Watch: Ray Stevenson shares Ahsoka details in April 2023
With the sad news of Ray Stevenson’s passing, we’re sharing one of the Northern Irish actor’s final interviews.
Stevenson spoke to Yahoo at this year’s Star Wars Celebration, an event held for fans in London in April. The convention elicited several announcements and provided a launchpad for new Disney+ series Ahsoka, in which Stevenson stars.
In the series, Stevenson plays Baylan Skoll, a Force-sensitive ally of villain Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) otherwise known as the Magistrate. We first saw Elsbeth in The Mandalorian offering Din Djarin a beskar spear in return for killing former Jedi Ahsoka Tano. Elsbeth is loyal to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who is set to make his live action debut in Ahsoka, with Lars Mikkelsen reprising his role from the animated series Star Wars: Rebels.
Read more: Everything we know about Ahsoka
Baylan Skoll remains a relatively enigmatic character, the mystery further compounded by Stevenson’s deeply considered responses to Yahoo’s questioning at Star Wars Celebration.
From footage released so far, Skoll looks to be a menacing figure and given what we’ve been told about his alignment, the natural conclusion to draw is that he’s a bad guy through and through.
Fans were already eager to see Stevenson’s new character brought to life on the screen and now there will be a deep poignancy surrounding his debut when the show premieres in August. But how scary is Baylan Skoll, exactly and what should we expect?
“There’s nothing scary about Baylan; I would describe him as stoically lethal,” Stevenson told Yahoo about the character. He seems tough to pin down: just when you think you’ve got the measure of him, something happens to wrongfoot you.
Read more: Ray Stevenson
Ray Stevenson Remembered by Lucasfilm as ‘Kind and Caring,’ ‘Loved and Respected’ (The Wrap, 2 min read)
James Gunn pays tribute as Thor's Ray Stevenson dies (Digital Spy, 2 min read)
Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis leads tributes to Ray Stevenson (Independent, 1 min read)
“When you first meet him, you go ‘Oh, right, I…’, then, ‘No. Oh, hang on’, then, ‘He must be… this. No.’ So, [you’re always] second guessing, and yet things are reacting and happening,” Stevenson continued.
“I think the exciting thing is to see and feel where this journey goes and how it’s impacting his journey. Basically, if you’re in his way, he’ll politely request you get out of it. And if you don’t, you’ll be removed.
"But there’s no malevolence there, there’s no ‘I want to slaughter the world’. No, there’s something other that’s driving him. That’s what’s going to be exciting.”
When asked why Skoll is so loyal to Thrawn, one of Star Wars’ most despicable and terrifying villains, Stevenson questioned the notion.
“Who said he was?” said the actor. “Again, it’s one of those [things where] just when you think something [motions in different directions], there’s a meandering.
"And even with Ahsoka and with the people that… and this was the reveal to me, as well – the layers and the layers and the layers. Every day, it was exciting to find out is he really a bad guy? He’s not quite good but he’s quite bad – but what’s happening? But then [he’s] facilitating this, or aiding this, or not aiding this, and letting that happen. So [you’re asking constantly] where is he?”
Stevenson finished his answer by adding emphatically, “But there’s something driving him.”
Ahsoka is a woman-led show starring Rosario Dawson as the titular character alongside Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Hera Syndulla. Earlier at SWC, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy had told us that the show, alongside Daisy Ridley’s new movie and upcoming series The Acolyte, “definitely” signal more women-led Star Wars projects.
So we asked Stevenson what woman character from the Star Wars universe he’d like to see make a debut or return to the screen. His response was to champion a new kind of female character for the franchise, driven not by a masculine energy but by a feminine one – the Divine Feminine.
“I’m wearing a necklace here which has the goddess Tanit [on it], which is the goddess of Ibiza,” said Stevenson, indicating the charm hanging around his neck. The goddess represents the Divine Feminine.
He continued, pondering the nature of women warriors, like Ahsoka Tano, and what that archetype, and the creation of that archetype, is motivated by, surmising that there’s room in Star Wars for a balance to the masculine energy the franchise has so far channelled.
“There is a divinity that [says] women have had to take up a mantle because of certain mens’ weaknesses, especially leaning towards extreme violence, in order to protect themselves or their family, creed, or their race, or whatever – they’ve had to adopt that mantle,” Stevenson explained.
“It doesn’t mean, necessarily, be like that malevolent side of men. Getting in touch with the Divine Feminine [is key]. And for a man to understand the Divine Feminine doesn’t make him weaker; it doesn’t emasculate him.
"Actually, the roles… if you are interested in anthropology and histories and the holistic sides, [the thinking is] is that there is a purpose to everything and a balance to everything in nature. I think there’s not one character but I think that sense of Divine Feminine needs to come through.”
Perhaps we’ll see something of what Stevenson spoke passionately about in the forthcoming slated projects within the Star Wars franchise.
It’s certainly a route Rey could go down in her Jedi Academy-centric movie, particularly since balance is a critical aspect of the Force. Incorporating and exploring the Divine Feminine within Star Wars would refresh the franchise at the same time as making a wonderful tribute to Stevenson.
He will be sorely missed.
Ray Stevenson: 1964-2023
Watch a trailer for Ahsoka