Across Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and now, The Mandalorian, Bo-Katan Kryze’s journey has been circuitous. She keeps saving her homeworld, Mandalore, only to lose it. To Katee Sackhoff, who voiced the character on the earlier animated series and now plays her on the Disney+ live-action Star Wars show, felt Bo-Katan’s attempts to hold the planet mirror the character’s arc.
“She’s always trying to do the right thing,” Sackhoff told Rotten Tomatoes when we caught up with her about joining the Star Wars galaxy. “She’s always trying to bring the people together. I think that’s the one constant with her.”
Her inability to bring everyone together over the long term and free Mandalore also hints at larger story to be told about the once (and possibly future) regent.
“Just because she thinks that she is the rightful ruler and just because she thinks she’s ready to lead doesn’t mean she is,” said Sackhoff, who revealed that Bo-Katan’s ego and readiness to lead was one of the many topics she discussed with Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni when they first talked about Bo-Katan’s possible appearance on the show last year.
Sackhoff “cornered” Filoni at Star Wars Celebration in April 2019 to talk about characters from Rebels — set roughly a decade before The Mandalorian — possibly making the leap to live action.
“I always wanted to do this, and I needed to be sure that she fit into the world and that her age worked,” she said. “I was ‘fingers crossed’ that I would be allowed to do it.”
Then the call came, which she said was “the most surreal moment of my life.”
At the same time, though, playing Bo-Katan on The Mandalorian felt like a natural extension of her career, Sackhoff said: “I’ve spent the last 25 years figuring out how to play strong women.”
Besides her role as hot-shot pilot Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the Battlestar Galatica reboot, Sackhoff has also put time in on series like The Bionic Woman, The Flash, and, most recently, Netflix’s Another Life, the second season of which she is currently shooting.
“All the pieces just seemed to fit together,” she said.
She also found a surprising new sense of ownership of the role once she had a set of armor to wear on set.
“It was just my voice [in animation], and, really, my job at that moment was to deliver performances that Dave wanted,” she explained. “When you’re going to live action and you are then given the responsibility of portraying this character in actuality, it’s a very different thing.”
Although her familiarity with the character was a benefit, it also presented a unique challenge when building the performance. Back in the recording booth on the animated shows, she could be big and expressive to get the performance Filoni wanted, but bringing that larger-than-life energy was out of place on the set of The Mandalorian.
“Bo is regal — her upbringing raised her to be so — and she’s very stoic and she’s very purposeful. When her face does something, it’s calculated, and I needed to make sure that translated because that is very much already been established in animation,” Sackhoff explained. “I had to relearn my own face to make it move less. ‘Crazy Katee’ can’t show up. It wouldn’t have worked.”
She credited “The Heiress” episode director Bryce Dallas Howard with helping her find the happy medium between “who Bo was in animation and who she is in reality.” The episode now has a 97% Tomatometer score on 31 critic reviews.
Looking to Bo-Katan’s possible future, Sackhoff said the character is once again looking to unite as many troops as possible to mount the liberation of Mandalore, “provided there are enough Mandalorians floating around.”
Like so many other aspects of the ongoing Star Wars saga, it is unclear how many Mandos survived the Imperial purge of the Mandalorians and founded covert camps offworld. Nonetheless, Sackhoff is sure uniting the people is part of Bo-Katan’s plan.
Also key to the plan: obtaining the Darksaber. The legendary Jedi weapon forged by the first Mandalorian to join the Order is a symbol of succession and seemingly at the heart of Bo-Katan’s journey across the stars.
“The Darksaber represents something bigger than herself,” she explained. “It is a symbol of respect. It’s a symbol of ownership.”
When key Rebels character Sabine Wren gave her the weapon, it solidified for Bo that “she’s earned” the right to lead; of course, that brings us back to the issue of her own ego and whether or not she really earned the right to rule Mandalore.
“We’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out,” Sackhoff teased.
One element of the story introduced on The Mandalorian suggests she will still need to prove her worthiness: Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) has the Darksaber, and Sackhoff said reclaiming the weapon is “vitally important to [Bo-Katan’s] goal.” It remains to be seen, however, if this means a showdown for the two characters on The Mandalorian or somewhere else in the Star Wars galaxy.
As it happens, Favreau has suggested that the show could switch to a multiple point-of-view format instead of following around lead character Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) all the time, so it is possible Bo-Katan’s fate will be revealed on the series. It is called The Mandalorian, after all, and saving Mandalore may keep Bo-Katan and Din in the same orbit.