At SDCC this year, I got a chance to sit down and chat with Ashley Eckstein. Ashley is most recognized for voicing the character of Ahsoka in The Clones Wars film and series.
We chatted about her involvement with the franchise as well as a bit about geek culture. She also talked a bit about her clothing line Her Universe, which specializes in catering to the female audience in the world of geeks. Read on to find out everything she had to say. And you'll find out how you can win a The Clone Wars poster signed by Ashley Eckstein after the interview.
JL: How did you get involved with acting?
AE: Well, I started acting when I was 12. I was in my first play in Orlanda, FL. I played Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and I just fell in love with it. I knew at that moment I just had to be an actress as my profession. I just...you can say I was bit by the acting bug.
JL: You've done plenty of TV series from live-action to, obviously what you're most famous for now, The Clone Wars. What kind of difference do you find in acting in live-action shows versus doing voice acting?
AE: It's very different styles of acting. Voice-over is using more of your imagination because you have to stand still behind a microphone and literally imagine yourself in these epic battles versus in live-action you're actually acting it out. So, it's a littler easier I think in live-action than voice-over because in voice-over you know...you're just using your imagination.
JL: How did you come about getting your role in The Clone Wars?
AE: You know, I auditioned just like any other audition. I got a call from my agent the night before and he said that I was auditioning for Padme for a new Star Wars cartoon. I went in and auditioned for Padme and they said that my voice was too high, but that they had this new character that they wanted me to audition for. It just kinda went on from there. I auditioned for the voice of Ahsoka and the next thing you know I got the part. I didn't even know who Ahsoka was at the time. Then I worked on it for two years before it came out, so...I had to keep it all a secret.
JL: So, obviously, this has become something big as all Star Wars things do. How has this affected your life? You know, becoming this huge character in such a huge universe.
AE: Oh, it's definitely changed my life. It's given me opportunities and opened up doors in ways that I never imagined. I mean I've always been into fashion design, but I never thought I'd be able to design my own shirts or jewelry. And frankly, I don't think anybody would've given me that shot without The Clone Wars. And because of my role, LucasFilm gave me the opportunity to design the merchandise. So it's opened up doors that I wouldn't have even imagined. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be Ahsoka and also the opportunity to even be in The Clone Wars. I mean, it really is, I would say, the most advanced animated show on television.
JL: You mention your clothing line and the LucasFilm thing. How much prying did you actually have to do to get that license? Or was it something that they were extra willing to just come out and do due to your involvement with the company already?
AE: Well, you know, I will say I don't get any special treatment. I'm a licensee like anyone else. So, I had to get all my ducks in a row and start my own business and approach LucasFilm like anyone else. But, they were very agreeable. They really recognize their female fanbase and they strive to make their female fanbase feel included and equal. I mean, Star Wars is for everyone. I'm very thankful to have them as a partner.
JL: Speaking of the female fanbase, Ahsoka has become something of a draw to bring females into the universe. What is it like for you to be something of a role model to young girls due to this role?
AE: It's definitely an honor and one that I don't take lightly. I mean, I definitely realize the responsibility that comes with millions of little girls looking up to this character and by default they consider me, the voice of Ahsoka, to be an extension of Ahsoka and the show. I'm really into family programming. Really into positive family programming so, this show is right up my alley. I think there need to be more shows on television that the entire family can watch together.
JL: What was it like for you playing regular/good Ahsoka versus when she flips to the dark side? What challenges were there to make that switch?
AE: That was a lot of fun! That was probably my favorite episode arc of the entire series. To be able to play present Ahsoka, older/future Ahsoka and then Dark Side Ahsoka in the same episode arc was amazing. Something that as an actress that's the type of material you want cause you can do a lot with it. It's very challenging, but I just had a good time with it. For Dark Ahsoka I definitely had to lower my voice. And Dark Side Ahsoka was definitely difficult cause, I mean, Ahsoka's so positive all the time. It was hard to get her to that place, but I had great direction. Great direction from Dave Filoni. And I had some help from my fellow actors, James Arnold Taylor and just lots of good help.
JL: Speaking of Filoni, he mentioned in the Clone Wars panel yesterday that he's begun working on ideas for writing out the Ahsoka character.
AE: Oh did he?
JL: Ha ha, that's what I've heard.
AE: Well you seem to know more than I do.
JL: Ha! He just mentioned it being in a brainstorming process at this point of course. But, I guess that answers my question about whether you knew anything further about how that might play out.
AE: Nah, I mean I've heard theories, but I have no idea what's gonna happen to her.
JL: As far as the series itself, they revealed a bunch yesterday like the underwater stuff, the new clone models, the peek at the Headhunter jet and such things. Is there anymore you can give us? As far as storyline, maybe what we can expect from the new season?
AE: I'm not allowed, but it sounds like you know quite a bit from the panel. But yea, what they told you yesterday, I'm not allowed to say any more.
JL: Right. I understand. So, I'm sure you grew up a geek girl...
AE: Yea. Definitely.
JL: ...How does that feel, I mean, Stars Wars is so huge among the geek community. How does it feel that suddenly you're a part of that universe.
AE: Oh man, yes, I was a big Star Wars fan growing up. So, for me to be part of a franchise that I loved so much as a kid was definitely a dream come true. I mean, I never thought in a million years a character that I voice would have a Pez dispenser and an action figure. So, that's really cool. And to be able to go on the Star Tours ride now, when that was a ride I used to ride as a little kid, and now I was a part of the grand re-opening at Disney/Star Wars weekend. Being on stage with George Lucas blew my mind.
JL: As it would most of us I'm sure. So, I understand you're a big fan of Disney.
JL: Any desire to possibly work with Disney in a film capacity, or maybe something already in the works?
AE: Oh I would love to! I mean, I've worked with Disney in the past on The Disney Channel for 'That's So Raven' and some of their other shows. So, it's definitely a relationship I hope to continue. I mean, I'm a Disney kid. I grew up Disney. My dad worked for Disney. So I guess you could say, once you get bit by the Disney bug, it never goes away.
JL: Beyond The Clone Wars, do you have any future projects you maybe already have lined up?
AE: Yes, I'm actually doing an animated film that will be out in theaters next spring. And, I'm not allowed to say the title or anything else. But it will be a feature film in theaters.
JL: Not even a title?
AE: Nah, not allowed to. But it's definitely a family film that's definitely in the sci-fi realm. And, I'm also working on a new project for Disney animation. So, I got a couple fun things in the works.
JL: Can you elaborate on what the Disney project might be?
AE: Ha, no, I'm sorry. It's just a pilot right now, but it's cute. Unfortunately, that's confidential right now too. I'm so sorry.
JL: It is TV though?
JL: Going back to your clothing, just how hands-on are you with it. I mean, do you just take on an executive role or are you actually full hands-on with this.
AE: I'm 100% hands-on. This is 100% kinda like my brainchild and my business. I founded it and then I found a business partner to help me run it. I think the biggest misconception is that people think I'm just endorsing the brand, and I'm not. This is very much a day in, day out, fully-fledged business that I'm a part of. Everything from designing the hang tags to picking out the t-shirts to just glueing rhinestones on hats, I've done it all for the brand, designing the SDCC booth, I've done it all. So I'm very much 100% involved.
JL: I find it cool that finally females have something that caters to them and includes them. How do you think something like this effects the whole geek/pop culture?
AE: Well, you know, I hope that we're slowly chipping away at the stereotype that sci-fi is just for the boys, just for men. And we're changing people's minds to the fact that sci-fi is for everyone. We're not just trying to say sci-fi is just for women or girls. We're trying to say sci-fi is for everyone. So, I hope we're slowly chipping away at that stereotype and slowly changing people's minds.
JL: I know you unveiled some new Her Universe (the clothing line) stuff here at Comic-Con this year concerning a new SyFy license.
AE: Yes. Yea, we got some new SyFy stuff. We got Warehouse 13, which I'm wearing today. Leena's Bed and Breakfast. We've got Sharktopus. And we have it in men's size as well. So you can get his and hers Sharktopus shirts. We've got new products for Star Wars. We've got Battlestar Galactica. We've got a lot more jewelry this year. So we've got some fun products this year.
JL: Do you any other licenses you're working on beyond this?
AE: Right now we're just focusing on Star Wars and SyFy. We're always exploring new licenses, but I'm definitely a quality over quantity person. So, we have two iconic franchises and I want to just do right by them right now.
JL: Well I think that just about covers it.
I want to thank Ashley Eckstein for taking the time to sit down and talk with me. She was great and really just an awesome and nice person.
Make sure to check out season 4 of The Clone Wars which is set to begin airing on September 16th, just a few weeks away. And season 3 of The Clone Wars is set to hit DVD and Blu-ray this October. Also, check out Ashley's Her Universe site for some cool female apparel. http://heruniverse.com/
Now, as promised, I have a The Clone Wars poster which Ashley was kind enough to autograph for me. So, one lucky person will get to walk away with that. In order to enter for that drawing, to keep in the spirit of things, I want you to tell me your favorite Star Wars moment. Whether it be a favorite scene or even just an experience you had centered around Star Wars, let's hear it.
This will remain open for a week. All entries must be in by Tuesday August 30th by 11:59PM EST. One winner will be drawn from random.