Willow Showrunner Jon Kasdan Talks Season 1 Spoilers and Reception—and His Season 2 Aspirations

Lucasfilm's sequel series to the 1988 Ron Howard-George Lucas film is now on Disney+.
Jon Kasdan at the premiere of Willow.
Jon Kasdan at the premiere of Willow.
Photo: Jesse Grant for Disney (Getty Images)
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The first season of Disney+ series Willow is over. If you watched, you no doubt have questions about some of the season’s final moments, and are wondering if it’s been renewed for season two yet (it has not). If you didn’t watch, maybe you’re now thinking, “They made a Willow TV show?” Both of these are completely valid points of view, and showrunner Jon Kasdan is more than happy to talk about of them.

io9 spoke with the executive producer of the show via video chat this week and we really got into the weeds. We talked about those big spoiler questions at the end in regards to the ultimate baddie, the Wrym; what was up with that mid-credits scene; why original film characters like the Brownies were only in the show very briefly; and about Madmartigan, Elora Danan, and so much more. On the flip side, we also spoke about the unfortunate truth that Willow didn’t blow the doors off culture like maybe some expected, why that may have been, and what could be next. Read about all that and more, right here, right now. Spoilers abound.

Image for article titled Willow Showrunner Jon Kasdan Talks Season 1 Spoilers and Reception—and His Season 2 Aspirations
three books
Willow’s end credits revealed this was just volume one of three.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Germain Lussier, io9: Dude. Volumes two and three? What the heck? Tell me about that awesome tag there and the decision behind it.

Jon Kasdan: Yeah, I mean we’ve always been sort of in love with this idea that Willow existed as this book in a library somewhere that has been waiting to be opened for 35 years. And it sort of sat on a shelf in expectation that someone’s going to pull it down. And certainly, as we told the story and got to the end of the story, we all knew and felt that where we were ending was certainly not the end of the story. And so it was a throwing of the cap over the wall, if you will, to sort of say “There really is [more].” And what you can’t help doing when you’re surrounded by people you love working with is starting to talk about where it’s going to go. And we had already been in that conversation when we were finishing shooting a year ago, and certainly, it’s continued in the intervening year.

io9: So if this season is volume one of a three-volume saga, how does the movie fit in? Where is that in the library?

Kasdan: The thought was that the movie and the first season are volume one, so that the movie sort of serves as a prologue to the first volume and that each one would have a similar kind of shape to it.

io9: Okay. Yeah. Elora is a baby for the whole movie so that makes sense. 

Kasdan: Exactly. You got to see where she came from and what she’s up against and certainly, yeah, it feels like an epic story. But it’s also partly, I come out of movies and three-act structure. So one of the guiding principles of the first season of doing this show was that it would function in a lot of ways like the first act of a movie, in which you sort of set up your characters and your conflicts and then you’re hopefully able to go explore some other parts of it [in act two], and then ultimately give a real resolution [in act three]. I certainly entered into this thinking the story that I hope to tell would be more than these eight hours, but that it would be a finite story and wouldn’t be a series that could go on for 12 or 15 seasons.

drawing of the character
Madmartigan makes his first actual apperance in the finale end credits.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

io9: The finale does a good job of adding some more context to the Madmartigan mystery. Willow says he’s fighting the Wyrm from within, we’ve already learned about his quest for the armor, and obviously, he talks to Kit in this episode. So in your eyes, is his story complete now? Do we know everything we need to know? 

Kasdan: No. We hope not, in a lot of ways. One of the challenges of this thing is you have a very clear idea in your head of exactly what you’d like to do, and then you hope you have the opportunity to do that thing. And so for him particularly, in the idealized version of how we continue this story, it’s far from over. And we’ve got a lot of stuff we’d like to do because there’s this deep love for Val [Kilmer], not just in the world, but from within our family here at Lucasfilm and I think nothing would give everyone more joy than to see him on the set, you know?

io9: Oh, absolutely. Now, it feels like if you get the chance to continue, Graydon [Tony Revolori] is, obviously going to have a big part to play considering what we see in the final scene. I know you can’t tell me much too much specifically—but generally, what is it about the character that now he’s been potentially possessed by evil three times in his life?

Kasdan: Yeah, he’s got a vulnerability to these things. And one of the big overarching themes of the show is that we all have a little of these two things in us, you know? Even less explicit than “light” and “dark,” it’s the sort of libidinous side and the idealistic side. And he’s constantly confronted by the conflict between those opposing feelings in himself and feels vulnerable to the influence of these darker, more malevolent forces. So, yeah, he certainly could be a powerful tool for either good or evil.

Willow as played by Warwick Davis.
Willow as played by Warwick Davis.
Image: Lucasfilm

io9: Correct me if I’m wrong here—I’m no Willow super expert—but this idea of the Wyrm, the ultimate evil that was controlling the Crone, that was created for the show right?

Kasdan: Well, it is. I mean, what’s funny is that the symbol of the Wrym, the insignia that we have on the doors and all over the show, is in the movie. It’s on the giant gong they use in Bavmorda’s rituals. One of the things that that I really loved about the movie was that it sort of hinted at a dark magic that was very powerful and much vaster than we got to experience in the movie. So the Wyrm, while a creation of the [show], felt like a natural continuation of the worship and gaining power for something otherworldly and sentient.

io9: That reminds me, in the first half of the finale, Elora is looking out and sees what looks like a giant path. Is that a worm?

Kasdan: There is something down there. Yeah. I mean, I think that yes. Yes, absolutely. There’s a big giant worm. [Laughs] 

This might be the Wyrm.
This might be the Wyrm.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

io9: Yes. Okay. Now, at the end of the series, the place that we see Graydon in—where he finds this new version of Elora—looks very much like Willow’s visions of the future, where he saw Elora dead.

Kasdan: Absolutely.

io9: Are we fated to see this place in reality? What can you say about that?

Kasdan: Absolutely. I think that battlefield is sort of the promise of some victor in this battle between this creature and these forces of light. And how that works out is going to depend largely, we hope it’s implied, on Elora, and on how she ends up feeling by the end of this. And one thing that’s been really fun about doing this is that we’re allowed, in this fun offshoot of Star Wars, to explore what the dark side means, and what it could be like to see what might tempt someone to go over there. And I think it’s something that Star Wars has done to some extent and probably will do more in the coming year. But it’s something that we thought there was an opportunity to make very specific to this, about someone being tempted into power and easy things that can be tempting to all of us, you know? “Money for nothing.” [Laughs] 

io9:  [Laughs] Right right. And that answers that question [about the song choice in the finale end credits]. But you certainly get more here of like, actually seeing the temptation to go to the dark side and the promise of getting everything you wanted or you thought you wanted.

Elora standing with an army
A battlefield for another day.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Kasdan: Yes. And it’s why someone in Graydon’s position... and I very much relate to Graydon at the end of that scene. It’s like, if she said that to me, I would have to really decide which way I was going to go, you know?

io9: Yes, of course. Of course. Speaking of Elora, at the end of the show, she gives a look back to the gate. And it’s very curious. I’m wondering, is that because she senses Graydon is alive or is there something else? What can you say about that look Elora gives?

Kasdan: It’s great that you picked up on that because it’s really it’s something [Ellie Bamber who plays Elora] and I talked a lot about. But it’s more that I think that there’s a pull for her to the darkness and the power she touched when she made this contact with the Crone. And I couldn’t really be prouder of Ellie in the way she delivered exactly what was intended there, which is that there’s something at once scary and dangerous about this battle, but there’s also something incredibly exhilarating about it. And that exhilaration comes through in her performance and the sort of emptiness that follows that comes through in that look that she throws back, you know?

io9: For sure. She in particular blew me away in this episode because you do get that emptiness. But you also get her cockiness when she’s fighting. And then when she’s with Airk, it’s different. She’s this bubbly innocent girl again. She was amazing.

Kasdan: Yeah. Well, she gets to do so many things; you see the girl she was and the woman she’s become, and she’s trying so hard to bring them together, all these different parts of herself, to become this woman that she’s sort of destined to be. And it’s a very personal story for Ellie in that she felt that as we were doing it, you know? That she was bringing together the youthful side of her and the more mature side of her. And they fuse in in a complicated adult. And that was where we were headed all along.

Elora leading her group of friends.
Elora leading her group of friends.
Image: Lucasfilm

io9: And her hair definitely gets redder over the course of the show right?

Kasdan: Well, it gets redder sort of all at once. There’s a streak that happens when she does the kiss and then when she really breaks through on the [journey across the sea] it happens suddenly. Again, it’s like it’s an orgasmic use of magic and it changes her.

io9: Right, I understand. So sticking on the cast, whenever anybody asks me about the show, I’ve obviously told them I like it, which I do, but I also add that it’s the characters and the actors in particular. They’re so likable and so complex and so wonderful. Now that the show’s in the rearview mirror a little bit, tell me a little bit about what you were able to achieve with this cast?

Kasdan: That element of it, I couldn’t be prouder of this ensemble. That’s one of the gifts of it. You know, you can end up in alternate realities where there are different casts and other versions of it might have been great, too. But where I know we were incredibly, uniquely fortunate was that every one of those five or six actors were deeply, wholeheartedly, committed to their job. They loved coming to work. They loved making this show, and they wanted it to be great. And I think it comes through in each of their performances, the sort of earnestness of intention, and the fun they were having, too, with each other, which was very real and very, very palpable.

io9: Yes for sure. Now, was the show ever going to continue on beyond the ending we see? Like, were you ever going to see them go back to Tir Asleen or Willow’s reunion with Mims or anything like that?

Kasdan: The first season was always sort of intended to leave them in Immemorial City, but certainly the story doesn’t end [there] at all.

willow talking to the brownies
There’s a good story behind the Brownies.
Image: Lucasfilm

io9: Right. Of course. I was obviously delighted to see Kevin Pollak back as a Brownie and the Brownies back in general. But it really felt almost like a throwaway. They’re in one episode and that’s it, is there any reason why that was?

Kasdan: I certainly wanted them back. I love Kevin. I’ve always been a huge fan of particularly The Usual Suspects Kevin Pollak. [He’s] like a major figure in my life. I knew he had an appetite to come back and I wanted to give people the delight of that character returning. But I would have really loved to have given them the delight of both characters [Pollak as Rool, Rick Overton as Franjean] returning and to have done a lot more with the Brownies. But the truth is that no technical element of making Willow is more challenging than the Brownies and making them believable and making it look reasonably good. And on the first season of a show like this, it does limit you in terms of what you’re able to do. And it was a battle to get them in there and I really wanted them.

io9: So if we are lucky enough to move on, you’re hoping to do more with the Brownies?

Jon Kasdan: I would love to. Again, it presents a technical challenge always. The quality of effects that’s demanded by the audience now is really challenging to do on a week-to-week basis when you’re trying to make it interactive and great. But for example, I can tell you that in the original version of the pilot, when the Bone Reavers attacked the group, on each of Toth’s shoulders, he had a little Brownie sitting there riding each shoulder, sort of directing him which way to go. So there was always an intent to sort of add that. I love that scale of the show and I love that kind of character.

Fans rightfully have loved the relationship between Kit and Jade.
Fans rightfully have loved the relationship between Kit and Jade.
Image: Lucasfilm

io9: Before we end I want to step back a bit. As I said, I loved the show but I’m a little deflated that it didn’t seem to blow up as big as it could have or probably as intended

Kasdan: Oh, me too.

io9: Right. So tell me a little about what the reception to the show has meant to you and how you’re kind of feeling about it.

Kasdan: Well, it’s interesting. I mean, obviously, you go into these things sort of hoping for everyone to love it [but] expecting that they won’t all. You’re learning a little bit about how certain members of the audience are precious about things that you never imagined they would be precious about. Others aren’t at all. There was an expectation that we had that no one was particularly invested in Willow beforehand. That was one of its gifts. That people had sort of a fond memory of it, and you sort of didn’t expect that anyone would feel like it wasn’t what they hoped it would be, because it honestly never occurred to us that people had strong expectations around it. So that was both gratifying and sort of interesting.

And then the biggest thing has been the support of the women and that their relationships have so connected with an audience as they’ve gone along. It feels like it has gained some momentum and traction as the episodes have passed with the cumulative effect of the whole season. I don’t know if that’s just a reality of streaming television but it’s certainly interesting to see, like, can the show continue to be discovered and have a life? And is there a place for more of it in the business of our culture right now, and specifically in the genre which is so full of shows, frankly, and now movies too? Obviously, there was an appetite that hadn’t been fed in a long time. And now there’s a lot feeding it. So what we hoped to do was create something that was unique and original in that world. And actually it’s satisfying to see that for a lot of people, it is working in that way.

the evil gales
Too much fantasy?
Image: Lucasfilm

io9: Yeah, there’s so much fantasy now I feel like, maybe it missed the wave a little bit? Hopefully not?

Kasdan: Yeah, me too. I hope not. I mean, it’s a funny thing. The Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings juggernaut was sort of an intense cultural moment, you know? So it’s funny to come after it but I’m very gratified by the reaction.

io9: Is there any, and I hate to be pessimistic, but is there any kind of line or time frame where we know a season two wouldn’t happen?

Kasdan: Honestly, I have no idea. We’ve never been in that kind of dialogue. My marching orders have always been “Go forward, young man. Keep coming up with these stories.” And I’m certainly game to do it and I love everybody involved. So that’s not a hard order to get to work on.

io9: So do you have broad-stroke ideas of what would happen in the next two seasons or no?

Kasdan: Much more than that. Yeah, we’ve been working really, really hard and we’re very optimistic. I mean, certainly, in some form or another, we would love nothing more than to keep going and to tell more.

I asked if this Ken Taylor illustration would become a poster. Answer below.
I asked if this Ken Taylor illustration would become a poster. Answer below.
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

io9: Awesome. And this is probably my last thing, but if and when you get to do more Willow, is there a character relationship you’re most excited to explore more of?

Kasdan: Well, I mean, all of them have sort of shown me over the course of the season what their potential was, you know? Kit and Elora’s relationship was always going to be sort of central to the series. But if you were to ask me, like, who’s the character that I wished we had gotten to spend more time with in season one? And I’m very eager to spend more time with in season two? It’s a no-brainer. It’s Mims. It’s 100% Mims.

io9: Yeah, absolutely. And may I also just say I want the title page from the book at the end by artist Ken Taylor as a poster.

Kasdan: Yes, me too. And I’m going to pass that on to the guy who I’m expecting to deliver it for me. Supposedly they’re on it as we speak.

Thank you to Jon Kasdan for his time. You can watch the full first season of Willow right now on Disney+.


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