“This Is the Ultimate Showdown”: Vanessa Marshall Talks Hera and Star Wars Rebels Season Three

The actor discusses Hera's upcoming confrontation with Thrawn, her Twi'lek heritage, and more!

The third season of Star Wars Rebels has offered significant changes for all the show’s characters, but Hera Syndulla has truly transformed in her leadership position. No longer just the head of the Ghost crew, she’s become important to all of Phoenix Squadron and the Rebellion as a whole. She’s also locked in a deadly game with Grand Admiral Thrawn.

We caught up over e-mail with the voice of our favorite Twi’lek, Vanessa Marshall, about how far Hera has come this season, how she thinks her character and Thrawn are similar, and what it was like seeing the Ghost at the Battle of Scarif.

StarWars.com: We’ve seen a different side of Hera this season, where she’s been much more focused on the mission than the personal lives of her crew. Asking Sabine to confront her family, for instance, or telling Ezra not to go to Tatooine. From your perspective, how has Hera changed in Season Three? Did that change after the situation with her Kalikori?

Vanessa Marshall: I think Hera certainly demands more from her crew in Season Three, however the circumstances call for it. She asks Sabine to confront her family in an effort to strengthen the rebel cause, likewise she begs Ezra to stay in order to give the rebels the best chance of success in the battle at hand. It’s all about strategy and playing chess with Thrawn. Hera will make whatever sacrifices are necessary and, clearly, she will ask the same of her crew.

Losing her Kalikori only fortified her resolve to outsmart Thrawn at his own game. Hera was ultimately emboldened by this tragic loss, as it served to strengthen her loving bond with her chosen family — the Ghost crew.

StarWars.com: How important is Hera’s Twi’lek heritage to her in-universe, do you think? And from the outside, what’s that like bringing a strength and ferocity to a female character of a species that previously had been relegated to slaves (with the exception of maybe Aayla Secura)?

Vanessa Marshall: I think her Twi’lek heritage is very important to her, but I also think the universal fight to protect all heritage somehow means more. If the Empire emerges victorious, any and all heritage will mean nothing. I think Hera can so quickly recover from her personal loss on Ryloth, because she is determined to stop Thrawn from repeating this desecration elsewhere. She is now even more motivated to preserve the heritage of all races everywhere. And she brings quite a fight! It’s an honor to bring such strength to a female character, especially a Twi’lek!

StarWars.com: Hera is about to face her biggest challenge in Grand Admiral Thrawn. How well prepared do you think she is for this?

Vanessa Marshall: This is the ultimate showdown, for sure! She is as “well prepared” as she ever will be! Unfortunately, there’s no time to even think about it, she simply has to get it done. She will take her luck as it comes and make the best of it, like she always does.

StarWars.com: In what ways do you think Hera and Thrawn are similar?

Vanessa Marshall: They’re both leaders. However, I think Hera leads with her heart and Thrawn leads with his head. They are both calm under pressure and able to remain focused despite mass chaos and confusion. They are both somewhat playful, Hera with her humor, and Thrawn with his passion for art collecting. In the end, their differences far outweigh their similarities. Thrawn’s darkness utterly counters Hera’s very bright light. Thrawn is as cold as he is blue, and Hera is as full of life and vitality as her very green lekku!

StarWars.com: I know you’re a big fan — what has the roller coaster of Season Three been like for you in that regard?

Vanessa Marshall: It has been a wild ride. I’ve loved every moment of Sabine’s story arc (#Mando4Life), and the return of Maul was everything! Sam Witwer is an absolute genius! So many things came full circle. As a Clone Wars fan, I was deeply satisfied! This season delivered!

StarWars.com: How has watching Star Wars changed for you, as you watch Hera interacting with characters ranging from Saw Gerrera to Mon Mothma?

Vanessa Marshall: It has been amazing! I hope to catch my breath one day. Each episode topped the one before! I was thrilled to interact with such iconic characters. I look forward to getting the season on DVD, so I can watch the episodes back to back and really take it all in. Again and again!

StarWars.com: And now we have to ask: what is it like seeing your ship and hearing the name of your character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?

Vanessa Marshall: I wept! (Shocker!) It was sublime. No. Words. I am just so deeply grateful to be a part of the saga.

The two-part Season Three finale of Star Wars Rebels airs Saturday on Disney XD.

Bryan Young is an author, a filmmakerjournalist, and the editor in chief of BigShinyRobot.com! He’s also the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, Full of Sith. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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