At the recent Star Wars Celebration, there were many moments that elicited loud cheers from the crowd. From the appearance of Daisy Ridley to announce a new Rey film, to an advance screening of a Mandalorian episode, the energy was palpable1. But perhaps the most overwhelming response was reserved for a special reveal during the panel for the upcoming Ahsoka series on Disney+.
As a special in-person trailer unveiled the face of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the audience erupted in cheers. But the excitement didn’t stop there. The face of Thrawn, none other than actor Lars Mikkelsen, appeared on stage, announcing that he would be reprising his role from Star Wars Rebels, this time in live action1.
Mikkelsen, known for his voice work as the brilliant and cunning Imperial officer in the animated Star Wars Rebels series, was visibly moved by the audience’s reaction. “It was a very emotional moment that I didn’t expect to have,” Mikkelsen shared on EW’s Dagobah Dispatch podcast. “I think there’s a lot of love to be taken care of from the audience. And I felt enormous gratitude. It was amazing. Never tried anything like that”1.
The actor admitted that he had struggled to hold back tears on stage, surprised by the emotional impact of the moment. Despite his character often appearing emotionless, Mikkelsen revealed, “I had a hard time actually keeping my tears back. I was really tearing up. I didn’t expect that”1.
The return of Mikkelsen as Thrawn was not something the actor had initially anticipated, but when the series’ creator Dave Filoni approached him about reprising the role in Ahsoka, Mikkelsen eagerly agreed. The transition from the animated series to a live-action portrayal was something he hoped would work well1.
Fans of the Star Wars expanded universe have been following Grand Admiral Thrawn since his introduction in Timothy Zahn’s 1995 novel, Heir to the Empire. When asked if the version of Thrawn in Ahsoka would differ from the character seen in Rebels, Mikkelsen explained that while the essence of the character remains, there was an emphasis on creating something new and doing justice to the beloved character. “In many ways, it’s the same character. He’s based on the same material. But we needed to think: Do this right”1.
In preparing for the live-action version of Thrawn, Mikkelsen did not rewatch old Rebels episodes, preferring instead to build on the foundation of his previous performance while adding new elements to the live-action portrayal. The actor sees Thrawn as a top strategist, always several steps ahead, and ruthless when necessary. Yet, he believes that Thrawn’s true strength lies in his ability to use the creativity of those around him to achieve his goals1.
The anticipation for Mikkelsen’s return as Grand Admiral Thrawn is high, with fans eager to see how this complex character will be brought to life in the upcoming Ahsoka series. We’ll have to wait until the series’ debut in August to see whether Thrawn’s strategic plans will come to fruition1.