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Ashley Eckstein Geeks Out Over Her Return To Star Wars With Tales Of The Jedi - Exclusive Interview

"Star Wars" exists in many mediums for fans. There are three separate trilogies that, depending on how old you are, were likely an entry point into the franchise, whether it was the original films, prequels, or sequels. There are also various spinoff movies as well as TV series, both animated and live-action. No matter how you like to take in your "Star Wars," there's something out there for everyone. 

For a significant group of the fanbase, one of the best things to come out of the franchise in the 21st century is the animated series, "The Clone Wars." The show provided greater context for the prequels, offering insight into characters we originally only got to spend a few hours with in the form of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, it also offered a chance to introduce new characters, and none have become quite as beloved as the legendary Ahsoka Tano, as voiced by Ashley Eckstein.

Looper did an exclusive interview with Eckstein to look back on "The Clone Wars" in anticipation of her newest series, "Tales of the Jedi," which recently debuted on Disney+. She also offered her insight into the upcoming live-action "Ahsoka" TV series, coming soon to Disney+, as well as what she thinks makes the character so iconic. 

On returning to Ahsoka Tano

What was it like coming back to the role of Ahsoka Tano?

It was a dream come true to step back into Ahsoka's boots again. I'm so grateful that I have been able to breathe life into Ahsoka Tano since 2006. I had the chance to originate the character and create this character together with Dave Filoni starting in 2006, and then "Clone Wars" came out in 2008. Had you told me back in 2008 that I'd be here in 2022 talking about more Ahsoka, I don't think I would've believed you. 

I would've hoped and would've been so excited, but I don't think I would've believed you. I'm so grateful for all the opportunities and to be here today and to have another opportunity to step into Ahsoka's boots. The fans are really going to like "Tales of the Jedi."

In the show, we see various points in Ahsoka's life. How much did these stories line up with what you originally envisioned for the character? 

Dave Filoni always works on a need-to-know basis, so he tells you what you need to know to record, but nothing more usually, because there's so many stories that are being told. Everything's so confidential, so I didn't know.

I wasn't surprised by the Jedi training episode because we always talked a lot about Ahsoka's training and Ahsoka's relationship with Anakin, but the episode where she was at Padme's funeral was really touching to me. I was so happy to hear that she was there because I feel like [that was] one thing that never got explored enough, and we did have some amazing moments with Ahsoka and Padme between "Clone Wars" and then "Forces of Destiny," but Ahsoka and Padme were very close. They did have a beautiful friendship, so Ahsoka would want to be at Padme's funeral. That would be important for her to be there. 

I'm such a huge proponent of women supporting women, and I loved the scenes where we got to see Ahsoka and Padme, or Ahsoka and Barriss before Barriss turned on her, or Ahsoka and Ventress. I love when we got to see the female characters come together. I was honored that we got to share that moment and to see that Ahsoka was there.

Going into "Tales of the Jedi," did you have to prepare any differently to play Ahsoka than in "Clone Wars," seeing how we're getting different life points for Ahsoka than what we've seen previously?

No. It's funny. Now, Ahsoka is truly just a part of me. She's a part of my heart and soul. What some fans don't realize is that I was cast as Ahsoka to be myself. Originally, they wanted Ahsoka to have an Icelandic accent, and I butchered an Icelandic accent in my audition. It was so terrible. I was really surprised when I got the part. When they called and told me that I got the part, they said, "Tell her to show up and be herself. We watched her in between takes. We heard her regular voice, and we really think that's a good fit for Ahsoka." 

The first six months of when I recorded Ahsoka, it was a lot of conversation with Dave Filoni of ... he'd [ask], "Ashley, how would you say this? How would you react to this? How would you be sarcastic with this? How would you react to this situation?"

I got to bring my whole self to this character. Fast forward all these years later, Ahsoka in the "Clone Wars" era is most like me, especially towards the end of Clone Wars. I feel like she's most me even now. It feels like home. It feels like I'm stepping into a well-worn pair of boots, those boots that are broken in and you never want to get rid of them. You keep fixing them whenever a seam busts loose. It feels like stepping into your favorite pair of boots, and you very much feel at home.

What Eckstein brought to the role of Ahsoka

Were there any other changes made to Ahsoka when you entered the picture that maybe they originally wanted, but like you said, altered to fit more in line with how you are?

The biggest thing was her voice. Pretty much everyone auditioned with an Icelandic accent. I was terrible with it. Luckily, they had me, in the callback, do a couple of takes in my own voice. Come to find out, that's really what got me the part and also how I was acting.

In the callback, I was really frustrated that I couldn't do the Icelandic accent because I had gone to a dialect coach and I thought I had mastered it, but it turns out it didn't sound like what Dave Filoni had in mind. After the first take in the callback, Dave Filoni stopped me, and he was like, "I'm sorry, but can you make it sound a little bit more Icelandic?" I was dumbfounded because I'm like ... I didn't know what to do. I'd gone to a dialect coach, I trained for hours on end, and so I raised my hand, and I did something I would never do, but I spoke back to the director. I was like, "I'm sorry, but I am doing Icelandic. I don't know what you want."

That's what got me the part, because Dave told me when I first started the first episode, "We need Ahsoka to be snippy but not bratty. I don't want her to be a brat." I was like, "Oh, okay." I rode that fine line of being snippy but not bratty. We were very mindful of that. We wanted her to come across as enthusiastic and plucky and yes, annoying at times, but we never wanted her to be so annoying where people turned it off. That was the biggest thing we worked on. Also, before every season, including "Tales of the Jedi" and "Star Wars: Rebels," we would discuss Ahsoka's age and how old she was, and then where my voice should land in my register.

In the beginning of Clone Wars, she was very young and she's like, [doing Ahsoka's voice] "I know what I'm doing," or, "You're stuck with me Sky Guy," to the end of Clone Wars where she's only two and a half years older, but she's been through so much. I'd lowered my voice a lot, and she'd say [doing Ahsoka's voice in a slightly lower register], "Hello, Master. It's been a while."

That's a big change. We kept in mind her age, but also her experience. In "Rebels," Dave Filoni hounded that he wanted me to be inspired by Gandalf. For some of the lines, he'd say, "How would Gandalf say this?" We are very mindful at the beginning of every season, "Where is she at, how old is she? Where would her voice land in my register?"

Similarities between Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku

"Tales of the Jedi" follows both Ahsoka and Count Dooku. How do you see them as complementary characters despite how they go on divergent paths?

They're a classic case of "You can't judge someone until you've walked in their shoes." Not just in "Star Wars," but in our everyday life, people's reactions to something are truly because of what happened before. Half the time, you can't take it personally. You have to understand, "Why are they reacting this way? What have they been through to cause them to react this way?" 

Both Ahsoka and Dooku are classic examples of how their decisions are based upon what happened to them, but they chose two completely different paths. It's also a case study of ... We are all faced with the light side and the dark side, and which one do you choose? Your choice determines your destiny. I'm excited that these two storylines are playing out.

Why do you think Ahsoka has remained so relevant and beloved in the "Star Wars" community all these years?

I'd love to ... I haven't had a conversation with Dave Filoni about this topic. We've discussed it in brief moments over the years. I don't know how much of this was conscious on his part, how much of it was a choice or whether we did it on accident. A lot of it was almost done on accident. From my point of view, I don't want to speak for Dave, but ... one thing that was on purpose with Ahsoka was the eyes of the audience for "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." That was something I talked a lot with Dave about. As an audience member, as a viewer were at home, you were experiencing "The Clone Wars," you were experiencing the show through Ahsoka's eyes. 

One thing that, I don't know if it was conscious or not, but after the beginning, her gender was never pointed out. Ahsoka was Anakin's padawan. It wasn't pointed out that "You're a girl." She was one of the gang, and she earned her stripes. She earned her spot and her place to be there, and she deserved to be there. From a gender perspective, boys and girls, men and women associated with Ahsoka, because she was the eyes of the audience, we threw gender out the window with Ahsoka. That made it where everyone could really associate with her. 

Add on the fact that she is an orange-skinned alien from outer space with Lekku. She is not a race here on earth. One of the most beautiful things that I feel like we've achieved with a Ahsoka is that everyone identifies as Ahsoka. If you go and you see one of my autograph lines at a convention, everyone's there, men, women, they/them, every single race. Whether you are Asian or Indian or Black or Native American, everyone cosplays as Ahsoka, men, women.

Something magical happened with this character where everyone can see themselves in Ahsoka. That's why I started the hashtag, "#AhsokaLivesInAllOfUs." Over all these years and all of the stories and lessons that we've learned from Ahsoka, I feel like a piece of Ahsoka is now in our hearts and in our souls, and we take her with us throughout the day, and we ask ourselves, "What would Ahsoka do?" It's such a beautiful thing. Some of it was conscious and some of it wasn't. Some of it attributes to the fact that we've had almost 15 years to develop this character. Ahsoka lives in all of us now, whether it's on screen or whether it's in our everyday life.

Working with Dave Filoni

How has working with Dave Filoni changed over the years, if at all?

He's a lot busier now, so he doesn't have as much time to go to In-N-Out Burger after record sessions like we used to do. Those are some of my fond memories in the beginning days, where it was just "Clone Wars." We were the only thing that Lucasfilm was making, and we had so much time to work on the episodes and get together and talk about it. Our special tradition was we'd always go to In-N-Out Burger after a record session.

It's really been incredible to create this character with him. He wrote the character. He designed the character. He really has shaped her storyline. All that credit goes to him. To be able to play a role alongside him and create this character that has become so beloved — I have to give Dave a lot of credit — he allowed me to have a voice in the character. He would ask me, "How would you say this? How would you do this? How would you react to this?" I got to bring my own heart soul to Ahsoka from the beginning. It's really cool to see that he has been able to continue her storyline almost 15 years later.

I have to ask, what is your go-to In-N-Out order?

Definitely Animal Style cheeseburger, extra sauce. Occasionally, I'll get Animal Style fries too, but I'm a purist. I love the regular french fries. If I'm really hungry, I'll do a Double-Double Animal style with extra sauce. I'm obsessed with In-N-Out Burger, and it is our special post-record meal that we have to have.

Her visit to the Ahsoka series set

Is there any chance we might see you in the live-action Ahsoka series coming out?

I do have some exciting news I can share. I was so honored I got to visit the set of "Ahsoka," and I did not film a cameo, so I don't want to start any rumors here today. Unfortunately, I don't have a cameo in Season 1 of "Ahsoka." It was just a set visit, but I don't want to say "just a set visit" because it was a dream come true. It was such a wonderful day. I got to see two different scenes being filmed, and I finally got to meet Rosario Dawson. I've been wanting to meet her for three years. I know she's been wanting to meet me. 

It was a beautiful moment. She was so kind and so nice. She was filming something, and she kept running over in between takes. We would chit-chat, and we got to take a photo together. Because of the confidential nature of what's in the photo, we can't share it. I can talk about it and share that I did get to go, I got to see the set, I got to meet Rosario, which was lovely. No cameo; however, I talk about throwing your dreams out into the universe, so maybe a Season 2 cameo — I can continue to dream. My whole background is in live-action. The majority of my work is in live-action. It's something that would feel very comfortable to be on set again.

Did Rosario Dawson tap you for any advice while you were talking around the set?

With her, I was so excited. I didn't shut my mouth, I kept talking. We were talking about ... I was excited to share with her what Ahsoka means to people, and she's seen that as well. She was sharing some of her stories of things that she's seen on social media and how she enjoys re-posting and liking people's Ahsoka posts ... It's incredible to see what people share about their love of Ahsoka or their cosplay. I had a chance to chat with her about how Ahsoka is saving lives and changing lives.

Ahsoka's different than ... any other character I've ever played. She goes beyond the screen. That was a really special moment to chat with Rosario about what Ahsoka means to people. We're going to do our first convention where we're going to ... We're not doing it together, but we're going to be there together. I'm so excited. The fans are excited. All I've ever wanted is to be one Team Tano. I'm so excited that we can now, together, go out there as one Team Tano and share our love for this character. I can't wait. We're going to be at GalaxyCon Columbus in December, so I'm excited about it.

Ashley Eckstein's new book

Do you have any other projects you want to talk about?

"Tales of the Jedi," they're moments in time. They're snippets of time, but they're very important and they tie back to other moments that we've seen, and it answers questions. I'm very excited for the fans to get to see these and then unpack them, watch them over and over again, look for all the Easter eggs. I'm excited for that. 

I'm releasing a "Star Wars" book [available now]. It is an official book through Lucasfilm, and it's a "Star Wars" lifestyle book on how to live your best "Star Wars" life all year long. It's broken up by month, and every month has a theme from "Star Wars." There's hope, love, power, dark side, every month has a theme. There's recipes, crafts, mindfulness exercises, activities like how to do a Kessel Run in your backyard. It's fun for all ages. There's stuff for kids, but there's also stuff for adults. I'm really excited about it. It'll make a good holiday gift for any "Star Wars" fan, because it's the perfect time to start it in January and do the "Star Wars" activities all year long. 

I did a video series called "Star Wars Mindful Matters" that's on starwarskids.com. They are two to three-minute short videos. Each video teaches a lesson from "Star Wars," but it's a mindful lesson. Yoda teaches us that a Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. We know from watching "Star Wars" that the mental aspect of being a Jedi is just as important as the physical aspect.

I'm excited to share some of those mindful lessons. Each mindful lesson is paired with a clinically-based mindfulness exercise or lesson. I worked with Nationwide Children's Hospital, and they're safe for children and in schools and with teachers and parents so they know that they're safe for kids. They're going to be in children's hospitals; they're in all Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts, and they're in Aulani. I'm also excited because they're not just for kids, they're also for adults. They're for all ages. That's available now on starwarskids.com, and we definitely plan to make more of them.

"Tales of the Jedi" is now available for streaming on Disney+. Ashley Eckstein's "Star Wars Everyday" is available wherever books are sold.

This interview has been edited for clarity.