Director J.J. Abrams sure does like to keep his former TV show cast members around, doesn’t he? Alias‘ Greg Grunberg has appeared in numerous Abrams-related projects, from Mission: Impossible III to Star Trek Beyond to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And back in July, we learned that Keri Russell, star of Felicity, would be joining the cast of the as yet untitled Star Wars: Episode IX. But despite the lack of Grunberg this time around (that we know of), Russell won’t be the only Abrams regular in the film.
According to a report by Deadline, Dominic Monaghan is the latest addition to the Episode IX‘s increasingly impressive cast. Monaghan joins an ensemble full of Star Wars legends, young and old, featuring the likes of Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Daisy Ridley, and Kelly Marie Tran, to name just a few. The actor does indeed have a history with Abrams, playing the fan-favorite character Charlie Pace on Lost, and he has remained friends with the director since. Although Monaghan is perhaps best known to audiences for playing the courageous hobbit Merry in all three Lord of the Rings movies.
Speaking to Deadline about his casting, Monaghan said:
“The galaxy far far away has had almost as much influence as the one I live in, so I am delighted to be involved,”
And we’re happy to have you. Monaghan brought a wonderful warmth to the character of Merry, earnestly portraying a character who, despite not having the physical qualities of a great warrior, always strived to do what was right, no matter the cost. While Merry started off the Lord of the Rings trilogy mostly as comic relief, the character fully came into his own in Return of the King, as he bravely rode into battle with Éowyn. One of my favorite moments of his is this deleted scene, in which his character arc comes full circle and we get a real appreciation of what he’s fighting for.
Monaghan has previously expressed a desire to appear in a Star Wars movie and was asked about the possibility of him doing so around the time Abrams was announced to direct The Force Awakens. In a 2014 interview with DweebCast, Monaghan said the following about his conversations with Abrams:
“We’ve talked a few times about [me being in Star Wars], and he just said ‘We’re putting together a cast of essentially unknowns…. We’re looking for people you don’t know’”
He went on to say:
“I understood that, [and] obviously I would love to be in Star Wars at some point”
The approach of casting mostly unknowns made sense for The Force Awakens. Not only did the decision echo George Lucas’ approach to A New Hope, but it also ensured that the audience could fully invest in the idea that these were new characters. And it allowed for a new generation of young, talented performers to have a shot at being in one of the world’s biggest movie franchises.
But now that audiences are familiar with the new characters and setting, more established actors can be brought in to fill out supporting roles without stealing the new cast’s thunder. The Last Jedi saw the likes of Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro travel to the galaxy far, far away, while Episode IX is also casting recognizable names like Russell, Richard E. Grant, and now Monaghan.
Despite this, I have no doubt that the movie will still primarily belong to our new heroes, as the previous two did. There’s fun to be had in seeing our favorite actors and returning characters show up, for sure. But if we’ve learned one thing from the trilogy so far, it’s that this story belongs to Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and Kylo. And they’re certainly better off with a brave hobbit at their side.
Now, as Monaghan is a white actor cast in a new Star Wars movie, there’s undoubtedly going to be someone out there who didn’t
take the hint hear the clear declaration in The Last Jedi that Rey’s parents don’t matter. And is already plotting out their latest fan theory about how Abrams is secretly undoing everything from that movie, starting with giving Rey a super important lineage.
Just recently Richard E. Grant had to clarify that he’s not, in fact, playing the beloved Expanded Universe villain Thrawn, after fans begun speculating about his role. Now speculation and theorizing are fine by itself, but as we’ve come to see, it can also have a hugely negative impact on the way we end up watching these movies. Especially when the need to figure everything out beforehand and the subsequent attachments to certain theories give viewers unattainable expectations.
If you go in expecting every older actor to be Thrawn or Boba Fett, every actress to be Mara Jade, or that Rey simply has to have significant parents and can’t just be important on her own, chances are you’re going to end up being disappointed. At some point, we have to stop asking the same old questions and start looking forward, just as The Last Jedi taught us. Or you know, fine, maybe Monaghan is actually playing Rey’s secret Jedi uncle, fulfilling her parents’ dying wish to watch over her.