Star Wars boss Kathleen Kennedy: Women-led projects bring balance to the Force

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: (L-R) Daisy Ridley, Kathleen Kennedy and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy attend the studio panel at Star Wars Celebration 2023 in London at ExCel on April 07, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)
Daisy Ridley, Kathleen Kennedy and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy at Star Wars Celebration 2023. (Jeff Spicer/Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)

Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy says that Ahsoka, Acolyte, and Daisy Ridley's new Star Wars movie signal more women-led projects, set in that galaxy far, far way, are on the horizon.

“I would say, definitely,” the studio president told Yahoo UK at Star Wars Celebration 2023.

“We don’t set out to say, 'okay, this is going to be a project led by women, and this is…', it evolves that way. And I’m pleasantly surprised to see there’s a balance in the Force, let’s put it that way.

"Because in everything that we've been doing, I think we have attracted some really strong women both in front of the camera and behind the camera and that’s been thrilling.”

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The Ahsoka series, set to premiere on Disney+ in August this year, stars Rosario Dawson as the titular Force-sensitive ex-Jedi Padawan and brings her together with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Hera Syndulla and Natasha Liu Bordizzo’s Sabine Wren.

They’re characters who all first appeared on screen in the animated series. Here, they’re teaming up to thwart Thrawn’s return.

Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Lucasfilm's AHSOKA, exclusively on Disney+. (Lucasfilm)
Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Ahsoka. (Lucasfilm)

Another prominent woman character that will jump across from one Star Wars series to another is Andor’s Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) who we glimpsed in the newly released teaser trailer. But which women in Star Wars lore would Kathleen Kennedy most want to see join or make a return to live action as Ahsoka spearheads the move towards more women-centric projects?

“Oh, I think there’s a lot of interesting characters that can evolve,” said Kennedy. “We’re starting obviously with Rey but trust me Sharmeen [Obaid-Chinoy who will direct the film set 15 years after the end of The Rise of Skywalker] will have some great ideas as to what we put forward. I don’t want to step on her toes, but she is working on some really interesting new characters.”

Read more: Acolyte cast share details of new Star Wars show

One of the Star Wars universe’s most creative forces, Dave Filoni, has also been responsible for creating some interesting characters, including Ahsoka Tano. But the Star Wars superfan says that creating women characters isn’t a conscious thing for him.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: (L-R) Jon Favreau, Diana Lee Inosanto, Ivanna Sakhno, Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Dave Filoni attend the Ahsoka panel at Start Wars Celebration 2023 in London at ExCel on April 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)
(L-R) Jon Favreau, Diana Lee Inosanto, Ivanna Sakhno, Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Dave Filoni. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)

“It’s honestly not something that I plan,” said Filoni. “I just needed a samurai, and I have Ahsoka, and I’ve been telling her story. And then I knew in my story I needed a general and I have Hera. I needed a warrior, and I have Sabine. These are just characters that we’ve accumulated over the years.

"I grew up and I had Luke and Han, Lando. These are great heroes. There’s no end to the type of heroes, you just need to have interesting people playing them and interesting challenges for them.

“The important thing is that they’re relatable to everyone. I think that I expect every kind of kid to relate to Sabine and what she’s going through, what she’s struggling with, and what she needs to overcome – the same that I watched kids being inspired by Luke. That’s the strength of it and the limit here is people’s imagination.”

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Filoni added, “I know for a lot of people it’s so significant that there are so many women in these films, and I think that’s wonderful. I think that’s great, and if that inspires people that maybe would have said ‘It’s not for me’ or ‘I can’t do that’ and they say ‘I can be that’ and ‘I can do that’, that’s even better. You want it to be not a time of change but a time of inclusion.”

Watch the teaser for Ahsoka

Nevertheless, we asked the cast which Star Wars women they want (back) in the live-action fold, whether in an existing series or new project.

Ahsoka Tano actor Rosario Dawson picked the Martez sisters from The Clone Wars. “They were the first real folks that Ahsoka met when she left the Jedi Order, and interacting with them had a really profound effect on her and [gave her] a better understanding of what was really happening outside of these pearly gates of the Jedi Order and Coruscant. I just think about them a lot.

"Those for me are the original Latinas that I got to see in there and be like, ‘Okay we’re here, we’re taking up space’. I would just like to know more about what their journey has been.”

Rosario Dawson is Ahsoka Tano in Lucasfilm's AHSOKA, exclusively on Disney+. (Lucasfilm)
Rosario Dawson is Ahsoka Tano. (Lucasfilm)

For Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays Hera Syndulla, it’s back to the original trilogy and Princess Leia. “I’m completely besotted with Carrie Fisher and everything that she was able to do. Obviously, we saw Princess Leia as a child in the most recent Obi-Wan series, and it was amazing to get to see that energy brought back.”

Ivanna Sakhno, who plays newly revealed antagonist Shin Hati in the series, agrees on Princess Leia (“I do think that there’s still quite a bit to explore within her journey and where that can go.”), as does Diana Lee Inosanto, the magistrate from The Mandalorian, Morgan Elsbeth, another antagonist.

Read more: Thrawn is 'brutal and manipulative'

I’d like to see her swing that lightsaber more,” said Inosanto. “I know that she’s had some training so I would like to see that executed more.”

But Inosanto reserved praise for Rey and one other woman character from Star Wars past.

“I do love Rey’s character. There’s such a sensitivity,” she said. “And then there’s [Jyn Erso]. I love the character from Rogue One. She’s a powerful woman.”

Diana Lee Inosanto is The Magistrate in Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
Diana Lee Inosanto is The Magistrate in The Mandalorian. (Disney+)

Ray Stevenson, who plays another antagonist Baylen, would like to see a new type of woman character emerge – one with Divine Feminine energy.

I think [about] women warriors, women this, but what is it motivated [by]? There is a divinity that women have had to take up a mantle because of certain mens’ weaknesses, especially leaning towards extreme violence and stuff like this, in order to protect themselves or their family, creed, or their race, or whatever – they’ve had to adopt that mantle.

“It doesn’t necessarily [have to] be that malevolent side of men. Getting in touch with the Divine Feminine [is the way] … I think there’s not one character, but I think that sense of Divine Feminine needs to come through.”

A very interesting proposition.

Ahsoka premieres on Disney+ in August 2023.