Mara Jade Skywalker is the most popular character from the old Star Wars Expanded Universe of tie-in books and games. Beginning as the Emperor’s top assassin, she later turned to smuggling and eventually fell in love with Luke Skywalker and became a Jedi master.
Her story is tumultuous to say the least, and since Disney erased the entire Expanded Universe from canon in 2014, she doesn’t exist in the world of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Of course, that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about her reappearing in the new movies. Plenty of people theorized that Rey was Luke and Mara Jade’s daughter, and when The Americans actress Keri Russell was tipped for a role in Episode IX, Mara Jade was a lot of people’s first guess. This week, we got a rare update on how she might actually return to canon.
“If there was a generic, or organic, spot for her to fit into a story… I promise people, I will pitch it to the Lucasfilm Story Group, and then, it’s their decision whether to allow it or not.”
Zahn created Mara Jade, writing her debut in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. This book also introduced the Imperial commander Grand Admiral Thrawn, another fan-favorite character. Thrawn was recently grandfathered into the new Star Wars canon, with Zahn launching a new series of books last year. He’s on a very short list of Expanded Universe characters who got a new lease on life after 2014, and fans are obviously wondering if this sets a precedent for Mara Jade.
In the same interview, Zahn said he’d try to block any attempt to give Mara Jade a minor cameo role because she deserves serious screentime to introduce the character to new audiences.
Despite Mara Jade’s passionate fan-following, we remain doubtful about her theoretical return to canon. Official Star Wars canon—especially Luke’s personal arc—is radically different from the Expanded Universe, whose writers often included some pretty wacky ideas. And even if Lucasfilm does decide there’s room for Mara Jade to be reintroduced into Luke’s backstory, we probably won’t see anything until after Episode IX. Thanks to his role as an antagonist with a more separate story arc, Thrawn was a different situation. It was easier to reintroduce him in a solo storyline, without interfering in the developing timeline of the new movies.