WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Pedro Pascal channeled one film icon, Clint Eastwood, as he entered the world of another – "Star Wars" – in "The Mandalorian." the highest-profile series on the new Disney+ streaming service.
Executive producer Jon Favreau pointed him toward Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai films and Eastwood's spaghetti Westerns to prepare for his role as the title character, a stoic, helmeted bounty-hunting loner on the far edge of the "Star Wars" universe.
“Any time I had a question or a physical doubt about a moment, I was always like, ‘What would Clint do? How would he shrug this off? How would he walk away from this?’ It got me through it,” says Pascal ("Game of Thrones"), a "Star Wars" fan since childhood.
"The Mandalorian," which begins streaming Tuesday with the launch of Disney+, will release a second episode on Nov. 15, followed by six more, one each Friday.
Much is riding on its success. The high-budget production is not only the shiniest object on Disney+, which is the media giant's top priority, but the first live-action series connected to "Star Wars," a film juggernaut that has taken in more than $9 billion in the worldwide box office.
With "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the final installment of a nine-film Skywalker saga that began in 1977, due in theaters next month, "Mandalorian" also marks a bridge to the future of the hugely important franchise. More "Star Wars" shows are planned, including a spy series featuring Cassian Andor of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
Favreau hopes new stories and characters will make "Mandalorian" inviting to "Star Wars" novices while Easter eggs will satisfy superfans. Early footage features references to Life Day and the bounty hunter's two-pronged pulse rifle, which made their first appearances in the much-ridiculed 1977 TV "Star Wars" holiday special.
Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni kept a tight lid on "Mandalorian" plot points last month at a screening of 27 minutes of footage from the series, a limited peek designed to avoid spoilers – or early criticism.
The basics: "The Mandalorian" takes place about five years after the Rebel Alliance overthrew the Empire in 1983's "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," and more than 20 years before the rise of the First Order in 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
The show opens with Pascal's title character – whose name has yet to be revealed, echoing Eastwood's Man with No Name – traveling to a remote village where he catches a fugitive in a dive bar that pays homage to the "Star Wars" cantina scene, with a much darker tone. The Mandalorian stores his prey in carbonite, a material that once encased Han Solo, for the long cargo-plane ride home.
"Mandalorian" is rich in "Star Wars" DNA, from gorgeous desert and mountain vistas to alien wildlife, including an ice-breaking dragon, and white stormtrooper helmets displayed menacingly on pikes.
But the series focuses on new faces (and helmets), not Luke, Han or Leia. After the fugitive hunt, Pascal's bounty hunter takes on a dangerous but lucrative referral from bounty boss Greef Carga (Carl Weathers). and meets a vaguely menacing client (Werner Herzog).
"All the background players are now front and center, the sort of unpredictable loners (from) the other side of the tracks with pasts that we're running from or that we don't understand," says Pascal, who won't explain whether The Mandalorian ever reveals his face.
The cast also features Giancarlo Esposito, Nick Nolte and Taika Waititi, who voices IG-11, a gun-toting, droid bounty hunter.
Former MMA star Carano, who plays former Rebel shock trooper Cara Dune, acknowledges the influence of Boba Fett, a famed bounty hunter known for his Mandalorian armor and a "Star Wars' fan favorite. Boba, who appeared to die in "Return of the Jedi," was a clone and Pascal's Mandalorian isn't.
"People were so fascinated with Boba Fett, just obsessed with this mysterious character," she says. "I feel like, in a big way, that's the reason why we've got 'The Mandalorian' now."
Although the central characters are loners, events bring them together – not always happily.
"Whatever the mission is, you can't do it alone. You have to solicit help, and when you do that you find out there's a camaraderie built around the mission and a respect for others who can maybe succeed at things you can't. Those things wind up building relationships," Weathers says. "There's also a chance it's going to explode because egos tend to get in the way."
Whatever daunting challenges their characters face, Carano says the cast and crew realize they also have big responsibilities, shepherding the beloved "Star Wars" franchise into the future. "When you get the job and go back through the movies and start researching, you understand how big this is."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What to know about Disney+ 'Star Wars' spinoff 'The Mandalorian'