The first season of The Mandalorian showed one of the first attempts to bring an artifact from Star Wars animation into live-action. In the final scene of the show's first season, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) wields the Darksaber. The relic first appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (used by Pre Vizsla, voiced by The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau), and resurfaced in Star Wars Rebels. The weapon is a unique lightsaber, one whose black blade absorbs light rather than shining it outward. How do you bring such a stylized edge from the fully-rendered world of Clone Wars and Rebels into live-action? It helps to have Dave Filoni, producer of both animated shows, aboard the live-action take.
"That's something that we have to experience. When we do take things that came from The Clone Wars, we have to think, in that show, they are stylized, and that was like an animated style of something from live-action," Filoni says in an episode of Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian. "It's not about doing any of those things one-to-one, but it's about saying, 'That's based on something.'"
Favreau adds another piece of advice. He suggests asking, "What would George do?" in deference to Star Wars creator George Lucas, a master of bringing imaginative ideas to life in live-action.
The Darksaber is a weapon created in ancient times by Tarre Viszla, the first Mandalorian to become a Jedi. The Darksaber rested in the Jedi Temple after Tarre's death until his descendants took it from Coruscant during the Fall of the Old Republic. Clan Viszla held onto the Darksaber for generations, until Pre Viszla wielded it on the behest of the Deathwatch during the Mandalorian Civil War.
Darth Maul took control of the weapon when he took control of the planet Mandalore. During the early days of the Rebellion against the Empire, the Mandalorian Sabine Wren retrieved the Darksaber from Dathomir. She used it to lead Mandalorians in freeing their planet from the Imperial occupation. Later, the Empire purged Mandalore, and the Darksaber ended up in the hands of Gideon.
Esposito teased before that there will be plenty more Darksaber action in the second season of The Mandalorian, but that comes with a particular set of challenges. "It feels wonderful to have that iconic weapon in my hand. It takes some getting used to, as it is longer than a normal sword or saber," Esposito said. "And of course, it is shorter when you turn it off. So you have to figure out how to work the handle. And when you're using a saber like that, you have to think of — you can't really hit, because it'll bend. It has that [humming], it vibrates with that light and that energy… so you have to strike as if you're trying to hit someone with the heel of your hand, as opposed to letting the saber go out. So you keep your wrist straight. It feels powerful; it feels wonderful. I broke three of them last week."