Princess. Senator. General.
Add to that: Sister. Mother. Spouse. … And daughter.
(Oh, and don’t forget “Huttslayer.”)
Leia Organa has many titles and obligations in the Star Wars universe, and each of them is explored in Star Wars: Bloodline, a new Leia-centric novel from author Claudia Gray set roughly in the middle of the three-decade gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
In the book, which goes on sale Tuesday, Leia is an popular senator in the New Republic tasked with investigating an emerging criminal/terrorist threat on the periphery of the galaxy that could grow strong enough to topple the still-struggling government.
It is the best of times between her and Han, who is enjoying life as a racing pilot while on tour with Chewie in a distant star system. Their young son, Ben, is adventuring through the galaxy with his Uncle Luke, exploring the ways of the Force.
But it’s another family connection, her relationship with the still-feared specter of Darth Vader, that is finally coming back to haunt her. “You see a lot of people bringing up her past to her in this book: Is she the princess? Is she the senator? What about her family connections?” says Gray, who also penned the 2015 YA Star Wars novel Lost Stars, a Romeo & Juliet-esque tale about lovers on opposite sides of the Empire/Rebellion conflict.
In our Q&A with Gray, we discussed how Bloodline finally dives into the Leia/Vader relationship, how the novel retroactively fixes Carrie Fisher’s wonky accent in the 1977 original movie — and how it reclaims the gold bikini as an icon of empowerment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’re starting to see a lot of different genres emerge within Star Wars storytelling. I would describe Bloodline as an espionage thriller.
CLAUDIA GRAY: I’m glad you picked up on the espionage thing. When I write Star Wars I usually listen to the John Williams soundtrack, but on this one I mixed in the soundtrack to the TV show Alias, because I wanted to have that espionage element.
Tell me about this new threat Leia is facing, not as a soldier but as a political leader many years after the fall of the Empire.
Basically, the Senate, after bringing some peace to the galaxy, is settling into a political quagmire, and in the middle of that there’s a new criminal organization that seems to have the reach and power of the Hutts at their greatest. They’re undermining trade and causing lots of problems. They need the New Republic to look into this, and Leia plunges into this investigation.
The cover features the shadow profile of Darth Vader. How did you approach his connection to Leia, and how being his child impacts her life as a very different ruler?
That was one of the things I wanted to delve into the most. We see so little of Leia’s reaction to this knowledge in the movies. We see her find out right before the Battle of Endor, she’s clearly very upset. But they have a war to fight. You see Luke struggle with this, be tempted to darkness, and he gets to see his father leave darkness behind. But these are not experiences Leia got to have — and if anything she suffered more from Vader than Luke did. I really wanted to delve into: How much at peace is she with this? How conflicted is she? What does she think about when she thinks about the times she encountered Vader?
Lucasfilm editor Jennifer Heddle recently announced that Episode VIII writer-director Rian Johnson offered some input into Bloodline. What can you tell me about his contribution?
Everybody works together on this team. I knew there were some elements that would either be touched on in Episode VIII or may be touched on in the future. I can’t be too specific about what they are. They’re the kind of thing that will become clear when you see Episode VIII. If you’ve read Bloodline, you’ll go, “Oh, I see …” But definitely his input was part of this core concept that Lucasfilm had for the book when they approached me.
Leia gets a new rival in this book in the form of a young senator named Ransolm Casterfo. They’re in rival political parties. He’s not sympathetic to the Empire, since he suffered from them, too, but he is fascinated by the power they had. How would you describe him?
I can say that Casterfo came from Lucasfilm, at least the very core of him. I wanted somebody who would be Leia’s political opposite. He has different beliefs from her, and is somebody who has responded to his past in a different way than she has. He’s somebody who can raise good points that Leia has to acknowledge. They make each other have to be smarter and sharper. He challenges her in a way that she doesn’t get a lot of.
Leia encounters a criminal figure who is fascinated by her because she’s known as “The Huttslayer” in the underworld. He even has a holograph recording of her killing Jabba. What made you decide to revisit her time in that skimpy gold bikini?
Right around when I was working on this part of the book there was a movement that went around in some Star Wars fan circles — a lot of talk about how much people don’t like the ‘Slave Leia’ outfit. That’s her most powerless moment in the entire thing… It was a dancing girl outfit, but it gets called a slave outfit. I believe it was a young lady named Angie P, who said, “I petition that we call it The Huttslayer outfit,” and I was like, “That is a great name and that is going to happen right now.”
And now ‘Huttslayer’ is canon!
Not only did I like recasting that outfit as a memory of Leia being really strong and kick-ass, but think about it — for a human being to kill a Hutt with her bare hands? That’s unbelievable. Anybody who would be able to pull that off would be remembered for it. That would be legend.
How would you say Leia feels about it years later?
She doesn’t regret doing it, but it’s not like something she took a lot of satisfaction in either. It was just an ugly thing she had to do.
Have you ever had a chance to speak with Carrie Fisher about the character?
That would fulfill my inner 7-year-old. But no, it hasn’t happened. She does such a wonderful job of being noble and yet feisty and can be this very iconic figure while seeming fairly approachable.
There’s one part of the book that actually uses new logic to repair a flaw in the original movie: her shifting accent.
In interviews, Fisher laughs at herself for that scene she has with [Grand Moff ] Tarkin in A New Hope, because Carrie Fisher has an English accent in that scene, and she doesn’t in any other scene in the movie. She sort of laughs at her younger self for being so influenced by Peter Cushing. But I thought: I’m gonna use that. So there’s an explanation in [Bloodline] that she’s actually making fun of Tarkin. She’s mocking his accent in that moment. She remembers that’s what she was doing. So that moment has been explained. It’s no longer a problem.
It’s never too late to fix a plot hole.
Hopefully, Carrie Fisher would be pleased by that. It had a meaning the whole time.
For more of Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Bloodline interview, tune into Behind the Scenes with Anthony Breznican today on EW Radio, Sirius XM channel 105. 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.