There’s a lot of Michelle Ang in Omega, the newest member of Clone Force 99, on Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The actor was invited to use her native New Zealand accent, an homage to fellow Kiwi Temuera Morrison who originated the role of Jango Fett and the clone soldiers in the prequel films. But Ang also imbues the character with the child-like wonder she sees in her now four-year-old son as he discovers new parts of our own world each day. And, perhaps mostly importantly, since being quested to bring young Omega to life for the Disney+ Original Series, Ang has found new ways to tap into her natural earnestness, which lends itself well to Omega’s innocence, and the way she interacts with the world as an Asian woman and performer who doesn’t fit Hollywood’s leading lady stereotype.
“A lot of that is sense memory as opposed to looking at external references. At the end of the day, to really inhabit an experience you sort of have to — or my technique is to — find touchstones that really resonate with you that are sort of parallels,” Ang tells StarWars.com. “The idea of looking or seeming inconsequential, but feeling like you’ve got so much to contribute,” she adds with a laugh. “I think just as a woman of color and someone who maybe isn’t a traditional sort of television star or movie star or whatever, you know, there have been times in my personal professional life where I’ve felt like, ‘I’ve got so much to offer, I just want you to give me a chance!’ So I think that aspect of Omega and I converge quite a bit.” She also finds she and Omega share similar outlooks in other ways. “I’m someone who really likes to look at the world and see people and give people the benefit of the doubt and take all the richness…. I’m not really much of a cynic in my real-world life and I think that’s a wonderful quality that I can bring to Omega in the sense that she’s also quite an optimist. But hers has more to do with innocence and youth.”
And even though Ang and Omega may not look similar at first glance, getting to use her natural-born accent was a gift. In fact, as Ang speaks by telephone from an undisclosed set, the voice on the other end of the line could easily be mistaken for Omega all grown up. “It’s nice for me, in terms of representation. It’s not my face on this project — it’s just my voice,” Ang says. “But as someone who might not visually be what the world thinks of when they think New Zealander, because I am of Chinese/Malaysian descent, on a personal level it was great to be embraced for who I was and all of my different identity spheres.”
Ang has been acting on screen for more than two decades, including an Emmy-nominated role as Alex on Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462, and although The Bad Batch is her first foray into the galaxy far, far away, it wasn’t her first audition to step into Star Wars. “This is really moving for me to be part of Star Wars,” Ang says, revealing that she also auditioned for a part in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “The feeling of losing out to that was really huge and quite heartbreaking. So it’s quite nice it have it come full circle and still get to play with all of you.”
Initially, Ang didn’t know that the test scripts for her latest role would bring her back into the fold. “Obviously, when I auditioned for the role I did not know that it was part of the Star Wars world or the Lucasfilm family or any of that,” she says. What struck her right away was Omega’s personality. “The character had this real innocence and naivety but also the core of someone who was strong in her internal compass and had morality. What resonated was this push and pull for someone who’s experienced nothing and yet wants to stand for everything.” And she’s ecstatic that the creative team has written story arcs that allow her to take Omega on a journey of discovery and test everything the Bad Batchers think they know about surviving.
Ang says working on the series has given her a newfound appreciation for the depth of detail inherent in Star Wars storytelling. “The lore is so specific. This is a living, breathing world. It’s fictional, but it’s very exacting and there are laws and logic and references. And that was one of the most exciting things about stepping into the Star Wars franchise, really,” Ang says. “This is fictional, but it’s also so not, because of the amount of detail and knowledge that everybody who’s a part of it holds is quite breathtaking.”
Longtime Star Wars voice actor Dee Bradley Baker brings the rest of the Batch — Hunter, Echo, Tech, Wrecker, and Crosshair — to life with his chameleon-like ability to morph into each unique member on the spot. Baker and Ang only recorded the premiere episode in the same recording studio — as, first, other work commitments took Ang back to New Zealand and then, later, COVID further restricted their ability to inhabit the same physical space. Regardless of the distance, Baker was a welcoming presence and guide on and off screen.
“It is actually mind blowing. You joke about it but it is in some ways ‘The Dee Bradley Baker Show,’” Ang says. “He is the most generous and unassuming and modest creative. Dee manages to make these shifts in character without any ego…he doesn’t make a big hoo-ha about it, he just does it and it’s so incredible to watch. And the distinctiveness he brings to all of them! He’s really got a different mindset for each character. He’s done his work. He’s a real professional.”
Although Omega gets to interact with the whole crew, she shares a special bond with Wrecker, who is really just a big kid at heart. “We’ve had a lot of fun with Wrecker and Omega because in some ways they really egg each other on,” Ang says. And as Hunter, Baker brings a paternal presence to young Omega’s life. “It’s really fun. Obviously, Hunter and Omega have some really heartfelt scenes and our connection is a lot more sort of grounded.”
Finding her voice
To find Omega’s voice, “I didn’t have to work on the accent, but what I did have to do was work on creating her youthfulness,” Ang says. “I had to pitch her up a little bit and remind myself that she is much younger than me in terms of state of mind, and also because of her particular background. The wonderment of everything was something that I’d just sort of be conscious about.” In the second episode, Omega visits Saleucami and encounters a completely different biome from her home on watery Kamino. “[There are] lots of firsts, lots of interacting with situations or even things — like sand — in a completely first-time way, which is quite challenging but also lovely. And actually having a young kid was useful,” Ang says, noting that she’s still learning how to juggle being a single parent and working full-time again. “[My son is] experiencing lots of firsts and I’ve been privy to that, and so kind of using that experience as a little bit of a touchstone for Omega was really valuable.”
Ang says she also wasn’t shy about speaking up during the initial script-reading phase of production if she had an alternate idea for how Omega might respond to the various situations she encounters in the post-Clone Wars world. “The things that [children] care about are different!” she says. “And we actually talked a lot about that — [head writer] Jennifer [Corbett], [supervising director] Brad [Rau], and the creative team behind Bad Batch — because sometimes, you know, it’s easy as adults to expect that the younger characters would take the obvious stance or respond in a certain way. But we had lots of dialogue and there would be times when I was like, ‘You know, I think that she might not recognize the gravity of the situation.’ She’s working on this from one level, which might be more lighthearted or really innocent, and that’s actually a nice counter to the Bad Batch. who have a very military or jaded outlook as to how certain situations might progress.”
Rau, in particular, has been open to letting Ang play with the unexpected facets in her character. “One of the funny things that we always have a laugh about is that I’m always reluctant to make Omega too wide-eyed,” she says. In many scenes, we see Omega trying her best to become more like her military-trained friends, a soldier who fully copies the tactics, tech, and sometimes postures of Hunter and the rest of Clone Force 99. So Ang and Rau will ask each other, “’How cheeky and slightly sassy can we make Omega?’ Or ‘Can we lean into the grown-upness of Omega as opposed to her innocence?’” Ang recalls.
“The finished product is so riveting”
Many of the recording sessions took place over video calls, with technology that allowed Ang to work from the comfort of her home. “I literally work from a bedroom with this quite compact set up and it’s just amazing what technology can do,” she says. “We all get onto a video chat together and Brad hears us in real time and directs us and adjusts our performances and it runs pretty smoothly, to be honest. And in some ways, it’s more comfortable because you’re not in this weird, sterile recording booth. You’re in the comfort of your own home and I’ve got lots of space. I can get physical.” But it has stripped out some of the glamour of performing. “I’m in my bedroom with some old mattresses leaned up against the wall!”
In the process, Ang notes that she rarely got to see the finished animation that she was voicing, which has made watching the show on Disney+ even more exciting as Ang and the fans see the finished episodes debut. “I occasionally get to see the work-in-progress, particularly if we were doing pick-ups to change the intention of the line, and I was always so greedy for those!” she says gleefully. “Because it’s so strange, right? You’re adding one component of this amazing character…. Nothing compares to watching the finished work. I mean, the series, it’s so elevated with the score and the sound design and the lighting and the textural team. The finished product is so riveting. I’m really proud to be part of it.”
And while Ang says she tries not to think too much about how the work will be perceived during the creative process, she’s been heartened to see fan reactions to the series, including fan art online embracing her new character, as well as the rest of the squad. “I just hoped that if I brought authenticity to the character and grounded the performance in a way that I was proud of, then hopefully she’d resonate with at least some people,” she says. “It’s nice to see that she has! It’s really cool to get to see the manifestation of how the [fan] community just rallies around a series that they enjoy. It’s been a real privilege.”
And when he gets a little bit older, she’s looking forward to showing her young son the series. The boy is already a big fan of R2-D2. “I probably wouldn’t show it to him for a wee while, but I can’t wait to share it with him when he’s old enough to be like, ‘Hey do you know that mum was actually the voice of a Star Wars character?’ It’s going to be pretty mind-blowing for him.”
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is the author of the book Skywalker: A Family At War, host of This Week! In Star Wars, and an all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.
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