What's It Like Playing a Non-White Star Wars Villain?

Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon in 'The Mandalorian'
One of the coolest parts of The Mandalorian is that it expanded the Star Wars universe to include Giancarlo Esposito. 

In the original galaxy far, far away, there was room for all races, creeds, and species in front of the camera. But when Disney rebooted the films, they wanted to focus on making sure actors who were previously underserved got their spot as heroes. 

When The Mandalorian came up, they wanted to do the same...but with villains. 

Enter Giancarlo Esposito. 

He was best known for his roles in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and carried his villainous tradition over into Star Wars. He's also aware that being a person of color, this is a huge opportunity to be a trailblazer in this universe. 

“Well, it means a lot to me because I’ve strived in my career to be colorless,” the actor told IndieWire in a phone interview. “I am of mixed race, half Italian, half African American, and I grew through the period of time where I was relegated to playing thieves and thugs. I learned how to do a Spanish accent, to play Spanish street characters, who were murderers, killers, robbers, the like. So for me, it’s a crowning moment when I could get a phone call from Jon Favreau, to say, ‘I wrote a role for you.'”

What an amazing honor to have such a huge director focus in on you for a role. 

And getting to use a darksaber is pretty cool as well. 

So what's it like being on the dark side? 

“Fascism, communism, for me, can be colorless, because it really boils down to power and money,” said the actor,

Esposito named Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Tarkin in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977), as one of his favorite actors, because of his “very direct delivery, cold essence, and always wanting to get what he wants,” in that film.

You can see him channeling that demeanor in this role. 

While he didn't have much to do in Season 1 until the end, you can hope that Season 2 brings the focus to his character and explains his skill. We know his desire for the child might be driven by his connections to The Sith...

But only time will tell. 

“Certainly I’m captivated and in wonder and enthusiasm that this character could be, and is, me; someone who has an understanding of what race and status mean here in America and has suffered of that as well. But my Hollywood family has grown throughout the years to become more and more understanding that we are special, because actors are actors, and you don’t have to be a color to play a role,” Esposito said.

Moff Gideon is definitely indicative of that long line of authoritarian Star Wars villains. but we have to wait until later this year to see where the character goes. 

Season 2 of the series is scheduled to premiere in October 2020.     

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Your Comment


What a stupid racist question. dummies.

August 22, 2020 at 2:28AM


Was about to write the same thing before I saw your comment.

August 23, 2020 at 8:29AM, Edited August 23, 8:29AM

You voted '+1'.

I'm glad to see an actor of Giancarlo Esposito's caliber getting prominent work, but he deserves accolades for a commitment to his craft and innate talent rather than for being Exhibit A in affirmative action hiring.

August 23, 2020 at 12:43PM

Marc B
Shooter & Editor

This is dumb.

August 25, 2020 at 2:04AM, Edited August 25, 2:05AM