The Stars of ‘Star Wars’ Join Forces: Pedro Pascal and Ewan McGregor Share Secrets Behind ‘The Mandalorian’ and ‘Halston’

·14-min read

Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian”) and Ewan McGregor (“Halston”) sat down for a virtual chat for Variety‘s Actors on Actors. For more, click here.

Pedro Pascal plays the helmeted title character in the phenomenon that is Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian,” and Ewan McGregor is filming the highly anticipated “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series for the streamer, reprising his role from George Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels. But McGregor — who can currently be seen in Netflix’s “Halston” as the famed designer — and Pascal have points of intersection beyond “Star Wars.” Pascal recounted to McGregor how in 1996, after returning to New York from a summer trip in Spain, the friends who’d picked him up at the airport told him that the first thing he needed to do was watch “Trainspotting.” “And that began my absorption of your entire career,” Pascal said.

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During their conversation, McGregor pointed out that several years ago, Pascal co-starred in a show with his partner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Pascal filled in the details about “Exposed,” an ABC pilot the network passed over that had been written by screenwriter Charles Randolph (who went on to win an Oscar for “The Big Short”) and directed by a pre-“Wonder Woman” Patty Jenkins: “These hacks that went off to do nothing with their careers after the pilot wasn’t picked up,” as Pascal put it.

“Well,” McGregor replied. “You didn’t do so badly yourself.”

Ewan McGregor: I just came directly from our set on the “Kenobi” series, and I’m working with so many of your crew from “The Mandalorian.” In fact, Deborah Chow is directing all of our series, and I know she directed episodes of your first season. I’m having such an amazing time down there with that incredible technology, and not being in front of too much green screen and blue screen.

Pedro Pascal: It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? You would think that you would have to really invent all of it in your mind, but more than any set I’ve ever been on, it’s there and meticulously created in the production design. It’s like being on an amusement park ride.

McGregor: I did the first three films in the late ’90s and into the 2000s, and by the time you did Episode 2 and 3, literally 90% of the scenes were just on green sets with green floors and green walls, or a blue set with blue sides and blue walls.

Pascal: It would be such a different experience with the same character that you were doing before — and then coming in and doing it with all this new technology.

McGregor: I like it. It’s like the beginning of Hollywood. It’s almost like when they had three-sided sets all in a row, and a bunch of guys with windup cameras, and you would just go from one stage to the other, one background to the other. Well, we’re doing sort of the same thing, except just the background changes instead of the stage. I’m excited about it because I feel like anything’s possible now. That you can invent stuff, interiors or exteriors that don’t exist in the real world, and put us into that environment. And also, you don’t have to fly ever. I mean, traveling has been great for the first 30 years of my career, but now I just want to stay at home. I just want to drive to work and drive home from work. I want a proper job.

Are you doing a third season of “The Mandalorian”?

Pascal: Yeah, we’re going to be doing a Season 3.

McGregor: It pulled me back into the “Star Wars” world, the “Mandalorian” series, in a way I didn’t expect. It blew me away how much I loved it.

Pascal: The first thing that I noticed when I started meeting with Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni was that they were finding a way to totally realize their love of “Star Wars,” all of our love for “Star Wars.” And so, creatively to step into something, it just felt so safe. It was so clear to me that they knew what they were doing, starting with their heart being in the right place — and doing it with a lot of love.

McGregor: What was your relationship with “Star Wars” before “Mandalorian”?

Pascal: I was born in ’75, and my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Chile when I was a baby. We were absorbing a lot of cinema. My father, who’s a doctor but loves going to the movies, would be taking us all the time. And so, it kind of dominated my childhood experience, “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” and “E.T.,” and all that Spielberg and George Lucas stuff.

When I met with them, and stepped into a writers’ room that was wall-to-wall story illustrations of the first season, it was really surreal to see such familiar imagery, and kind of realize that those were pulled right out of your imagination. They know the impact that it had on all of us, and they’re finding a way to — or new ways, really — to speak to that, and visually create the things that we see when we close our eyes and think about it. Which is kind of amazing.

McGregor: The beautiful thing is that it’s a galaxy far, far away. It’s a universe of possibility, really. We’ve got the original movies, the linear nature of those. But I just love that they and you took it into this different direction, into a slightly different tone, but in the same world, you know?

Pascal: It’s like all the old and all the new, yeah.

McGregor: How did you keep the Baby Yoda — it’s not called Baby Yoda. Grogu. How was that kept secret?

Pascal: That may literally be the very first secret that I’ve ever kept. Don’t share anything personal with me! But there’s so much seriousness around leaked information, and I find it all just a bit too much. I tell my family everything, and I didn’t with Grogu. I didn’t even know what his name was going to be until the second season, but I could just tell that it was going to have such an impact. When I saw the image of this thing, and started reading the scripts and everything, I didn’t want to compromise that in any way. It was easy to not talk about it because it was like, “Nah, I want this to work.”

McGregor: And was Grogu on set? Was it a puppet?

Pascal: Yeah, there’s this incredible puppet with fuzzy hair on the ears, and it moves remotely. I don’t give away too many secrets about how it works, but there are these incredible puppets, and one can be done remotely that is more conducive to wider shots. And then there’s one that’s very, very plugged in, and its eyeballs are moving around, its eyebrows are moving — it’s all of the sort of like muscular details of its face and ears and everything. And these guys are so talented, and they get the puppet to sort of act with you in the scene.

They didn’t keep it, but there was a moment where the puppet was warming itself near the fire, or curious about some kind of fire coming out of a jet. And I said, “Don’t get too close.” And then whoever’s doing the remote literally had the puppet look at me and back off and be like, “Oh, OK.” And it was kind of unbelievable. It was a really good scene partner.

McGregor: Amazing! The first film I did, I was lucky to do my scenes with the Yoda puppet. And it was extraordinary, because I acted with him. I couldn’t believe I was acting with Yoda. There’s so many people operating him, and the stage is lifted up so they’re underneath the floor and we were literally walking next to each other — and he’s alive. Then every time George called cut, Yoda would die, because everyone just stops. It was sort of disturbing every time the end of the scene would come along.

Then they replaced him for our second film and our third film with the digital version of him, and it’s not nearly as endearing. Also, we know Yoda as a puppet. We know him from the original movies as a puppet. So when it was suddenly computer generated, it didn’t feel like Yoda to me anymore. It was interesting that it went back to an actual puppet with your series.

Pascal: It worked on so many levels, and the way that we had to end the second season with this sort of tearful goodbye. To not have had the puppet for that, and also the knowledge of its reception from the world and how everyone felt about its creation, its relationship to the history of “Star Wars” — it was one of the more strange acting experiences that I’ve ever had. There were so many different things factoring into it that it wasn’t necessarily understanding the story so well in terms of what we were telling within “The Mandalorian,” but the context of all of it. If that makes any sense.

McGregor: I don’t think I’d be giving away a secret —

Pascal: Be careful!

McGregor: I’ve got to be so careful. There’s no secret to when this series is being set, but I had to walk past two Stormtroopers. I realized I’ve never acted with a Stormtrooper because mine were clones, you know? It was the clone army. So I’d never seen a Stormtrooper. So I was walking past them in this scene. I turned around — and I was 6 years old again.

Pascal: Doesn’t it do something to you?

McGregor: Insane. I was feeling like I was 6 again or something, because I’m so close to one and I got a fright, you know? So crazy. Then I asked someone, “Were there Stormtroopers in my films? Because I don’t think I’ve seen a Stormtrooper for real before.” They were like “No, they weren’t Stormtroopers; they were clones.” And Jawas, I had another scene with a little Jawa.

Pascal: Did you know a lot about Halston before taking the job? How did that come about?

McGregor: I had one of those afternoons where my agent set up a few meetings. I very rarely go to the actual agency, but I went there, they put me in a room, and I met three directors, one after the other, who were all trying to raise funds for different projects. The first person through the door was Dan Minahan, who directed the whole series of “Halston.” And he started talking about this man I’d never heard of, like the most famous person I’d never known.

I only want to work with people where I’m going to be taken somewhere creatively, or pulled in one direction or another. The second I started talking with Dan, I felt like he was somebody that would do that with me. I felt like I trusted him already.

Pascal: There’s something that I love so much about the show — the way that it focuses on collaboration, and almost the accident and the instinct that he has as an artist.

McGregor: I had a long period with it before we got on set. Because after meeting Dan, I left that meeting and read as much about Halston as I could. And realized I really wanted to play him. And then I came on as a producer, and we started shopping it around. Sharr White was the writer at that point. So me, Dan, Sharr and Christine Vachon, who I worked with on “Velvet Goldmine” years ago, the four of us started pitching it around town. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that, but it’s tough.

Pascal: No, I haven’t. That’s such a surprise to hear.

McGregor: We couldn’t get anyone to pick it up. Christine Vachon met Ryan Murphy out and about somewhere, and he was asking what she was doing, and she mentioned the Halston project. And he said, “Well, we’ve got to do it.”

Pascal: It’s so interesting to learn about it, and to be in the era. As an actor, it was just so cool to be able to relate to it on so many levels. And within the subject of creating something, and all of the corruption that comes with success.

McGregor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like all of that. And I like very much the discussion of the creative and the financial side of things, and how they come together. It’s so similar in our business, in our work. I think he was dealing with people he trusted and money people, and there was the constant battle against his creative perfectionism. I love the way he talks about designing often late at night, on the floor with a pair of scissors and some fabric. And you imagine him alone at 4 in the morning, probably drunk and high, cutting fabric.

Pascal: I think there’s an interesting relationship from one of the very first times that I ever saw you, which was in “Trainspotting.” Is it exhausting to research addiction or to embody it? How different did it feel then versus now?

McGregor: When I was doing “Trainspotting,” I worked with some really extraordinary guys. There’s a club in Glasgow called the Calton Athletic club and it’s a recovery group. They have meetings, they help each other with support and they play soccer.

We worked with those guys, and we had a drug adviser. We were all given the things we would need to cook up a shot of heroin, like a little cigarette lighter and a spoon and matches and some bicarb soda and pretend heroin. He demonstrated how you would do it, and then he would walk up and down the line as we’re all trying to do it. He’d be like, “More bicarb. That’s not enough heroin.” It was so funny.

Pascal: A tutorial on how to shoot up.

McGregor: I didn’t realize I would end up with addiction problems myself then. I became sober in 2000. So now, when I’m looking at characters who are addicts, I look at it through a different lens of understanding it more. An everyday part of my life is being sober. But at the same time, it’s quite an important part because it’s given me such joy and happiness and peace in a way I didn’t have before I was sober. It’s interesting to do all those lines of coke and all those cigarettes and shots that Halston was doing and just being glad they weren’t real. Just being happy about that, but understanding it.

Pascal: It starts in the first episode with Joel Schumacher and kind of calling out how intolerant he would be if he were to work with somebody who was falling into dangerous drug use. And then he succumbs to it himself.

McGregor: I don’t know how honest the portrayal of his relationship with Schumacher is. It’s a little petulant, the relationship in our series. Joel passed away while we were in the middle of shooting. I was so sad, because I knew Joel back in the day. I auditioned for him a couple of times. I visited his set when he was doing “Batman.” He was so lovely.

I was worried we weren’t servicing their relationship. In the documentary of “Halston,” Schumacher speaks so beautifully about Halston.

Pascal: There’s love in the relationship. That’s totally clear. It was so cool to talk to you. Have a blast on that set, man.

McGregor: I will. Come visit or something.

Pascal: All right.

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