Warning: spoilers ahead for Ahsoka episode 8 finale.
There is little doubt that the late, great Ray Stevenson’s portrayal as the mysterious Baylan Skoll in Ahsoka was one of the best of the whole Star Wars series.
When it was reported in May of this year that the actor had died at the age of 58, admirers of his work showed their sadness in countless, poignant tributes.
Eric Steelberg ASC, Ahsoka director of photography, who worked on the strange moment in the first episode when Ray received his very own legendary Star Wars hallway sequence – an intended reference to Darth Vader in 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
The cameraman reflected on set experiences that were particularly’meaningful’ to him, and the scene in which Baylan kills everyone in his way in order to save Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) quickly stuck out to him.
‘In episode one – it was a couple weeks into the shoot – we did the scene with Ray Stevenson walking down the hallway that happens early on on the ship when he arrives and starts killing everybody to rescue Morgan Elsbeth in that hallway,’ he shared.
‘That was all designed and heavily influenced by the ship at the beginning of Episode IV. There was just something really special about the way we were shooting it and the enthusiasm and Ray being on set, acting it out with a lightsaber and the special effects and the blasters.’
Eric, who grew up as a Star Wars fan, described the scene as the “first moment on a shoot” where he “felt like a kid,” as if he’d been teleported to the set of the original Star Wars film.
‘Dave [Filoni] was super excited and Ray Stevenson was really having a good time. Jon Favreau was there giving us ideas about camera angles with some of the stunts, and it was just like the first moment on the shoot, where I was sitting there going like, “This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I can’t believe how much fun I’m having.”’
As Star Wars fans are aware, some of the most iconic moments in the saga are action-packed corridor sequences, such as in Episode IV, Darth Vader’s return in Rogue One, and Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) arrival in The Mandalorian’s season two finale.
‘It was just this really crazy, crazy moment and there was just such a good feeling on a set,’ Eric added:
‘Everyone was so happy and so excited. Every shot was like, “Oh my god, it’s so good.”’
Throughout the eight-episode run of Ahsoka, fans speculated whether Baylan was good, terrible, or somewhere in between, having previously trained in Jedi methods.
Baylan can be seen standing on a huge statue carved into a mountain of the Father and the Son (two members of the Mortis Gods family, otherwise known as The Ones) in the final moments of the finale, implying that he has a greater purpose than simply assisting the evil Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) in regaining his power.
After the final episode came out, Ahsoka star Ivanna Sakhno paid tribute to Ray on Instagram, writing in her caption: ‘For my friend Ray. Forever your Wolf. x,’ with lead star Rosario responding by commenting: ‘Grateful for you always Ray. Thank you for deepening and enriching every moment. You will forever inspire.’
Eric recalled how Ray was ‘always very much in character’ on set, and was always willing to rehearse and film whatever extra shots were needed, no matter how ‘physical’ and ‘demanding’ it was for him.
‘I ended up shooting a lot of his scenes and most of his fights. I shot the big one with him and Ahsoka in episode four on the henge where she goes over the edge. He was very dedicated,’ he recollected.
‘He was always up for rehearsal, making sure these things are right and looked good. Fantastic suggestions, always very aware of that camera, understood what we were trying to do with the camera if we needed an extra shot.’
The director of photography continued: ‘He was just great. He was just… he was the guy. It was a real shocker that he passed away and a real, real bummer. I think everybody who worked on that show definitely feels a loss.
‘He was, particularly as a new character, something that’s not a legacy, to have such an impact on the show and the crew, it was devastating, but I’m glad that he brought so much to the show. Like, if you’re gonna do it, that’s the way to do it. Make your mark in a major, major way and really contribute something that’s lasting.’
Ahsoka is available to watch on Disney Plus.