In the last decade, Ahsoka Tano has emerged as one of the most beloved characters in all of Star Wars. This is in large part due to an entire generation of fans who have connected to the franchise though the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series that began after Revenge of the Sith hit theaters and arrived at a time when the saga was seemingly complete.
Spoilers ahead for this week’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars!
After a surprise return on Disney Plus, The Clone Wars is coming full circle with the series coming to an eventful end with the Siege of Mandalore over the next few weeks. There have also been reports that Rosario Dawson will be playing a live-action Ahsoka in The Mandalorian season two, but Ashley Eckstein brought her to life and continues to be the only actress to ever play the popular character.
Heroic Hollywood had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Ashley Eckstein about The Siege of Mandalore, her new book I Am A Padawan, her cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, potentially sharing the role with someone else, and much more. Here’s the full discussion:
Your new book, I Am A Padawan, goes through many of the lessons Ahsoka has gone through during Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Is there one in particular that you hope a young reader takes away from the book?
Ashley Eckstein: My favorite lesson from the book, especially f0r young readers, is the lesson about failure because I feel like it’s something we don’t talk about enough, especially with kids. Failure is so important and making mistakes is so important. Those are the times where you learn the most and where you grow the most. As kids, you have to fail in order to learn. This book is all about what it means to be a padawan, which is a student. I was very excited and proud that they allowed that lesson to stay in there about failure. That was probably my favorite lesson. However, during times like these right now, with what we are going through with the coronavirus and dealing with a worldwide pandemic… I love the lesson about helping others no matter what. I feel like kids may sense sadness around them or tension or anxiety and they may feel helpless, like they don’t know what to do. Whether it’s helping their parents around the house or even just giving a hug– there’s things that kids can do to help each other, especially during times like these.
You also just launched a new Her Universe line this week. Could you talk a little bit about it and share what was the inspiration behind it?
Ashley Eckstein: We just launched a brand new collection for The Clone Wars. It’s something I am so proud of. We’ve been working on it for a very long time. It’s definitely a team effort. There’s an incredible designer on our team, her name is Samantha. I’ve been working very closely with her. Usually, what happens is the two of us work hand-in-hand and I will give her the inspiration and what I’m thinking. I’ll say, ‘I want to design for this character.’ The Tano track suit for example… I love track suits so, I found this track suit that I really, really liked and I said, ‘Let’s make a Tano version of this!’ I was very, very hands on with this collection and worked closely with the team on it. We just launched it and I was so pleased to see the excitement and love for merchandise inspired by The Clone Wars.
When you first started Star Wars: The Clone Wars, did you know right away that Ahsoka was going to be the main character, or did that happen over time?
Ashley Eckstein: From the beginning, I knew how important Ahsoka was to The Clone Wars series because she was Anakin Skywalker’s padawan. They were focusing on our main heroes in The Clone Wars — Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala. So, Ahsoka being Anakin Skywalker’s padawan…I knew she was going to be an important part of the series. However, I had no clue how this journey would turn into truly being a huge part dedicated to Ahsoka’s storyline. It’s just been an incredible journey to follow her throughout the series.
The Siege of Mandalore essentially feels like a movie, did you re-watch the original Clone Wars movie or any other arcs to prepare for the final season ?
Ashley Eckstein: No, I didn’t rewatch anything. As a fan, I’m constantly re-watching movies or my favorite moments in Star Wars, so it’s usually always top of mind. We approached both arcs with Ahsoka, the arc with Trace and Rafa and the Siege of Mandalore, very much as one story. We recorded the episodes separately. It takes one day to record an episode. We would go in and only record one episode, but we definitely treated it as one over-arching story. In my opinion, while you should definitely watch the episodes as they come out right now, these episodes deserve to be watched all at once as a movie on the biggest screen possible.
Did you watch it as a feature length movie or was it given to you like episodes?
Ashley Eckstein: Fortunately, I was able to watch it all together. It’s super top secret, so they usually don’t do that. I think because we were all so separated and we weren’t able to be together they made an exception this time. So, I was sent all four episodes and it’s just incredible to watch together. Once the finale airs, I highly recommend that everybody goes back and watches it all at once. I’ve already watched it through twice now, you miss so many things. There are so many hidden details and nuances. The more you watch it, you notice more and more things.
There’s a history between Ahsoka and Maul that is teased in Star Wars Rebels. We see Maul trying to convince Ahsoka and battle in this week’s episode. How much did you know about the Siege of Mandalore when you recorded those lines for Rebels?
Ashley Eckstein: I actually knew very little when I recorded those scenes for Rebels and that was before we knew that Clone Wars was coming back. I remember asking Dave [Filoni] because I wanted to know so bad and I didn’t think we would ever make these episodes. I asked Dave, ‘Don’t you want to tell me what happened?’ He always operates with us on a need-to-know basis. So, if we don’t need to know it for our performance, then he doesn’t tell us. He told me very, very little when I recorded those lines in Rebels. Once I got the script for Clone Wars this time, I was definitely finding out for the first time.
One of my favorite moments in this week’s episode is the one between Maul and Ahsoka, when she kind of accepts his offer, but then Maul brings up how Anakin becomes the apprentice of Darth Sidious. Why do you think Ahsoka doesn’t believe Anakin is vulnerable to the dark side?
Ashley Eckstein: Keep in mind, Ahsoka and Anakin have such a tight bond. We even hear Ahsoka tell Trace when she asks, ‘How did you learn to fight like that’ and Ahsoka says, ‘ Well my brother taught me.’ Ahsoka does look at Anakin like a brother and it’s just an incredibly tight bond. If you think about it, no one wants to believe the worst about a family member. Ahsoka doesn’t want to believe anything bad about Anakin. She looks up to him so much. You also have to keep in mind, Ahsoka has been gone. I don’t know how much time is in-between when Ahsoka walks away and the Siege of Mandalore, but it’s a good chunk of time. She’s really walking into this arc blind in many ways.
Do you think Ahsoka would’ve had a better chance at keeping Anakin from turning to the dark side than Obi-Wan?
Ashley Eckstein: I did ask this when we recorded Rebels. I asked if Ahsoka harbored guilt. In my opinion, I think she does harbor some guilt. I think that she wonders if she hadn’t walked away, if she had been there, would she have been able to save him. I think all of those thoughts run through her mind for sure. When they run through her mind I think it’s late, but I do think Ahsoka does question what if she had stayed?
What was the last day working on The Clone Wars like? Is that the last time you’ve voiced Ahsoka?
Ashley Eckstein: It’s funny, there are two last days. We would always record each episode as a cast. We had the final cast recording and that day was so special. When Clone Wars was canceled, we never had a last day. We never had that last episode because we never knew that the show was going to get canceled. So, we didn’t get the proper chance to say goodbye. We didn’t get the proper chance to sign each other’s scripts and do all the normal things you would do on on a last day. This time around, when we did know that it was the last day, when it was the last cast recording day, we did all of that. We signed each-other’s scripts, we hugged, we cried, we hugged, we said goodbye, we shared memories, we talked, we laughed– the emotions just ran the gamut. After we do cast recordings, there’s always pick-ups. Whether we need to change the performance or they changed the line and now we have to say the new line. There’s always pick-ups. So, my actual last recording… it was oddly like life imitates art. I was by myself. Dave Filoni wasn’t even there, he was up in San Francisco. He was via Skype. We had the sound engineer there and our casting person was there, but no other cast members were there. I was by myself, none of the crew was there from San Fransisco. I remember once it was done, I didn’t know if it was going to be my last recording day, but I had a hunch and it was sad because it was kind of like Ahsoka and how she ends up walking away at the end of season five alone by herself. I walked out of the studio and I haven’t recorded Ahsoka since. It was sad, it was like life imitates art.
Was The Rise of Skywalker the first time Ahsoka had been brought up to appear in a Star Wars movie?
Ashley Eckstein: I can’t speak to if it was thought of before because I’m just not privy to those conversations. I’d have to look back at my calendar and see if Rise of Skywalker as my last record or that last Clone Wars pick-up session as my last record. I really think Clone Wars came right after Rise of Skywalker. It was such an honor to be included in The Rise of Skywalker, especially with what the movie represents — it’s the final movie in the Skywalker saga. Ahsoka does play such an important role in the Skywalker saga, but she never appeared in any of the films. For her to be included in the Rise of Skywalker… it was a dream come true. And I was just so proud to be a part of it. It included her in that over arching story, it was very cool.
You’ve played Ahsoka for over a decade now and there are rumors that somebody else might be playing her in live-action. Are you ready to share the role with someone else?
Ashley Eckstein: I think that’s the biggest misconception, I always shared the role with other people. Ahsoka has always been bigger than just me. That’s why I say Team Tano a lot… because there is a whole team of people who bring Ahsoka to life and I never wanted to diminish their important work. From the writing to the animation to the lighting to the music. It really takes all of the pieces to come together with my performance to create Ahsoka. I’ve always been outspoken about about the fact because there’s so many talented people that are on Team Tano that bring her to life. I’ve always known that Ahsoka is bigger than just me, so that means that new people will join the team and that’s just a part of her evolution. Of course, I always hope to be involved with Ahsoka… I’d be lying if I said I didn’t! (chuckles). Of course I do! It’s my dream that I get to continue to be involved with her, including being able to play her whenever I can. There’s always going to be a growing team for Ahsoka. To me, if the team grows, that’s a good thing because that means that there’s more Ahsoka and I will always celebrate any time that we get more Ahsoka.
Here is the synopsis for “The Phantom Apprentice”:
Ahsoka leads Republic clones to confront Maul’s forces on Mandalore, while Maul senses the impending chaos and makes a calculated play to ensure his own survival.
Created by George Lucas, with Dave Filoni as executive producer/supervising director, The Clone Wars stars Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker, Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano, Dee Bradley Baker as Captain Rex and the clone troopers, James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan, and Sam Witwer as Maul.
Ashley Eckstein’s I am a Padawan is now available and Star Wars: The Clone Wars is currently streaming on Disney Plus with new episodes available every Friday.
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