If you've only watched the seven live-action feature films set in a galaxy far, far away, you might not realize that Ahsoka Tano is one of the most important characters in the "Star Wars" Universe. But her vocal alter ego, Ashley Eckstein, understands the former Jedi Padawan's place in the hearts of the franchise's animation fans.
Eckstein has been the voice of the young Jedi initiate serving under the tutelage of Anakin Skywalker since she first appeared in the 2008 animated film "animated TV series of the same name. Ahsano quickly emerged as a fan favorite, especially following an emotional storyline in which her split from the Jedi Order helped pave the way for Anakin's ultimate transformation into the Sith Lord Darth Vader.
The character's fans were thrilled when, after a full season of hints and clues on the subsequent Lucasfilm TV series "Star Wars Rebels" -- set five years before the events of "Star Wars: A New Hope" -- Ahsano was revealed to be one of the central players in the organization of the Rebellion against the Empire. She appeared frequently throughout the second season -- which debuts on Blu-ray Aug. 30 -- culminating in an epic showdown with her former master with an ambiguous ending in which Ahsano may or may not have survived.
Eckstein, whose personal interest in the female portion of genre fandom prompted her to launch the fashion and merchandise company Her Universe, focusing on cleverly designed licensed products in the sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero realms -- joined Moviefone for a look at the character's unique role in the franchise: after eight years, she's become a pivotal and wildly popular figure in the increasingly interconnected canon.
Moviefone: The big reveal that you were going to show up for Season 2 was a closely guarded secret. What was the fun of closing out Season 1, and coming into Season 2, knowing that the "Clone Wars" fans were going to be so happy to see Ahsoka?
Ashley Eckstein: You know, it was a tough secret to keep, I have to say! It's definitely when Fulcrom came on to the scene, because when "Rebels" started and Ahsoka wasn't a part of the cast, I think fans just accepted, "Okay, she's not on this show." So it was easy to keep a secret, because I would just say, "This is about a new cast of characters -- maybe we'll get more about Ahsoka one day." But that was it.
Then once Fulcrum came on to the scene, and almost immediately fans guessed it was me, I basically went into hiding. I didn't want to lie to anyone, and I didn't want to say no when it was true, but I obviously didn't want to spoil the surprise.
There was maybe a couple months, where I just went silent -- until that moment when Ahsoka walked down the ladder, and then I immediately, after the West Coast airing ended, I immediately went to Twitter and wrote, "Ahsoka rules!" I was so excited that it was out in the open.
What did it mean to you to be able to come back to the character and play her in this very dramatic storyline, connecting the two series, and bridging the gap from Anakin Skywalker to the Darth Vader that we've come to know?
You know, I've said from the beginning, I feel so fortunate to be working with Dave Filoni and his crew, and the amazing writers that he works with. They always come up with, honestly, the most brilliant stories. So fans ask me all the time: they're like, "If you could write the perfect ending for Ahsoka ..." and I always say, I'm like, "Trust me, you don't want me to write that story."
So whatever Dave and his team write is really going to be best for the overall "Star Wars" story and character. But I just am always such a fan of the stories that they present and that I get to read. And Ahsoka, I think it's really an honor to be the voice of this character, to kind of bridge the gap between, obviously the prequels, specifically "Episode II" and "Episode III," but now the prequels to the original trilogy.
Darth Vader is obviously such a beloved character. I mean, everyone loves Darth Vader. Who doesn't love Darth Vader? To understand how he fell, and it was more than just Padmé, and that Ahsoka was a part of that, is really quite tragic, but it's really a beautiful story to watch play out.
And after their confrontation at the end of Season 2, things are left a little ambiguous. I know that Dave has said that, yes, something will be revealed, but probably not super-soon. Are you sort of left hanging, too? Do you sort of know his big picture plan or are you waiting for the right phone call?
Oh, I'm definitely left hanging as well. When he announced that on the panel at Celebration, he said that she would be back in some way on "Rebels," I still don't know whether she's alive or dead or what he means by that. But obviously, we'll see her again.
So all I know is what he said on the panel at Celebration. I don't know anything else. He is definitely keeping everything with Ahsoka close to the vest. So I obviously assume because we record so far in advance that I will know sooner than later, but I don't know yet. So I'm definitely on the edge of my seat wanting to know what's going on with her.
She was also the first part of this great wave that we're currently enjoying of empowered female characters that were equal to the male characters in this genre, which has become a really big thing right now. People are recognizing the demand for these types of characters and trying to create more of them. What does that part of her legacy mean to you, to be at the forefront of this change in the way we look at our action heroes?
Thank you for asking that question, because this is where I feel like I am a bit biased. I'm so proud to be associated with Ahsoka because I feel like she really started a movement. That started with George Lucas and Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy when they decided to make Anakin's Padawan a girl.
There's been so much change since then, but at that time, when they announced that Anakin Skywalker had a Padawan which, first of all, was mind-blowing enough, as well as the fact that his Padawan was a 14-year-old girl, literally blew people's minds at that point. It was groundbreaking. It really wasn't being done, to have major lead roles like that be young girls, and especially Ahsoka was the first Jedi that was a lead in the "Star Wars" universe.
So she really was a trailblazer, and I think with the success of Ahsoka, and seeing that she was loved by, not only little girls, but both genders. She's loved by grown men, grown women, young girls, young boys, and they look passed her gender, and I think she opened the door for other people and other studios and other stories to say, "Okay yeah, we can do this lead as a teenage girl." I don't think it was just Ahsoka, but I think she helped blaze that trail.
I think Dave Filoni and his writing staff could teach a master class on how to write a strong female character because what he did so brilliantly is, in the beginning it was pointed out that she was a girl. Never again was it pointed out that she was a girl. She was Anakin Skywalker's Padawan. And he never pointed out her gender, but by doing so, the audience even looked past that. They just saw a strong character.
And I think that's the goal to writing these strong female characters is, just write a strong character. Take the gender out of it. Write as though it's a guy, write as though it's a girl. It's just a strong character, and their gender is more of an afterthought.