Warning: This story contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Willow on Disney+.
When you ask “Willow” actors Ruby Cruz and Erin Kellyman to name a song that captures the relationship between their characters, they name Paramore’s “The Only Exception.” They might even start singing it to you.
“It’s so oddly accurate,” said Kellyman, who plays aspiring knight Jade Claymore in Lucasfilm’s fantasy adventure series, before explaining during a recent video call which lyrics in which verses correlate with which character.
“We shared songs throughout the making of ‘Willow,'” added Cruz, who portrays rebellious royal Kit Tanthalos and was the first to notice the connection between her characters and her chosen anthem. “We would find things [that conveyed]like, ‘That’s how Kit feels about Jade right now and she wishes she could tell her that, but she can’t.'”
Finally, in “Wildwood,” the fifth installment of the series (which premieres Wednesday), Kit and Jade discuss how, to quote another “Willow” character on the show, they “are so hot for each other.” (Though without the help of pop-rock songs.) It’s a conversation that’s been a long time coming and a detail the actors had to keep mum about to avoid spoilers.
Developed for television by Jonathan Kasdan, Willow is a series-long sequel to the 1988 film of the same name, directed by Ron Howard and starring Warwick Davis as the title’s aspiring wizard, committed to protecting a baby prophesied to destroy the world save. Set some 20 years after the film ended, the show finds the kingdom once again in peril, and it’s up to Willow Ufgood (Davis) and the now-adult Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber), along with their ragtag company, to save it .
“‘Willow’ has always been … sort of a teenage story about coming of age,” said Kasdan, who also wrote Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018 with his father, veteran Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan. As such, the young adventurers in the series struggle to figure out who they are and how they feel, as well as the dangerous enemies and magical powers thrown their way.
The core team embarking on this important quest includes Kit and Jade, childhood best friends who both have family ties to the heroes and villains of the original film.
Kit, Kasdan explains, was intended in part to succeed Madmartigan, her father and the swashbuckling mercenary portrayed by Val Kilmer in the original film. She was meant to appear as the obvious main character, only to be eclipsed by the startling revelation of Elora’s identity.
Jade was written with Kellyman after wowing Kasdan with her performance as Enfys Nest in Solo. In “Wildwood” she learns that everything she thought she knew about herself and her past was a lie.
While the characters themselves have tried to deny this, the romantic tension between the two is palpable since they were introduced mid-swordfight in the opening minutes of the series premiere. They even share a stolen kiss in Episode 1 when it seems like they’ll never see each other again — a kiss they haven’t spoken about since.
“From scene 1, Jade looks at Kit like she’s the best thing on this planet, so I think it’s pretty obvious,” Kellyman said. “You don’t spend half the series debating whether or not they’re in love… I feel like if I’ve watched queer shows before, you spend half the time hoping they’re actually gay.” have.”
Cruz and Kellyman regretted the constant disappointment they felt when the odd storylines teased in other films and television shows didn’t materialize. That they both grew up without seeing much meaningful LGBTQ representation on screen is one of the reasons Kit and Jade’s relationship is so precious to them.
From the start, the entire “Willow” cast has been cheering their budding romance. So much so that during the dinner table for Episode 5, everyone went very quiet as Kit and Jade started their conversation, and “lost their s—” when Jade tells Kit she’s going to kiss her, according to Kellyman.
Of course, the couple is attacked before the kiss can actually take place. But Kasdan is happy to explain why the episode had to end like this.
“One of the great joys of television since I was a kid is the kind of crushing yearning to see two people kissing,” Kasdan said, citing the slow-burning romance between the two leads of “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” that stuck with him watch the reruns of the series at school. “I’ve always been affected by this, and I believe that yearning for two characters to connect is almost more pleasurable than the moment they do.”
This is an indication that audiences can expect to wait at least a little longer before Kit and Jade have a chance to repeat that near kiss again.
For Kellyman and Cruz, it makes sense that Jade and Kit have been tiptoeing about what they mean to each other for well over half the season. Not only have the two been best friends since they were kids, Kit is a princess and Jade’s dream is to serve as a knight. Also, Kit is technically engaged. That they need time to sort through their own feelings is only realistic. Crucially, though, none of their uproar has anything to do with the fact that they’re both women.
In building a foundation for Kit and Jade’s relationship, Cruz and Kellyman spent a lot of time creating their own backstories for the characters, as much of their childhood remains untold. Kit probably snuck into Jade’s room for sleepovers almost every night growing up, which began to stir up confusing emotions as they got older. Jade’s surrogate father, the commander of the knights who serve Kit’s mother, probably noticed his young charge’s budding crush and warned Jade to keep her relationship with the princess professional if she really wanted to become a knight. They even decided that Kit and Jade’s kiss in Episode 1 was their first.
“I think for us, as queer people, it was really great to get the chance to explore queer friendships on screen,” Cruz said. “It can be very confusing. For Kit, she definitely questioned a lot growing up. I want to be with this person, or do I want be this person? I feel like so many queer people are going through that.”
She also appreciates that as a series intended to be accessible to families and younger audiences, Willow was a chance to emphasize the emotional bond between Kit and Jade.
“I feel like growing up there was such a lack of lesbian representation,” Cruz said. “And usually lesbian relationships and queer relationships are sexualized … I thought that building a really meaningful emotional connection that people could relate to and see themselves in is a really important and cool opportunity for us.”
“Willow” and its queer romance come at a time when conservative voices are increasingly openly hostile to the LGBTQ community, including queer and trans youth — making them the target of violent attacks and political action. Kasdan could never have foreseen this when developing the series, especially since the decision to focus the series on Kit and Jade’s relationship was made during the production of Solo. (“We’re talking before ‘The Last Jedi’  was even released,” he said.)
“If Kit and Elora’s relationship was going to be a really deep and powerful platonic friendship, it made sense to me that Jade and Kit’s relationship would be something completely different, interesting and complicated for other reasons,” Kasdan said.
But the current political climate also makes Kit and Jade’s romance particularly cathartic. They may have trouble expressing their feelings, but they don’t give much thought to how others react or if being queer makes it harder. Everyone around her accepts her and her relationship.
“They’re just in love with each other,” Kellyman said. “I think the normalized representation is really important and something I just didn’t have. I haven’t seen this anywhere. I think if I had ‘Willow’ when I was 14, I would have felt a lot less lonely.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-12-21/willow-disney-lgbtq-kit-jade-love-story ‘Willow’ Series Episode 5: Inside Kit and Jade kissing scene