Ashley Eckstein was the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Now she’s returned in Star Wars Rebels. It’s 15 years later in the Star Wars universe, and things are very different. A confrontation with her old Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker may be on the horizon (though we don’t know for sure) and Ahsoka is helping the Rebels fight the Dark side. We got a chance to chat with Ashley, who also created the amazing geek clothing company for women, Her Universe. Their latest project is Her Universe Press, which is going to allow female writers a chance to get their fiction published!
Check out what Ashley has to say about Ahsoka’s journey, the return of Captain Rex, what’s coming in Star Wars Rebels this season, the Her Universe holiday line and giving young women a chance to have their voices heard!
Legion of Leia: The premiere of Star Wars Rebels was amazing! Have you heard from fans about what they thought?
Ashley Eckstein: You know, kind of. I was sorry I couldn’t be there in person, but Disney XD did a live Twitter chat during the East coast feed of the premiere, and I was on Twitter, in a different state, but I got to see the reaction live on Twitter. It was really exciting. I feel like it’s kind of like Clone Wars. In Season 1, at the beginning, people kind of sniff it out and they’re like, “What is this?” Everyone is kind of unsure if they like it and what the feel of the show is about. It definitely takes almost a whole season for fans to really jump on board and say, we’re in it for the long haul. I feel like, after a full season of Star Wars Rebels, they’re in it! They’re on board. Entire families are making it a family event, to sit down and watch the show together. That was really cool to see that reaction. Fans that no longer had questions about the series, or that were no longer like, oh, well, this is for kids. This isn’t for us. It was universal love for the show. I feel like it’s earned it’s stripes. It was universally a good reaction.
Legion of Leia: Every time I talk about the show, people tell me they cried when Ahsoka appeared. How much of a relief was it to talk about being back?
Ashley Eckstein: [laughs] It was such a huge relief! It was almost harder to keep this secret about Ahsoka coming back in Rebels than it was to keep secrets back in Clone Wars. For example, I knew about the end of Season 5 and Ahsoka walking away from the Jedi order. I knew about that over a year in advance. But it was such a surprise to people. People weren’t expecting it. I was able to keep it a surprise because nobody really saw it coming. With Rebels, yes, people were surprised that Ahsoka was coming back, but there was all of this hope that she would turn up at some point. There was this hope that she would appear in Rebels. Especially once Fulcrum was introduced, there was this hope that Ahsoka was Fulcrum. I was trying to dodge those questions. Literally daily questions about, is Ahsoka in Rebels? Is she Fulcrum? We know Ahsoka is Fulcrum! It was literally daily questions. I didn’t want to tell them no, because that would be a lie, but I didn’t want say yes, because that would ruin the surprise! I forced me to go into hiding! [laughs] I’m definitely relieved that the cat is out of the bag.
Legion of Leia: Can you talk about bit about how Ahsoka has changed since we saw her last?
Ashley Eckstein: Yeah, you know, Ahsoka has grown up a lot. Ahsoka’s changed a lot. It’s been over 15 years since Ahsoka walked away from Clone Wars until now. Until we see her in Rebels. She’s been through a lot. She’s been out there on her own. She’s no longer a Jedi. It almost feels like yesterday that we saw Ahsoka in Clone Wars, but in the grand scheme of things, so much has happened. Now we see Ahsoka and she’s much more reserved. She is more of a mentor. She’s more of an Obi-Wan, how Obi-Wan was in Clone Wars. She’s no longer this snippy sidekick. this snippy Padawan. She’s this kind of stoic and serious and reserved leader. And, you know, Ahsoka, I think moving forward, will always have a mysterious quality to her, because there is so much we don’t know. We’ll learn more about her role about the Rebellion, but in order to be the leader that she is, with that, comes mystery. With that comes secrets. So Ahsoka will always have a cloud of mystery around her. Especially this season, because she’s in some episodes and then she’s not. She’s on her own journey to find out who this mysterious Sith Lord is. She’s definitely an older, more serious mentor in Rebels versus the snippy sidekick.
Legion of Leia: That’s obviously got to change your approach to the character and your voice work.
Ashley Eckstein: Yes, it does. This new, older version of Ahsoka does change my performance in Rebels. I do have to do, sometimes, quite a few more takes. I’m so used to doing Ahsoka as Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan. As the student. As the Ezra type, because for seven years, I performed the younger version of Ahsoka. That’s kind of what’s ingrained in my head, versus now. She’s more like Obi-Wan or even Yoda, at times, with the type of wisdom she shares. I know Dave [Filoni] even compared her to Gandalf. I think that is a good comparison in terms of what I channel when I do my performance. Now, sometimes I’ll want to, as Dave called it, “cute” or “snippy” or “sarcastic,” and I have to stop and realize that this is not who she is anymore. You will see bits and pieces of Clone Wars Ahsoka in Rebels. I mean, she is still there. She’s still that same character, but so much has happened over the past fifteen years that caused her to be a bit more serious and guarded. I do have to often redo the performance. I’m definitely lowering my voice quite a bit. I’m also just channeling Yoda or Obi-Wan in my performance.
Legion of Leia: So, I’ve been reading all the Journey to the Force Awakens books and Fulcrum is mentioned in there. I won’t give spoilers, but did you know that that was going to happen?
Ashley Eckstein: No, I didn’t! I didn’t! It’s amazing how the [Lucasfilm] Story Group is connecting all the stories. So whether it’s the movies or the books or the TV shows, it’s all connected. They work on a need-to-know basis [laughs], so whatever I need to know to give my performance or whatever is in the episode is what I’m clued in on. But it’s about the bigger, overarching story and how everything connects. I’m not in the know. I mean, I feel like I’m a fan, and I’m like, “Really? That’s so cool!” So hopefully I do get more backstory, but there is still so much I don’t know.
Legion of Leia: Speaking of the Story Group and the books and shows, it’s amazing how we’re seeing so many more female characters. It’s nice to see the promise that Kathleen Kennedy made about that coming true. There are a lot of women on the creative team for Star Wars Rebels. Have you noticed their influence?
Ashley Eckstein: You know, yes and no. I will say that the drive to add strong female characters, that’s been going on with Dave Filoni leading the charge ever since Clone Wars. He’s constantly trying to add strong female characters wherever he could, trying to make it equal. But what I think is exciting is, with the backing of Kathleen Kennedy, strong females like Kiri Hart [producer] or Carrie Beck [writer/creator] or Athena Yvette Portillo [producer], with strong female characters that are now a part of the Story Group or now part of the creative process, it’s just given a bigger platform. There’s more outlets. There’s more opportunities to give these female characters a voice. And there is more awareness about what Dave is always trying to do. So yeah, I would definitely say there are more opportunities for sure, and it’s gaining more awareness and there is more backing, but it is something Dave has been passionate about from day one.
Legion of Leia; I’m so excited that Captain Rex is back and I’m so glad we can finally talk about it! So what is that going to mean for Ahsoka going forward.
Ashley Eckstein: Yay! Well, I can’t say too much! Unfortunately. You know, Ahsoka and Rex definitely have a bond. It’s a different type of brother/sister relationship than Ahsoka and Anakin. But it’s still like a brother/sister relationship. They have a very strong bond that runs deep. There is a lot of backstory between the two of them that we don’t know about yet. Some we’ll find out about in Rebels, and some we won’t. Dave told us the backstory with Ahsoka and Rex that just literally blew my mind, but honestly, we won’t get into it in Rebels and it’s just like, oh my gosh! But this story needs to be told! So, there is a lot there with Ahsoka and Rex, and I do hope that we get to tell that full story with the two of them at some point. They play an integral part in that time, in the Star Wars story. I don’t want to say too much so I don’t spoil anything, but they’re a close duo.
Legion of Leia: So tell us about the Her Universe Press writing contest! It sounds amazing!
Ashley Eckstein: Thank you! You know, it’s not actually even a contest. It’s something ongoing. We’re entering into a new world, which is always scary, but exciting. It came about from the fans. Specifically, actually, New York Comic-Con. Fort he past several years, I’ve come home from New York Comic-Con with a stack of books. They’re books by fans, that they wrote. I’d hear the same story over and over from fans. They’d say, “I wrote a book but I don’t have an agent, I couldn’t get it published.” Or, “I wrote a book and I’m trying to get a deal with a publishing company, but they won’t get back to me.” Sometimes they just publish their book anyway. I would be so honored that they would literally give me their books and say, “We published it because we just wanted to tell a story and I wanted you to have it. For the past couple of years, I would tell my friends, I would tell my husband, I would come back with these stacks of books and say, “Man, these are extraordinary. I wish Her Universe could publish them for the fans and get their stories out there. And I didn’t think anything of it until a good friend of mine Russell Binder – I was meeting with him one day, just actually about Her Universe merchandise, and I was telling him about this frustration I had, that there are all these great stories and nobody to publish them, and he said, “Well, why don’t you?” He introduced me to Anthony Ziccardi from Permuted Press and really one conversation with Anthony later and we agreed to do Her Universe Press and start our own imprint.
So, it’s an ongoing thing. Her Universe is going to start publishing books and Permuted Press is a legitimate publishing company, just like any of the other majors out there, and plan to release these books through all avenues, retail stores like Barnes & Nobel or Books-A-Million and Amazon and eventually conventions and HerUniverse.com, through all the channels. We already have lined up some deals with some authors. Definitely some well know and up-and-coming authors, but we have also opened it up to submissions online. You know? You don’t need an agent. This could be your first book! If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it. We are going to walk before we run. I can’t promise that we’re going to be able to publish a hundred books the first year. I don’t want everyone to think, okay, great, I’m going to submit and Her Universe is going to publish my book. I will do my best to find stories that are fit for the brand and give everyone an equal opportunity and try to grow the brand. My goal is to grow to where we can publish a lots of stories from our fan base. You know, the Her Universe merchandise line has been able to grow by going directly to the fans. I want to do the same thing with Her Universe Press. You can go to HerUniversePress.com and anyone can submit there. Right now, we’re accepting a synopsis at first. We’re not expecting a full manuscript at first. If it’s a fit for the brand and there is an interest, then we’ll get back to you. It’s open right now for anyone and everyone!
Legion of Leia: That’s so fantastic! And I’m dying to know what new products you have coming out for the holiday!
Ashley Eckstein: I’m very excited! This is the year of Star Wars, and we’re releasing a holiday collection with Hot Topic, and that will go on pre-order at end of October, and in stores in mid-November. It’s a beautiful holiday collection with dresses and sweaters and fashion tops. I teased a Darth Vader cape dress on Instagram, and we have a beautiful Princess Leia holiday dress for all your holiday parties! That’s coming out very soon. I’m also very excited to share that Disney Parks and Disney Stores – we’re about to deliver about thirty new designs to them! What most fans don’t realize is that Disney Parks, they work so far in advance. We’ve been working with them for well over a year now. It’s a long process. But they really do believe in and support female fans. It’s been very important to them to get more merchandise out there for female fans. They are committing in a big way! I’m very excited! Those designs will be out by early or mid-November. We’ll have several new designs at Disney Parks.
Head over to HerUniverse.com to check out some amazing fangirl fashion and to HerUniversePress.com to submit your stories for publication! Star Wars Rebels Season 2 is airing now on Wednesday nights on Disney XD.