As we see in this week’s Andor, Mon Mothma is far from the height of her powers. Though seen only briefly in the Star Wars films, the Republic leader’s legacy looms large: She’s one of the few to stand against Supreme Chancellor Palpatine during the final days of the Republic; she secretly helped found the Rebel Alliance; and eventually she became the leader and face of the organization. But in Andor she is only partway on that journey. Here Mon Mothma is just a senator, surreptitiously working to fight against the very fascist regime she’s trapped within.
“I feel like when we meet her in Andor she’s been fighting this fight for a long time. And I feel like she’s been getting nowhere,” Genevieve O’Reilly, who played Mon Mothma in Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, and Star Wars Rebels and resumes the role in Andor. “It is a wall of power and oppression in front of her that she is tired of fighting.”
In that way, she’s comparable to Andor’s titular hero. Both she and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) hope for better lives for themselves, their loved ones, and the civilizations around them, only to be stopped by the Empire’s forces at every turn. Mon Mothma was burned trying to make change from within the Empire (her days in the Star Wars prequels), and Cassian, as he reveals in this episode, as a soldier on Mimban.
But though their goals may have some overlap, Cassian’s experiences have turned him resolute against any authority figure. And though he doesn’t know he’s working alongside the likes of Mon Mothma as of episode 4, O’Reilly thinks she knows exactly how he would react: “If Cassian Andor was to meet Mon Mothma at the very beginning, she would absolutely be the establishment he would be pushing up against.”
Still, she sees it as true to the philosophies underlying Andor’s whole ethos. “It’s a bit more truthful, I think, to the layers of navigating society; to having a fight within a fight that we recognize from our world,” O’Reilly reflects, noting that their differences are what make the Rebel Alliance, nascent that it is at this point, powerful. “You see a woman put her life on the line in a very different way than Cassian is putting his life on the line.”
O’Reilly says she drew not only from her scenes in Revenge of the Sith (even ones that were deleted from the final film that still make up the “cellular memory” of the character for her), but from real-life female politicians of all stripes, citing Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and former Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. Though her situation is more precarious than we’ve ever seen it, this is her own make-or-break time — even if we know it ends happier than Cassian’s.
“Previously she believed that she could make change within the Empire, and that’s what she was trying to do with Amidala and Organa in those early scenes,” O’Reilly says. “Now she has to go outside structure. She has to risk, she has to enter a dangerous environment. And she really has to put her own beliefs on the line.”