Moments after finishing their panel at New York Comic Con, some of the cast and crew of “Star Wars Rebels” reconvened in a press conference to discuss in detail elements of the expanding franchise.
Co-creator Dave Filoni was joined by actors Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Seventh Sister), who fielded questions about representation, crossover with upcoming “Star Wars” films, and what it’s like to work with James Earl Jones, the legendary voice of Darth Vader.
Gellar had to leave early, so the first 10 minutes were devoted to her.
What surprised her about playing a villain:
Sarah Michelle Gellar: How much I enjoy it. It’s always fun to play the characters that you least expect. What I really love about [Seventh Sister], she’s so intelligent. She’s a thinking bad guy, a thinking villain. And everybody wants to be the bad guy, come on! Plus she gets the way better outfits.
What it’s like in the recording booth:
Gellar: Being in the booth is the greatest thing ever. It requires absolutely no makeup. It doesn’t even require a shower, because Dave’s on the other side [of the glass]. It’s extremely creative, it’s very free. They dim the lights, and you have that room. I’m one of those people who has to use my entire body when I do stuff. So I wield an imaginary lightsaber when I’m in there for recording sessions, just because I have to get into the physicality of it. But it’s very freeing because you’re just not as self-conscious because you know they’re not seeing you looking like an idiot wielding an imaginary light saber … Just because you’re in a recording booth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be fully in character. You just don’t have the hair and the makeup.
How did the “Buffy The Vampire ” star became involved with “Star Wars Rebels”:
Gellar: I made them write it for me? So Freddie [Prinze Jr., her husband, who voices Kanan Jarrus] didn’t know [what he was auditioning for]. When he found out, talk about a little boy at Christmas. He saw someone at the audition that he had an inkling what it was … and he was over the moon and so excited to be a part of it. And this cast is so incredible, and they work together. I think that’s really interesting about this process. And I couldn’t always participate, but when I could I did — they record together. With animated you’re in a booth by yourself, you record, you go home. And here it’s like recording a live show, and I think it makes a difference in our performances because we’re really performing off each other. Especially in the beginning, when I was trying to get to know everyone, separate from being “the wife of,” I really enjoyed being in the booth with them. It was awesome.
What sparks a fan-girl moment for her:
Gellar: I’m in “Star Wars!” I mean, come on! I don’t know that it hit me right away when I was hitting everybody up for a role on [“Star Wars: Rebels”]. But for the rest of my life I am now a part of this family, I am part of the legend. I am part of the lore. I’m part of the story. As Ashley has proved, you never know where someone’s going to pop up [in this franchise]. And like I said earlier [at the panel], I’m looking for some street cred. I’m tired of it being, “Charlotte’s daddy is a Jedi and Charlotte’s mommy drives carpool.” So I’m also thrilled that I finally get some cred with the kindergarten crowd.
What fans can expect from the female characters in season 2:
Dave Filoni: I think you can expect a lot. To say it’s a season of ladies — I’m just trying to get to a point that’s where it’s equal. Right now it’s great [that we have so many female characters]; it’s special. The reason it’s special is because it’s so uncommon. And when you go down that thought process you realize how sad that is.
My wife is hugely educated and knowledgeable about female fandom, and the female point of view, obviously. I don’t have those perspectives, so she’s been tremendous about educating me over the years on what’s important to her as a fan. And I’ve tried to apply that. All I can really do is create opportunities and bring some balance to the Force here. I think you can see the reaction from the crowd. The guys like Hera [too], because she’s an awesome pilot. You do these characters right, then they are for everybody. But I think they it is very empowering for young girls to look at Hera and Sabine and say, “Wow, they’re awesome! Sabine reminds me of Boba Fett.” So we just got to keep that ball rolling. I think a lot of creative teams are going that way now, and it’s a very good thing.
What it was like having James Earl Jones on the show, and how Darth Vader involved in Season 2:
Taylor Gray: I thought it was the coolest thing hearing [a clip of his voice acting]. He didn’t come into record with us; he was on Broadway working. And we heard a little clip of him in the booth, and it was the coolest thing ever. Like, that’s Darth Vader. But how he’s in [Season 2], I don’t think I can talk about that.
Ashley Eckstein: We’re all “Star Wars” fans, everyone in this room. So, the fact that I get to share the screen – well, my voice does — with James Earl Jones, I just can’t even comprehend it quite honestly. It’s amazing. Several other actors have returned from the films. And then also getting to work with Sarah Michelle Gellar; it’s so many amazing people that it’s surreal. You pinch yourself. In terms of what Darth Vader does this season, I’ll pass that to [Dave].
Filoni: There’s so many things in a day when you work on “Star Wars.” I mean, I just get to show up and talk about the Jedi and the Empire … Every day is pretty good, no matter how much work it is. Then there are just some days you walk in and you get to talk to Darth Vader. He’s there, and we piped him in to Skywalker Sound. And Matt Wood and I are in recording him. And it’s one of those rare times where you almost break your façade and you’re like, “This is so cool.” Like, that’s Darth Vader, and he’s like [impersonates Jones], “David, is there a way you’d like me to read this line?” And I’m like, “Like that! Exactly like you said!”
When he went to record for us, he said, “I haven’t done this in 10 years. Can you help walk me through how you’d like to be read?” And I was like, “You don’t need to be walked through at all.” The big difference I’ve seen, there are people who can imitate Darth Vader, right? But James brings a performance level to it that I always find goes beyond the idea that [Vader] is an evil villain menace, and really captures more humanity as a person. You just hear it, and it’s so different. When it comes on in the trailer, it’s so amazing. It’s undeniable truth of who Darth Vader is, and that’s what I like. I’m very grateful that he takes the time to do our show. It’s just fantastic.
Whether there will be a reckoning between Ahsoka and Vader in Season 2
[Eckstein doesn’t speak, but gives sly smile.]
Filoni: That would be cool. That would be something I’ve thought about for a long time. I’ll say this about it: The character opportunity to have Ahsoka and Darth Vader in the show, it demands addressing all the questions you’re asking. There’s never really been a Jedi like Ahsoka before, someone that electively walks away from everything before it all falls apart. That earned her a certain position apart from their way of thinking about the Force. That doesn’t mean that Vader would have sympathy for her whatsoever. There’s a lot of unfinished business between the two, things left unsaid. I find that all very interesting as a director and a storyteller. It’s all kind of dangerous obviously because they have great skills and sharp lightsabers … but it is something I of course talked to George [Lucas] about. Over the years working on Ahsoka, that idea would come up. What would happen to Ahsoka if she ever met Vader? I always make sure to cover those questions because I will always respect that he’s the creator of “Star Wars.” I will always respect that he took the time to teach me and gave me this job. And I always want to think he sees these episodes as something he would like. That’s important to me as this whole thing moves forward. So I base a lot of the storytelling on discussions that he and I have had. Sometimes I change things as part of the evolutionary creative process. But it’s been thought about for a long time what would happen. So we’ll have to wait and see this year what happens.
Whether the show and the films affect each other’s stories:
Filoni: Everything affects each other, as far as their time periods are concerned and as far as you think they would echo out. Someone down the line is creating a story — in whatever medium, it doesn’t have to be a film — and you say, “OK, this Rebellion story, they have a secret agent for the Rebels stealing information.” The story group is going to say, “Well, we have that. And they called them Fulcrum here. Now, does it make sense to call them Fulcrum there?”
What’s great is we have a group of people who are fully aware of all the continuities that can reach out to the different creative and keep them all in line. So, if there was a movie that was very close to the time period that I was doing, then we would be in constant contact. I’ve met all the directors of all the films and talked to them. It’s fun. A lot of that we do politely. But a lot of it we talk creatively because it’s “Star Wars,” and we’re all fans of it. We all grew up with it. This whole generation of lead creatives grew up with “Star Wars,” so we just all have that in common. We’re all like, “Can you believe what we’re doing? It’s so fun!”
So the important thing is the story group binds us together and keeps the story straight. Could [“Star Wars Rebels”] affect the film? Sure. Does the film affect us? Sure. But it works in all directions, even the comic books and video games. The best thing I can say about it is it’s just an effort by a group of people that love “Star Wars” to just make it all great and all work as well as it can. We don’t ever want to put something out that’s just OK …You try to make it the best you can, whatever that bar is so fans are always equating a high quality with “Star Wars,” which makes it very tough. That’s the challenge. That’s what we have to shoot for. So far, it’s been good.
Whether Ahsoka pop up in “Star Wars: Rogue One”
Filoni: That would be great, wouldn’t it? Yeah, I couldn’t say. That’s where you get me in such a dangerous zone. Right? See, I’m stopping myself.
What happened to the millions of other clones:
Filoni: What a dangerous question you’re asking for an answer you may not like. There are so many stories in this galaxy. Definitely there have been stories thrown around about different clones and what’s happened to them. Some clones — I’ll be honest — might still work for the Empire in some capacity, but mainly they’re on dock duty. They haul cargo containers, menial stuff like that. They’re old now. Even the younger ones, they would age quickly and be decommissioned. I’m sure they fought for a period. But as they get older, they’re a bit twitchy because of all the programming … If a clone won’t execute the order for whatever reason — and that would happen just out of probability of just how many units they created — well, the minute that clone says, “I’m not shooting my general,” the clone next to him to blasts him as a sub-order within the command structure. So all those guys are eliminated … I think what you saw is, over the years, a lot of the clones sit there and think about what they did, and think, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that we did that.” Some of them in their morality go, “I can’t believe we shot these generals.”
Some of them believe the Jedi were corrupt, and they had every right to. Some of the Jedi in “Revenge of the Sith” talk about that. Obi-Wan and Mace Windu and Yoda know that if they make a move against the Chancellor, it’s going to be seen as treason. So Palpatine is right about that. When Mace Windu walks in his office to arrest him, they’re OK. When he moves to execute him, they’re under arrest by rule of law of the Republic. Mace Windu does not have the authority to execute the Chancellor of the Republic. He’d have to be put on trial. So when Anakin walks in the room, he’s effectively stopping a crime, by saving the Chancellor. I mean, that’s how good Palpatine is. We know the story. We know he’s evil. Now what Mace was trying to do, we know it was good: killing this evil, evil, horrible person. But so many complex issues around the clone wars made it a very interesting and difficult TV series to make. Especially with that ending.
Fan theory: Ezra becomes Kylo?
Gray: [Flabbergasted] Is that possible? I’m more excited about this answer than you [in the audience] are.
Filoni: It’s so nuts.
Gray: That would be awesome.
Filoni: It’s amazing how people can bend anything around to how they want reality to be — especially you over there.
Gray: Is that a yes?
Filoni: Fan theories never cease to amaze me. You can make the most general comment and someone can show you a whiteboard analysis of how this can be true. The last thing I ever want to do is be like, “No, of course not,” because then all that work is for naught. But don’t get excited down there. You all will see the movie —
Gray: They got Fulcrum right.
Filoni: Who did?
Gray: Fans! They figured out who that way.
Filoni: You’re on the wrong side. I couldn’t answer anything even if I wanted to. But that’d be a pretty big stretch. Personally, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s a pretty big stretch.
How Ezra develops in Season 2
Gray: He’s toughening up, and he’s taking the reins a bit more. You can tell he’s a cocky dude. So that comes out a little bit more because now he’s a part of the Rebel crew and he’s seeing how he’s actually needed at times. In Season 2, a big thing is his parents. That’s something they need to address and get to first. So that story line plays out a bit, and it can go a variety of ways. But aside from that, he’s getting better with the Force, and what he can do with a light saber is pretty cool now. I’m excited for people to see where he goes in the next season.
Whether Eckstein had input on Ahsoka’s plot between “Clone Wars” and “Rebels”:
Eckstein: I do joke about this all the time, because my ideas are not the best. No, I don’t have any input. I like to ask a lot of questions, to try to find out as much as I can.
Filoni: You had that one idea of what she was doing.
Eckstein: What? That she ran a pony farm and baked cupcakes?
Filoni: Yeah, that was the one. She thought that was funny.
Eckstein: Kristen Hidalgo, Pablo Hidalgo’s wife, is a big fan of Ahsoka. For her — as for many of us — it was very traumatic when she walked away, wondering where she went. And so to provide happy thoughts she said Ahsoka went to a pony farm and baked cupcakes.
Filoni: It was more of a safety thing for you. It was a very safe place.
Eckstein: It was more of a safety thing. I’m going to go back to literally Dave and the writers from “Clone Wars” and on “Rebels” are just top-notch. I mean they’re so fantastic. And now the stories they come up with are way cooler than anything I’d ever come up with. Dave lets me give a lot of input in terms of her portrayal, her attitude and how I say lines. And certain times there are certain lines that I say, “Ahsoka just wouldn’t say that. She would say it this way instead.” But in terms of coming up with the story. I will leave that up to them … There are hints, though. Listen close to this season. There are literally little lines and sentences, if you’re not listening close you’ll miss it. And it is hints about what happened.
Filoni: Yeah, between “Rebels” and “Clone Wars.” I had to explain the history to Dee [Bradley Baker] and Ashley, what happened to [their characters] between where we last saw Ahsoka and where we pick up, where we last saw Rex and where we pick him up.
Eckstein: It blew our minds.
”Star Wars Rebels” returns Wednesday on Disney XD.
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