News of Ray Stevenson's death rattled fans around the world on Monday. No cause of death was immediately announced for the 58-year-old Northern Irish actor, who had gained fame among genre aficionados first as the eponymous vigilante in the 2008 Marvel adaptation Punisher: War Zone and then as the mighty, merry Volstagg of the Warriors Three opposite Chris Hemsworth in the MCU's Thor films. His credits also included the cigar-chomping big bad role in the 2022 Tollywood smash RRR, one of the Knights of the Round Table in Antoine Fuqua's 2004 take on King Arthur, and the father of Theo James's Four in the Divergent saga.
Stevenson was next set to join the Star Wars universe, playing a key role in the upcoming Mandalorian spinoff Ahsoka set to debut on Disney+ in August.
In one of the actor's final interviews (watch below), he spoke to Yahoo in April at this year's Star Wars Celebration event in London.
Watch: Ray Stevenson shares Ahsoka details in April 2023:
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 appears 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.
But how scary is Baylan Skoll, exactly and what should we expect? Stevenson described the character as complex, layered and "stoically lethal."
"There’s nothing scary about Baylan; I would describe him as stoically lethal," Stevenson said. "He seems tough to pin down: just when you think you've got the measure of him, something happens to wrongfoot you.
"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.
"Every day, it was exciting to find out is he really a bad guy? He's not quite good but he's quite bad."
Ahsoka stars Rosario Dawson as the titular character alongside Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Hera Syndulla. Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy explained to Yahoo that the show, alongside Daisy Ridley’s new movie and the upcoming Disney+ series The Acolyte, "definitely" signal more female-focused Star Wars projects.
In a thoughtful aside, Stevenson told us that he was proud to be part of a series that championed a new kind of female character for the franchise, driven not by a masculine energy but by a feminine one. And he revealed one way he was supporting the new direction.
"I'm wearing a necklace here which has the goddess Tanit [on it], which is the goddess of Ibiza," he said, indicating the charm hanging around his neck. The goddess represents the Divine Feminine.
"There is a divinity that [says] women have had to take up a mantle because of certain men's 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.
"There is a purpose to everything and a balance to everything in nature."
Watch a trailer for Ahsoka: