Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network is one of the best animated television series on television right now and it’s not just for kids. This past Star Wars Fan Days convention in Dallas, Texas, five of the voice-over actors from this hit animated show were on hand to answer fan questions at the Clone Wars panel. In attendance (from left to right below) were Stephen Stanton (in full Biker Scout costume no less), Catherine Taber, Ashley Eckstein, Meredith Salenger and Tom Kane.
Right away, you can tell that voice-over actors are a different breed of actor. During the Clone Wars panel , they made a point of sharing that nearly everyone working on the show from Dave Filoni (Supervising Director) to each of the actors were Star Wars fans even before they came on board. This down-to-earth group was warm and welcoming to the fans and I just have to say that it’s fantastic to see actors be such fans of their fans!
Here’s a quickie cheat sheet of who is who on the show:
Mas Amedda, Captain Wilhuff Tarkin = Stephen Stanton
Padme Amidala = Catherine Taber
Ahsoka Tano = Ashley Eckstein
Barriss Offee = Meredith Salenger
Yoda, Opening Narrator, Admiral Yularen = Tom Kane
I think you’ll find these highlights from the panel enlightening about the show and what’s to come:
Fan Q: Do you do your voice-overs one at a time or in a group?
Ashley Eckstein: We’re actually fortunate that we get to do it as a group. Tom [Kane] on the other hand, gets to join us every now and then, but from the very beginning, they stressed group-records which I am very grateful they did because we have a lot of dialogue in our show and I think the relationships are very important. I don’t think we could have established those tight bonds and relationships if we weren’t in the same room acting together.
Fan Q: What is your favorite episode?
Tom Kane: From a fan point of view and not just because it’s Yoda, I liked “Ambush.” I think for a lot of the older fans, probably it’s the most Empire Strikes Back-ish of the episodes that Clone Wars has done in terms of Yoda’s personality.
Stephen Stanton: “Citadel Rescue.”[crowd laughs] Give Tarkin a gun. What can I say?
Catherine Taber: I like “Senate Spy” a lot because I like the interaction with Padme and Anakin in that one. I love “Rookies” because Dee Bradley Baker is amazing. And “Innocence of Ryloth”, the character of Numa is a great story that I really love.
Ashley Eckstein: I like the “Mortise” Trilogy. I think the animation in that is stunning. I think the writing is great. Christian Taylor wrote that three-part story arc. Sam Witwer (voicing The Son) and Matt Lanter (voicing Anakin] in those episodes, I thought their performances were fantastic. Those are my favorite.
Meredith Salenger: I liked “Brain Invaders.” I got to play two sorta different characters in that one- Barriss who is always good and kind that gets invaded by these brain worms and she has to turn evil so it was nice to play the dichotomy of characters.
Ashley Eckstein: I had nightmares after that! [crowd laughs]
Meredith Salenger: My action figure comes with brain worms. [crowd laughs]
Tom Kane: Cool!
Fan Q: How involved in George Lucas in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?
Tom Kane: Oh absolutely. I mean, I’m not up there like “oh yeah, we’re eating lunch the other day.” No, from what I’ve been told, he’s in every meeting, he’s in the pitch meetings, he’s in the storyboard meetings. He sits there while they’re editing. From what I’ve been told from Dave [Filoni], he’s more involved in Clone Wars than much of anything in years. He really likes this project.
Catherine Taber: A lot of times for me, at least when we have what’s called pick-ups when we go in to fix a technical difficulty or to add a line. A lot of times those notes are directly from George… I would definitely say that he’s just not only overseeing but also very detailed about the vision we’re putting out.
Fan Q: With there being so many Star Wars properties out there between games, comics, and whatever else, how does that work with the storyline?
Stephen Stanton: Dave [Filoni] gives a big pep talk before each [episode]. I remember the very first episode I was in, I think it was “Dutchess of Mandalor” which is part of a multi-story arc from season two. I didn’t know what was going on at all. I mean, episodes that they had worked on prior to showing up, because it hadn’t aired [yet]. So I’m sitting there trying to wrap my head around it. Thank goodness that Dave Filoni came out and was like (in a rapid pace) “There’s this whole thing where you’re doing this and you’re doing that. And he hates her because of this…” It was very difficult to keep up, but they do take a lot of care in the storylines.
Catherine Taber: The responsibility does not fall to us, thankfully. We just come in and Dave gives us a rundown of what’s happening and why and not just logistically. Sometimes he’ll pull me aside and talks about the emotional reasonings that your character and get in deeper to it.
Tom Kane: This is the first project of this size that is staffed from top to bottom by [Star Wars] fans. You wouldn’t believe the level of knowledge that someone like Dave Filoni has about Star Wars. If anybody proposes something at a writers meeting that might cause problems with the expanded universe, someone’s going to immediately catch it. But it’s settled long before we get involved.
Fan Q: I have a question for Catherine Taber and Tom Kane. You were both in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) and will be in the new video game, Star Wars: The Old Republic [coming out this holiday season]. How does it feel to come back to that?
Catherine Taber: It’s pretty cool and exciting for me. Like every time I get to take on another Star Wars project, I’m just like ‘Yay, thank you!’ With Mission [Vao] being my first job, it meant a lot that this new character, Vette, is so different than Mission. I’m just excited as someone who loves games. I think this game is going to be really amazing.
Tom Kane: I’ve got two characters, one which was returning from the original. Because we did it so long ago, nobody could remember what he sounded like. Somebody at Lucas Arts had to go find the game and plug it in till they found my character. ‘Oh that’s what he sounded like!’ It’s amazing. They told me that there’s more dialogue in this game than all the other Star Wars games put together. [crowd claps] I’ve got a mid-level character in this thing, but I can’t talk too much about it because it’s an entirely new thing in the Star Wars universe. It’s a mid-level character and I’ve already been recording probably eighteen hours of [dialogue]. It’s just hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lines. I can’t even imagine what the main character scripts are like. They are probably as tall as I am. You can hear from the people who are working on it, because they’re gamers, too, they are so excited about this thing. I think you guys are going to be very happy with it.
At the end of the panel, the Bast Alpha Garrison of the Louisiana chapter of the 501st Legion inducted Catherine Taber as an honorary member of the 501st in honor of her efforts with her Games for Soldiers charity program. Taber set up this program as a thank you to soldiers in active deployment, collecting games and comics from individuals and companies and sending them to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. She says that it’s “a little something to say that we’re think about you guys.”
These actors are seriously as big of fans of Star Wars as hardcore fans can get. They really appreciate the universe that has been created and so beloved. Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with Ashley Eckstein!