Star Wars needs to embrace recasting actors

Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) in Lucasfilm's STAR WARS: AHSOKA, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson) in Lucasfilm's STAR WARS: AHSOKA, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

The passing of Ashoka’s Ray Stevenson has left Lucasfilm in a difficult situation. It’s clear by the finale that Stevenson’s character, Baylan Skoll, was just getting started. There’s so much more story to tell about the character; sadly, the actor who so talentedly portrayed him is now gone.

Star Wars hasn’t always been on board with recasting. CGI-Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett was met with mixed reactions. On one hand, it was a triumph of groundbreaking technology that has been getting better and better since Rogue One brought back Peter Cushing from the dead as Tarkin. On the other, the deep fake nature ripped many fans out of the moment, citing Luke appeared wooded and non-human in the role. It has made more fans push for recasts.

Recasts don’t ruin franchises as much as some fans fear. I like to joke that Marvel replaced an entire Hulk, and no one batted an eye. The green giant wasn’t Marvel’s only change. Over the course of the franchise, James “Rhodey” Rhode, AKA War Machine, Fandral, Red Skull, and Thanos all had a change of actors. Though, to be fair, as my fellow writer pointed out in his article arguing against recasting Baylan Skoll, Marvel chose not to recast Black Panther after the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman.

After an actor passes away, a recast can continue the character’s story, which could be viewed as a way to honor their performance. We see this in the Harry Potter franchise after the death of Richard Harris. Albus Dumbledore is one of the most vital characters in the books. It would have been disrespectful to Harris’ work if they tried to work his role out of the movies. So, Michael Gambon stepped into the wizard robes to continue the legacy of Dumbledore and Harris.

Star Wars not recasting its actors is Star Wars not trusting its audiences. Game of Thrones recasted Daenerys Targaryen’s lover, Daario Naharis, and the actors look nothing alike! Along with him, the Night King, the Three-Eyed Raven, the Mountain, Beric Donarrion, Walder Frey, Dickon Tarly, Tommen Baratheon, and several more minor characters changed actors, and it never once stopped the powerhouse that was this series. Game of Thrones creators trusted their audience to roll with the punches just fine.

Star Wars shouldn’t be afraid to embrace recasting. Plenty of options exist to portray these memorable characters, and we’ve already seen some of this play out. Solo: A Star Wars Story had its share of production problems, but Alden Ehrenreich was not one of them. Even with that film and the sequel trilogy, Joonas Suotamo stepped into the furry role of Chewbacca. Sure, alien characters like Wookiees are easier to argue for with recasts, but before he passed, Peter Mayhew taught Suotamo the role and how to play Chewbacca. Billy Dee Williams guided Donald Glover with Lando. While we still have Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, let them help guide their next young actors.

There are options, too. Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, has already played Leia. She was the Princess turned General’s body double in The Rise of Skywalker, and Lourd is a talented actress in her own right. Who better to continue Carrie’s legacy than her daughter, who probably knows her best? Let Alden and Donald have another chance without the mess of the behind-the-scenes issues. Max Lloyd-Jones played Luke Skywalker’s body double in The Mandalorian, and he looks like a spot-on young Mark Hamill. Let this next generation have their chance.

As for the case of Ray Stevenson, I think this is a Richard Harris situation. Ray set the groundwork in one of this franchise’s best performances. A recast shouldn’t happen immediately, giving his fellow actors and fans plenty of time to grieve this loss. To me, continuing Ray’s story would be the greatest honor. It’s clear he worked incredibly hard as Balan, and he loved this franchise, from his animation roles to his live-action ones. In his interviews at Star Wars Celebration 2023, he’s ecstatic for Baylan. The greatest tragedy would be to let this character fall by the wayside and never see him again.

While Star Wars has always been on the forefront of pushing movie and television technology, sometimes it’s to the franchise’s detriment. Relying on wooden CGI Luke Skywalker until the end of time cannot be the way. Star Wars should embrace recasting now while they still have the actors to help bring up the next generation.