Actress Ashley Eckstein On Finding Her Voice as a Rebel
We chop it up with Ashley about her once-in-a-lifetime role, her fangirl clothing line, and whom we might hear her as next.
There are few Star Wars characters that have been introduced since the Original Trilogy that are as popular as Ahsoka Tano, the padawan of Anakin Skywalker who debuted in The Clone Wars (2008). Ahsoka is voiced by Ashley Eckstein, who recently got to reprise the role in the new Star Wars animated series Rebels. The 33-year-old actress is a favorite of Disney and has appeared in a number of their shows and movies. However, she’s not resting on her laurels, in 2009, she launched her own fandom-inspired clothing line, Her Universe. She is also married to former Major League Baseball MVP David Eckstein. Below, we speak with Ashley about her once-in-a-lifetime role, her fangirl clothing line, and whom we might hear her as next.
Mass Appeal: How did you get the role of Ahsoka Tano?
Ashley Eckstein: I got a call from my agent the night before the audition, as it usually happens. They said they were holding auditions for a new Star Wars cartoon and that they wanted me to audition for Padme. They gave very generic Padme lines and then gave us a voice reference of Natalie Portman, and they wanted me to try to match her voice. I remember telling my agent that I was having a hard time matching Natalie Portman’s voice and I just really didn’t think I was the right fit for the role. My agent said, “No, you should go anyway because you never know what will happen.” Sure enough, I went and I did the first couple lines and they stopped me and they said, your voice sounds too young for Padme…but actually there’s this new role, it’s a 14-year-old girl that we think you might be perfect for. The role was so top secret, they really weren’t advertising for it. So, they were very generic lines, I didn’t know who I was reading for, all I knew was that it was a new role and that it was a 14-year-old girl.
I ended up getting the call back, but I did’t think I was going to get the part, because originally they wanted Ahsoka to have an Icelandic accent, and I just couldn’t really master the accent. I remember giving it my best shot because I had gone to a dialect coach and I was trained to give a pretty dead-on Icelandic accent, but that wasn’t what Dave Filoni, the director, wanted. He wanted something that sounded more like Björk. So, at the call back he stopped me, I was a couple lines in, and he said, no, we want something more Icelandic. I usually never talk back, especially to a director in an audition, but I raised my hand, and I was like, “I’m sorry, but I’m doing Icelandic and I don’t really know what you want.” I think that kind of snippy attitude was more of what they were looking for. They more liked my attitude in real life, rather than my performance. Again, I still didn’t know what I was auditioning for, aside from it being a new role, but I ended up getting the part. I was shocked because my Icelandic was terrible, I don’t know why I was cast. I showed up for my first day of work, still not knowing who I was playing. They told me on the first day because it was so top secret. We had to sign our life away in confidentiality agreements. That’s when they told me who I was playing and that she was Anakin Skywalker’s padawan. They said, “You know, we actually liked your real life attitude and even your regular voice. So, we decided to scrap the accent and we just want you to use your regular voice.”
When Lucasfilm transitioned over to Disney, The Clone Wars cancellation was announced shortly thereafter. Then, a new animated series was announced. How informed were you about all of these happenings. When did you know you would be back for Rebels?
On The Clone Wars we became a family. We really did, even with the crew, with Dave Filoni, and Atina Fertillo, and Joel Aaron. We all got to know each other so well. So, we all stayed in contact, and I did know that they were developing a new show. As friends of all of them, I was just so excited for them. I mean, honestly, if I didn’t get to be on Rebels, I was just so thrilled they were able to continue the legacy. I did know Rebels was happening just as a friend of the crew. I found out about a year ago that Dave was bringing Ahsoka back on Rebels. He let me know a couple weeks before I went int to start recording. It was definitely a hard secret to keep. Once Rebels came out, everyone wanted to know, is Ahsoka going to be on it. I didn’t want to lie, but obviously I couldn’t spoil the surprise. That was hard, especially once Fulcrum came into the picture. Several fans guessed that I was the voice of Fulcrum.
While it doesn’t seem likely they will ever finish Season 6 of The Clone Wars, they do keep leaking out material from unfinished episodes. Do you know anything about a possible proper Season 6 release?
I definitely can’t speak to that because I was never a part of the production process, but I will say, generally, we were always a year ahead. So, from what the audience was seeing, we were already a year ahead working on new episodes. We were doing future episodes and I had worked on a couple of episodes with Ahsoka, but I do know that production only got finished to a certain extent. What’s being released now is art and stories and some animatics. Dave Filoni is really proud of the work that him and his team did. So, he’s excited to share what he has with the fans. In terms of their plans for everything else, I don’t know.
Was there an Ahsoka arc in Season 6?
We were going to get more of Ahsoka’s story, yes. I can’t say too much about it because, on one hand, now that there are so many exciting opportunities to tell Star Wars stories, I don’t want to spoil any stories that may eventually be told. And that’s not a hint. Aside from Rebels, I’m not privy to any information. I’m not being coy or sly. We know her story outline, and I just hope one day we tell that part of her story.
There is a Rebels prequel comic where they recount Kanan’s transition from Jedi padawan to rebel. Did Ahsoka Tano and Caleb Dume (Kanan’s real name) know each other?
It’s possible that they were at the Jedi Temple at the same time and that they could know each other. Whether we’ll get that back story, I don’t know.
What was your favorite episode/s of The Clone Wars?
It’s a toss up. I do love the Season 5 finale arc. That arc is probably my favorite for Ahsoka. But as a fan, I love the Mortis Trilogy with the Son and the Daughter, and Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obiwan. Ahsoka turns to the dark side and then we saw older Ahsoka, and just the story…Sam Witwer was so fantastic as the Son and Matt Latner did such a great job as Anakin in that arc.
You have a ladies’ apparel line called Her Universe and you just had an anniversary.
We turned five! We celebrated with a gift card giveaway, re-releasing some of our original designs, and we live-streamed from our offices via Meerkat. I’m just so grateful to the fans. From day one I said, “This is not a solo effort, this is a group effort between us and the fans. The only way we can grow as a company is if we have your support.”
Her Universe started with a Star Wars line, but has quite a few licenses now; tell us what’s new.
We renewed our Doctor Who contract, so we’re excited about that. We’re going to be designing for Star Wars Episode VII, so we’re excited to release those designs. We’re designing for Studio Ghibli exclusively at Hot Topic. We’re about to make an announcement at the fashion show about a new Studio Ghibli film we are going to be designing for. And of course we still have Star Trek and Marvel, so it’s been busy.
Other than Ahsoka, you also voice Dagger in the Ultimate Spider-Man series. Do you have any other voice work coming up?
Yeah, I’m actually doing another voice on Ultimate Spider-Man, a character named Shriek. And I’m working on a new DC project that I can’t really talk too much about yet, but I’m excited to be working with DC. So, expect more on that in the fall.
Is it a DC Animated Feature or new series?
It will be a series. I also did the voice of Ahsoka for the new Disney Infinity game. They got The Clone Wars cast back for that.