Rosario Dawson on her Ahsoka journey, Lars Mikkelsen revealed as Grand Admiral Thrawn, and much more.
Day 2 of Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 kicked off with one of the most-anticipated panels of the entire weekend: an inside look at the upcoming Disney+ series, Ahsoka.
After debuting the series’ first teaser trailer at Lucasfilm’s Studio Showcase, the cast and crew took back the Celebration Stage to reveal new insights about the show. StarWars.com was in the room to give you this exclusive news, direct from executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni (also the series’ creator and showrunner), as well as Ahsoka herself, Rosario Dawson…along with some special surprise guests. Here are 10 highlights.
1. This series is a continuation of Ahsoka’s journey.
Ahsoka Tano has been a major force in the Star Wars galaxy for nearly 15 years. This show will be the next part of her story, which has gone from the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi to the live-action The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Dave Filoni, the original creative shepherd (alongside George Lucas) of Ahsoka's story, took a moment at the beginning of the panel to touchingly reflect on the incredible path that the character has taken. On the development of Ahsoka, he told the crowd, “When we first made The Clone Wars, we initially had an apprentice for an original Jedi character that we had created, named ‘Ashla’. But George said, ‘I want Anakin to have a Padawan.’ He named her Ahsoka, and I started designing and developing the character [from there].”
2. Ahsoka is built on the legacy of the previous shows.
Filoni stressed the legacy of the cast and crews of both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels on this new project and his career. “I’m not here at all without all the talented animators, directors, and designers that I worked with,” he said. “And, of course, Ashley [Eckstein] originated the character of Ahsoka with me.”
Executive producer Jon Favreau added: “There was a larger goal to bringing the animated characters that [Dave Filoni] created to live-action. Unlike The Mandalorian, where you’re starting from scratch, it was important to honor the people who had been there from the beginning, and also invite new people in.”
When she joined the panel (escorted by a dancing Chopper), Rosario Dawson also said, “As a fan, it’s been really incredible to first be a part of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, but to now have this show be a continuation of her adventure…it’s been exceptional. And I can’t wait for you all to see where [Ahsoka] is now.”
3. The visual design of the character has been incredibly important.
Translating the animated character of Ahsoka to live-action was a constantly evolving process and getting into the makeup every day was a time of meditation for the actress, which included the contact lenses, the orange paint, and the montrals.
Dawson also revealed that the montrals (which adorn the Togrutan head), in particular, had been rebuilt with “technology that didn’t even exist when we first started”. They are now longer, with a 3D-printed skeleton inside the tails that allowed them to move more fluidly, as well. “It felt even easier stepping into her,” said Dawson.
4. Ahsoka’s mission during this series is driven by finding two very specific people.
As Dawson said, “She recognizes a threat [in Thrawn] that no other people are seeing. This is not someone to take lightly; these foes are not easily dismissed.”
5. (Some of) the Ghost crew is back.
Both Sabine Wren (played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Hera Syndulla (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) also joined the panel. Both of their characters will be major players during the series, as well as Hera’s squawking droid, Chopper. Because they are both newcomers to Star Wars, the actresses have really taken the time to immerse themselves in a galaxy far, far way.
Since we saw her in the epilogue of Star Wars Rebels, Hera has gone from being a pilot to a general in the Rebellion. As Mary Elizabeth Winstead reflected, “There’s a pretty rich history that we’ve seen in Rebels, and what happens at the end has had a great effect on her. I had to try to be all that she is, which includes being a leader and a maternal figure: leading an army and being everyone’s mom. Those are such different personality traits, but somehow, she encompasses them all. I tried my best to rise to her level.”
6. There are going to be lots and lots of fights…and the cast trained very hard for them.
The actors on stage were very proud to reveal the intensity of their training process. As Natasha Bordizzo said, “It was a lot of training. Hours and hours. It was the kind of role that I didn’t want to feel like a fraud when I put on the armor. I loved it.”
“The training really helped me [get into character]. When I was able to pass a certain physical threshold, it was really a key turning point in understanding who she is. Her physicality is a huge part of who she is. And, by being grounded and centered in that, I was more capable as an actress,” added Rosario Dawson.
7. A (very) old friend is returning.
As glimpsed in the trailer, the ancient droid Huyang will have a role in Ahsoka. And, while he briefly speaks in the trailer, it was confirmed by Dave Filoni that he will once again be voiced by “the Doctor,” actor David Tenant.
Excitingly, it was also mentioned Tenant recorded an early run of his dialogue before filming began, which ensured that the cast was able to really perform with him on set.
8. There are some baddies afoot.
Returning to the Star Wars galaxy is the menacing Magistrate, Morgan Elsbeth, as played by Diana Lee Inosanto (first in The Mandalorian). And, while Chopper may have run away in terror with her appearance, Inosanto was a delight. “She’s a complicated woman!” she promised.
The last time we saw her character, Ahsoka had a lightsaber to her throat. But now, we’re going to learn more about her background, including meeting her two lightsaber-wielding “friends”: Baylon Skoll (played by Ray Stevenson) and Shin Hati (played by Ivanna Sakho).
What could Dave Filoni tell us about these new characters? “Absolutely nothing.”
9. Both new and old faces are officially joining the crew.
While Dave Filoni is directing some episodes of the new series, he’s “letting others join in the fun.” This talented line-up of directors was officially announced to the crowd, including Steph Green, Peter Ramsey, Jennifer Getzinger, Geeta Vasant Patel, and Rick Famuyiwa.
In addition, Kevin Kiner (the composer of The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels) is on board to compose the score for Ahsoka. As Filoni said, “When you listen to Star Wars, you hear the story through the music. And Kevin has been that throughline between The Clone Wars and Rebels.”
10. The heir to the Empire has been revealed.
While Friday’s publicly released trailer was filled with loth cats and the very blue back of someone’s head, Filoni and Favreau brought along a very special surprise for the crowd: a remixed trailer, with some new things included.
This new trailer featured Sabine wielding a green lightsaber, Sabine looking out at (what might be) a towering certain species of space whales and, of course, the biggest surprise of them all: the face of Grand Admiral Thrawn, as played by his Star Wars Rebels voice actor, Lars Mikkelsen!
Appearing on stage to a roaring crowd, Mikkelsen said, “All of my sessions for Rebels were through Skype. At some point, when we were finishing up that series, Dave asked me, ‘Have you ever been to Los Angeles?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’ And he said, ‘Well, we should make that happen.’”
“And I have never been on a set with so much passion. People are so passionate about bringing this to life for you,” he said.
Dawson echoed that sentiment. “We are living and breathing Star Wars on a regular basis. We just really, truly love it. And we’ve put that love into this show. It’s not just a job…it’s joy.”
To end the panel, Filoni put it perfectly. “I feel really privileged, and we want to make sure we get it right.”
Watch the Ahsoka Panel Recap below.