Star Wars Clone Wars: How Ahsoka Tana won over fans

Ashley Eckstein on how Ahsoka Tano became a Star Wars fan favourite

Clone Wars Ahsoka Grievous
Ahsoka takes on General Grievous in The Clone Wars

Going from irritating kid to fan favourite, Anakin’s spunky padawan was a runaway success story. Voice actress Ashley Eckstein talks becoming a Star Wars institution, winning over fans, and continuing her story in Star Wars: Rebels

Was it important to you to bring out strong female character qualities in Ahsoka?
I never really approached Ahsoka from the angle of ‘Oh, this is a strong female character, so I need to play her that way’, I was just so fortunate to be a small part of creating Ahsoka. The writing was superb, and [Dave Filoni and his crew] wrote such great episodes that I just had to bring life to the words that were on the page. The funny thing was that Ahsoka’s gender didn’t matter at the end of the day, because Dave didn’t write towards that, and I think that is the key to the success of writing a strong female character; just making her a strong character, male or female, and David and his crew did that. If you think about it, we never pointed out that she was a girl. I don’t think the term came up in the text, no one in the crew pointed out that she was a girl; she was just one of the gang, and I think the fans after a while looked past her gender.

Did you have much input to her characterisation?
I did have a lot of input with creating the character, her sound and attitude. Part of the reason I was cast was obviously the sound of my voice, but even just her attitude I brought to the auditions. Originally, Dave wanted Ahsoka to have an Icelandic accent. I didn’t do a good job in the original audition – in fact, I was terrible – I didn’t even think I would get a callback.

Fortunately, I did, and once again they asked to prepare in an Icelandic accent. I went to the audition, read the first line in an accent, and they stopped me and said, “Okay, that’s still not quite right, we want you to more in an Icelandic accent.” I was so confused, because I was doing it in an Icelandic accent! And so I said, “I’m sorry, I am, so I’m not quite sure what you want!” They said that they liked my attitude and body movement, so I was cast a lot more just for being myself than my actual audition.

Ashley Eckstein
Eckstein is proud of the impact Ahsoka has had

So when I went in to record, thank god they told me to record in my normal voice. They liked how I could be snarky but not disrespectful, sarcastic but not offensive. I always felt the freedom that if a line was delivered in a certain way, I could say, “I don’t think Ahsoka would say it that way.” So it was a collaborative process, and I feel like I’m one part of a group of people who brought Ahsoka to life.

Early on, Ahsoka had a penchant for nicknames. Why did they disappear?
Dave was never a fan of the nicknames, and so those naturally went away over time. ‘Snips’ for some reason stuck, I don’t think of myself as a snippy person, but even to this day Dave will call me Snips, and it felt like big brother/little sister, and so Snips just stuck, but the other nicknames never felt like they stuck.

Fans railed against some nicknames. Did you notice?
Oh gosh, immediately! It’s funny, even with the fans, Snips stuck, and even Skyguy to a certain extent. We kept Skyguy – Ahsoka used it from time to time – it became a term of respect versus disrespect as long as she didn’t overuse it, like a term of endearment.

What was it like to work with George Lucas?
I have had the pleasure of meeting George five or six times. While they make the show, we recorded our episodes in LA. The first time I met him was at the premiere of the film. I always found myself tongue tied, because I’m a massive Star Wars fan, and it’s George Lucas – what else do you say other than ‘Thank you’? He was always very complimentary, he was very involved in the Clone Wars. He was always so kind and positive and appreciative of everything. We would get notes from him, but it would always be through Dave Filoni. He would always say, ‘George wants it to be more like this…’ or ‘George has this vision for the scene’. I would joke that he was like Charlie from Charlie’s Angels.

Do you feel a tinge of regret at not being able to finish Ahsoka’s story, with the early cancellation?
We were a family, and worked together for over seven years – there was definitely a lot of sadness, but the good news about Disney buying Star Wars is all of the content that will now be created, a movie a year moving forward. We’re getting more TV shows, animated shows and books.

Who was your favourite character?
I loved that we got more insight into the character of Anakin. In prequels we see young Anakin, slightly whiny Anakin and Dark Side Anakin – we didn’t get to see the moment when he was just a hero. Matt Lanter brought so much likeability to the character – he’s such a brilliant actor, we’ve only seen a glimpse of what he’s capable of. He’s a huge part of the reason why people fell in love with Anakin in The Clone Wars.

How does it feel to be a part of The Clone Wars, and to continue to do so in Star Wars: Rebels?
It’s such an honour. When you realise that we’re a part of the last Star Wars story George Lucas told, it’s an honour. I feel like I won the lottery by being Ahsoka and being able to help create this original character. I’ve never taken it for granted; I always appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. It is definitely my role that I’m most proud of, and by far the favourite thing I’ve ever done. It’s a dream come true to continue to bring Ahsoka to life.

Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels will air on Disney XD later in the year. For the latest Star Wars news, grab the new issue of SciFiNow.