Hayden Christensen Points Out That Obi-Wan Kenobi Marks A New First For Vader

A show like Disney+'s "Obi-Wan Kenobi" faces different challenges than a typical television show. Sure, it has the advantage of relying on established characters and worlds that already have devoted fans. The downside is "the prequel problem." In other words, since fans already know what's going to happen to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, it's much more difficult for "Obi-Wan Kenobi" to keep viewers in suspense.

The actors on the series have a similar challenge. On the surface it might seem like an easier acting job, since they're already familiar with the characters. However, it's not that simple. As McGregor explained at 2022's Star Wars celebration, "Obi-Wan Kenobi" takes the main character to a "darker, more broken place" than the audience has ever seen him before (via Yahoo). 

The same is true for Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Christensen played Anakin in "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" and Anakin/Vader in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith." For "Obi-Wan Kenobi," Christensen played Darth Vader in heavy makeup for the scenes when he's recovering in a bacta tank, and he was one of several actors who played Vader in his suit. James Earl Jones returned to provide the character's voice.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Christensen explained how Anakin/Vader is a different character this time around, and how he got into the mindset to play him.

It's the first time we see Anakin-as-Vader since Revenge of the Sith

As Christensen explained, "Obi-Wan Kenobi" takes place at a unique point in Anakin/Vader's life. Darth Vader does appear at the end of "Revenge of the Sith," and is obviously a major character in the original trilogy, but this is the first time the audience sees a live-action Vader during the in-between years. At the end of "Revenge of the Sith," Anakin Skywalker has just become Darth Vader, and during "A New Hope" he's been Darth Vader for 20 years. In "Obi-Wan Kenobi," however, the character is in the middle of those two extremes. 

"This is the first time we've seen Vader sort of chronologically this close to the Anakin Skywalker character," Christensen said, describing the scene when Vader and Obi-Wan have their lightsaber duel on Mapuzo. "So there are some indications of Anakin in there."

Elsewhere in the interview, Christensen talked about the challenge of returning to the character. Unlike during the prequels, when Christensen mostly played Anakin Skywalker as Anakin Skywalker, this time he's playing Anakin post-transformation into Darth Vader. It's a much different point in the character's journey.

As Christensen put it, "I always see Anakin as a throughline and an undercurrent to this character. Vader is trying his best to kill off that side of him, but there always has to be a little bit of Anakin in there."

It can be dicey to bring back an iconic character, and sure, there will always be "Star Wars" fans who object to any major creative decision. Overall, however, Christensen's hard work, and that of his fellow Vader performers, has paid off.