Exclusive: Jon Favreau Talks The Mandalorian Season 3, Mando Culture, and the Expanded Universe
We sit down with visionary filmmaker Jon Favreau to discuss his inspiration for the upcoming third season of The Mandalorian
With all-new episodes of The Mandalorian just days away, the hype train has officially left the space station. After the events of The Book of Boba Fett, Grogu and Din Djarin are together again and making the pilgrimage to Mandalore. But what can we expect from this thrilling new season? Last week, visionary filmmaker Jon Favreau and star Pedro Pascal touched down in London on the latest leg of their press tour – and team Future of the Force, along with our friends at Jedi News and Fantha Tracks had the opportunity to sit down with Jon Favreau to discuss all things Mando. Nothing was off the table. And in this exclusive interview, we delve into the Expanded Universe and its impact on the events of season three, Mandalorian culture, and the ever-expanding growth of the Star Wars sandbox.
And if that isn’t enough, Favreau opens up about working with Dave Filoni, the consistency of the writing in season three, and even touches on working with the Star Wars legacy characters like Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker. So strap yourself in, jump to lightspeed, and check out the full interview below. (Edited for length and clarity.)
Phil (FOTF): Jon, thank you for talking to us, and congratulations on the Hollywood walk of fame.
Jon Favreau: Thank you.
Phil: Given that you’re a student of the expanded universe, and you’ve used so many of its aspects for The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, there are parallels in Mando’s journey and Boba’s journey in the original expanded universe. Have you taken any Expanded Universe inspiration for Mando’s journey in the new season?
Jon Favreau: Yes. There’s an image, or there was a comic book page of Jango, I think it was Jango Fett being rescued. That was definitely an inspiration for our flashbacks from The Mandalorian of him being rescued and picked up…as if to say you’re now gonna be a Mandalorian. I thought that was a very powerful image. But your question is, how?
Phil: Is Boba Fett’s Expanded Universe journey paralleling with Mando’s?
Jon Favreau: Boba’s? We’re in new territory now, because we’re dealing with lore that we’ve sort of inherited from choices that we’ve made. You know, Mandalorians don’t take off their helmets. In The Clone Wars, helmets are off all the time. Are we retconning? Are we changing it? Or yet again, are we doing something that’s going to make it be either or? And we really wanna try to bring all Star Wars fans together and have something for everybody. Everybody’s welcome. And whether you’re a kid who’s never seen Star Wars before, or you’re somebody who saw it when it came out, when you’re ten, like me, and people like you who have been sort of following a lot of it all the way through, we wanna make sure that it everybody feels equally at home there. And so a lot of what might seem like inconsistencies, we embrace those, and we say let’s really delve deep into it and see what stories we can we could tell.
And so by having the one that doesn’t take his helmet off (Din Djarin), meet Bo-Katan, it draws it right into center stage. And a lot of what you’re seeing in Season three is a direct result of the tensions that are created between the different factions. And we know from the Clone Wars what Mandalore looks like and there has been in fighting for centuries. So that’s part of the Mandalorian culture. And that’s what led us into the story lines that you’re about to see unfold.
Mark Newbold: When Mando started, it felt very contained and focused around these two central characters, and as the season’s gone on and our approaching the third, it feels like it’s stepped out, and given you a wider lens on not just their story, but the wider galaxy. Was that always the plan?
Jon Favreau: I think we knew that there’s an inevitability to complexity developing over time as you introduce new characters, and as we started to pull other characters in, and we started pulling toys out of the box, it’s gonna get bigger and bigger. But there’s also a pruning back that I think is important, not just with this, it’s with Marvel, it’s with any franchise, it’s gonna grow and develop. And then assumptions are made that everybody has the same working knowledge about everything. And then you start to bifurcate your audience, and that becomes hard, and the types of stories you tell start to become bigger and bigger in scope. And sometimes it’s the scale of the scope that is part of the tone of the piece. And I know that, like A New Hope…there were space battles, but there were relatively few ships. That’s all they had the budget for and the technical means to do. And then you’d also have two droids walking in the desert and it felt very much like an old Western in that way. And so we really tried to start, as they’re doing in the movies we are getting bigger and bigger and it allowed us, on Disney, Plus this new medium, to do something really small. But inevitably, it’s going to grow and culminate, and then you’ll see we’re very aware of what you’re talking about. We make conscious decisions about even if we could do anything, should we? We should make sure that we keep parameters.
James Burns: The show seems very much a collaborative project. You’ve always had different directors working on different chapters. So how do you ensure that there’s consistency across the whole show?
Jon Favreau: By writing. Filoni is also a great mentor to me in that way, because he studied at the feet of George for so long. And in animation, it’s so labor intensive, and there’s so many artists involved that you have to create consistency. I honestly learned a lot from studying with chefs for that movie, because chefs can’t cook every meal, but they could develop the menu, and then they could also be there at the pass, as they say, as nothing gets served that doesn’t pass in front of them. And they may clean the plate, garnish it, send it back. So there’s a certain sense of quality control and a sense of consistency that you get from that. But I think by having the stories not be one big, serialized story, allows us to have diverging tones in each one that reflects the artistic inspiration of the directors. So I think the combination of scripts that I write the lion’s share of, and directors, some of which have never even directed before – the television environment allows for a collaboration that you won’t see as readily in film.
FUTURE OF THE FORCE
Phil: What does it mean to you to refresh so many legacy characters and expand on their legacies? Characters like Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker.
Jon Favreau: The legacy characters you have to be very careful with, because they mean so much to so many people. And when they get one taste, or one small taste of it, it’s easier, because you show them snapshot of it, and then they get to go back in the toy box, you know. And I think everybody loved Darth Vader in Rogue One. Right? It’s like, nobody had any problem with seeing Darth Vader in Rogue One…(James shakes his head) No? maybe some? This is so Star Wars, okay! (laughs).
James: What happens between the end of Rogue and the beginning of A New Hope? Has he just taken a Prozac or something because he’s so mellow at the beginning of A New Hope, and he’s so angry at the end of Rogue One?
Jon Favreau: Yeah, you can’t cut them together in that way. But I think for dramatic purposes, for what people want to see and what they know of that character, It was nice. And also, he had a lot of moves that he wasn’t using against Obi-Wan. But that aside, just as far as the depiction of the character, I think people are invested in their expectations around characters and Dave has always been very cognizant to that, because he’s dealt with these characters too, and he’s woven in between those characters for, like, Clone Wars, even sewing the flip side of what was happening in the prequels. So, you know, you have to always be respectful and know that when you have a character you create on your own, you have much more freedom than when you’re dealing with a character like Darth Vader or any other legacy characters like Luke.
Mark Newbold: So you write season one, it comes out, and it goes over Gangbusters, and presumably you probably will decide on season two before season one even come out. So you don’t know for sure that these characters are gonna connect with people like us in the wider world. So in that sense, how reactive are you to the success of the characters you’ve written in continuing the story? Of course, they’re central to it. But Baby Yoda, as he was Grogu as he is, might not have cottoned on the way he did. So are you sort of always keeping that in mind?
Jon Favreau: Yeah, we definitely have. You know, we sit in a room like this, and we have a board up on the wall, and Filoni has better penmanship than I do, and he’ll draw all the time, so it’s good to have him with the pen in his hand. And we’ll start to make notes about where things are going, and what happened. And often I’ll just start to spit out ideas and usually write scenes, send them off to Dave, and Dave will be like, this is interesting, but, ah, it wouldn’t be that kind of ship. You should look into this! And he has a really good working knowledge of everything, but we also have the resources of other people, so it’ll be like there was a ship from a game that never was in the show, but there’s a lot of fan art around that the fans like, I think this would be a good one to pull in. Let me call my brother because he used to play that game, you know! So it’s that kind of thing. It’s very informal. Or we’ll talk to Pablo (Hidalgo), or we’ll talk to Doug Chiang or John Knoll, Hal Hickel. Like, everybody’s here because we love Star Wars, so everybody’s sort of an expert in a different era. I don’t know the prequels as well as Dave and then people who have worked on the sequels and people who worked on The Clone Wars. And I’ll pull some stuff like the Amban Rifle from the Holiday Special, or the Camtono! Just things that I think are where we round out the details for the fans. But then also making it accessible for people who might not know it so they don’t lose out because they don’t know it, but it just adds a little bit more dimension to it.
But by the time we finished season one, or by the time season one aired, we already knew that it (the Jedi) had to be Luke (Skywalker). And so we reached out to Mark (Hamill). Because he did a cameo as a droid voice, right? So we brought him in and said here’s what we’re doing. And we showed him the reveal of Grogu and he was into it, he was interested and curious. And we said we’re gonna end this season with him – the next season is gonna be the quest to find a Jedi. And even Dave was like, it kind of doesn’t make sense for it to be anybody but Luke. If you look at where Luke was at that moment, it’s like, okay, so what do we do? How do you do this? And is it possible? But first and foremost, we knew it had to start with Mark (Hamill). And when Mark was on board, then we started to talk to our friends at ILM and looked at the state of the art of de-aging. Talked to Peyton Reed, who had done it for Ant-Man. There are a lot of different techniques, and deep fake was starting to come up and machine learning. So you know, certainly the state of the art that we could do at that moment. And then you see already how much it progressed in The Book Of Boba Fett.
Now, if you look at the trailers for Indiana Jones (and the Dial of Destiny), you could see (the progression)…and now there are people doing it on their own online, where it’s just hitting. Which is also something we felt strongly about, that like, let’s do it and show people how we did it. Because people should know that you could swap faces and voices pretty convincingly. And people should be aware of that as they look at things. They should have a healthy skepticism about what they’re seeing with their eyes and hearing with their ears.
James Burns: How has your relationship with Dave changed over the last five years? Because obviously you were sort of thrown together…
Jon Favreau: Kind of…like Kathy (Kennedy) was really smart. You know, she’s a studio head, but she’s a producer at heart. That’s her superpower. She sees the big picture and understands how to put elements together, and knows who would synergize. And she says, Dave’s working on this thing with Mandalore. It was much different than this (The Mandalorian). It was more about lore. But, it was unclear what medium it would be in, but there was some discussion going on, and she said, do you know Dave? And I said, of course, I know Dave. I met Dave at the ranch when we were mixing the sound for Iron Man, he was starting Clone Wars and showed me and my kid (some Clone Wars footage), and so I did the voice of Pre Vizsla. So we all already had a good thing going, and I just loved going in there. And the Dark Saber was something that wasn’t originally in the script, that was something George put in because I think there was a vibro-blade that was being used to parry a lightsaber. And George was like, no, you can’t do that. And Dave had to redo everything. I had to come in again. And my wife was like, he’s right…that is cool.
George knew! He’s got a good instinct. It seemed like it was arbitrary. And now the Dark Saber had become such an interesting, iconic thing. This was the foundation of this all, and what’s happening in this whole series. And Dave had never done live-action direction before, so there’s sort of been like a two-way teaching process going on, where I’m learning about this long-form storytelling, and what he learned from George about laying stuff out cinematically and using a lot of animation pre-production techniques. But then him doing live-action. And that’s why George goes by the set because when Dave was directing. George was there just yelling at him like a sports fan, saying, “you’re not going fast enough. How many setups did you get today?” (laughs).
But he really cares deeply about Dave. And now it’s evolved because of Ahsoka, so now there’s all of these characters he’s developed, bringing them to live action. And you know, he’s the one who’s really qualified to flip cards over about what’s happening in the big picture. But all of our films, even Skeleton Crew, which is a much more intimate story than Ahsoka, they all have to work because they’re in the same time period, so there’s a lot of communication that goes on, and there’s a lot of dividing and conquering as far as creatively now that we have so many different shows going!
In the new season, Din Djarin, once a lone bounty hunter, has been reunited with Grogu, a child of Yoda’s species whom he rescued and subsequently turned over to Luke Skywalker at the end of Season 2. As the New Republic struggles to lead the galaxy away from its dark history, the Mandalorian crosses paths with old allies and makes new enemies as he and Grogu continue their journey together.
The Mandalorian Season 3 premieres on Disney Plus on Wednesday 1st March. You can also catch our audio interview with the man himself on our YouTube channel now. In the meantime, the Future of the Force team would like to extend our thanks to Jon Favreau for taking the time to talk with us.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!