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Ray Stevenson’s Baylan Skoll Is a Love Letter to a Classic Kind of Star Wars Villain

Stevenson is largely remembered for playing legionary Titus Pullo in HBO’s Rome, but also portrayed Blackbeard in Black Sails, mobster Isaak Sirko in Dexter, and Frank Castle/The Punisher in 2008’s Punisher: Warzone. Sticking with Marvel, Stevenson then joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Volstagg in the first three Thor movies. 

Despite Ahsoka being one of Stevenson’s final roles, he was no stranger to the galaxy far, far away. Having previously voiced Gar Saxon in Rebels and The Clone Wars, there were theories Stevenson would pop up in The Mandalorian. Instead, Ahsoka marks the end of his Star Wars legacy. With Stevenson meaning so much to Star Wars, the end of the premiere featured a touching tribute that says, “For our friend, Ray.” But, just who is Baylan Skoll, and why is Stevenson destined to be a shining star of Ahsoka?

Star Wars has largely been a hit with its morally complex characters. The long-held idea of Jedi = good and Sith = bad doesn’t really hold up. Even if you hadn’t seen the various Ahsoka promos of Baylan Skoll wielding an orange-red lightsaber you might associate with villains, his opening attack on the New Republic cruiser carrying Lady Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) saw him launch an attack after saying, “We are no Jedi.”

Even if there’s no Baylan Skoll in the expanded Star Wars lore, we’re told he’s a former Jedi and survivor of the devastating Order 66. Like how the Grand Inquisitor was a former Jedi Temple Guard, Skoll has dabbled with the Dark Side after losing faith in the Jedi. The difference is, he’s a mercenary for hire and works for Grand Admiral Thrawn (Mikkelsen) as one of his most trusted allies. Similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Reva (Moses Ingram) and her big back story twist, we’ve likely only scratched the surface of Baylan Skoll.

Stevenson clearly had a lot of fun playing Baylan Skoll, gushing to Entertainment Weekly about Ahsoka’s stunt work and stepping onto the set in his costume. As well as praising Filoni, he teased there’s more to Skoll and explained that while he won’t strike you down if you don’t stand in his way, “There’s something that’s driving him that Dave Filoni and Jon [Favreau] know, and is hopefully going to be revealed throughout the telling,” adding, “It’s just breathtaking.”

Since Baylan Skoll’s first tease, there have been various theories that he’s Heir to the Empire‘s Joruus C’baoth. The 1991 novel featured an insane Dark Jedi clone of Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth (notice the spelling), who was discovered on Mount Tantiss. Author Timothy Zahn originally imagined a mad clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but when Lucasfilm blocked the idea, he created C’baoth instead. Skoll bears an uncanny resemblance to C’baoth, and with an orange-red lightsaber, it fits the bill of him being a Dark Jedi while still fulfilling the “no Jedi” promise. 

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