“Willow,” a new show out now on Disney+, ventures back to the fictional world of the Willow film, where new dangers await for the twin children of the Princess Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and knight errant Madmartigan (Val Kilmer). Based on a story by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story), the 1988 film is a cult classic. The titular character Willow is played by Warwick Davis, also known for portraying Wicket in Return of the Jedi and Professor Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter franchise. Here are five things we learned at the “Willow” Press Conference, featuring the cast and showrunner/writer Jon Kasdan.
1. Did Warwick Davis ever imagine he would play Willow again?
“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.” Warwick played six characters in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which the “Willow” showrunner co-wrote Solo with his father, award-winning screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The meeting between Davis and Jon Kasdan on the set of the Star Wars movie created an opportunity to flesh out an idea for the future of the Willow IP. Ron Howard also serves as an Executive Producer on the series.
2. How did the story of this series come to be?
Jon Kasdan expanded on the earliest discussions: “There was the impulse certainly between Ron and Warwick and myself to continue this story, and return to this world. I came at it as a fan, and they came at it both as the creators, and they found a champion in me. 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.”
During those first conversations of the set of Solo, Howard and Kasdan found their hook: “What became of Elora Danan?” Kasdan noted, “The movie ended with a sort of bittersweet moment of Warwick kissing this baby and then saying, ‘okay, goodbye, I’ll never see you again.’ And as an eight-year-old I was sort of like, well, what is… you mean, they’re not going to live together and they’re not going to have a life together? And how is she going to find out about all this stuff that happened to her? That felt like a great jumping off place for a series. That felt in line with a lot of George’s other stories, a lot of things about people sort of discovering their unique heritage or specialness as they go through their lives.”
3. How does showrunner Kasdan describe the vibe of the show?
“The challenge – and it’s always, 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. 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. They did so beautifully and with such gusto and enthusiasm and authenticity. 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.”
4. Being set in a fantasy world, horseback riding and swordplay are just a few of the required skills. How did the cast prepare?
The cast described their training as “boot camp” and by their reactions, this was a period that really allowed them to bond. Dempsey Bryk (Airk) joked about their early graduation, “on day one of boot camp they gave us a cap that said, ‘congratulations, you survived boot camp’ which felt a little premature.”
The rest is magic. pic.twitter.com/FY73N7E0PW
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5. While “Willow” sets out to deliver its own unique twist on fantasy storytelling, ultimately it has to find a way to offer something familiar and important. What did they determine would resonate with the audience?
Amar Chadha-Patel, who plays the ragtag teams’ protector Goorman, offers insight: “One of my favorite 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, you know, rescue someone, it’s also about us figuring out what the hell we’re doing. Some of us thinking that we know, and not knowing, that couldn’t be more true to my own feelings. I think seeing that reflected back in a big magical world is going to be real charming.”