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'Star Wars: The Clone Wars': Ashley Eckstein on Why Ahsoka's Future 'Seems a Lot Brighter'

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Mar 04, 2013 | 6:17pm EST
Ashley Eckstein Talks Ahsoka's Fate in the Star Wars The Clone Wars Finale

If you saw the finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ fifth season this weekend you are, like me, probably still reeling from it. The question that’s dominated the show since its start in 2008—What explains why Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka Tano is neither seen nor mentioned in Revenge of the Sith?—was answered. [SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT.]

After being accused of a murder she didn’t commit, Ahsoka went on the run to clear her name. Though she ultimately was exonerated, the experience was so shattering to her that she decided to walk away from the Jedi Order and the galaxy-spanning Clone Wars they continue to fight. It was a turning point for the character, and a major change for the actress who voices her, Ashley Eckstein. “I’ve spent the last seven years in the studio with Matt Lanter recording Anakin and Ahsoka scenes,” says the actress, who worked primarily on-camera, including a recurring stint on Disney’s That’s So Raven, before getting the call from Lucasfilm to voice Anakin’s apprentice seven years ago. “And when I realized that Ahsoka was leaving, it became ‘Who knows if they’ll ever interact again?’ That hit me.” Not to mention that her departure from the titular conflict has spawned more questions than answers. “I think when I said, a few weeks before the finale, that it made me cry, the fans thought I meant that Ahsoka was going to die,” Eckstein says. “Ever since speculation began about her ultimate fate, so many fans thought Ahsoka was going to die. And as we neared the end of Season 5, I’d say 50% of the audience was convinced she would die in the finale, and the other 50% hoped she wouldn’t die but just didn’t know.”

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Ahsoka has always been, in a sense, the ultimate Jedi Padawan. Fiercely loyal to the Order itself, a true believer that her master, Anakin Skywalker, can do no wrong, and a valiant commander in the Grand Army of the Republic who has fought the Separatists on countless battlefields during the Clone Wars. If she can lose her faith in the Jedi, and in herself, things aren’t looking too good for the Order as a whole. “Being framed for murder caused Ahsoka to lose faith in everything around her,” Eckstein says. “The fact that none of the Jedi, other than Anakin, were willing to believe and stand up for her was devastating. I think she senses that the Order as a whole is headed in the wrong direction, but the fact that Barriss, her best friend, turned on her and framed her for her own crime, meant that she had to reevaluate everything. Like so many other Jedi, Ahsoka’s vision of the future is clouded. But unlike the vast majority of the Jedi, she realizes she needs to step back and try to make sense of what’s happened, rather than continue to fight a war without all of the facts.”

Though Eckstein recorded Ahsoka’s departure from the Order some time ago, George Lucas himself stepped in to make crucial rewrites to the script. These were changes that tightened the focus on Ahsoka’s decision to leave and made it clear that her choice came from a place of strength, not fear. “Ahsoka is resolute in deciding to leave,” Eckstein says. “The only time I think she truly loses it is in the tunnel scene after she’s first on the run in ‘The Jedi Who Knew Too Much.’ She screams at Anakin, ‘You could have helped me, but you didn’t try!’ which is such a sad moment. So George wanted to show the strength of her final choice to walk away and have it be more about her point of view.” Those rewrites meant that Eckstein and Lanter returned several times to record new dialogue. “We realized the Anakin/Ahsoka relationship we’ve known was ending. And we knew that it had to end at some point because of Episode III, but it still hit me like a ton of bricks. So I emailed supervising director Dave Filoni a list of 20 questions, because I just had to know for my performance what exactly her reasoning is.”

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Unlike many other animation projects, The Clone Wars’ recording sessions involve the voice actors performing their scenes together, almost like an old-time radio broadcast, to create a naturalistic back-and-forth. For the final scene, in which Ahsoka gently turns down Anakin’s offer to return to the Jedi, Filoni was so keen for it to remain secret that he kicked everyone out of the recording studio except for the sound engineer, the producer Cary Silver, and Eckstein and Lanter. “There’s no way we would have gotten the same emotional impact if we had recorded separately.”

One particularly poignant moment was the revelation that Ahsoka has known about Anakin’s marriage to Padmé, when she replied to his statement that he had wanted to leave the Order himself many times with a quiet, “I know.” For her part, Eckstein doesn’t think Ahsoka was fully aware of Anakin’s secret until just recently, possibly when Anakin enlisted Padmé to represent Ahsoka as her defense counsel before the Senate. “It hit me that Ahsoka was saying goodbye to Anakin, and I was also saying goodbye to this particular dynamic we had in these recording sessions over the past few years [that] I loved so much.”

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That sounds pretty finite, and maybe for this particular Master-Padawan dynamic Anakin and Ahsoka had, it is. But don’t expect this to be the end of the wide-eyed Togruta. “All I can say is, Dave and I talked about Ahsoka walking away, and this was never meant to be the ‘end of all things’ storyline for her,” Eckstein says. “I’m excited for Ahsoka’s future. It seems a lot brighter to me. Admittedly, I still don’t know her final outcome, but it’s gotta be better than being with the Jedi as Order 66 comes down. Sure, we know now why she isn’t in Episode III, but the fact [that] she leaves the Jedi Order opens up her story, and her ultimate destiny, completely. Everyone thought her outcome would be so black or white. She’s a Jedi, so she has to die, right? Well, if she’s not a Jedi, there are other possibilities for her. And we have no indication where she goes. She just walks off into the sunset.”

We’re still not certain where Season 6 of The Clone Wars will land—all Lucasfilm will say is that there will be “more”—but that’s gotta make you excited about its future…and the future of Ahsoka. Sounds like there’s still a lot of Force to her story.

Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt

[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]


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