Jon Kasdan on the Finale, Graydon, & the Power of Love in Stories

Jan 17, 2023

While fantasy television had audiences in a chokehold for most of 2022, spawning spinoffs of many a popular franchise, there was nothing in the vast landscape of TV quite like Willow, the sequel to the 1988 film of the same name starring Warwick Davis. Filled with many a wisecrack and contemporary needle drop alongside its epic fantasy locations and storytelling, Willow drummed up a dedicated and loyal fanbase as it told the story of the great Nelwyn sorcerer, who reunites with the now-grown Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber) to save the world — and the future empress — from the forces of darkness.

Created by Jonathan Kasdan, the series recently aired its season finale, in which its heroes managed to subdue the evil encroaching on Elora and save the life of Queen Sorsha’s (Joanne Whalley) son Airk (Dempsey Bryk), though not without some loss, as no adventure is without it. Fans are hopeful that the series will receive a second season based on some hints dropped at the end of the episode — including a few loose ends featuring everyone’s favorite dark prince, Graydon Hastur — and many are already speculating where the story could go next, should we receive more.
Collider was excited to sit down with Kasdan to discuss the finale and what fans have made of the show during its wintertime run. During this interview, he also discussed Tony Revolori’s Graydon, the character’s future, and his relationship with Elora Danan, as well as creating whole new languages for the show, and the idea that “love is the most powerful thing in the universe”.

Image via Disney+

RELATED: ‘Willow’ Filled Its Warrior Role Without Replacing Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan

All episodes of Willow are streaming now on Disney+. Check out the full interview below:

COLLIDER: I have so much that I want to talk to you about, but I decided that the first thing that I wanted to talk to you about was Graydon, because one, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say, “How dare you do that to him in the finale?”

JON KASDAN: I know! It’s been crazy to see how much… and it’s great, because it’s such a personal character to me. He’s so much me, in that character. It’s a narcissistic thing to say, but it’s a lot of approval I’ve maybe been seeking my whole life, to see so much love for Graydon. But, it’s also equally Tony [Revolori], and just the pathos and humanity he lends to that character. And, the answer I would say to those people who were horrified by that is that there is a very clear, long journey for that particular soul, and it’s not nearly over. So, I’m excited about where we can go with Graydon, and how he can navigate what’s a much bigger conflict to come.

Yeah. Because you’ve obviously teased that this is not the end of this story, which I think is incredibly exciting.

KASDAN: Yeah. Well, that’s certainly our intention and our hope, and we’d love to do more. And I think the actors are united in that, and the producers are united, and we’re looking for the opportunity.

Image via Disney+

I hope we get to see it, because truly, this has been such a bright spot of the show for me, for so many people.

KASDAN: That’s so great. I’m so glad you feel that way. And it’s really been gratifying seeing the reactions, and seeing the social. And, for the kids, too, who are very aware of how people are relating to their characters week to week. It’s just been great.

Watching the fandom response has been, I think, one of my favorite parts of watching it. Especially because I saw so much of it in advance.

KASDAN: Yeah, it’s really joyful.

But I noticed… Did you notice people have translated the Pnakotic that’s in the show? They’ve figured out how to do that.

KASDAN: Yes. And, it’s something that my production designer, Kristian Milsted, and I spend a lot of time figuring this out. And it’s funny because he’s gone on to [Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power] Season 2, which I’m sure offered him a private yacht or something. And I told him, “Don’t take that yacht,” but he did. And, they have a language that’s already all built.

With Willow, we did a lot of the design of it ourselves. And it was kind of a combination of people. One of the art directors, this person, Louise Sullivan, worked on a lot of the books and creating the Pnakotic language, and trying to differentiate it from ancient Onwen, which is our core language, that we think of as the language used in the movie. And then, this more guttural-sounding Pnakotic language that’s very rooted in the Lovecraft stuff. And sort of trying to differentiate them with different symbols, and then, in fact, we even in our way, distinguished a third language, which was Guanari, which was our spoken language.

What (lore advisor) Pablo [Hidalgo] always explains to me is like, in Star Wars and all these things they’re speaking their own language, but we’re hearing the English translation, because we’re getting that gift from George [Lucas], or whatever. So, the language that they speak we call Guanari, and that was the third of these things. So, it was a complicated thing, and every part of it was built by Kristian, Louis, and with a little help from Kristian’s daughter, Zanzibar.

Image via Disney+

Oh, amazing. I mean, all of the little things that you notice in this show are amazing, because I also noticed that you’ve continued the grand tradition of naming Willow monsters after film critics. And as a film critic myself, what do I have to do to get a Lucasfilm monster named after me?

KASDAN: You’ve done it, certainly. Your devotion has been clear. I mean, what’s funny is there was something so odd about the way George did it, because it was a little bit like…he genuinely was pissed at Pauline Kael, and Ebert and Siskel. So, it’s funny that that’s how he chose to sort of express it. But, with me, I felt like the way to continue that was to… because I have a slightly different perspective on film criticism. I think it’s a really hard job, and a really important one, that we sort of need people to talk about this stuff in a passionate and divisive way. So, it’s always an homage, I think, going forward. And, certainly with [Andrew] Sarris, he was a figure in my childhood growing up, and someone I read and loved.

I wanted to round back around to Graydon just for a second, because I think another thing that I’ve noticed a lot of people responding to is, very specifically, his relationship with Elora. I’m interested, was he always going to be this counterpoint to her? Either romantically, or with the whole thing, the Wyrm and the Harbinger?

KASDAN: Well, I was going to say that, in a way, he’s a counterpoint to Airk. And we love this idea that, in this sort of adolescent romantic life of this character, she starts out focused on this very youthful crush on this ideal prince who felt, again, as I think is the demand of this stuff, contemporary to a guy you might like now. And then, on the other side, she meets this guy who seems like the last person she would be attracted to, and he possesses all these qualities that, over the course of the season, she finds she really is drawn to. It was important to us that he tipped the scales as their journey went along, and Tony is the one to credit with that.

Image via Disney+

The thing that really struck me was also, sort of relating to that, but also to Kit and Elora, and everyone involved in this, is that idea that love is the strongest thing in the universe. I loved seeing that as a throughline. Because that’s not something you get explicitly in those words a lot.

KASDAN: No. And I mean, what’s nice… I had a real moment, personally, and this is just total honesty, where I got to the last Harry Potter book, and I was like, “How is she going to make this satisfying?” And what I appreciated, and I thought that Stephen King does it well in It, too, is that they sort of come to a conclusion that’s very much about… the theme ends up being the power of friendship and devotion, and love and friendship, and the ways in which those are one and the same. And I liked that, and I think when you’re writing eight hours of a big epic fantasy like this, you need to know you’re headed toward a real summation of belief that there is something worth fighting for. And that thing is your friends, and the people you love.

Willow is available to stream exclusively on Disney+. For more on the series, check out our interview with star Ruby Cruz below:

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