Interview with Ashley Eckstein

Ashley Eckstein is best known for voicing the role of Ahsoka Tano in the TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”.  The show is hitting warp speed and it enters its fourth season this Fall.  Ashley is also the celebrity host, along with James Arnold Taylor, this year at Walt Disney World’s “Star Wars” Weekend.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat about “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” with Ashley as well as her hosting for “Star Wars” Weekend and even her own clothing line “Her Universe” which is also inspired by “Star Wars”.

Check back this weekend for an exclusive giveaway of an autographed shirt from Ashley’s ‘Her Universe’ clothing line

Mike Gencarelli: So lets start at the beginning, any idea you will be where you are today when you took the role of Ahsoka Tano in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”?
Ashley Eckstein: [laughs] No, actually I had no idea. I would have called myself more of a casual “Star Wars” fan before I got the “Clone Wars” job. I watched the movies when I was a little kid but it didn’t really go beyond that. I did understand the power of “Star Wars”. I thought knew just how iconic it was. But when I once I was cast on the show. I guess I didn’t quite comprehend JUST how powerful it was and how popular it was worldwide. So, obviously after working on the show and working with Dave Filoni you just become just a hardcore fan. We really have to understand “Star Wars” to be able to do the show. I think in order really to perform our roles to the best we can. Dave really helps us with that. Dave is such a huge “Star Wars” fan. He really knows it all and we get to learn from him. We have been working on the show now close to six year and have really become much more knowledgeable and passionate fans due to that. So I definitely never imagined the position I would be in today and how “Star Wars” has also affected my life and what it means to me. It really has changed my life.

MG: What do you like most about playing Ahsoka ?
AE: I think my favorite part of playing Ahsoka is how powerful of a character she is and a role model for young girls. That has really been a dream come true for me. I worked a lot of the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon before “Clone Wars”, mostly on-camera work. I really fell in love with children and family programming. First hand I saw the impact you can have on a child’s life by doing a children/family show. So, I really tried to gear my career in that direction. “The Clone Wars” came along and I wasn’t even trying for it. Literally, my agent got a call and I was asked to come in and read. So to get the role of Ahsoka who is such a strong and powerful character for young girls to look up to to and to even be a part of it is just such an honor for me. I am not one of these actresses that say I don’t want to be a role model or I never asked for this. I do feel that a child’s role model should be somebody that is in their life on a daily basis. But I also understand that by default as someone in the public eye you are going to be a role model whether you life it or not. So it is something I take very seriously. I want to be a positive influence and through Ahsoka I can do that. I am very honored to be given the opportunity to do that.

MG: Having this character really opened up the “Star Wars” franchise to a more female audience, can you reflect on that for us?
AE: When I was growing up, I was a bit of a tom-boy. The only girl on the baseball team. I didn’t want to wear a dress. Had my hat on backwards [laughs]. Having a character like Ahsoka, I wish I would have had Ahsoka to look up to. Not every girl wants to be a princess or wear a dress. Some girls want to carry a lightsaber and pretend to be a jedi. I think it is really cool to have her character. “The Clone Wars” has kind of become the watercooler show for kids on the playground. Whether you like “Star Wars” or not, it is the show that everyone talks about. Even the girls are starting to watch it just so they are in the know. Now when the kids play it on the playground, the girls have someone they can be. They do not have to pretend to be Anakin, Captain Rex or Obi-Wan. I have so many little girls coming up to be saying “Yeah I am Ahsoka and my brother is Anakin and we play “Clone Wars” all the time”. I think that is so cool that their is a character that the girls can be. Not even just Ahsoka, there is Asajj Ventress, Padmé Amidala, Sha’ak Ti and just so many powerful females in “The Clone Wars”.

MG: What has been your favorite part of hosting Star Wars Weekend in Walt Disney Resort this year?
AE: I think it is the ability to interact with the fans, especially the kids. “The Clone Wars” sort of introduced “Star Wars” to a new generation. It is funny because “Star Wars” is the “The Clone Wars” to many kids today. Many kids haven’t seen the other movies yet. They have only seen “The Clone Wars. To have that impact on a new generation of kids to me…I can’t even fantom it. To see some of the expressions from their faces and I get a chance to meet them. It has really been an honor [laughs], I really don’t have another word for it.

MG: Tell us about your show you are hosting “Behind the Force”?
AE: Of course, I think it is a fun show. “Behind the Force” takes you on a behind the scenes look at our job as voice over artists and recording the show. The first part of the show we have a special guest, in our upcoming last weekend we have Tom Kane, who is the voice of Yoda, the narrator of the show and many others from the show. So we introduce our audience to him and I ask him a couple of questions and then our audience get a chance to ask him some questions as well. Then we go into a live demonstration of us going into the studio recording an episode. Then we audition people from our audience to be an honorary cast member of “The Clone Wars”. The person that is chosen gets to come up on stage and do a scene live with us on stage. It is really exciting and puts the audience in the studio with us and get a chance to see what it is like.

MG: How many times have you rode the new “Star Tours” this month since its opening?
AE: That is a great question [laughing]. I think I have rode it eight or nine times…I think nine times by now. It is such an amazing ride. They did such a fantastic job on it and it is almost like a completely new ride. They revamped the entire thing. I also got to do a series of videos with Disney showing the behind the scenes look on the making of Star Tours. It just awesome. If you ride with me the chances are you will get Hoth [laughs], that is the one planet I keep getting over and over. I have only gotten Naboo twice and to me that is definitely my favorite. I even got picked as the secret spy one time, which was fun.

MG: Tell us about your “Star Wars” inspired clothing line, Her Universe?
AE: Thanks for asking about that. I created Her Universe and we launched about a year ago this June. It is the first “Star Wars” / sci-fi line JUST for women. We are only for the female fans. Close to half of all sci-fi and “Star Wars” fans are women. “Star Wars” is the story of hope and that transcends gender. I got the idea a little over three year ago. Actually when I first got cast for “Clone Wars”, I did a search for merchandise for women because I wanted to buy stuff. But I really came up empty handed. I was able to find one shirt and the rest was either on backorder or sold out. There was very little for women and NOTHING for little girls. It just didn’t make sense to me. I go to all the events and “Star Wars” weekends and there are women everywhere. I was thinking “Why are you giving us nothing to buy when 85% of the consumer market is women?” I have to give LucasFilm credit because they were the first company to give me a shot. They really want to recognize their female fans. They gave me the license and trusted me [laughs]. I have always been into fashion decision, so they trusted me to design clothes and accessories for the female fans. So I am really excited about that. Disney, again, I have to give them credit that they gave us the opportunity to sell it during “Star Wars” Weekends and we have been selling five different shirts in the merchandise tent, Jabba’s Hut. I have been doing signings there also every day. It has been great. One more thing, I have to thank SyFy because we just closed a deal with them and starting in July we are coming out with SyFy merchandise for the brand and also its properties. We are starting with “Battlestar Galactica” and “Warehouse 13”.

MG: What can we expect from season 4 in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” this Fall?
AE: Sure, I can definitely tell you it is actually called Season 4: Battle Lines. It is going to take you right into the heart of the battles of the Clone Wars. They have been going on for over two years now. The war is really taking its toll on its characters. There are going to be epic battles that are going to be bigger than anything we have seen to date on the series. There is also the return of some classic characters from the “Star Wars” movies including some bad guys but also some good guys. So also look for that trend to continue and look for some really epic battles. They are really raising the bar.

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