Ashley Eckstein is known in our community as the beloved, togruta Force user, Ahsoka Tano. The fan favorite was introduced to the Star Wars universe in the animated feature, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. From that point forward she would become an essential role in multiple animated series’ including Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Outside of her role as Ahsoka Tano, Eckstein is an accomplished actress, pioneer for female fandom with her fashion brand, Her Universe, and an author.
As a long time fan of Ahsoka, I was over the twin suns when I got the opportunity to have a conversation with Ashley Eckstein. We had a blast as we touched base on her latest children’s book, I Am A Padawan which was released last month, and her recent work on the revival of The Clone Wars series for Disney Plus.
FT: Tell us about your new book. I gave it a read, and it brought me back to some great Clone Wars moments and introduced us to some unseen ones as well.
AE: Thank you so much! That was actually my hope for the book. It’s called I Am a Padawan, it’s a Little Golden book that is a part of the I Am series for Star Wars. So they’re meant for young kids. I grew up on Little Golden books, I learned how to read from them. The book is teaching the reader how to be a padawan—a Padawan is a student. Even though these are lessons that happen in a galaxy far, far away they’re relatable to our everyday lives. There are lessons in bravery, failure, knowledge and hope. I addressed Ahsoka walking away from the Jedi order and her decision to choose her own path. Whether it’s kids learning these lessons for the first time, or adults needing a reminder. I hope it’s a good read, and that everyone in the family can get something out of it. I read it and was like I need these reminders right now, especially of hope.
FT: Was it difficult to simplify those bigger moments in Ahsoka’s journey?
AE: Yes and no, I have such a passion for kids. Being Ahsoka, I’ve traveled all over the world going to conventions and events where I meet kids. One of my favorite things to do is to talk to kids about Ahsoka and Star Wars. It’s something I’ve had practice with over the years, because you have to simplify these messages. I can’t tell you how many meaningful conversations I’ve had with kids about school. Every single autograph signing, when a kid walks up, I try to make conversation with them, and I always ask them, how’s school going? I’d say at least 50 percent of the kids drop their head, shake their head and shrug their shoulders and say it’s okay. I say to them, look at school like the Jedi Temple. You know Ahsoka had to go to the jedi temple before she could fight in the Clone Wars, school is necessary, just like the Jedi Temple was necessary for Ahsoka. Next time you get frustrated with school, imagine you’re Ahsoka in the jedi temple and eventually you’ll get out there and get to do your own thing. It never fails. Their eyes get really big and they look at me, like yeah I’ll try it! I also did have a great editor for the book who helped me simplify some of the messages. The message on failure for example; it was really important for me to keep that message in the book because I don’t think we talk enough about failure with kids. We’re going to fail, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to learn, that’s how we get better and improve. At first I had addressed the subject too much, so my editor worked with me to get it to a place where kids could really understand the lesson and I’m so pleased we were able to keep it in the book.
FT: It’s always a surprise to know Ahsoka is returning to Star Wars, whether it be her debut in Rebels, her return after fighting Vader, or now with this final season of The Clone Wars. Which of Ahsoka’s returns for you personally was the biggest surprise?
AE: The biggest surprise was definitely the final season of Clone Wars, because none of us saw this coming. I didn’t believe it at first. Dee Bradley Baker actually texted me about it, I
thought he was playing a prank on me, because I knew he was with Dave Filoni. I didn’t actually believe the news until I heard it straight from Dave Filoni a couple weeks later. I truly have to thank the fans, for all these years of support, the fans never gave up by using the #savetheclonewars. I give credit to the fans for saving the show.
FT: When Dave Filoni tells you that you’re coming back again, is it done through an in-person meeting or phone call?
AE: This time it didn’t go as Dave had planned. I guess he had wanted to call me or tell me in person. Between Dee texting me, and my agent telling me, and I didn’t even believe my agent, I called Dave and asked, do you have something to tell me? He was like, what do you mean? I said I think you have something to tell me. He was finally like oh, no that’s not how I wanted you to find out. I’m not quite sure how he planned to tell me but I was thrilled with the actual news.
FT: Has he done something special before to tell you that you’re coming back?
FT: You said Dave was like an older brother, was he a mentor to you as you came into the Star Wars universe?
AE: I have definitely called him the Skyguy to my Snips. I had been a lifelong Star Wars fan before Clone Wars, but I did not understand Star Wars like I do now. I definitely attribute most of that, in terms of my Star Wars knowledge to Dave. I even call him Skyguy.
FT: Filoni is well-known for having the entire cast during recording sessions. During Ahsoka’s underground arc with Rafa and Trace, did you become that type of mentor to Elizabeth Rodriguez and Brigitte Kali during your recording sessions?
AE: What was cool about those episodes is that Dave allowed me to be a part of the audition process. I got to go in with all of the actresses that they were bringing in for Trace and Rafa. It was important for him that we had good chemistry. It was very cool, it was the first time I got to be a part of something like that. At first, we weren’t allowed to say they were auditioning for Star Wars. So there was a generic script, I wasn’t allowed to say who I was or who I played. It was very obvious when Brigitte came in that she was Trace. It was a no-brainer. We all felt the same way, and we got along so well. The funny thing is I’ve never had the chance to meet Elizabeth in person, because she was in New York the entire time. She did her audition and all of her sessions through Skype. I’ve met her through video, and we got along great, and she is totally Rafa. I love the dynamic between the three of us. Once they came in and once we were able to talk about it, I definitely tried to share everything about Star Wars — the characters, the fans, and going to events and conventions. I hope we’ll get to do events together. It’s a bummer that all the events and screenings we planned are now cancelled because of the coronavirus, so I haven’t been able to reunite with Brigitte or meet Elizabeth. I look forward to the day that I do. They’re fantastic, and a nice addition to our Star Wars family.
AE: I will say, I started recording Ahsoka back in 2006. It took a good six months until we found Ahsoka’s voice. I remember coming in for every new recording session and leaving terrified, thinking I’d be recast. I just didn’t feel we had truly found her yet. I would say after the first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I really felt settled and felt we had found her. I would say by the end of season 3, it was easy to just jump right into the character. Funny story behind that, when I got to record the lines for The Rise of Skywalker, I got to work with J.J. Abrams. After I was done recording the lines, he asked, as a voice actor you’re not on a set, what do you visualize when you’re performing? Of all the questions he could’ve asked me, I was not expecting that question. I thought about it and said it’s not that I visualize anything, it’s a feeling. I can feel when I am doing Ahsoka’s voice. By the same token, If my voice gets too high, or too low I can feel that it’s off. It’s a feeling and I think it will forever be with me.
FT: You embrace so much of what Ahsoka is, and often actors are afraid of being known for a singular role, but she is much more than a role to you. Have you ever worried about only being known for Ahsoka?
AE: As an actor you dream of these types of roles, and you dream of not only getting to be a character, but getting to originate a character like this. When I was cast as Ahsoka, I realized this was different than any other role that I would ever play. Honestly, I felt like I won the lottery and I recognize what a privilege it was to originate a Star Wars character. I very quickly realized that I wouldn’t care if I became known as this character because not everyone has the opportunity to do something like this. I often wonder why I was chosen, but I don’t know why. I just try live up to it everyday. I want to do right by role and do right by the character. So for me, I’ve never worried or been bothered by the fact that I’m so closely tied to Ahsoka Tano. She not only means so much to me, but so much to fans all over the world. She has provided me such an incredible platform to do other things that I would’ve never been able to do like start Her Universe, write a book or be an advocate for mental health. Being Ahsoka is something I’ll forever be grateful for.
FT: I believe you truly embody all that Ahsoka is and so much more. Like you said, to be in Star Wars is a privilege, and I believe you embrace that fully.
AE: I thank you for your kind words, but I do realize I have a very unique spot. Often times I’m on the frontline of fandom. I choose to look at the positive, and don’t get me wrong there is a lot of negativity. I’ve been viciously cyber bullied, I’ve encountered the negatives, so I’m not being naive when I say this. There’s so much good happening in our community, and so much good in the people of our community. I often ask this to myself, what would Ahsoka do? I ask myself this almost daily. I feel like Ahsoka, especially in this season, would help people no matter what, that’s what she would do. That has become my mission, to be a real life Ahsoka Tano and to do good with the opportunities I’ve been given.
Thanks to Dan Madsen and Carrie Simons for making this dream a reality.