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The Truth About How Ashley Eckstein Became Ahsoka Tano - Exclusive

As the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars fades into memory (unless you've been rewatching the whole thing on Disney+, of course), it's hard to imagine anyone other than Ashley Eckstein voicing Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's former apprentice and the de facto star of The Clone Wars' big finale. And yet, back in the mid-'00s, Eckstein didn't just think she had a rough audition for the show. She thought she'd blown it completely.

"My audition wasn't very good," Eckstein admits while talking to Looper in an exclusive interview. "Originally, they wanted Ahsoka to have an Icelandic accent, and I just couldn't do it. I was terrible at it, and I was getting very frustrated with myself in between takes. I was frustrated that I couldn't give them the performance that they wanted."

For a lifelong Star Wars fan like Eckstein, that was troubling. "I felt this opportunity slipping through my fingers," she says. Lucasfilm's highly secretive development process didn't make the audition any easier. In fact, even after she landed the part, she didn't know anything about Ahsoka: "When I was cast as the character, all I was told was that I was playing a new character. That's all I knew. I found out that she was a new character and that she was a 14 -year-old girl."

So, even after a disastrous audition, why did George Lucas, Dave Filoni, and the rest of The Clone Wars staff decide to give Eckstein a shot? As she tells it, it came down to Eckstein herself.

"Going back to when I was cast as Ahsoka, I very quickly realized the magnitude of this character and how amazing she was, and I just didn't know why I was cast, because again, my audition was pretty terrible," Eckstein says. And so, she went straight to the source: Dave Filoni, The Clone Wars' executive producer and George Lucas' right-hand man.

"I asked him one day," Eckstein says. "I said, 'Why me? Why did you choose me for Ahsoka?' And he said, 'Well, Ashley, you're genuine,' and he said, 'And Ahsoka is genuine.'"

That meant a lot to Eckstein, who, even all these years later, still takes Filoni's words to heart. "No one had ever said that to me. No one had ever put it in those words," she says. "I'll never forget that. I'll always let that guide me and I'll always, every day, strive to be genuine."

Ashley Eckstein became Ahsoka Tano in more ways than one

Naturally, Eckstein did eventually learn about Ahsoka's place in the greater Star Wars universe, and when she did she was very excited. "My mind exploded, because I'm a lifelong Star Wars fan and I didn't realize Anakin Skywalker had a padawan," Eckstein says. "And needless to say, I couldn't believe that I was going to be playing her. It was definitely a surreal moment."

That enthusiasm comes through in Eckstein's performance, which is a big part of why Ahsoka went from a subject of ridicule to one of the most popular Star Wars characters in existence over the course of The Clone Wars' seven seasons.

But Eckstein has become Ahsoka in other ways, too. Over the past 14 years (The Clone Wars debuted in 2008, but voice recording began as early as 2006), Eckstein has used the lessons she's learned from playing the young Togruta to make herself a better person. "I want so badly to be a real-life Ahsoka Tano," Eckstein says. "If I asked myself what would Ahsoka do, I feel like whatever choice she would make is the right choice."

You can see the results in Eckstein's apparel company, Her Universe, which aims to end bullying in geek spaces by giving women and other underrepresented fans nerd-friendly clothing that appeals just to them. You can also see it in her children's book, I Am a Padawan, which uses Ahsoka's story to teach young readers how to be better learners. It doesn't end there, either. Eckstein has used the morals found in The Clone Wars' final season to guide her through 2020 — which, as we all know, has been a particularly strange and trying time.

"Ahsoka says, 'In my life, when you find people who need your help, you help them no matter what. I guess it's just who I am,'" Eckstein shares with Looper. "I think we can all learn from Ahsoka. I think she delivers the most perfect message at the perfect time, because the only way we're going to get through this and get back to our new normal is to help people no matter what."

"I'm so proud of Ahsoka," Eckstein continues, "that she would be there for us during this time, to deliver that message."

She's not the only one.

The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is available to stream on Disney+ now.