**SPOILERS FOR THE TWO-EPISODE PREMIERE OF WILLOW AHEAD!**
Disney+‘s new show Willow doesn’t just mark our return to the world of the cult classic ’80s flick, but Warwick Davis‘s return to the eponymous role of Willow Ufgood. The Ron Howard film is full of standout performances from the likes of Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, and Kevin Pollack, but Davis is the heart, soul, and face of the saga. Willow the show might introduce audiences to a whole new generation of heroes and villains, but it’s Warwick Davis who is once more leading the way.
Willow the series is set 20 years after the events of the 1988 film. Elora Danan has been hidden away, Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) has gone missing on a mysterious quest, and Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) is busy juggling teenaged twins obsessed with very different passions of their absent father. Daughter Kit (Ruby Cruz) just wants to clash swords with bestie Jade (Erin Kellyman) while son Airk (Dempsey Bryk) is the kingdom lothario, recently tamed by falling in love with kitchenmaid Dove (Ellie Bamber).
When forces of evil kidnap Airk, Kit embarks on a mission to save her brother. But she needs help. Jade, Dove, Kit’s betrothed Graydon (Tony Revolori), and the roguish warrior Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) join Kit on her quest to track down the great sorcerer Willow. Almost as soon as Willow meets the daughter of his old friends Madmartigan and Sorsha, he’s distracted by the fact that Dove, as she’s called, is actually Elora Danan all grown up.
Decider chatted recently with Willow star Warwick Davis about returning to the iconic role of Willow Ufgood, acting opposite his real-life daughter Annabelle Davis in the new series, and how Ellie Bamber measures up to the grownup Elora Danan he’s had in his mind since the ’80s…
DECIDER: When Willow gets to know Elora Danan, she doesn’t measure up to what he thought she would be. I’m curious, how did Ellie Bamber measure up to who you thought Elora Danan would be after all these years?
WARWICK DAVIS: I mean, Ellie did a wonderful job of capturing the kind of innocence and spirit of definitely who Warwick Davis thought Elora Danan should be as a character. I mean, she’s got the lovely innocence, the charm that, you know, we saw that baby growing up to have. And also, that kind of specialness about her. Elora is a special kind of character with abilities that are beyond most people’s abilities and they just kind of need to be nurtured out and brought out. Ellie really captured that brilliantly in her performance.
In Episode 2 we get a flashback to a scene between a younger Willow and Sorsha and Sorsha has this horrible, devastating thing to say to him. She doesn’t believe he’ll ever be a great sorcerer. Why was it important to share that moment and how does it affect their relationship and how Willow sees himself throughout the season?
Well, that really hits Willow hard when Sorsha tells him, “You’re not a great sorcerer and you never will be.” I mean, that really hits him hard because it’s always been his kind of ambition to be a better sorcerer and a good sorcerer and it reminds him that the success and triumph over Bavmorda he had in Willow the movie was really fake. He kind of defrauded everyone. He tricked Bavmorda by using sleight of hand magic and kind of passed it off as real sorcery. So, deep down he knows he’s not a great sorcerer. But I don’t think he agrees with “never will be.” He knows that if he puts the work in and commits to it, he can achieve.
Kind of on that note, you’re reprising this character after, you know, so many years. What was the biggest similarity and difference between who Willow was in the film and who he is now?
Willow in the film of ‘88 was an optimistic, bright, young chap. Willow that we see in the series has been through some tough stuff in his family life. His own world experiences is pretty dark. He’s now a lot older and has the kind of sum total of those life experiences with him. We still see a guy who can put his mind to things and achieve great things and is reluctant to go and become the hero once again. So, there’s quite a few similarities still. But, you know, the main difference is the fact that he’s now a lot older and being played by a much older person.
Speaking of his family life, I know your daughter Annabelle Davis plays Mims. She’s extraordinary in her scenes with you. What was it like getting to work with her on set and what do you think she brought to Mims that no one else could?
For start, I mean Annabelle and I share DNA so she makes a perfect casting as my daughter and also she is a very talented actor in her own right. It was a real pleasure playing scenes opposite Annabelle. You know, a lot of actors can not give you much as performers, but Annabelle gives a lot. You’ve got a lot to bounce off of. And the fact that we know each other so well also helps. You can feel that kind of chemistry and relationship come through in the scenes that we play together. And I think there’s definitely a lot more scope to expand on Mims’ character as well. I mean, she’s a really kind of cool, young character that I think audiences are really going to identify with.
You’ve been part of this saga since the start, what are you most excited for fans of Willow ‘88 to see in this series?
I’m excited for them to kind of explore more of the world of Willow. You know, the world that you saw in the film was just the tip of the iceberg as far as how expansive this place is. In the series, we get to explore the whole — well, not quite the whole — but most of the world of Willow and introduce a whole new set of characters. Some of whom are kind of related to characters in the original film, some of whom aren’t. And I think we just really kind of take the seed that was set in the film Willow and and just expand it into many different directions: funny ones, dramatic ones. I mean there’s so much in there it’s … I mean eight episodes really wasn’t enough to tell this story. Let’s put it that way.
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