The original Star Wars trilogy was a pop-culture juggernaut for years, but by the time the mid-'90s rolled around, interest in the series started to dwindle. However, George Lucas returned to his galaxy far, far away to develop a trilogy of prequel films, which brought back a number of beloved characters to learn more about their backstory. One such character was Beru Lars, who audiences had witnessed was a caretaker of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope, only for her and husband Owen to get killed by the Galactic Empire in their pursuit of droids C-3PO and R2-D2. Just a teenager at the time, actor Bonnie Piesse was enlisted to bring Beru to life in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
With Anakin Skywalker's journey to become Darth Vader being the focal point of the prequel trilogy, Piesse's Beru only had a handful of appearances in the films, though these sequences helped inform audiences to her history with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Being part of the Star Wars series, even in a smaller capacity, is an exciting enough opportunity for any performer, but the upcoming Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi sees Piesse return to play Beru, adding even more insight into the parental figure.
ComicBook.com caught up with Piesse to talk about joining the franchise, its impact on her life, and the experience of returning to the saga 20 years later.
ComicBook.com: I know that Keira Knightley had a background part in the prequel movies, and she said she fell asleep while filming it and didn't really understand the significance of those movies. For you, when you first had this opportunity to get involved in the prequels, what was your connection to Star Wars at the time? Was it, "Oh, my God. I get to be Beru Lars," or was it, "Sure. Star Wars is a popular thing. I guess I'll audition for this part,"?
Bonnie Piesse: No, I was well aware that it was a very big thing, so I was pretty nervous-excited at the audition. I think I was so excited that I actually was fumbling my lines, but apparently, that didn't stop me from getting the role. And then, when I found out that I got the role, it was a very big deal. I was at school. I was still 16, so I was just in my final years of high school, and there's a story that I've told to the fans a lot, where my mom ran across the courtyard, screaming, so it was like a big scene. She was like, "Ah! You got the role!" So yeah, it was very exciting, but I was 16. I didn't really understand how that would affect my life forever. Definitely not, but it was exciting.
Going back to those days on set, especially since George Lucas has, in recent years after selling off Star Wars, he's definitely more of a mythical figure when it comes to the filmmaking world, do you remember what those collaborations were like with him? Was it him just very much saying, "Okay, stand here, take these children," and move on or was it a much more intense collaborative process?
I would say his process or the way he was on set was just super easygoing. That actually put me at ease because he gave me a big hug as I first came on set, and he was like, "Just make yourself at home. Get comfy," so that was great. And it was minimal notes, but usually about the energy of the scene. Pretty simple, really, but obviously great to collaborate with him.
You're 16 at the time, so obviously you're playing a younger character, and your screen time is, compared to Anakin or Obi-Wan, you don't have a ton of scenes, but did you get to have a preparation process? Was there a lot of, "You're playing Beru, and this is what she goes on to be, and this is where her life is now," or was it, again, just George saying, "Stand here, say this, and let's move on,"?
He was aware that I had watched the originals, so I knew who Beru was, and I really studied that. But other than that, I think he trusted in the casting. He was like, "Yeah, you're a great fit. You're Beru," so I didn't really have to do that much. But actually, my first scene in Episode II was a scene that they cut in the end. It was a big dialogue scene with Natalie Portman on Tatooine, in the Lars homestead kitchen. And they actually threw that at me ... I think it was the night before, and suddenly there's a script. It's like, "Oh, my gosh." And I'm Australian, so I had to wrangle the American accent for that. In the end, I never got to see that scene, so I hope that I get to see that one day. It was really fun.
You're a teenager when you get involved in this franchise, and the movies come out, and in the years since, because it was 15 years since Revenge of the Sith came out, with all of your encounters with fans, do you have a memory that sticks out of the strangest or most bizarre fan encounter that you've had?
I would say it was my first convention experience, which was Celebration II in Indianapolis, and that was a part of the world that I really didn't know about. I didn't know what a convention was. I had no idea what I was in for. And Joel [Edgerton] was there, too, so we were both making our first little appearance. I have this memory, we were walking down the street, and people recognized us, and a bunch of stormtroopers started chasing us down the street, "It's Owen! It's Beru!" And the movie hadn't even come out yet, and I was like, "Whoa." We had to get in a side door in the building to escape the stormtroopers. So that was pretty funny.
Well, and I say "strangest encounter with fans," I really hope those stormtroopers were fans and not actually acting on behalf of the Galactic Empire.
They seemed pretty friendly, so I'm dramatizing a little bit. It was a funny experience.
Sadly, we know that the stormtroopers ended up winning against Owen and Beru.
Yeah, that's a sad story.
Sorry to bring things down so much.
Yeah, it's a sore spot.
As a fan, I think if you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound. I love all corners of Star Wars for every reason imaginable, and I have things I like more, things that I like less, but I still love it all. When those movies came out, not everybody loved them, you could say. Or at least the adult fans didn't enjoy them so much as the intended audience of younger kids enjoyed them. So when that negative response was coming out, did that at all impact you? Was it, "Oh, no. I'm involved in this thing that people 'hate,'" or was it, "Who cares? I got to be in Star Wars, and you didn't,"?
No, it was still really exciting to be a part of it. I really felt that the fans at the conventions were supportive and did love the prequels, so I didn't actually hear that much negative stuff. Maybe a few people that I'd run into in my life or something were like, "I didn't like the prequels as much," but it was a pretty good response, actually. I heard Ewan McGregor say recently that he was happy now that the younger generation that grew up with that now are saying how much they loved them, so I guess he had that experience that they weren't as loved as much as the old ones.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, obviously, at the time, nobody quite knew what Disney's plans were going to be or how it was going to make a comeback or how it was going to expand. When those first thoughts or first rumors or reports of Disney making more new Star Wars came out, was there part of you that thought, "I wonder if Beru might make a comeback," or was it, "That's cool. Good for them," and you just went about your business?
Actually, I kept hearing rumors that Beru might make a comeback from people who said that they had ins with Lucasfilm, too. So it sounded to me like it might happen, and I kept hearing these things for years and years. And then, at one point, I heard that there was going to be a movie. I think there was talks about the Kenobi movie before it turned into this series. So I was thinking, "Oh, fingers crossed, maybe." And especially Joel Edgerton has had an awesome career since we filmed the prequels, so I figured they might want to bring him back, too, and I'm sure they have to bring Beru back. I was hopeful, but I couldn't be happier, really, with how it all came around in a six-part series, and the way it's all done with Deborah Chow directing and everything is really, really special.
Do you remember what that call was like when you were first approached with, "Yes, we're doing Kenobi. Yes, Joel is involved. We can't have Owen without Beru. We need you back,"? Was it a slow buildup of learning these pieces of information or was it a completely out-of-the-blue phone call?
It was a pretty out-of-the-blue phone call. My husband and I had moved to Portugal, which is where I am now, and we were just hanging out by the ocean in Portugal. I wasn't actively pursuing acting really at all, and yeah, they sent through a message, which I didn't realize it was from them actually, at first, the way it came through, and I ignored it for maybe over a week. I was like, "Eh." And then eventually, someone said to me, "You might want to go check out that message, whatever that was," so I checked it out. And yeah, before I knew it, I was talking to Deborah. By the time I realized I was going to talk with her, I was thinking, "Okay, this has to be Kenobi." So I said that to her, "I assume this is about that," and then she explained things to me. But yeah, very, very exciting. Just as exciting as the first time, I would say. There was jumping up and down, and I was very excited. But this time, the whole thing has had more depth to it. It's just so beautiful to be involved again. I feel really grateful.
I love how 20 years ago or whatever, when you were first getting approached, it would have been, "It's tough to track you down in Australia, with the phone calls and the internet and all that," and this time, it's just so contemporary of, "Ugh, someone's calling me? Ugh, and they leave a voicemail? I don't want to listen to a voicemail."
No, it's just funny because I really was removed from Hollywood at that point, so it was like, okay. And also in 2020, in the middle of COVID, and not many things were shooting at that point, so things had slowed down.
When you actually returned, that first day on set, was it like riding a bike, like you were just easily able to tap into that character effortlessly? Or was it like starting from complete scratch because this is a different filmmaker, this is a different backstory, this is a different time in the character's life?
It really just felt like easily stepping back into it, I felt it was easy to jump in and embody Beru. Then Deborah is so focused on character and emotion and all the intricacies of that, so she was really helpful with really distinct, precise things to bring in. But yeah, it's one of those roles that is easy.
The timeline of your character, we meet her in A New Hope, and we just know that she's taking care of Luke, and she lives with Owen. Retroactively, obviously, there's some significance to what we see of her in A New Hope before learning her and Owen were aware of so much more that was going on. So with this series, just the fact that it's a six-part series, as we mentioned, there's just more screen time. Without giving anything away, do we get to learn more about who Beru and who Owen are? Or is it still you folks get to be involved in this narrative, get to be involved in this journey, but it's still ultimately supporting Kenobi and his story?
I think you'll definitely get to see more about Owen and Beru, so yes, people will for sure get more of a sense of who they are at that point. And, of course, our role is we're protecting Luke, so that's what it's focused on, but you'll have to see all the little details. But definitely, you'll see more of that.
Have you personally seen any of the episodes yet?
I haven't, actually, so it's going to be a huge surprise to me, as well. I can't wait. I think it's going to be really amazing, with all the technology that they have, and Deborah's direction. Everything is just like the best of the best. I think it's going to be a really good series.
I'm hoping that they can give you maybe a discount on your Disney+ subscription to be able to check out the series when it finally comes out.
Right? I hope I get some kind of a way to sign in.
In the realm of Star Wars, did it feel to you like this was, because of the 20-year gap in playing Beru, did this feel like a sendoff for Beru, like you finally got a meatier role and opportunity to explore this character or did this almost completely revive your interest in the character, "Let's give Owen and Beru a spinoff series,"? Like you want to be playing Beru even more now?
Well, of course I want to play her more. I was just happy to be a part of it and a part of that journey and Obi-Wan's whole journey, as well. I think I could see an Owen and Beru spinoff, totally. I think we'll see what the fans say after they see the episodes, see if they want that. That would be cool.
Now I've got to ask you, what would an Owen and Beru spin-off series look like? Would it be like a This Is Us type of family drama of these two moisture farmers?
Oh, that's a great question. It actually totally could be. It could be, yeah, like family dynamics, the daily difficulties of life on the Lars homestead. Or it could follow their farming experience and what life's out there, with all the different creatures that they come across. Yeah, there's a lot of room for creativity there.
Hey, I'm sure it'll get greenlit. Star Wars keeps expanding, so that's wonderful.
I think so. And all the interesting creatures on Tatooine I think would be very fun.
Almost like a Crocodile Hunter, but with wrangling womp rats.
Exactly. Yeah, I was seeing some outdoorsy stuff. Life on the desert, what that's like, the daily troubles of almost getting eaten by this thing or that thing.
In addition to Kenobi, obviously, I know you just recently wrapped filming a new movie. I don't know if there's anything you can talk about that or tease about that latest project.
Yeah, My Favorite Girlfriend. It's a romantic comedy by Amanda Raymond, and it's a very challenging role for me. I play a character with DID, so Dissociative Identity Disorder, so I play seven characters. Talk about stretching myself as an actor. When I read the script, I was thinking, "Okay, if I can do this, then no other role is going to feel as challenging." And whew, it really stretched me. But it's a beautiful movie. I think people are really going to like it. It's got a really warm heart.
Bonnie, to go from, "Oh, I've left acting behind, and I guess I'll come back and do this little Star Wars thing," to, "Oh, I'm going to play this role where I have to do seven distinct identities,"...
Yeah, it was amazing. And it's interesting because so often, you can be in Hollywood and pushing to get things going with acting, and then it's just funny that it all started flowing once I was just off in Portugal. The phone starts ringing, "Hey, you want to do this? You want to do this?"
So that's the advice for everybody out there. If you want to make it big in Hollywood, just move to Portugal, and everybody will be after you.
Exactly. There you go.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on Disney+ on May 27th.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.