But there’s people coming around all the time with [eye] drops.”
In the end, the actor was amazed by the final results.
“I really wanted to see it in the camera,” he explains. “But it worked. And I was quite amazed.”
Ahsoka is now streaming on Disney+.