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[Warning: this story contains spoilers for episode three of Obi-Wan Kenobi.]
In her youth, Indira Varma had a somewhat complicated relationship with Star Wars.
The stage and screen actress says she loved Princess Leia, but overall, Varma did not “feel served” by the predominantly white male cast — which is why she could not be more proud to have joined the galaxy far, far away.
The actress made her debut on the Disney+ Series Obi-Wan Kenobi on Wednesday as Tala, an Imperial officer who is something of a double agent, helping out the Rebel Alliance.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Varma, who also played fan-favorite Ellaria Sand during her time on Game of Thrones, pulls the curtain back on her Star Wars character.
In the same THR chat, Varma also (slightly) teased her work in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, the upcoming, star-studded Apple TV+ series Extrapolations and talked her return to the stage with Thrones alum Emilia Clarke in The Seagull.
What more can you tell us about Capt. Tala in Obi-Wan Kenobi?
As we can see, she is an Imperial officer and that’s true, but she’s not just that. She joined the Empire and became disillusioned witnessing some of the stuff that they get up to, and she sort of works for the Resistance. She’s a code switcher. But, she maintains her Imperial status because it means that she can go from different worlds and be more useful to our friends. She’s a really great woman, and she has, in her view, nothing to lose because she feels she’s atoning for the bad things that have been done in the past.
You were already a part of the massive Game of Thrones world, and now you’ve joined Star Wars. Do these enormous worlds compare at all?
What’s different about Star Wars, obviously, is the fact that it’s been around for 45 years. That’s my life! (Laughs.) It’s a lot of people’s lifetimes, whereas Game of Thrones is different. It’s shorter. So entering into Star Wars, as it’s known globally, is very exciting and quite daunting. I’ve talked a little bit about this before: As a young girl growing up in England, I didn’t particularly feel served by Star Wars because it was predominantly male. Princess Leia, that was my hero because I had long hair I could do in those lovely wraps, but it didn’t feel like it was for me. And just watching over the decades how it’s evolved and become more modern and reflects the society — it’s become very exciting to be part of it and not just in terms of gender but also in terms of ethnicity and diversity. I feel so privileged because of the way they tell stories.
You worked closely with Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal on Thrones, and now you’re getting to work with Ewan McGregor. Can you shed some light on what that is like, what they are like?
You just continue to adore them. And why do we adore them? Because they’re bloody good, and they’re also really lovely human beings! Ewan, I don’t know how he’s managed to stay with his feet so firmly planted on the ground. He’s incredibly professional, there’s no kind of diva quality. If he wasn’t quite so good looking, you’d think he was just a normal bloke. He’s so invested and he’s playful. I mean, they’re both playful. That’s one of the joys, you get on set, and you know you’re going to have a laugh — sometimes too much of a laugh. (Laughs.)
Changing gears here, is there anything you can share about your work on MI:7 after that amazing trailer, or at least share your thoughts on that trailer?
I just think it’s incredible. How does Tom [Cruise] do that? Where does he get that energy, and how is he still alive? (Laughs.) I mean, he’s amazing.
I can see you’re not going to let anything slip, so I’ll switch over to Thrones. You appear in my favorite and most-hated episode, “The Mountain and the Viper.” Can you tell me about the infamous fight scene between Oberyn and The Mountain that broke my heart, as I foolishly thought it was going to turn out well?
It was demanding for Pedro because he’d had to train for so long to be up to speed with that incredible fight. And then we were filming in Croatia just outside Dubrovnik in the summer on the side of a mountain by the ocean. It was really hot and the Mountain [Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson] who is a strongman, he was losing weight literally by the hour because he was sweating so much inside his gear. So yeah, it was intense. But the downtime, when we were waiting for the changes, was so fun because we were all there playing Scrabble and just chatting.
Your final scene was particularly memorable and reminded us all how maniacal Cersei (Lena Headey) could be. Can you tell me about that moment?
It was funny because [showrunners] Dan [Brett Weiss] and Dave [Benioff] gave me the call to say you’re going to die — and it’s expected. Who doesn’t die on Thrones? But I was like, “Well, I better bloody die on camera and it better be good!” And then I read it, and I was really disappointed because she doesn’t actually die on camera. But I thought about it and reread that scene, and I thought, “That is just perfect.” It’s a perfect ending to be killed the way we killed her.
Is there anything you can share about your upcoming Apple TV+ series, Extrapolations? That is quite the star-studded cast!
I can say they’re standalone series episodes. The cast is phenomenal. I couldn’t believe it when I got an offer because I was like, “What? You’ve got them in it?” So, I thought they were offering me like 24th scientist in the back. (Laughs.) And then I read the episode, and I was like, “Wow! It’s a really good part!” The whole thing is about climate change and the imperative nature of the climate emergency, and what the hell are we going to do about it. That sounds quite dry, but it’s really exciting, and every episode has a very different tone. My particular episode, I’m working with Edward Norton. We play husband and wife.
Also, I’m going to start rehearsals for The Seagull next week with Emilia Clarke. I was really sad because we’d rehearsed it and started performing The Seagull. And just before lockdown happened, we did four previews, and then we got pulled. And I did have COVID straight away. So we’ve been in this limbo-land of is this going to happen or is it not. And I’m so excited to say that we are going to be at the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in the U.K., finally doing The Seagull.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Obi-Wan Kenobi streams new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.
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