The first time Ashley Eckstein saw “Star Wars,” she knew exactly which character she wanted to be.
“I would play ‘Star Wars’ with my siblings. I didn’t want to be Princess Leia. I told my mom that I wanted to be R2-D2,” Eckstein says.
The actress has found a place in the “Star Wars” universe, but not as the robot. She’s the voice of Ahsoka Tano, a Jedi student of Anakin Skywalker (the future Darth Vader) introduced in the 2008 animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
Eckstein is reprising her voice work for the second season of the Disney XD animated series “Star Wars Rebels.” Events in “Star Wars Rebels” unfold between what happened in the feature films “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
And, she’s not the only familiar character joining the series that focuses on a young hero who joins the motley crew of the starship Ghost in their resistance against the Empire. Darth Vader will show up during the second season of “Rebels.” Plus, the many clones of Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) will be popping up.
“Star Wars Rebels” is the creation of Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Carrie Beck. Filoni was also the creator of the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” He didn’t introduce these familiar characters the first season because he wanted viewers to get to know the “Rebel” team first.
“Once you know them, you can add other characters to the mix. What would Kanan think of Rex? He wouldn’t think much of him. That we found interesting and it served the relationships,” Filoni says.
Eckstein’s character is a bridge between a time when Jedi were plentiful and a universe where they have been hunted almost to extinction. That changed the way Eckstein had to do her voice work for seven seasons of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
“It was different to do the character in ‘Clones’ and ‘Rebels.’ I would do a line and Dave would say, ‘That’s too cute. Too sweet.’ I had to adjust my performance quite a bit,” Eckstein says. “It’s almost like she’s the Master now. She’s more like Obi-Wan. I was more like Ezra on ‘Clone Wars.’ ”
It was easy for Eckstein to make adjustments because of her long list of voice work. Along with her performances in the “Star Wars” universe, Eckstein has been the voice for characters on “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Sofia the First,” “Robot Chicken” and “Math Bites.” She also appeared on screen in “That’s So Raven” and “Blue Collar TV.”
When “Clone Wars” ended after seven seasons, Eckstein knew there was a great potential for her to return as the voice of Ahsoka Tano.
“To me, ‘Star Wars’ is a story of hope. And, so, I had hope there would be more stories to be told for Ahsoka,” Eckstein says. “That was the exciting thing about Disney buying ‘Star Wars.’
“Their announcement that so many other ‘Star Wars’ stories were going to be told gave me hope that either in animation or TV or film or a publication, there would be another platform to get more of Ahsoka’s story.”
Even if there had been no second life for the character, Eckstein would still be linked to the “Star Wars” universe. When she was attending comic conventions to promote “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Eckstein noticed that there was no sci-fi clothing for women.
That’s when she decided to launch Her Universe, a clothing line for women that features “Star Wars,” “Marvel,” “Doctor Who,” “Star Trek” and “Transformers” designs. She will have several selections for “Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” There was only one problem.
“They sent us these images but not who they are. So it has been a little difficult trying to design clothes without really knowing what we were looking at,” Eckstein says.
Other voice talents working on “Star Wars Rebels” include Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan, Vanessa Marshall as Hera, Steve Blum as Zeb, Tiya Sircar as Sabine, Taylor Gray as Ezra, David Oyelowo as Agent Kallus and Jason Isaacs as the Inquisitor.
Star Wars Rebels
- 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, Disney XD