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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Who Plays Grand Admiral Thrawn in ‘Ahsoka’ Episode 6?

Wow, Ahsoka really kicked into hyperspace this week — and I’m not talking about those space whales. Okay, maybe I am, considering that Ahsoka and her trusty sidekick Huyang hopped into the mouth of a space whale in order to fling themselves to a galaxy far, far away at the end of last week’s episode. But as far out as “Part V: Shadow Warrior” was, this week’s installment of Ahsoka — “Part VI: Far, Far Away” — made good on a lot of major, major promises. SPOILERS ahead!

This week’s episode introduced a few major players into the narrative, and it also took Star Wars where it has never gone before: a brand new galaxy. One of those players has been stuck in said galaxy for (checks the Star Wars timeline) 9 years, ever since the end of the Star Wars Rebels animated series. The man is, of course, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Let’s talk about our new fave blue baddie (move over, Mystique).

Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

Grand Admiral Thrawn is, well, a grand admiral of the Empire. He’s a tactical genius and one of the best, if not the best, strategist in the entire Empire. He’s also a ferocious, cunning warrior. As for some background on the franchise’s newest live-action villain: his full name is Mitth’raw’nuruodo and he is of the species Chiss from the planet Rentor.

Grand Admiral Thrawn
Photo: Disney+

The only way to stop Thrawn from victory is to literally remove him from the battlefield, and that’s essentially what Jedi-in-training Ezra Bridger did 9 years ago when he shot Thrawn’s Star Destroyer to another galaxy, with himself and Thrawn on board. That happened in the series finale of Star Wars Rebels, “Family Reunion — and Farewell” in case you need something to watch right now. In fact, Thrawn was a recurring villain in Star Wars Rebels Seasons 3 and 4, starting with the episode “Hera’s Heroes.”

Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels
Photo: Lucasfilm, Disney

If the name “Thrawn” sounds familiar to you, that might be because he’s actually been part of Star Wars for over 30 years. The character was originally introduced in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. Thrawn was an immediate fan favorite, and the success of Heir to the Empire and the ensuing trilogy of novels essentially marked the start of the Star Wars Expanded Universe that entertained fans and kept the franchise alive for the next 20 years.

When Disney bought Star Wars in 2012, though, they ultimately wished to start fresh with the canon so they would be free to take the franchise wherever they saw fit. That meant that pretty much everything except for the movies and the Clone Wars animated series was removed from canon. That’s why Thrawn’s reintroduction in Star Wars Rebels, now part of the official Star Wars canon, was such a big deal. That’s why it’s an even bigger deal that he’s in live-action now.

Who plays Grand Admiral Thrawn in Ahsoka?

Thrawn is played by Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen, who also provided the voice for Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels.

Lars Mikkelsen / Grand Admiral Thrawn
Photos: Getty Images, Disney ; Illustration: Dillen Phelps

You may know Mikkelsen from his English-speaking roles as Stregobor on The Witcher, Viktor Petrov on House of Cards, and Charles Magnussen on Sherlock. He’s also the older brother of Hannibal and Rogue One star Mads Mikkelsen.

Back to Thrawn: is Grand Admiral Thrawn a member of the ISB — the Imperial Security Bureau?

Instead of wearing all grey or black like most Imperial officers, Thrawn stands out because of his stark white uniform. That is the uniform most often seen on members of the Imperial Security Bureau, essentially the C.I.A. of the Empire. For example, look at Dedra Meero’s uniform as seen in the Star Wars series Andor.

Andor ep 4 - Dedra
Photo: Disney+

And look at Thrawn…

Grand Admiral Thrawn
Photo: Disney+

It turns out that both members of the ISB and those respected few who climb so high to the rank of grand admiral all wear white uniforms. The primary difference: grand admirals get fancy gold shoulder plates.

Thrawn and his fancy, albeit worse for wear, uniform will most likely return in next week’s episode of Ahsoka on Disney+.

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