It was a shock to a lot of Star Wars fans when Disney announced during a 2020 earnings call that Hayden Christensen would return to the franchise as Darth Vader. That shock quickly turned into joy as two decades helped erase the anti-prequel sentiment that surrounded Episodes 1-3 when they first came out in the late '90s and early 2000s.
Now five episodes into the Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries which reunites Christensen with Ewan McGregor's titular Jedi, the actor has been enjoying a hero's welcome since the show launched, despite playing one of the most iconic villains in pop culture history. "It really has been just so heartwarming, the whole experience and certainly the support from the fans has been huge," he told TV Guide.
When fans reunited with Vader in Obi-Wan, 10 years had passed since Order 66 was sent out, calling for the eradication of all Jedis across the galaxy. While Emperor Palpatine sent the order, Darth Vader was born from Anakin Skywalker's ashes to enforce it and the first glimpse of Vader in the series proved that 10 years in a healing tank had only made him stronger, deadlier, and still very, very, angry.
"He's very much consumed by [the rage]. I think it's fair to say that certainly, the loss of Padme is something that he's never going to get over. His relationship with the Jedi Order and certainly his relationship with Obi-Wan — there's a lot of difficult stuff there for him. Luckily, it's what he uses for his powers now and so he's very powerful," Christensen explained. "I always felt like he wanted to do good. His descent into the dark side was motivated by wanting to save people that he loved, and that's relatable. His struggle in that left him feeling very angry and those emotions have just grown. He's had all this time in the tank to just seep in it. He's not in a good place."
One potential source of light in Vader's life is the existence of his daughter Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair). The two have been unknowingly circling each other for the entire series, but Christensen wouldn't fess up whether the two characters will actually get any screen time together. "They are very close in proximity," the actor teased. "Just having these characters in the same story makes audiences make their own connections there. I love seeing little Leia in this."
Whether or not Vader and Leia actually see each other face to face in Obi-Wan won't change the fact that this is the beginning of a lot of history between the two before Luke Skywalker joins the fray in A New Hope. There's another solid decade of story missing in the Star Wars canon between Obi-Wan and Star Wars Episode IV, so it begs the question of whether there's more Vader for Christensen to explore despite thinking he was done with the character 20 years ago.
"There are always more questions with this character. He's a great character, very complex," he said. "When we finished the prequels, that had a real sense of finality to it, but now coming back I don't know what's in store for the character but I would love to get to continue with him."
With the favorable critical response to Obi-Wan, Christensen is by far not the only one on board with that, whether it's with a second season of Obi-Wan, or a new Vader adventure.
The Obi-Wan Kenobi series finale premieres Wednesday, June 22 on Disney+.