While seven months may not seem like a long time in between seasons of "Star Wars Rebels" -- especially considering a TV movie aired during that hiatus -- new adventures of the Ghost crew couldn’t come fast enough for fans of the series. However, it's proved well worth the wait.
Not only is the second season of "Star Wars Rebels" now in full motion on Disney XD, it's going to span 22 episodes, as opposed to the first season's 13. That means more time spent on more planets with more characters.
SPINOFF spoke with "Star Wars Rebels" Executive Producer Dave Filoni as well as voice actors Taylor Grey (Ezra Bridger) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano) about the double-sized new season.
"I think we were all happy about [the longer season] because it gave us more opportunities," Filoni said during a press event at New York Comic Con. "We could grow the story. We have a lot of lead characters on 'Rebels.' In Season 1, there was a lot of deep focus on Ezra, and we diverged a little bit and we told stories about Zeb, and everybody kinda had their highlight episode -- Sabine and Hera. This year, off the top of my head, I can think of multiple episodes where Hera's the feature character, where Sabine is a feature character, where it's more about Kanan and his conflict with Rex. I think people want to see that. A lot of times it's still from Ezra's point of view, so we're still growing that character, but we were able to balance things out a bit better. Plus, we added Rex and Ahsoka this year, Hondo shows up again, we got all kinds of characters screaming for screen time. The more episodes the better."
As Filoni mentioned, "Rebels" will take on a trio of characters that originated on the series’ animated predecessor "Star Wars: The Clone Wars": the pirate Hondo; former Clone Trooper Captain Rex; and Ahsoka Tano, who played the role of mysterious informant in the first season. Now Ahsoka is back as a recurring character, bringing voice actor Eckstein with her.
"It had been about a year, I think, by the time I found out that Ahsoka was coming back in 'Rebels,'" Eckstein said. When asked whether she’d already put her time with Ahsoka to bed following the end of "Clone Wars," the actress replied, "I played Ahsoka for so long, she literally just became a part of me. You never put her away. You never put that to bed because I think Ahsoka is always with me -- as cheesy as it sounds. But she is, and oftentimes she's an inspiration to me. I think 'What would Ahsoka do?' Not to sound cheesy, but I really am inspired by her and I look up to her, so she's always with me. So it was easy to fall back into the role, except the difficult part is she's a lot older. So to play Ahsoka, essentially we're kinda like the same age now, and so I did kinda draw from just where I am in my own personal life -- and there are a lot of similarities. But she's a lot more stoic this season. She has a mysterious quality to her. She has a good poker face. She's not so much the snippy Padawan, she's more of the silent mentor."
Ahsoka will also serve as a guiding force for the Ghost crew, a role new for a character introduced as Anakin Skywalker's Padawan. "Ahsoka and Hera definitely have a connection because of Season 1, and I think Ahsoka has more of a mentor role with the entire Ghost crew," Eckstein said. "She doesn't get too personal or too close to any of them. She does help guide Ezra quite a bit this season."
"Ezra has grown so much and is very confident in himself and he's getting more and more powerful within the Force," Grey said. "So he goes out now as more of a leader, which we see in season two. He starts calling a couple shots. He's earned it, but not as much as he thinks he has. So that's an interesting growth that we see in the next season."
In addition to new cast members, "Rebels" will also venture into new territory. While Season 1 was primarily set on Ezra's home planet Lothal, Filoni said Season 1 will explore the galaxy a bit.
"Lothal is [seen] a lot less in Season 2," Filoni said. "Lothal is there, but we got off that rock, and we do a little more jumping around. Because of the nature of the way we tell the stories in 'Rebels,' we don't do [jumping around] nearly as much as 'Clone Wars.' But we do go to another planet for a couple episodes and then somewhere else. This season is more about being part of a fleet and searching things out."
As evidenced in the "Rebels" footage screened at NYCC, we'll also see that fleet test out new technology, like the B-wing. "We do show the development of technology," Filoni said. "I think it's important; we're still several years ahead of 'A New Hope,' so a lot of stuff, the way militaries are, they upgrade their gear all the time. So our walkers are not the ones from 'Empire,' but they're a lot closer. They all have a flavor of [original 'Star Wars' designers] Ralph McQuarrie or Joe Johnston because we want them to look proto, so they look like something they developed artistically. The B-Wing is in there and you see it's all orange, so it looks like a prototype fighter. That's coming from [Chuck] Yeager's [Bell] X-1 rocket, you know. We needed a little nod, I love putting nods to history in there."
Tech development aside, "Star Wars Rebels" will continue to develop its crew in classic "Star Wars" fashion, mixing comedy in with rich character drama. "Comedy comes out of making light of a very serious situation," said Grey, whose Ezra often walks the line between the show's comedic relief and dramatic heart. "'Star Wars' is so good about that because you couldn't have a more serious situation, and there are opportunities to bring light to it. Ezra happens to be that one because it’s the naiveté of him not knowing things -- and I feel that way amongst all the other actors. So when [Filoni] says we all fit who we are pretty well, I'm constantly making cracks like that just in the booth."
"Star Wars Rebels" airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD.