SLASH FILM – Adria Arjona is very much a star on the rise right now. The actress got her major break in HBO’s “True Detective” back in 2015, but in recent years, she’s been working with some of the biggest directors and in the biggest franchises around. Arjona starred in Michael Bay’s “6 Underground,” joined the fight against the Kaiju in “Pacific Rim Uprising,” and recently dipped her toe into the Marvel universe in “Morbius.” But now, she’s stepping into one of the biggest franchises the world has ever known; Arjona is starring in “Andor,” the latest live-action “Star Wars” show making its way to Disney+ in September.
Arjona will be starring as Bix Caleen, a character who has close ties to Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, the Rebel spy audiences first met in 2016’s “Rogue One.” While we won’t get into spoilers here, let’s just say she’s an ally of Cassian’s and doesn’t have much love for the Empire. I recently had the good fortune of speaking with Arjona during a press conference for the series to learn a bit more about Bix and the show itself. We discussed how she fits in the universe, the massive scale of filming a “Star Wars” show like this, and how it compared to working on a big Marvel movie.
‘Bix isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty’
“Star Wars” has been a part of my life for about as long as I have memories. So anytime I get to speak to someone who was actually involved with it, it means a lot to me.
Oh, that’s amazing. I’m so excited to talk to you.
So on that topic, everyone finds “Star Wars” in their own unique way. What was your relationship to it before becoming a part of it?
I was a fan, I loved the movies. I had never watched them chronologically, so I was a little bit lost with the known timelines. I didn’t quite understand a lot of what was going on, but I certainly loved the world and all I wanted to do was be a part of it. Then finally, I got this role and I just decided to do my homework and I watched it all chronologically. It felt important to me to sort of know where I lived in the time and in the space. But then the more I read the scripts, the more I realized you don’t really have to watch any of the movies to sort of understand and appreciate the show. I mean, it’s amazing if you do, but if you don’t, it still stands on its own. That was pretty cool to me, too. That sort of gave me a lot of relief. I was like, “Okay.”
I think that’s important, too, especially now because so much stuff, like with the Marvel stuff, it feels like you have to do so much homework to watch something. I know Tony [Gilroy] has talked a lot about how they want “Andor” to be able to stand alone and be able to be an entry point for “Star Wars” fans.
Yeah. I really do believe it is, and it hopefully will be. I think you can watch and you can sort of fall in love with “Star Wars” and maybe it brings in even people that have never watched “Star Wars” before, because they don’t want to do the homework. I think that’s pretty cool.
Getting a little bit more specific, you played Bix. How would you describe her? Since you kind of did your homework before this, are there any other “Star Wars” characters that we might know that you could maybe compare her to?
I’m not big on comparison. I think there’s so many strong female characters in “Star Wars” that really stand on their own. That’s what I love about this whole world so much. I think just Bix is almost like an add-on to that. I think Bix isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty, and she’s very practical and technical, and she’s a boss, and she’s fearless. Yet she’s incredibly caring and protective of the people around her, and a lot of the time that’s to her own detriment, right?
So what I really like about Bix is that she’s sort of this stable character, right? She has her sell yard and she owns this business and is trading and lives in this sort of trading world market city called Fariks. Then Cassian comes along and comes in, and like he always does, shifts things around every single time he comes in. He’s like, “I need you to lie. I need you to do something. I did this.” And you’re like, “Good God, here we go again.” I think Bix maybe has been saying for two years or a year, “I’m going to say no next time, I’m saying no next time, I’m saying no next time. No, no, no.” And he comes and she can’t help it.
‘I think Morbius was a very different experience’
A bit more broadly, I know you filmed it a while ago, but you did “Morbius” as well. But how does making “Andor” and playing in the “Star Wars” sandbox compare to working in another gigantic sandbox like Marvel while making “Morbius?”
I think they’re very different yet alike, because I filmed in the same city. So it almost feels like I was there forever. But I think “Morbius” was a very different experience. It was on a set, we did have some tangible and practical sets, but very little. I think “Morbius” within itself is really a three-hander piece. When this piece, it feels so much bigger than yourself. You feel it the second you step onto a set. This is not specific to Marvel — it’s very specific to the movie that I did in Marvel.
I think with “Andor,” I walked onto set and they had built an entire city. It was like four city blocks and I could get lost in it and I could open any drawer and there’s stuff inside of it.
I could sort of imagine where Bix would have breakfast and where she would go have dinner and where she would go have a drink. The bar was very much there and I would sort of hang out there sometimes in between takes. I could do the walk that she would do in the morning to get to her yard. So it was very much more immersive and I felt a lot bigger. But it was just very specific to the two projects that I was a part of. You’re working with so many different actors and so many different storylines within a single show. So that way of working, I think, was very different from my experience in Marvel.
The bit of the show that I have seen, I would say that it’s very gritty and grounded, but “gritty” is the word that I would use. Did you guys still manage to kind of keep things fun while filming, even though it was a very serious show?
Yeah, we did, we did. I mean, I think there’s a preparation and there’s this thing that you feel when you’re on a “Star Wars” set. You’re like, “I want to honor this, I want to do it for the fans, I want to do it for the storyline, I want to do it for Tony [Gilroy]. I want to do it for Bix.” So there is a sense that it is quite serious, but that only happens between action and cut. Then everything else, it’s a bunch of kids going, “We’re in Star Wars, we’re in Star Wars. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
Even the director geeks out. I don’t know how many takes I messed up because I saw something and I was like, “What?” I remember the first Stormtrooper that I saw or creature actor and I was running and I saw someone, and I was like, “Oh my God.” And the director’s like, “Do you want to not react? You’re part of this world, you’re supposed to be used to this.” I just found it to be the coolest thing. I think everyone turns into little kids the second that cameras are not rolling.
“Andor” arrives on Disney+ on September 21, 2022.