Star Wars Rebels shook things up by bringing the Star Wars Legends character Thrawn into the canon. Producer Dave Filoni explains what it took to do this.

Thrawn - Star Wars Rebels
Star Wars Rebels managed to make a splash by canonizing Grand Admiral Thrawn from the eponymous book series The Thrawn Trilogy. Producer Dave Filoni recently held an interview to explain what it took to bring the character over into the continuity reset by Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, in addition to helping clear up some misconceptions about how the Star Wars Legends setting impacted the stories previously. held several interviews with producer Dave Filoni, and the most recent one as of this writing discusses the intent behind the decision to excise the original iteration of the Star Wars Expanded Universe – now called Star Wars Legends – from the continuity. As it turns out, the reason so much content was “removed” from the canon was that it was never actually seen as canon to begin with by George Lucas himself.

“For me and my training here at Lucasfilm, working with George, he and I always thought the Expanded Universe was just that. It was an expanded universe. Basically it’s stories that are really fun and really exciting, but they’re a view on Star Wars, not necessarily canon to him. That was the way it was from the day I walked into Lucasfilm with him all through Clone Wars, everything we worked on, he felt the Clone Wars series and his movies were what was actually the reality of it all, the canon, then there was everything else. So it wasn’t a big dynamic shift for me mentally when there was this big announcement saying the EU is now Legends. I’m like, ‘Okay, well, it’s kind of the same thing to me because that the way I work.’ What George and I always used to do though is look at what was out there, and you would see characters like Ventress and go, ‘My gosh, what a great character.’ People love this character. He saw Aayla Secura; He puts her in the film. So there was this great collaborative way where you could take these ideas, but you have to always kind of apply the Star Wars Cinematic Universe of what the canon is to those characters when you translate them.”

Case in point, the beloved villain Grand Admiral Thrawn was the first major character to be pulled over from the Legends setting into Star Wars Rebels, a part of the new, canonical Expanded Universe. Thrawn was brought over not only because the fans love him so much, but because his presence would directly help in telling the overarching story they were developing across multiple formats.

“Thrawn is a great example of that. I could’ve created a new admiral, right? But why, when there’s such a fantastic character like Thrawn? As long as you can use that character the right way, the way they were intended, and you’re not changing them, because if you’re going to change them too much, then don’t even bother. Leave that character alone until you can use them in a way that we’re familiar with. It’s not always just characters. There’s a couple other things as we go forward even that will pop up that people will see. Sometimes it’s just vehicles or things that are reminiscent, again, because a lot of times guys from Lucasfilm designed stuff, and then it went into product into the EU. So why not use it?”

As it stands, more Legends content will be integrated into the canon as time goes on. For now, Thrawn will continue to factor into Rebels as his master plan comes closer to fruition.

Star Wars Rebels is currently airing its third season on Disney XD.