The upcoming Disney+ series Star Wars: Ahsoka has reportedly cast Eman Esfandi as the live action incarnation of Ezra Bridger. This news came from The Hollywood Reporter on September 9, and the Star Wars internet is ecstatic right now! If you have been following my last two articles reflecting on Star Wars: Rebels and speculating on the upcoming Ahsoka series, you've probably guessed that I'm one of those who was anxiously awaiting this casting news.
I'm sure some of you, like me, immediately read this news and asked, "Who is this actor?" Visually, he looks the part, but what is he like as an actor? I started diving in to learn more. First off, it's possible that Esfandi may have had an inside connection for Star Wars casting since he worked with Robert Rodriguez in Red 11 (2018). He is also a main character in the 2018 production Phaedra from filmmaker Scarlet Moreno. More recently, Esfandi is part of the cast in the military drama The Inspection (2022), which is currently making the festival rounds. Esfandi's credits also include several short films, and I'm a sucker for some good short films! I'm going to have to track those down for a watch.
Not knowing more about Esfandi yet, I'm quite pleased with this casting. I admit I was initially aligned with the faction that would have enjoyed seeing Mena Massoud (Aladdin, 2019) in the role. However, I quickly changed my mind on that: I adore Massoud, and he's definitely got the right vibe for Ezra as a continuation of Taylor Gray's outstanding performance in animation. But I don't think Massoud is quite what was needed for the survival-hardened late-20s Ezra Bridger we're bound to see in Ahsoka. Plus, bringing in an actor like Eman Esfandi, who we're not already familiar with in another high-profile role, probably gives both the actor and the filmmakers more room to shape who Ezra is in this series.
Thinking back, some of the characters we have come to love most in the Star Wars universe were portrayed by actors that weren't well known prior to those roles. Harrison Ford was just breaking out in his acting career when he first played Han Solo, and his career has been incredible ever since. Adam Driver was carving out a name for himself in some compelling films even before he played Kylo Ren, but that role definitely made him instantly recognizable. If the tradition continues for Eman Esfandi, one thing's for sure: his life is about to change forever!
I don't want to over-speculate on what we'll hear next about the Ahsoka series or its cast. There is that blue-skinned, red-eyed elephant in the room, though: Who is going to play Thrawn in live action? Rebels fans like me are hanging on to hope that Lucasfilm can put Lars Mikkelsen into the makeup for a live action version of his iconic Rebels role. Mikkelsen's voice acting for Thrawn in Rebels has set an auditory precedent: we're expecting to hear that smooth, subtly terrifying voice in live action. Also, having seen Mikkelsen in roles like Stregobor in The Witcher and Charles Magnussen in Sherlock, I'm certain he would kick ass as Thrawn in live action. Fun fact: Mikkelsen is also portraying a Jedi in an upcoming fan film (check out the trailer!), so he's definitely still immersed in Star Wars!
But… I'm still trying not to get my hopes up for Thrawn or any other Ahsoka characters and just trust the casting. After all, with Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine and now Eman Esfandi as Ezra, this casting team is hitting it out of the ballpark so far!
In the meantime, the annual D23 event (September 9-11) has given us a few things to enjoy while we wait for the Star Wars: Andor premiere on September 21: a final trailer for Andor, a trailer for Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 3, the stunning first look at Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, and a new January 4, 2023, release date for Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2. For a complete D23 rundown, check out the blog at Tom's Guide.
What do you think of this casting announcement? Have you seen other work from Eman Esfandi? Do you think the casting team made the right choice?