What you may not know about The Mandalorian

Over the past four decades (and counting), Star Wars has spawned close to a dozen movies, hundreds of tie-in novels, countless video games, stacks of comic books, action figures, radio dramas, tabletop RPGs, collectible card games, and pretty much every other type of media you can imagine — save one. While Star Wars has a number of cartoons to its name, live-action television remains that galaxy far, far away's one unconquered frontier.

Oh, there have been one-offs, like the spectacular disaster known as the Star Wars Holiday Special or the made-for-TV Ewok movies. As far as an ongoing series is concerned, though? Nothing. Remember, we live in a world where even Knight Rider's gotten four different shows. You'd think that the TV industry would show something as big as Star Wars at least a little bit of love.

In 2019, it's finally going to. It's been a long time coming, but we've finally got a little bit of information about the very first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, and we can't wait to share it with you.

A different type of Star Wars, but a very familiar story

The Star Wars universe has room for an infinite number of stories, and narrowing down exactly what the upcoming show is going to be about has been a popular pastime among fans ever since it was announced back in March 2018. Now, we know — kind of. In October 2018, director Jon Favreau (more on him in a bit) posted a picture on Instagram that evokes the classic Star Wars opening crawl and lays out the basics.

According to Favreau, the new Star Wars program will be called The Mandalorian, and it will focus on "the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic." Pay attention to that language. You don't use phrases like "lone gunfighter" by accident, and while it's not a sure thing, the wording makes it sound like The Mandalorian will be a space-tinged take on westerns like Shane, The Searchers, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which similarly take place in a lawless wilderness.

Besides, Star Wars already owes a huge debt to classic westerns. George Lucas allegedly screened Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West for the Star Wars crew before filming. That's easy to believe. The original Star Wars trilogy is full of nods to classic westerns — heck, Boba Fett even wears spurs — and in the intervening years, other Star Wars creators took those parallels and ran with them. It looks like The Mandalorian will, too.

But what is a Mandalorian, exactly?

In Star Wars lore, Mandalorians are fierce warriors with a long, proud, and surprisingly complex history. You may not have seen them before, but you're probably familiar with their most iconic creation: Boba Fett wears Mandalorian armor, as did his father, the bounty-hunter-turned-clone-daddy known as Jango.

Mandalore hasn't played much of a role in the movies, but it's a big, big part of the Star Wars cartoon shows. In The Clone Wars, Mandalore has been ravaged after centuries at war, including an old and ancient conflict with the Jedi. When a Duchess tries to establish a pacifist government, a group of exiled warriors strike back, leading to a full-on civil war. Later, Darth Maul (who's not quite as dead as you think) conquers Mandalore, and uses the planet as a headquarters for his criminal syndicate, the Shadow Collective. So, yeah, Maul's brief Solo cameo isn't quite as random as it seems.

Sabine Wren, one of the main cast members on Star Wars Rebels, is Mandalorian through and through. When the series starts, Sabine's been branded a traitor for her role in the burgeoning Rebel Alliance, but politics end up bringing her back. With the help from her teammates, Sabine returns the fabled Darksaber to its rightful home and helps quell another Mandalorian civil war, bringing peace to the Mandalore at long last. Now, given its remote setting, The Mandalorian probably won't delve too deep into the planet's pulpy Game of Thrones-like politics, but hey! There's always hope for a spinoff…

The clothes that made the man (or the woman)

Here's a little secret: he might dress like one, but Boba Fett isn't actually a Mandalorian, at least not in the new, Disney-ified canon. In The Clone Wars episode "The Mandalore Plot," the Mandalorian Prime Minister tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that Boba's dad, Jango, is just a regular ol' bounty hunter who wears someone else's armor.

But, thanks to Boba, we knew what a Mandalorian looked like decades before we knew anything about them as a people, and The Mandalorian wouldn't be the same without him. Boba Fett debuted during the Star Wars Holiday Special, and while the rest of the program isn't worth your time, Nelvana Studios' animated short "The Faithful Wookiee" absolutely is. Not only does the sequence make Fett cooler than the movies ever did — no falling into man-eating pits here — but the design ended up influencing both how the Mandalorians looked on The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian's costume, too. That big ol' holster, the narrow visor, the natural color scheme, and the visible battle damage? Those are all Nelvana.

The Holiday Special short also gives an idea as to what The Mandalorian might look like. In fact, Nelvana's animators looked to westerns when storyboarding the short. "The Faithful Wookiee's" surreal landscapes and the dinosaur that Boba rustles and rides might be a little too fanciful for live-action TV, but if you want to see Star Wars reimagined as a spaghetti western, you don't have to wait for The Mandalorian's premiere. There's already an example out in the wild.

A galaxy of familiar faces — and you won't see any of 'em

Even before we knew what The Mandalorian was going to be about, we knew when it was would take place. During a red carpet interview at Solo's big premiere, Jon Favreau explained that The Mandalorian takes place about seven years after Return of the Jedi, or roughly two decades before The Force Awakens. By this point, the Rebel Alliance has transformed into the New Republic, while the former Imperials who'd eventually form the First Order are still licking their wounds in the galaxy's Unknown Regions.

Disney's tie-in materials haven't really explored this time period yet, but novels like Last Shot and Bloodline can help fill in the gaps. Leia Organa is busy serving in the Galactic Senate, while her son, Ben "Kylo Ren" Solo, is still living at home. Her husband, Han Solo, splits his time between taking care of Ben, racing spaceships, running his own shipping company and teaming up with his buddy Lando for the occasional New Republic mission — y'know, for old times' sake.

Given Leia's senatorial duties and that The Mandalorian takes place "far from… the New Republic," we'd be pretty surprised to see either of them show up. Luke Skywalker, though? That's a possibility. When The Mandalorian takes place, Luke is busy scouring the galaxy for Force-sensitive artifacts and old Jedi knowledge. Who knows where his journey might take him? Now, we admit that this might all be wishful thinking — Mark Hamill isn't getting any younger — but Luke's got a better chance of appearing in The Mandalorian than, say, Finn, Rey, or Poe. During this time period, Poe is still a little kid, Finn is an infant, and Rey hasn't even been born yet.

I'm sorry, Jon... who?

You might've noticed that Jon Favreau's name comes up quite a bit when talking about The Mandalorian. There's a very good reason for that: the accomplished director is running the whole shebang. As Disney's initial press release states, Favreau is executive producing and writing The Mandalorian, and while he's not on the series' list of directors, we're confident that The Mandalorian is in pretty good hands.

See, in addition to flicks like Elf, Zathura, and Chef, Favreau directed a little something called Iron Man. You know, the movie that single-handedly launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, revitalized Robert Downey Jr.'s career, and made Tony Stark a household name? Yeah, that Iron Man. Favreau also served as a producer on The Avengers and helmed Disney's live-action Jungle Book and Lion King adaptations. In other words, he's got a flair for making special effects-driven dramas that are also full of humor and heart, and he's an old pro when it comes to launching franchises. Sound like a good fit for Star Wars? Yeah, we thought so too.

Not only that, but Favreau has already proven his Star Wars bona fides: as an actor, he's participated in not one but two separate Star Wars projects. If you saw Solo, you might recognize Favreau as the voice of Rio Durant, Tobias Beckett's multi-armed pilot. The Mandalorian won't be Favreau's first dalliance with the show's titular warrior race, either. On The Clone Wars, Favreau played Pre Vizsla, the exile who started the Mandalorian Civil War, helped the Shadow Collective conquer the planet, and ultimately met his demise at the wrong end of Darth Maul's lightsaber.

The big Rebels connection

If you're still worried that Favreau isn't up to the task of bringing Star Wars to the small screen, don't be. He's got some help. Longtime Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is listed as one of the show's producers, and all of the material will still go through Lucasfilm's story group, the organization in charge of keeping Star Wars canon consistent.

Favreau's also getting a big, big hand from the animated side of things. Dave Filoni may not be a household name, but if you're a modern day Star Wars fan, you know his work very, very well. Filoni directed The Clone Wars feature film (which, let's face it, isn't really something to brag about), and he worked side-by-side with George Lucas to bring the subsequent, superior animated series to the air. Filoni also co-created both Rebels and the newest Star Wars cartoon, Resistance.

In other words, he's the guy behind a lot of the best of parts modern Star Wars canon. According to The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Filoni is the brains behind Anakin Skywalker's beloved apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. On Rebels, Filoni and his staff raised questions about the Jedi's relationship with the Force years before Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi did the same. Heck, he even voiced Chopper, Rebels' scene-stealing droid. Naturally, Filoni will be bringing his informed, insightful, and nuanced take on Star Wars to The Mandalorian, too. He's one of the show's executive producers, and he'll make his live-action directing debut by helming The Mandalorian's very first episode.

The people who are going to make it all happen

The Mandalorian won't be short on star power, at least not behind the camera. Reports say the show has a 10-episode first series, and Disney shared a list of some of the people who'll be directing a few of the episodes. Buckle up. It's a doozy.

Dave Filoni's there, obviously, but by far the biggest name on the docket is New Zealand native Taiki Waititi. You know why that's exciting? Here are a few reasons: Eagle vs Shark. Flight of the Conchords. What We Do in the Shadows. Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Thor: Ragnarok. So, yeah, he's pretty good. On the other hand, Bryce Dallas Howard might be best known for her performances in projects like Jurassic World and Black Mirror, but she's wanted to get into directing for a while. In fact, Howard already has a number of short films under her belt, and besides, Star Wars runs in the family. Her Oscar-winning father, Ron, just directed Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Further down the list you'll find Rick Famuyiwa, director of the criminally underrated Dope, and Deborah Chow, a television veteran who's worked on shows like Jessica Jones, Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul, and The Man in the High Castle — y'know, just some of the best dramas currently on television. Honestly, it's hard to imagine a better lineup, but then again, it's not every day that you get to contribute to a cultural institution. We wouldn't be surprised if The Mandalorian has talent lined up around the block, just waiting for a shot at a galaxy far, far away.

Part of a very exclusive lineup

By now, you're probably ready to tune in and see what The Mandalorian has in store. If so, get your credit cards ready. While The Mandalorian would be a hit on almost any channel — c'mon, it's Star Wars — you're not going to be able to watch it via regular cable. Instead, it'll live on Disney's upcoming streaming service, which looks ready to give Netflix a run for its money.

The platform, which still doesn't have a name, will be much bigger than just The Mandalorian, of course. According to reports, it's going to be the new hub for most of the properties that Disney owns. Once the service launches, subscribers will be able to stream new Disney movies like the upcoming Dumbo adaptation, as well as exclusive features like the Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader Christmas comedy Noelle, the live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, and miniseries starring big screen Marvel stars like Loki and the Scarlet Witch. There'll be more Star Wars, too, including that surprise Clone Wars revival. Yeah, The Mandalorian is just the beginning.

The service is scheduled to come out sometime in 2019, and while Disney hasn't announced a price, it promises that it'll be cheaper than Netflix. Not everything Disney makes will be on the service — R-rated content from the Fox sale will probably head to Hulu  — but if you're a fan, you really can't afford to miss this one.

The end of one journey, and the beginning of another

Now, The Mandalorian isn't the first time that Lucasfilm has tried to bring live-action Star Wars to the small screen. The company has been working on this for a while. In 2005, George Lucas announced that a live-action Star Wars show was in development. The series, which was eventually known as Star Wars Underworld, was set between the prequel and original trilogies, and took place on the Imperial capital Coruscant, with a primary focus on the planet's seedy criminal underbelly. Allegedly, about 50 scripts were written before Underworld was put on hiatus.

The reason? It's all about the cash, baby. "The scripts were written as if money was no object," Battlestar Galactica mastermind Ronald D. Moore, who worked in Underworld's writers' room, told EW. According to Lucas, every episode would've been equivalent to a $20 million film, although he claimed he could produce it for a fraction of that by using his own facilities and digital technology. He wasn't willing to compromise his vision, either. If that meant postponing production until Underworld's special effects could be accomplished on a TV budget, well, then he'd just wait. That was 2011. In 2012, Disney bought Star Wars for $4 billion, and Underworld suddenly went into limbo.

In 2013, ABC's Paul Lee said that Disney, ABC's parent company, was reevaluating Underworld, and when Jon Favreau's series was announced, many fans wondered if some of Underworld (and 1313Underworld's cancelled video game tie-in) would make its way into the new project. Given what we know now, probably not, although The Mandalorian inherited at least one thing from its predecessor: the price tag. Reportedly, every episode of the show will cost $10 million to make. Yikes.

A cast that's out of this world

Most of the characters on The Mandalorian's roster will be brand new, but the same can't be said for the actors behind them. For Star Wars' first live-action television outing, Disney and LucasFilm have assembled a cast filled with familiar faces — especially if you're a fan of genre entertainment.

For example, remember Game of Thrones' Oberyn Martell? Y'know, the Dornish noble who challenged the Mountain to a duel, only to get his eyes gouged out and his head crushed? Well, Pedro Pascal, the actor who played him, has signed on as The Mandalorian's mysterious lead. Pascal's star has been on the rise over the past few years — in addition to Thrones, he appeared in Netflix's Narcos and has a role in Wonder Woman 1984 — making him a big get. He's a great actor, and fans should be excited to see him join the Star Wars universe.

In addition, former MMA star and American Gladiator and current action hero Gina Carano, star of Haywire, Deadpool, and Fast and Furious 6, will serve as The Mandalorian's female lead. Three-time Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte — yeah, that Nick Nolte — will join them in an unspecified role. That last addition was a long time coming: Nolte was just a Wookiee's hair away from playing Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy before Harrison Ford ended up landing the role, changing Star Wars — and Hollywood — forever.

The Mandalorian is not the only one of its kind

With Disney reconsidering its approach to Star Wars spinoff films, the Skywalker saga coming to a close with 2019's Episode IX, and Rian Johnson and the Game of Thrones team's dual film series still years away, television looks like it'll be the go-to source for new Star Wars adventures in the near future. Thankfully, The Mandalorian won't be shouldering that burden all on its own. Not only is the Disney Channel cartoon Star Wars Resistance off to a strong start, but there's a second Star Wars series coming to the Disney+ streaming service, too.

Unlike The Mandalorian, however, the other live-action Star Wars show will feature at least one familiar face. Diego Luna, who played Rebel spy Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will reprise his role in an untitled series set to debut at an unspecified date. The show will be set sometime before the events of Rogue One, and will reportedly focus on "the formative years of the Rebellion."

That means that The Mandalorian and the Cassian Andor series won't directly overlap — they're set in two very different time periods — but it'd wouldn't be surprising to see one reference the other. Under Disney's stewardship, everything is connected. If a theme park, a novel, and possibly a movie can share a setting, it's pretty easy to imagine The Mandalorian picking up a character, vehicle, or planet from Andor's adventures. We'll just have to wait and see.