With Grand Admiral Thrawn foreshadowed to appear in The Mandalorian, it’s time to consider which actors could play the fan-favorite character.
Now that The Mandalorian has invoked the name of Grand Admiral Thrawn, it seems inevitable that the feared Chiss strategist will make an appearance in live-action – but who should bring him to life? The hit Star Wars show has already taken a few different approaches to casting animated characters this season, bringing on Katee Sackhoff to resume her role as Bo-Katan while recasting Ahsoka Tano with Rosario Dawson. Both choices have worked out extremely well so far, opening up some interesting possibilities for Thrawn’s potential future.
Thrawn is one of the old Extended Universe’s most notorious characters, and he’s already made major waves in the new canon. Most notably, Thrawn appeared as a recurring antagonist in Star Wars: Rebels, a show that ended with him being thrown through hyperspace into the Unknown Regions of space. He’s an imposing and fearsome figure, but also soft-spoken, considered, and calculated.
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All that is to say, there are some things about Thrawn that need to stay consistent in his theoretical live-action debut – the posture, the iciness, the way of speaking. Still, there’s also room to take some new initiative with the character with a transition to live-action, especially since his history in post-Disney Star Wars canon is relatively minor. With that in mind, here are just a few actors who could each bring something unique and effecting to the role of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Lars Mikkelsen is an obvious contender for one primary reason – he’s played the role before. Mikkelsen voiced Thrawn throughout the character’s tenure on Rebels, and he did a stellar job throughout. He’s mastered the softly terrifying timbre of Thrawn’s vocal pattern, and he’s already done the work to get into the mind of the character. Given that The Mandalorian has already brought one past voice actor back to play their role in live-action, it seems reasonable that Mikkelsen could be asked to do the same.
But that’s not the only reason Mikkelsen would be a good pick. In addition to his past vocal work, the Danish star has played a number of prominent live-action roles as well, including Charles Augustus Magnussen in Sherlock, and Viktor Petrov on House of Cards. He’s seasoned, versatile, and he has the necessary on-screen thrall for Thrawn. In short, he’d be an excellent choice, and one the fan base can surely get behind.
Chiwetel Ejiofor has everything Thrawn needs – classical acting chops, a captivating vocal power, experience in the realm of sci-fi, and a beguiling presence on-screen. He’s a Laurence Olivier Award winner, a two-time Golden Globe nominee, and he’s excelled in everything from Shakespeare to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As a character largely avoidant of direct confrontation and physical combat, Thrawn builds intrigue and power primarily through his physical presence and his speech. Ejiofor can nail both of those, having recently voiced Scar in the photorealistic Lion King remake, and possessing an wide and subtle emotional range. Need proof Ejiofor would make an excellent Thrawn? The “fall on your sword” scene from Serenity should speak for itself: capturing the perfect balance between calm and utterly, disarmingly terrifying in equal measure.
Pierce Brosnan has never played Thrawn himself, though he does have a bit of history with the character in a way. In a mural created for Star Wars Celebration 2019, Thrawn is depicted alongside other characters from Rebels. Curiously, that particular rendering of the Empire’s Grand Admiral bore a striking resemblance to Brosnan.
If the mural is any indication as to the future of the character, Brosnan could be in the running. Of course, one picture isn’t the only reason he’d make a good Thrawn. The former James Bond has suave to spare, and it would be interesting to channel that captivating energy into someone a bit more sinister. Brosnan’s extensive resume speaks for itself, he has the look and the sound, and he’d bring a superstar-level presence to the already-stacked cast of The Mandalorian. Given his impressive range and body of work, it’s hard to imagine Brosnan’s Thrawn being anything less than exceptional.
This is a bit more of a wildcard pick, but it could be a perfect one as well. Naveen Andrews is a TV veteran, having played major roles on shows like Instinct, Sense8, and most famously, Lost, where he portrayed Sayid Jarrah for all six seasons. Andrews might not have the same poised intimidation factor as Mikkelsen or Ejiofor, but he would be an excellent choice if The Mandalorian decides to go in a slightly different direction with Thrawn than what’s been seen before.
That’s not to sell Andrews short on his charisma. His role in Sense8 – largely a monologue-centric character – is a walking testament to his ability to softly and subtly command attention. Andrews is a master of doing a lot with a little, conveying powerful emotion through soft speech and minute facial expression. That’s all key for a compelling Thrawn performance, but what he adds to the equation is the vulnerability he brings as a performer. Depending on what role Thrawn will play going forward and how the character is written, Andrews could be the perfect actor to bring some new layers to Thrawn without changing too much.
When it comes to playing villains, few are as deft as Jason Isaacs. While the star is most famous for playing Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, his roles on stage and screen are innumerable and make up a truly impressive career. Plus, Isaacs already has experience playing a bad guy in the Star Wars universe, having voiced the Grand Inquisitor in Star Wars: Rebels. Isaacs’s experience as a voice actor on other shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender would serve him well as Thrawn, and he could certainly deliver the admiral’s lines with the appropriate consideration and quiet malice.
Isaac’s connection with Lucasfilm also bodes well for a potential turn as Thrawn. Because of the overlap in production staff across different modern Star Wars projects, it would be helpful for anyone coming into a major role to already be familiar with the environment and style. Isaacs could slip into the character of Thrawn smoothly and easily, and he’d certainly deliver a performance worthy of the Grand Admiral’s reputation. Perhaps fans will get to see him take the Chiss to the screen in The Mandalorian season 3.
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