Jon Kasdan Interview: Willow

The highly anticipated Willow sequel series to the 1988 movie, which was directed by Ron Howard and produced by George Lucas, will continue the story of Willow Ufgood. In the original movie, Willow is an aspiring sorcerer tasked with protecting a young infant and returning her to her people. Willow soon learns that the young girl, Elora Danan, is prophesied to bring about the evil sorceress queen’s downfall. He vows to protect Elora and along the way he teams up with an unlikely band including Madmartigan, a mercenary swordsman, Sorsha, Bavmorda’s loyal warrior and daughter, Fin Raziel, an aging sorceress who has been cursed by Bavmorda, as well as Rool and Franjean, a pair of Brownies.

The new Willow series picks up twenty years after the events of the original film Queen Bavmoda has long been defeated, and baby Elora Danan has been hidden away. However, Willow is called upon to lead a new generation of heroes, many with ties to the original protectors of Elora, on a quest to rescue a kidnapped prince from a familiar darkness. This quest will set in motion events that began over twenty years ago and have ramifications for the entire realm. While working on Solo: A Star Wars Story, Jonathan Kasdan approached both Ron Howard and Warwick Davis with an idea to continue the story of Willow.

Screen Rant spoke with showrunner Jonathan Kasdan about his new Willow Disney Plus series. Kasdan shared how he was able to thread the needle of honoring fans of the original film while drawing in a new generation of viewers. He also explained how he has expanded the world and humanity of Willow through Elora Danan and the Bone Reapers.

Jonathan Kasdan On Willow

Screen Rant: Willow is one of my first memories of a giant fantasy epic. It’s been 30-plus years since the original film, and this show does a really good job of tying into the movies while still being accessible to new audiences. How did you find that balance, Jon?

Jonathan Kasdan: It’s a day-to-day thing you’re finding. And I think as a fan of the movie, it’s not hard for me to lean into the parts of it that I love, and want to continue the story, and build out the world that George and Ron so beautifully designed and rendered.

But at the same time, one of the charms of Willow is that it has it’s at center, this performance by Val Kilmer that’s very contemporary and very unusual and surprising and exciting to watch. And I think we wanted to let that too, be something that we continued on in spirit, which was to have contemporary voices, voices that you weren’t used to hearing in fantasy, be your guides through it, so that you get this very unusual and specific experience of going to a fabulous world, but being with people you could imagine were your friends.

You’ve brought so much depth to characters that were initially just villainous, like Queen Bavmorda. Through her descendants, we expand on the Bone Reapers and even the Trolls. What inspired this approach?

Jonathan Kasdan: Well, I enjoy the element of these stories where there [are] opportunities to build out in fun and surprising ways. And one of the ones that seemed really primed for a great retconning was Kael, who was a character that I loved and thought, « This is a villain that really made an impact on me as a child. » That mask, that Skeletor mask, it was such a strong image and I thought, « Well, what could we do with Kael since he’s dead? »

And I thought, « Well, wouldn’t it be interesting to just imagine for a second that the story [was] from Kael’s point of view, and who could he have been, and what could he have endured that brought him into the service of this evil queen? And then maybe out of that, there was story to be told about generations and about oppression and about why you choose certain paths to war that are surprising. » That’s one of the great joys for me of getting to work in something beloved like this is the opportunity to say, « Well, what if we added a whole dimension to something incredibly simple early on? »

Elora Danan is this legendary, larger-than-life character. Can you talk about making her feel more grounded in her humanity?

Jonathan Kasdan: Absolutely. It was a challenge because it was someone I’d been thinking about since I was eight years old. I was wondering what had happened to this girl. And how did she deal with the responsibility that was thrust upon her and the name that was thrust upon her? And what would that mean? And since I wanted to tell that whole story, I thought it would be interesting to start from a place where she doesn’t even know, and be able to track it through its entire life with this revelation that she is this person of enormous power, how she’s going to access that power, and then how she’s going to control it. And that felt like a nice shape for a story that could follow the original film.

Jon, amazing job on Willow. I loved the group dynamic because it almost feels like a D&D campaign. It is so much fun.

Jonathan Kasdan: Exactly what we were after. And particularly in our episodes when we’re in the Troll mines or something like that, we were like, « Okay. How do we advance these characters through a great D&D campaign that feels real and part of a bigger journey? »

About Willow

Picking up twenty years after the defeat of Bavmoda and rescue of Elora Danan, who has been hidden away, Willow Ufgood is now a powerful sorcerer. Willow is tasked with a new quest leading the next generation of heroes on a rescue mission against a familiar evil which could set in motion plans that have been over twenty years in the making.

Check out our other Willow interviews:

Dempsey Bryk & Ruby Cruz Amar Chadha Patel & Erin Kellyman Ellie Bamber & Tony Revolori

Willow premieres on Disney Plus on November 30.