It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to speak with Star Wars royalty.
Since her introduction in the first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as a young Jedi-in-training, Ahsoka Tano remains one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe that doesn’t carry the last name of Skywalker. Voiced by Ashley Eckstein, Ahsoka’s journey from precocious padawan to confidence and maturity is one of the great character arcs within the Star Wars canon.
With the latest—and truly final—season streaming on Disney+, Eckstein finally has the chance to revisit the beloved character and allow fans the opportunity to see what she’s been up to since she abandoned the Jedi Order. Asked why she believes Ahsoka resonates so deeply with the fans, Eckstein believes that the connection stems from the amount of time that they have had watching her grow and mature.
“With Ahsoka, there are very few characters, in Star Wars especially, that span a generation. An entire generation of fans grew up with Ahsoka, whether they were kids when Clone Wars first came out and it was their first introduction, or maybe they were parents watching it with their kids or whether it’s lifelong fans that went on this journey. The fans truly went on a journey with Ahsoka and she became the eyes of the Clone Wars. She was really the eyes of the audience and they really connected with her.”
“Something that Dave Filoni and his writing team did so brilliantly is that everyone relates to Ahsoka. I think in the very beginning, we never pointed out that she was a girl. We literally threw her gender out the door and she has orange skin so everyone can relate to her. No matter what your gender is, race, beliefs, anything, everyone can relate to Ahsoka. You can almost say that Ahsoka is everyone. Over the course now of twelve years, we’ve had so much time and so many hours of television to grow [and] experience with her, people have gone through an entire chapter of their life with her.”
Having voiced Ahsoka from the very beginning, Eckstein recognizes how truly special it is to have helped bring someone entirely new to life in the Star War Universe. Working with showrunner Dave Filoni and his team, Eckstein feels that she has also been allowed to bring her own voice into the character.
“I truly feel like I won the lottery by getting the chance to originate a new character in Star Wars,” she says enthusiastically. “It’s such a privilege and it’s one that I do not take lightly. I mean, I’ve practically devoted my life to it because I see what an honor and a privilege it is. Dave has allowed me to be part of the process from day one. I’m careful by saying that I’ve never written the episode. That is truly Dave and his writing team and they’re incredible. What Dave has allowed me to do from day one is bring my own voice. I don’t mean literally just my voice, but my own personality and how I would say things.”
“It turns out that I was cast, not for my audition per se, but really just how I was acting in between takes. They wanted someone with an Icelandic accent and I just couldn’t master it and, in between takes, I was getting really frustrated that I couldn’t give them the voice that they wanted. And it turns out the way I was asking questions, the mannerisms of my body, how I was moving my arms, how I was getting exasperated, was actually what got me the part. I went to ask Dave, ‘why did you cast me?’ And you know, he said, ‘Ashley, you’re genuine and that is also Ahsoka.’ That always stuck with me. I never thought about it but, to me, it’s very important to be genuine in everything you do. I want to be that for Ahsoka and I will continue to be that.”
Asked how she feels Ahsoka has changed, Eckstein confesses that her characters journey is relatable to all and has even mirrored her own growth over the years.
“Ahsoka has gone from the snippy padawan to a master in her own right. It’s been an incredible journey and one that, even though these stories happen in a galaxy far, far away, we can all relate to. We all start out in whatever we do like Padawans and, as we grow up and go out into the world, we all can relate to Ahsoka. Me included… Sometimes it’s been really heartbreaking, but my life has mirrored Ahsoka’s in so many ways. It’s like art imitates life. And that’s why I’m so outspoken about the fact that I ask myself daily, what would Ahsoka do because I do believe that she represents all that is good and all that is light. She wants to make the right choice and so I ask myself that on a regular basis.”
Most important to Eckstein, however, is the impact that Ahsoka has had on Star Wars culture. Coming at a time when there were few strong female characters in the franchise, she recognizes that characters like Ahsoka have helped give voice to a generation of women who were looking for cultural role models.
“Ahsoka was a trailblazer, especially for female fans. People forget that, back in 2008, Rey didn’t exist. Jin didn’t exist. Hera, Sabine, all of these strong female characters. We weren’t having these female led stories and franchises. Ahsoka was a game changer and she wasn’t met with praise at first. She shocked people. She was the first female Jedi that was a lead character in the Star Wars universe and it was shocking. I realized very quickly again that this was an honor and a privilege to be voicing her. I so badly want to be a real-life representation of her.“
With this in mind, Eckstein is also passionate of her clothing company, Her Universe, which she hopes will be an encouragement to young females who have found themselves alienated in a primarily male-dominated fan culture.
“What Dave was always supportive of was to start ‘Her Universe’, my company, which was 100% because of Ahsoka,” she argues. “It wasn’t just for the merchandise. It was because fan girls were being bullied and they were being bullied terribly just for being a girl and liking Star Wars. I knew nothing about making clothes. I knew nothing about licensing. I knew nothing about starting a business, but when I saw all of these women and girls being bullied, I asked myself, I said, what would Ahsoka do?”
“Ahsoka would stand up for fan girls. She would give a voice to the invisible. Ahsoka would pay attention to and stand up for those that feel that they can’t stand up for themselves. So, with Her Universe truly, I started it to give a voice to female fans and not to say that this world is just for female fans. It’s not just for male fans. Star Wars is for everyone. Star Wars is a story to me of good overcoming evil. It’s a story of hope and it’s a story that you can’t put a gender on. I feel like the role that I’ve really been able to play as well by being the voice of Ahsoka and help giving her voice is to spread Ahsoka’s message throughout the galaxy and throughout our world of hope.”
In addition to her work on Clone Wars, Eckstein has also recently written her first fiction book, a Little Golden Book based on Ahsoka’s adventures. For Eckstein, the chance to contribute to a children’s franchise that has inspired for generations was simply too good to pass up.
“This is ‘bucket list’ level for me,” she beams. “I feel very blessed to have gotten to do some pretty cool things in my life, but this just ranks up there with one of the top. I grew up and learned to read because of Little Golden Books. So, when they asked me to write a Little Golden Book, I’m not joking when I say I think it was the fastest time I’ve ever said yes to anything in my life. It’s part of a series of Little Golden Books for Star Wars…
“When they asked me if I would be interested in writing I am a Padawan for Ahsoka, I just thought it was perfect. There are so many wonderful lessons that Ahsoka learned and the new generation that’s going to come up on the Little Golden Books, just like I did, are so hungry for these lessons… They’re lessons of hope and bravery and failure and friendship and knowledge and all of these wonderful lessons that, whether you’re learning them for the first time or whether you’re getting a reminder, these are good lessons for everyone. I had so much fun writing it.”
“I was really intimidated actually because this was the first fiction story that I wrote and I put it aside for a second. It was really daunting. I was kind of scared to start and one day, I had a deadline and I said, ‘okay, I gotta jump in’. I went back to the episodes of the Clone Wars and the lessons that I learned and really got to relive the entire journey. I picked out my personal favorite lessons that I took away from the Clone Wars and that I wanted to pay it forward and share.”
Despite the fact that The Clone Wars has famously been cancelled twice before, Eckstein confirms that they are officially wrapping up the story with this latest season. With Ahsoka’s return to the series, she points out that the fans will finally get to see what her character has been doing since she left the Jedi Order as well as the highly anticipated Siege of Mandalore.
“This [season] picks up right where we left off,” Eckstein explains. “Ahsoka’s on her own. She’s trying to find her way in this new world, a world that she knows nothing about because all she knows is the Jedi Order. She was brought to the Jedi temple when she was a youngling. We saw how young she was when Plo Koon found her and brought her to the Jedi Temple. All she knows is being a Jedi and now, everything she knew, she walked away from and she’s questioning. She truly is lost. So, these first four episodes, we pick up with her finding her way and figuring out who she is [and] what she’s going to do next. And, without spoiling anything, adventure ensues [laughs].”
“Then, we’re finally going to get the Siege of Mandalore. That is truly Ahsoka’s finale [as well as] Clone Wars. Everyone knew when, when Clone Wars was on the air before, that we were leading up to that. So, it never felt complete when Clone Wars ended because we all knew that we were supposed to get this ending and we never got it. So, like I said, I’m so grateful to Disney, Disney+, executive Carrie Beck and Dave Filoni for giving us this opportunity to make Clone Wars again. I’m always careful to say it’s not just me. It’s a whole team of people that makes the show that brings Ahsoka to life. I’m just one member of the team and I’m so grateful that they brought the gang back together and that we could wrap it up.”
One of the more unique appearances of Ahsoka came in the form of a verbal cameo at the climax of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. For Eckstein, the opportunity to be a part of the franchise’s film canon was an unexpected privilege.
“Getting to voice of Ahsoka in Rise of Skywalker is truly one of the highlights of my entire career,” she exclaims. “It was an honor that I was shocked. I found out in April of 2019… and I was told that it might not happen. I was kind of protecting my heart a little bit because I thought they were going to change their mind… So, all of a sudden, the year came and went and here we are in mid-October and I still hadn’t heard anything. I thought it wasn’t going to happen. The next thing you know, I got a call from my agent telling me that I have a recording session at Bad Robot and I couldn’t believe it. I literally was speechless… “
“I’m forever grateful to Matthew Wood for including me in this part. JJ Abrams couldn’t have been kinder. He immediately came up to me and thanked me for being in the movie, which I immediately said, ‘Oh, JJ Abrams, thank you for having me in the movie!’ [laughs]… All the lines that you heard in that montage, I’m assuming they had us all read all the lines and then they picked and chose which ones they wanted us to say.
“It was just one of the coolest moments in my career. I will say this, one of the characters says ‘let the light guide you’ and Ahsoka says “as it guided us”. It couldn’t be more perfect because that’s what I’ve already been asking fans. That’s what I feel like Ahsoka represents. She lets the light guide her and that’s the message that I want to continue to spread to fans as I strive every day to be a real life Ahsoka. Just let the light guide you.”
As rumors continue to circulate of the casting of Rosario Dawson to bring Ahsoka to life in the upcoming season of The Mandalorian, Eckstein admits that she continues to be out of the loop on any decisions that may (or may not) have been made. Regardless, she recognizes that the passion the fans have for the character continues to astound her.
“I’m not involved in The Mandalorian,” she clarifies, “so I can’t speak to any rumors. I can’t speak to anything that I’m not involved in but I did speak [on Instagram] to what Ahsoka means to me and to the fans. In just two hours, the response from the fans is unreal. I am speechless with the response, but it really shows what Ahsoka means to everyone. It’s really incredible.”
For full audio of our interview with Ashley Eckstein, click here.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is wrapping up its adventure on Disney+ now.