Ashley Eckstein is the voice of Ahsoka Tano in the animated movie and TV series The Clone Wars. When she's not playing Ahsoka, she's busy developing her Star Wars clothing line for women, Her Universe. In an interview with About.com, Eckstein talked about her role as Ahsoka and her experience as a female Star Wars fan.
Before The Clone Wars came out, Ahsoka's very existence was a well-kept secret. "I actually auditioned for the voice of Padmé originally," said Eckstein. "The very first line that came out of my mouth, they stopped me and they said, 'No, you're not quite right. You sound too young. But we have this new character, [and] we'd love you to audition for that.' And that's all they told me. They didn't tell me who she was; they just said that she was a fourteen-year-old girl. And they were very generic lines -- they were not Ahsoka lines at all... They didn't tell me until my first day of work. I showed up for the first day, and then they gave me the first script, and told me all about who Ahsoka was. And they said, 'By the way, this is a huge secret. You can't tell anyone.' So I had to keep it a secret for over two years."
Ahsoka's first appearance didn't go over well with all the fans. Her personality and sidekick role even led some to deride her as the Jar Jar Binks of The Clone Wars. "We had worked on the show for over two years before the movie actually came out," explained Eckstein, "so it was tough for me, when it first came out and people were calling Ahsoka 'the Jar Jar of The Clone Wars,' because I knew her evolution... [that] she would start winning over some fans by the end of the season, because she was going in a different direction. She was growing up; she was becoming more serious. I thought that she was really going in the direction that the fans wanted her to go."
Ahsoka has certainly changed and grown over the course of three seasons. At first, said Eckstein, "I just continued to ask the fans to be patient. I said, 'Look, this is an evolution. If she started out perfect, where is there for her to go?' I mean, this is a new character that we want to grow with and watch her mature. So I just had to beg the fans to be patient and just enjoy watching her growth... [Now] there's an episode halfway through Season 3 where Ahsoka actually dies in the episode, and then they bring her back to life. And the fan reaction to that episode was unbelievable. People were very upset; they didn't want her to die... And I'm happy that the fans have stuck with her."
In Season 3, "[Ahsoka's] more a part of the group. She's just one of the gang, and less of a sidekick. She's definitely earned their respect. So I think she's a bit more settled with her role, and therefore she doesn't have to be as confrontational or snippy... One thing that I'm very pleased with, and [that] you'll see in the season finale of the show, is how far she's come on her own. On thing I like about Season 3 is there's a couple of times where she had to figure it out by herself, without Anakin, without Obi-Wan. And sometimes she is in charge of saving other people's lives. It's all on her shoulders.
"After three seasons, you really get to see how much she's learned from Anakin, and from Obi-Wan, and from Plo Koon, and you get to see how far she's come. Literally in the season finale, she's put in a situation where she is definitely on her own, and she has to save others' lives. It's kind of a make-it-or-break-it, do-or-die opportunity for her, and you see how far she's come and how much she's learned. And so I really like the progression of her character, especially in Season 3."
Eckstein has helped shape the character since her callback audition, when she inadvertently changed the concept for Ahsoka's voice. "My note before I went into the callback was [that] they really wanted me to master an Icelandic accent," she recalled. "I actually went to a dialect coach and studied for several days to really master an Icelandic accent. So I went back to the callback and said the first couple [of] lines in an Icelandic accent, and they stopped me and they said, 'No, could you do an Icelandic accent?' Usually I'll never talk back or try to correct somebody, but I raised my hand and I said, 'I'm sorry, but what I'm doing is an Icelandic accent. I don't know what you want me to do'... But it turns out that I was getting really upset with myself in the audition, that I wasn't able to give them what they wanted, and just kind of my expressions and my body movements and the tones in my voice was similar to what they had pictured for Ahsoka. And so... they said, 'Well, let's just give it a shot and let you use your own [voice].' Which obviously was a relief for me, because that was a lot easier."