"Star Wars" fans were a little wary about Anakin Skywalker's plucky padawan when she was introduced in the 2008 animated film "Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” However, by the time Ahsoka Tano made a surprise return in the Season 1 finale of "Star Wars Rebels,” the faithful were cheering.
Actress Ashley Eckstein has portrayed Ahsoka from the beginning, and continues to give voice to the more seasoned Jedi now that she's revealed as one of the architects of the emerging Rebel Alliance. SPINOFF spoke with Eckstein at Star Wars Celebration, where she discussed keeping the big secret of her return, the changes Ahsoka has experienced during the heyday of the Empire and playing a central role in an new era of empowered and intriguing genre heroines.
Spinoff Online: Welcome back into the "Star Wars" family. You must have been really excited when you got the word that your character Ahsoka was going to be resurfacing.
Ashley Eckstein: Yes! Yes. I was really excited.
How long did you have to keep this secret to yourself?
Oh, my gosh, had to keep this secret for about a year before the finale aired and I could tell people. So it was definitely a hard secret to keep.
I know you’ve got to be careful what you say, but can you tease anything about who she is now? Has she changed at all?
Ahsoka has definitely changed. She’s about 15 years older. She’s been through a lot. We still don’t know where she’s been and what she’s been doing. But now, she is in more of the mentor role, the teacher role. She’s the leader. She’s the one in charge. So that’s different. I mean, she was the Ezra of "Clone Wars," and now she’s coming back as more of like the Obi-Wan or the Yoda. And it’s a different role for her.
What has it meant to you to see a character that doesn’t come from the six main films be so embraced by the fans and have everybody show such support and love for her – and, by proxy, you?
It’s unreal. I have to pinch myself. First of all, I realized when I booked the role of Ahsoka, to be able to originate a character in the “Star Wars” universe … honestly, I know I won the lottery. Much less, to have a character that a generation of kids literally grew up with. From 2008 until now, I mean, that’s a long time to be developed and in the “Star Wars” universe. So I’m so grateful to be able to play a character that has lasted so long and that’s beloved by so many.
It’s such a great time for female characters in genre entertainment. What has it meant to you to be at the cutting edge of this embracing of fresh, new, dimensional female characters?
Ahsoka has always meant so much to me as a strong female character. Dave Filoni and his crew, they’ve written such amazing stories for Ahsoka. She's been a good example since the beginning, since 2008, and it’s kind of been under the radar about this need for strong female characters. And now when it’s really kind of a hot topic, we have several seasons and stories of Ahsoka, and kids can go back and watch her evolution and watch her stories and really look up to her. I think she is – yes, I’m biased – but I’m so proud of how Dave Filoni and the crew have written her because she really is, I think, a master class in how to write a strong female character.
You're wearing wardrobe from Her Universe as we speak. Tell about what you've gotten out of that side of your genre experience.
Yes. Well, it’s my company, and “Star Wars” has given me this opportunity. I never in a million years would have had the opportunity to start my own company without being the voice of Ahsoka. I’m so grateful just to be here and be celebrating it with the fans.