Warning: The following content includes spoilers for the season 1 finale of Ahsoka.
Ahsoka brought forth a plethora of new Star Wars characters, with Ray Stevenson’s Baylan Skoll standing out as one of the most noteworthy. Unfortunately, the 58-year-old Stevenson passed away unexpectedly in May, mere weeks before his Ahsoka debut portraying a former Jedi turned formidable mercenary. Despite the Star Wars franchise being filled with memorable villains, Baylan swiftly garnered a fan following. He is portrayed as a ruthless yet contemplative character with his own moral compass, and Stevenson’s insightful performance adds depth to the role.
According to Ahsoka creator Dave Filoni, when he embarked on writing Baylan’s character, Ray Stevenson was the sole actor he envisioned for the role. The connection between the two was established during Stevenson’s voice recording sessions for the animated TV series Clone Wars and Rebels. Filoni notes that Stevenson brought an ideal mix of threat and empathy to his portrayal of the Ahsoka villain.
“The reason I was so interested in working with Ray is that he’s obviously talented and an incredibly good actor, but as a human being, he was so kind and so big on life,” Filoni says. “When he walked in the room, he lit everybody up. When I was conceiving of this character that I wanted to do for a long time, I knew Ray was the person for this. He’s the person who can play both sides and understand that Baylan’s a man with incredible ambition — perhaps dangerous ambition — but he never sees it that way. He thinks he’s tracking what the truth is, and everybody else has it wrong.”
Filoni emphasizes that Stevenson played a significant role in shaping every aspect of Baylan’s character, influencing everything from his morally ambiguous perspective to specific details about his costume. During the shoot, Stevenson would return home for the weekend, and upon arriving on set every Monday morning, he would bring a comprehensive list of ideas to discuss with Filoni.
“As we were shooting, I’d remind him, like, ‘Ray, you’re the villain here. You understand that?’” Filoni remembers. “He was like, ‘I don’t think so.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, I appreciate that you don’t think so, and Baylan wouldn’t think he’s the villain, but you are a villain in this.’ And he’s like, ‘We’ll see.’ It was kind of perfect.”
The storyline revolves around Baylan and his apprentice Shin Hati (played by Ivanna Sakhno) as they pursue Ahsoka, portrayed by Rosario Dawson, eventually leading them to the distant galaxy’s planet, Peridea. In the season finale, Baylan separates from Shin in search of a rumored mythical power mentioned in old Jedi legends. In a poignant scene, he stands on a cliff near three deteriorating statues, gazing towards a distant light. These statues represent the Mortis gods, ancient beings with mythical ties to the Force. This trio forms an unconventional family: The Son is linked to the dark side of the Force, the Daughter to the light side, and the Father maintains the balance between both.
Fans of Clone Wars may recall the Mortis gods from certain episodes of the animated series, but Filoni emphasizes that this background is not inherently essential. His aim, he explains, was to create a captivating narrative that appeals to both those entirely new to the storyline and the dedicated fans who have watched every episode of the animated shows.
“People that have never seen Clone Wars will have no idea what that is,” he mentions. “For me, that’s okay as long as you understand that those are monolithic figures, and it means something. That’s the power of that image. This person has found this massive-scale sculpture that’s unlikely anything we’ve seen on that planet up to that point. The question you’re supposed to ask is: What does that mean?”
Filoni draws a parallel by likening it to the experience of watching the original Star Wars trilogy, where George Lucas would incorporate elements that enriched the world-building but weren’t crucial for comprehending the main plot.
“As a kid, I watched A New Hope and heard about the Clone Wars and the Jedi knights,” he elaborates, “I didn’t know what any of that was, but it didn’t take away from it for me. It just made me feel like there was a sense of history and depth to the storytelling. So, that’s what I was trying to do there.”
While an official renewal for a second season of Ahsoka is pending, the finale strongly hints at significant developments for Stevenson’s character. Filoni expresses uncertainty about the future of the storyline following Stevenson’s unexpected passing, but he emphasizes that the crucial aspect is the legacy left by Stevenson. Filoni acknowledges the loss of Emmy-nominated costume designer Shawna Trpcic, who also passed away unexpectedly since Ahsoka premiered. Describing the cast and crew as a family on set, Filoni highlights that the show’s most valuable gift has been forging connections with exceptional individuals like Stevenson and Trpcic.
“Going forward, it will be a challenge,” Filoni remarks. “These were meaningful people to us. They were collaborators and friends, and they will be missed. I’m just so glad they were a part of this show, so that every time I watch it, I think of them. And there’s no time that won’t happen: They will always be there in spirit.”
Source: Entertainment Weekly