The strained, cackling voice of Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine defined the antagonistic force that was the Galactic Empire in the original Star Wars trilogy and its prequel follow-ups, and now it seems that McDiarmid might bring his signature pipes to the franchise’s current flagship animated series: Star Wars Rebels.
The rumor comes courtesy of StarWarsNewsNet, which claims that a source in the voice recording business informed the site that McDiarmid recorded his lines for the fourth season of the animated series six months ago. Apparently, McDiarmid recorded his lines mere days after another Star Wars Rebels newcomer (but franchise veteran), Warwick Davis, recorded his own lines for a character named Rukh.
One wrinkle in the rumor is that Emperor Palpatine is already in Star Wars Rebels and is voiced by actor Sam Witwer. Witwer has become the defacto voice of the Emperor as of late, having voiced the character not only in Star Wars Rebels, but also the video game Star Wars Battlefront.
There is the distinct possibility, though, that McDiarmid might still reprise the role. StarWarsNewsNet theorized that the scene might be a flashback, given that McDiarmid could be voicing the younger, less wrinkled Senator Palpatine seen in the prequel trilogy while Witwer continues to voice the character’s hooded, scarred incarnation.
It’s also possible that McDiarmid is simply reprising one of his most iconic roles. Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, the company has been very forthcoming about what is and isn’t canonical in the larger Star Wars universe. Growing pains aside, this has allowed for the companies to further entrench characters and events from their blockbuster films into smaller properties like standalone comics and, in this case, Star Wars Rebels.
One of the most recent examples of this is Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker voicing his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story character, the disheartened rebel extremist Saw Gererra, in an episode of Star Wars Rebels. The character first debuted in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where he was voiced by Andrew Kishino. As the latest trilogy of Star Wars films and spinoff movies get rolling, it seems Disney and Lucasfilm are doing their best to meld together the brightest and most iconic elements of both the original and prequel trilogies -- and perhaps bringing McDiarmid back to voice the Emperor is one such bright spot they just couldn’t resist.
Of course, this remains in rumor territory, so it's all speculation until an official confirmation or denial from Disney and Lucasfilm.
Returning to Disney XD in the fall, Star Wars Rebels is a production of Lucasfilm created by Simon Kinberg, Dave Filoni and Carrie Beck, starring Taylor Gray, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Tiya Sircar and Steven Blum.