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The Force Unleashed: Co-Star Evolution

Some new information on The Force Unleashed characters by Haden Blackman. I’m liking the characters in The Force Unleashed more and more every day!!

“It’s nearly unheard of for a character to burst forth fully fleshed out and realized. What begins as idea can only develop into a living, breathing character once he or she is put through the twists and turns of a similarly evolving storyline. As the story streamlines, roles are often distilled or combined, necessitating further changes, and the character is again let loose to make choices and work his or her way through the plot. Here’s how some of the supporting cast of The Force Unleashed came to arrive at their finished forms.

Rahm Kota
Once we settled upon the central core idea of the Secret Apprentice carrying out Darth Vader’s dirty work, it became apparent that we needed to develop Jedi adversaries to challenge him (and, by extension, you as a player). Our concept artists drew up a gallery of potential Jedi challengers, fitting all shapes, sizes, power levels, and varieties. At the same time, the story was undergoing refinements and changes based on feedback and observations from many trusted advisers, including George Lucas.

Early on, we realized that the Apprentice would acquire insight and instruction in the Force from sources other than Vader. One early concept called for the disembodied spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, somehow preserved in the netherworld of the Force by his study of the ways of the Whills, to serve in this role as a mentor. Lucas didn’t want us to go there, not because he objected to Qui-Gon’s reappearance, but because he stressed the desire for us to develop a new cast of characters in all areas.

With the broad description of “mentor,” you can go in a lot of different directions. We explored the idea of a hermit, sitting in some distant cave somewhere awaiting your discovery, in much the same way Yoda awaited Luke on Dagobah. We even toyed with somehow bringing back Darth Plagueis, so that he would be an alternate guide to the Force, one whose motives you could never quite ascertain. Ultimately, in order to streamline things, we decided to make this mentor role one of the Jedi characters you fight early in the game, and as such, we turned back to the Jedi-opponent concepts already in development.

We wanted a character type that was familiar but different, a twist on the traditional Jedi mentor. We had the already-memorable templates of Qui-Gon Jinn and the classic Ben Kenobi to draw upon, and knew what areas could serve as contrasts. While Jinn and Kenobi could often draw upon mystic aphorisms and touchy-feely axioms to guide their students, our new mentor was going to be different. We saw someone who was less Gandalf and more Army General, a tough-as-nails football coach with no interest in nurturing.

With these directives for a hard-boiled militant Jedi General, artist Amy Beth Christianson went back to some of the earlier explorations and found some artwork of a Samurai Jedi. She evolved it. One of the reasons we love having Amy on this team is that she can almost read my mind. She can see where I’m going with just some really basic descriptions and nail it. Kota is interesting because he didn’t go through a lot of revisions from a concept-art standpoint. She created a great painting of him early on, we looked at it and said, “That’s it!” He’s all scarred up; it looks like he’s got a broken nose; he’s got a topknot; he’s got a lightsaber on his back.

Kota felt very Samurai. He was armored, but you could still see his scarred features. The script evolved from there, and we added a downfall to his character, lowering him in status as a result of a defeat that he suffers. At one point, he ends up down-and-out in an Ugnaught bar, drowning his sorrows, supposedly worthless and unable to connect to the Force. It really tied into the idea of the Ronin, a masterless Samurai who is found at his low-point, and needs to be guided back on his path. Kota didn’t change much from the first draft of the script to the recording session. If anything Kota only became tougher because Cully Fredrickson, who plays him, is so big and imposing, and he came in already in character.

Maris Brood
Like Kota, Maris Brood’s look came from a gallery of Jedi opponent concepts. We began by speculating what exactly became of the Jedi survivors of Order 66. What did they do? Based on feedback from Lucas, we had some answers. Some of them put away their lightsabers and purposefully turned their backs on the Force, lying low and becoming farmers. Others still adventured in the galaxy, but under the guise of bounty hunters, mercenaries and pirates. The phrase “pirate Jedi” really stuck out as inspiration, and we gravitated to that. We latched on to the basic idea of a female Pirate Jedi leading a crew of mostly male and alien brigands. We knew we wanted her to be alien and alluring, and possibly touched by the dark side given how tough life as a pirate must be.

One again, Amy Beth delivered a fantastic, inspiring piece of artwork of a leather-clad Zabrak Jedi. The lightsaber tonfas were an early addition. When we saw them, we realized the pirate Jedi could be a character of some significance, even a level boss that poses a unique combat challenge.

As the story was streamlined, there was less and less of a role for a Pirate Jedi, but we really liked her look and fighting style. We kept her origin, but lost her pirate crew, instead assigning her as a Padawan to Shaak Ti on Felucia. That became a great contrast, since the hard-edged dark-limned Maris Brood stands apart from the gentle, contemplative Shaak Ti. Like Kota, Maris’ role also grew once we cast an actor for the part. Adrienne Wilkinson brought such strength and performance to Maris that her role expanded with more dialogue.

Juno Eclipse
Juno was not part of the original story pitch to George Lucas. In the pitch, the Secret Apprentice was an older character, who eventually developed a fatherly type connection to a teenaged Princess Leia. Lucas wasn’t comfortable with using Leia in this role, but he did want the Apprentice to connect with someone. He very much encouraged us to create a new character, and to have her be a love interest since that was something the story at that point was completely lacking.

None of the other characters in the story at this point seemed like a possible candidate for a love interest. We knew we had to create her from scratch and that she was somebody you had to meet early on so that the relationship could develop over time. We also knew that we wanted her alongside you for much of the game, and as an active participants in your missions — she’s not just there taking notes — but at the same time, she’s not actually going to go on the ground, and fight the Jedi with you. We tried overlapping some of the other roles: What if the love interest was a mentor of some sort? Or a Jedi that you defeat and spare? Nothing quite fit until we realized she had to be an Imperial pilot — a character we could introduce early (as your pilot), who could test the Apprentice in new ways (the Apprentice has had limited interactions with women), and she had to be better than him at different things (she’s an excellent pilot). Also by introducing her early and ensuring she filled a vital role for the Apprentice, she could join the player’s “crew,” to help build out the cast and recapture that rich ensemble feel of the original Star Wars.

As Juno evolved, we gravitated towards the idea that perhaps she’s there to test you; that Vader may have purposely put this beautiful woman in the Apprentice’s company to keep him off-balance. This was something that actor Sam Witwer really keyed into when playing the Apprentice. Juno confuses him. He really doesn’t know how to react. As Sam describes it, his character has been raised in darkness and isolation for so long that the first time he really encounters a woman and has to have some kind of meaningful interaction with her, he doesn’t know how to handle it. He’s reacts like a 13-year old kid and is a jerk to her in the first scene. It’s not like Han Solo’s barbs to Leia. Instead, he’s constantly challenging Juno: “Do you know why you’re here? Are you going to be able to handle this mission? Do you know that Vader killed our last pilot? Do you know that seven pilots died before on missions? Are you really up to this?” It’s not until Juno starts proving herself useful that he starts to trust her and talk to her in a more friendly, personal way.

As for Juno’s name, there’s a story there too. Back in 2002, Lucasfilm wanted to continue the story of the Clone Wars in publishing and books, and needed to create villains that would not be connected to Episode III. Count Dooku was great, but he needed memorable underlings who could challenge the Jedi heroes again and again. So based on a mix of unused concept art and new designs came the nameless characters of Separatist Commander and Alien Bounty Hunter. Lucas Licensing asked me to develop their backstories, and from there came Asajj Ventress and Durge. Only, Asajj’s name wasn’t Asajj Ventress — the name I had originally pitched, but which was rejected as “not villainous enough”, was Juno Eclipse. I filed the name away because I liked that it’s easy to spell and remember, has a mythic quality (Juno is the queen of the Roman gods), and “Eclipse” suggests some sort of duality to the character.”

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