Star Wars: The Last Jedi is still months away from release, but that doesn't mean that Daisy Ridley hasn't returned to Rey since 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Similarly, Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso has shown up after last year's Rogue One, although some fans might have missed it.
Both have been part of Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, the multimedia initiative that spans merchandise, print and animation and focuses on the female leads of the franchise. Launched earlier this year, the initiative has already concluded its first run of animated shorts, which were released on YouTube and aired on Disney XD. Eight more episodes are set to air as a special in October. Heat Vision spoke with Jennifer Muro, the writer of the animated series, about her connection to Star Wars in general, and Forces of Destiny in particular.
How did you get involved with Forces of Destiny? Was this something that Lucasfilm approached you with fully formed, or was it an idea that you were part of creating from scratch?
Last year, I had some meetings with the Lucasfilm Story Group down in L.A. They told me what they wanted to do with this initiative, and we kind of came up with this thing together — what we wanted it to be, to create stories of everyday heroism for the women of Star Wars. It all came together organically. We worked through different incarnations of what that would be, and it ended up turning out pretty great!
What has the feedback been like from fandom for the series?
It is being really well received! We always wanted to inspire fans of all ages, as long as it was through authentic Star Wars storytelling, I think that was our biggest goal. I think fans can sense that and, even if they're not thrilled, they understand, "Oh, I know who this is for." Honestly, the feedback has been mostly super-positive.
You mentioned "everyday heroism" earlier, and that's something that's obvious from the shorts so far — we're used to watching these characters save the galaxy and take part in these epic adventures, but Forces of Destiny works on a much smaller, more intimate scale, without sacrificing who these characters are.
That's exactly what we were going for, so I'm glad that's coming through. As Lupita Nyong'o says in the introduction to each episode, it's the moments both big and small that shape who these characters are. It's something we don't get a chance to explore very often in these stories, and something we don't get a chance to focus on. It's a great opportunity to do that.
While you're focusing on small moments in one sense, you're also creating big moments by crossing over characters from different parts of the larger Star Wars mythology — Leia and Sabine meet, Padme and Ahsoka. It makes the overall Star Wars franchise feel more integrated. Was that a suggestion from the Story Group, or something you wanted to do?
There was stuff they absolutely wanted, and it was stuff that I absolutely wanted. I think a great moment like that was Leia and Sabine together in "Bounty of Trouble." It was an organic moment, they met in Star Wars: Rebels, which was wonderful — we never wanted to have any kind of false construct in there, any kind of [forced meeting]. We wanted to have these important moments that meant something as often as we possibly could.
You're not only telling stories featuring characters from the movies and the TV shows, you're also telling stories that take place during the movies and TV shows, at least in a handful of cases — there are episodes that happen during Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens in terms of chronology…
I'm the biggest fan, so this was just a dream come true. Particularly, I'm an original trilogy fan the most, so to do a scene [that takes place during Return of the Jedi] was thrilling, to say the least. Absolutely, it was amazing to do that, to do a story at the Rebel base literally before Empire Strikes Back begins — it's almost a deleted scene, or a homage to that movie. It came about wanting to tell small moments, and thinking, where would it make sense to have these small moments? For Leia, it was nice to have the original trilogy to play with in there, to bring the Ewoks back, which is so great!
As a fan of the franchise, what has it been like having Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones voice their characters for the series? I feel as if, for many fans, it's added some credibility and legitimacy to the project.
It was thrilling that they wanted to be involved, and Lupita as well. It was so nice to have them with the TV actors and the voice actors — it brings the worlds together in a way I didn't expect. It gives it more legitimacy, but beyond it being legitimate, it's just wonderful for people who weren't paying attention to go, "Oh, that's surprising that [the movie cast] is doing that," and it brings more attention to what we're trying to accomplish. It was nice to have them in the mix.
You've got so much to play with, but so little time to do it in. The episodes average out at around three minutes each. How difficult is it to fit everything into that short a period per episode?
It is a challenge, but I think that as long as we kept the themes we wanted to touch upon, we'd be fine. It was rough sometimes to do that in three minutes. I think it came across — we're telling it through actions, and through a choice, and once that choice is made, through the conclusion of that choice. I think you can show all that in three minutes. I would love more time, that would be fantastic, but it was a good challenge. It was kind of fun.
Are you itching for someone to tell you, "Actually, episodes are an hour from now on — take as much time as you need?" Is there a desire to do something longform with this series?
(Laughs) Of course, I would absolutely, definitely — I mean, we're getting more of these shorts, and that's fantastic, because that way we get to tell stories with all these different characters. That's the benefit of the shorts, we get to tell more stories with all different characters.
Which characters have you wanted to work with, but haven't found the chance yet? Are there new characters showing up in the second season of the shorts?
I wish I could tell you! You'll find out in October. It's been announced that we'll see Hera [from Star Wars: Rebels], which will be great. I think people will enjoy seeing the characters in the second season.