This November 30, we get to return to the magical world of Willow in the new Disney+ original series.
A sequel to the 1988 film of the same name that was executive produced by Star Wars creator George Lucas, Willow takes place many years after the events of the movie. It will follow Willow Ufgood as he leads a group of misfits on a dangerous quest to save the world.
Warwick Davis reprises his role as Willow Ufgood, and he is joined by Erin Kellyman (“Jade”), Amar Chadha-Patel (“Boorman”), Ellie Bamber (“Dove”), Tony Revolori (“Graydon”), Dempsey Bryk (“Arik”), and Ruby Cruz (“Kit”).
In a recent press conference for the series, Willow executive producer and writer Jon Kasdan joined the cast in answering questions about the new Disney+ series from the press. Check out the highlights of the press conference below:
Did you ever imagine, thirty- five years ago, that you’d be sitting where you are today, talking about this new ‘Willow’?
Warwick Davis: Certainly not, no, absolutely not. For years it’s been talked about, not by anyone official but by the fans. They’ve constantly pestered me, saying “When are we going to see a sequel to that movie?” And it’s a question that I could never answer. Until I met Jon Kasdan, who I understood was also a fan. And I wondered on the set of Solo who had let him onto set. You know, no fans allowed here, because he was obsessed, talking about Willow. And surely we should be concentrating on making this Star Wars story here, shouldn’t we?
[So we got to] talk about ‘Willow,’ and it was decided that there should indeed be more ‘Willow,’ and so that was the catalyst for this project to happen, really, and it happened very quickly in Hollywood terms. You know, it wasn’t years and years of development. Before I knew it I was sat on set in Wales for the very first day of filming. Once again looking just like Willow, but a slightly older, more mature, better-looking version.
Was it as simple as Warwick makes out?
Jon Kasdan: It was… it was in a lot of ways. I mean, there was the impulse certainly between Ron and Warwick and myself to continue this story, and return to this world. And I came at it as a fan, and they came at it both as the creators, and they found a champion in me, and I kept fighting and sort of hoping that we’d get a chance to go back here, and my ace was always that Warwick would be back and that he would look so attractive and America would – and the world – would really fall on their knees. I think everyone got that, and everyone appreciated that, that there was something really special in the opportunity to bring this character back to the screen.
To the younger cast, how familiar were you with the film before you got cast in this project?
Amar Chadha-Patel: I’m not as young as some of our younger cast, so I have to hold my hand up and say I was alive when it came out. So I first watched it about seven or eight years old, and it sort of fit neatly into my upbringing, in the sense that I grew up on escapism and fantasy, and ‘NeverEnding Story’ and ‘The Princess Bride,’ that’s my childhood. So by osmosis, I’d sort of imbibed the quality of that kind of film. So it was always a part of me, I think. And then I rewatched it again when I got cast, because I figured, you know, research is probably useful.
Tony Revolori: I actually watched it with my parents, and my brother, and yeah, I love the film, I fell in love with the magic of the world and you know when this opportunity came around, I was excited and honored.
The show has this epic fantasy side, but it’s also quite contemporary at the same time. How difficult was it to get that balance right?
Jon Kasdan: You know, that… it’s the challenge. With every episode, you’re sort of walking the line between making it familiar and satisfying, what fans expect from the brand ‘Willow,’ and then trying to push it forward and tell a story that’s surprising and unexpected. And you know, the great weapon we had with us was Warwick, who just lent the whole universe of ‘Willow’ credibility, and the moment you see him on screen, you suddenly believe these six other foolish kids could somehow fit into that world, and really inhabit it. And they did so so beautifully and with such gusto and enthusiasm and authenticity, that it was sort of an amazing thing to watch all these things come together, and become something that feels like a progression from the movie as much as a love letter to it.
How was it going back thirty-five years later, and seeing these locations again from the movie?
Warwick Davis: Yeah, certainly for me, one of the most enjoyable things about the series was really those callbacks to events that had happened in the film. You know, times that when I as a character talk about those events, and that was a really fun way of looking back at those things, and certainly I think fans will get a kick out of it. But also, as you say, we went back to locations, and environments that we’d already been to in the film. In particular, Nockmaar was one of those particular places, that for me really kind of gave me the shivers. You know, there I am kind of standing or sitting somewhere that Bavmorda would have sat, and you know, still kind of felt her presence in that area. That just shows you how powerful the film was, and those settings, and also Jean Marsh’s performance.
Jon Kasdan: There was an incredible thing that happened where we got our friend Kevin Pollak out to reprise his role as Rool. And he told me when he arrived that he and Warwick had never actually done any scenes together because all of the brownie bits in the movie had been filmed at Skywalker in Northern California. And Warwick and he got to actually riff off each other, and Tony got to be a part of that, and it was quite an amazing thing to kind of watch them actually interact, these old friends who didn’t know each other.
Did Warwick give you any wisdom or advice when you guys started out on this journey?
Ruby Cruz: Wisdom and advice from Warwick Davis? I think honestly, just being in his presence was like… I was going to say a lesson in its own right, but not in that way. But I think getting to just be around someone who’s so good at what he does, and someone who’s such a professional in what they do… Watching you be able to just switch it on and off, which is something I really struggle with, was a huge– honestly, I really admire you for that. Coming in, you’d just waltz on set, and then suddenly you’d be like in the most emotional state. Or you’d be like cracking one-liners the entire time, while everything is [a] disaster. So I think it was just being around you, and getting to witness you in your element, that was really cool.
This is your second project with Lucasfilm, and your second series on Disney Plus. What has kept you coming back to this company, and what appeals to you about these roles, such as Karli and Jade?
Erin Kellyman: I feel like I don’t ever want to stop playing these badass women. I think they’re all so multi-layered, and I love trying to pick them apart and understand them. I think Karli was super hard to understand because she does a lot of messed up stuff. But Jade, I think has been the person that I’ve put the most work into. I think me and Jon had the time to like really go back into her past and created that space where we could make time and I could understand her a bit more. Yeah, I really can’t wait for people to see her.
Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan is not in this new ‘Willow.’ How did you address his absence?
Jon Kasdan: Not tricky at all. It was always sort of going to be, right at the core of the story we were telling. And it really had to be… but because we were telling a story that had so many young characters, and they were all sort of searching for their identity, the search for Madmartigan, and the question of what had happened to him was right at the heart of the story we were telling. And we knew that it would be woven into this quest in a fundamental way, really, to see where he was and what had become of him, and what he’d given up. Particularly for Ruby’s character, Kit, and for Dempsey’s character, Airk, in order to do good.
And that question sort of follows the whole season. And we always knew that we sort of wanted to pay it off in one way or another, and we had a lot of ideas about ways to pay it off and ways to leave it open. And one thing that happened, because Val himself wasn’t able to come out to Wales and work with us, was that we added this texture of a friend of Madmartigan’s, who could give us some clues about his whereabouts.
How much input did George Lucas have, and did he have any advice at least for the project?
Jon Kasdan: You know, it’s funny actually, I’ve been getting this question a lot today, and Warwick was actually there, present on the day that I had my one and only conversation with George about this project. He came and visited the set of Solo because he is devoted to Ron, and they are dear, dear friends in real life. And they told us that he was going to come for just a moment, and we shouldn’t make direct eye contact or ask him any direct questions, and instead, he ended up staying for six hours and answering all our questions and being nothing but lovely.
And I sort of said to him in this moment when I found myself sitting next to this god of my childhood, “You know, the one thing I thought that Lucasfilm really had an opportunity to do was to tell more Willow stories.” And he kind of smiled wryly and said he couldn’t agree more, and had been trying to make that happen for quite a while, and was a supporter and an advocate for any of that that we could get off the ground. And that sort of faith and excitement and genuine boyish enthusiasm was really critical to feeling like, this was something we could go off and do.
What is it that fans love so much about this world, these characters, and this story?
Jon Kasdan: Oh I mean, you know, George entering the universe of fantasy, working in that genre is such an exciting thing. And I remember the feeling of being eight years old and hearing that George Lucas was giving us a new franchise. And this one would have magic and wizards and sword fights, and it wasn’t called Star Wars. That was a pretty unbelievable concept to an eight-year-old kid. And for me, it’s sort of a miraculous thing that it hasn’t been developed more and that it sort of remains as this artifact from a certain time in my life, with all this potential for more stories and more adventures.
What do you think is the one thing that you hope fans will take away from this series as a whole?
Tony Revolori: I think it’s the relatability of the characters, you know? Credit to Jon Kasdan, our writer, of Dawson’s Creek fame and Californication. He wrote every single character to have multiple layers, and we all got to play and have fun with them, and they’re very unique, and I think beyond it just being a family-friendly thing, that you can sit around with your family and watch, and point and go, ‘you’re like him, you’re like him, or her,’ or whatever it may be. I think that relatability, and the idea that these are flawed characters, and we grow through it, and maybe they can empathize through it a little bit. At least, that’s what I hope they take…
Amar Chadha-Patel: One of my favourite things about the show is that no character has it figured out at all. And that is so true to life. The entire quest is not just a physical one, to rescue someone. It’s also about us figuring out what the hell we’re doing. And some of us thinking that we know, and not knowing, and that couldn’t be more true to my own feelings. And I think seeing that reflected back in a big magical world is going to be real charming.
Dempsey Bryk: I feel like, another thing Jon Kasdan does so well is, he really presents different philosophies and ideas, and Jon, you can just Venmo me or whatever after this [laughs]… But so it’s really presenting different philosophies and ideologies that are all sort of equally valid, and sometimes there’s just no right answer. And I feel like today for like, you know, a younger generation, that’s a really confusing thing. To be like, ‘well I feel this,’ and then, ‘but you feel that,’ and maybe nobody’s right. Maybe it’s just okay to have different opinions.
Willow starts streaming on Disney+ this November 30.