Friday, April 24, 2020

Ashley Eckstein Talks 'Clone Wars' Season Seven, The Legacy Of Ahsoka Tano

By: Ciaran Duggan

“Being the voice of Ahsoka Tano has changed my life and it’s changed it for the better.”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars actress Ashley Eckstein has reflected on the legacy of her beloved character Ahsoka Tano as the epic TV series nears its end point in a new interview with The Star Wars Underworld Podcast.

The final season, which continues to be released weekly on Disney+, has provided fans with a jaw-dropping set of episodes. It is likely to bring us a fulfilling conclusion to a TV series and movie that kicked off over 10 years ago in August 2008. Although, its legacy could last for decades.

One of the main protagonists - if not THE main protagonist - Ahsoka Tano has been an icon of the series since the beginning and has grown to become one of the most adored characters in all of Star Wars.

Speaking to The SWU Podcast host Dominic Jones and The Clone Wars Strikes Back co-host, Ciaran Duggan, Eckstein said: “I very quickly knew, in the very beginning, how special Ahsoka was.”

Eckstein added, “Not only did I bring my own voice to the character, but Dave Filoni asked me to bring my own personality and wit and wisdom and heart and soul to the character. You don’t really separate the two of those.”

The young snippy Jedi padawan that fans see in the 2008 animated movie was just 14 years old, which means she was just one year older than me at the time, although I would say she has become a far wiser Jedi than I could ever hope to be.

In the Siege of Mandalore the “commander” may only be 16, but Ahsoka has matured and endured so much over her short life. She has been fighting in the clone wars, dueling with Ventress and Grievous, teaching younglings and was abandoned by the Jedi Order.

To get to that point Anakin’s apprentice had to experience what life was like away from the upper levels of Coruscant and she descended into the Underworld with Trace and Rafa.

Eckstein told us, “I love the arc with the Martez sisters and the friendship that Ahsoka forms with them. I think that arc is essential to Ahsoka’s story and I know everyone has just been chomping at the bit for the Siege of Mandalore, but those episodes with Trace and Rafa are so important because after Ahoksa leaves the Jedi order, she’s lost.”

She added, “Ahsoka truly had no clue and did not understand how other people lived and the fact they could have a different perspective about the Jedi.”

Dave Filoni, who needs no introduction but it’s only fair to remind people, is the executive producer and supervising director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He was at the heart of the storytelling process during the George Lucas era and has remained so since the Disney acquisition in 2012.

For the first time, in season seven Filoni invited Eckstein to take part in the audition process in helping to cast Trace and Rafa for the “Ahsoka Walkabout” arc this season.  This ensured that the actresses had the right chemistry with each other. Ultimately, Trace was voiced by Brigitte Kali and Rafa was portrayed by Elizabeth Rodriguez.

“All of the actresses that came in were wonderful but Elizabeth and Brigette just became Trace and Rafa. It’s just like they were their characters and I just had a really great chemistry with them,” Eckstein said.

“Elizabeth was in New York so I never got to meet her in person, it was all over video Skype. But Brigette got to come in person and I got to record all the episodes with Brigette and we just had such a great friendship, she is just awesome, so I think that was crucial to these set of characters and building their friendship.”

Her outings with the Martez sisters started propelling Ahsoka on her journey from Padawan outcast to the hero and mentor fans will see in Star Wars Rebels, when Anakin’s former apprentice reaches her 30s.

Eckstein described the Martez season seven arc as “essential” in the development of her character, adding, “When you’re a kid and taught not to talk back to your elders and respect your authority figures, you only know what they teach you and Ahsoka only knew the Jedi way.

“It wasn’t until she was framed and she obviously luckily was acquitted, but it broke her trust in so many ways that she couldn’t go back to the Jedi order because she didn’t know what she believed in, but she knew she didn’t believe in what they stood for after what they had gone through.”

She then discussed how the interactions with the Martez sisters impacted her future relationships with her former mentor characters, saying,

“But then she got a different perspective from Trace and Rafa and I think that gave her the strength to stand up to Obi Wan because she’s like ‘no, this is no longer what I believe, I look at this differently now’, but she also still respects him greatly.”

She added, “We see Ahsoka grow up in that scene, we see her find her voice in that scene, and I’m so proud of Ahsoka and who she is, in this arc.”

The tense(-ish) standoff between Obi Wan and Ahsoka was seen in the first episode of the "Siege of Mandalore" when the two characters were arguing about the Jedi’s decision to return to Coruscant to rescue the Chancellor and free the capital from the clutches of the Separatist forces under Count Dooku and General Grievous.

That came just moments after an incredibly emotional reunion with Rex, Ahsoka and Anakin.

“I got an early screener of the episode and I watched it and it was like 6am in the morning,” she said. “I’m there drinking my coffee, and I’m sobbing and crying like a baby watching these episodes.”

“It just means so much that Clone Wars is getting the proper finale and Ahsoka is getting the proper finale for Clone Wars that she deserves.”

Tributes have rightly been given to Clone Wars cast members for their commitment and fantastic performances like Matt Lanter, Dee Bradley Baker, Catherine Taber, Tom Kane, James Arnold Taylor, and Sam Witwer to name a few.

But, there’s no doubting why there was such a close bond between Ahsoka and Plo Koon, Dave Filoni’s favourite character in the series. Eckstein explains,

“Dave became the Sky Guy to my Snips. We have always had a very tight bond and I have been the little sister to him and he’s been like a big brother to me.”

She also had high praise for the finale of the series, telling us,

“It’s absolutely mind blowing, if you guys liked the first episode, then just wait. I mean this whole series is beyond epic. There’s not even a word to describe how epic it is.”

There is no doubting that Ahsoka has been a huge, huge part of Star Wars culture, akin to what Luke Skywalker meant for the Original Trilogy, Anakin and Obi Wan in the Prequels, and Rey for the Sequels.

We could soon see Ahsoka on the big screen in the new season of The Mandalorian, and have already seen her evolved character in Rebels. Not only does Ahsoka live, but she has become an inspiration for so many people and she has changed people’s lives.

When you attend Star Wars Celebrations, whether in America, Europe or beyond, you can see how the presence of the character has grown and now means so much to fans.

On that note, I will leave you with one final message from Ashley who so graciously and kindly gave up some of her time to speak with The SWU.

She said, “A little bit of Ahsoka lives in all of us and we take her with us throughout her daily lives and it’s been incredible to watch her journey and it’s one that’s changed my life for the better.”

You can listen to the full interview with Ashley Eckstein on the latest episode of The SWU Podcast below,

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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