Interview: Ashley Eckstein Tells Us About the Finale Season of Clone Wars and Carrie Fisher’s Legacy!
Ahsoka Tano is the kind of character who has taken over the hearts of Star Wars fans everywhere, whether they’re fans of Clone Wars or not. Seeing her story unfold and watching as a female character took the lead as a Jedi was a welcome leap forward back in 2008, and now, as Clone Wars continues on in its final season, Ashley Eckstein (who has brought the character to life since the beginning) talked with me about what Ahsoka has meant to her, as well as how she’s used the Star Wars platform to help women everywhere.
The Mary Sue: With Clone Wars, for a lot of Star Wars fans, it was always something people knew about whether or not they watched it, but what they did know from the series was Ahsoka. And now, it’s been amazing to watch as she’s kind of become this amazing icon throughout the years. So how has that been playing her all these years and seeing how she’s kind of been the figure that came out of Clone Wars and how everyone fell in love with her?
Ashley Eckstein: It’s been incredible to watch Ahsoka’s journey throughout the years. Obviously, I’m a bit biased, because I have a very close attachment to Ahsoka Tano, but I knew instantly, from day one, how special she was, and how incredible of a character she was, so she’s always been near and dear to my heart. And, in fact, since I got to help originate the character, they allowed me to not only bring my voice, but my heart and soul to this character.
So, I literally feel like she is forever a part of me, but it’s been incredible to watch, over the years, people fall in love with Ahsoka just like I have. It’s so special to me because Ahsoka is such an incredible character. To me, she represents hope. She represents good overcoming evil. She represents light, and she brings so much good into this world, and it just means so much to me that everyone has fallen in love with Ahsoka like I have.
TMS: I like what you said about how she represents light and hope and everything and, with Star Wars, that is such an important aspect of this franchise, and so, with her representing hope and everything that she’s been through in her journey, especially now that (I know that you’ve talked about it briefly) we’re going to see a live-action version of her in some capacity, what is an aspect of her character arc that you’re really happy about? Especially within this final season, as well as something that you hope continues with her as a character.
Eckstein: That’s a great question because my hope is that Ahsoka continues to, I think, represent hope. You know, she truly … It’s hard to explain unless you’re part of this fandom or you know this character because, sometimes, if you’re just not a part of it, you don’t get it, but Ahsoka has literally changed lives, and she’s saved lives. Literally, what she represents is resonating with people on such a deep level that they’re literally letting Ahsoka come into their lives and make a difference, and it’s not an exaggeration when I say I probably get at least once a week a message about how Ahsoka has saved someone’s life.
And it’s incredible and, you know, if you’re a part of this fandom, you get it. Because I think we all have, you know, attachments to these characters, even if they’re fiction, even though she’s an alien with orange skin in a galaxy far, far away, we relate to her on such a deep level. And so, she means so much to so many people that it’s my hope that Ahsoka continues to spread hope and light and good.
TMS: I think you’re right because Star Wars is hard to explain to people who don’t get it, in a lot of ways? Because I’m that way about Carrie Fisher specifically, and it’s hard to be like “You don’t understand why,” so that’s a really interesting point. If you’re not in this fandom, it’s very hard to see why these characters mean something to us.
Ashley Eckstein: Yeah, I don’t mean to veer off-topic but your example actually resonates with me on such a deep level, as well, because Carrie Fisher has meant so much to me. And I remember exactly where I was when I got the news that she passed away. I was shopping with my mom, and we were walking to our car, and I got the news and I instantly started crying.
And I asked my mom, I said, “Look, can we take a pause for a minute? I don’t want to drive while I’m so emotional” and I was crying and I told my mom—you know, my mom appreciates Star Wars, but she didn’t have the deep connection that, obviously, the both of us share with Carrie Fisher—I told her, I said, “Mom, you don’t get it. How so many people cried when Princess Diana passed away, Carrie Fisher is our princess. I’m feeling the same emotion with her that I can only imagine that a lot of people felt the day Princess Diana passed away. Carrie Fisher is royalty to us.”
And, to relate that to Ahsoka, people feel the same connection to Ahsoka. They do. Even though she’s this fictional alien, they have a deep attachment to her, myself included. There’s a reason #AhsokaLives is such a popular hashtag. People want her to live. They want her to survive. They want more Ahsoka because she means so much to them.
TMS: She’s also part of the female characters of the Star Wars EU. For me, it’s always been her and Mara Jade that I want to see in live-action form because they mean a lot to me as a person, and so, I want people to understand those characters. And, I think, what’s so beautiful about Ahsoka is that fans of Clone Wars, which a lot of people got into it because they have a love of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, fell in love with her and her messaging and everything she represents.
What I like is that it also helped you support these amazing causes with your book and Her Universe, and so I wanted to know, when you took that messaging and created your own things, was it to be the best kind of representation you could be for that character, or was it more of a situation where you were inspired by the character you were portraying to continue her message into the world?
Eckstein: That is exactly why I started Her Universe or wanted to write a book and really wanted to branch out and do so many other things. It’s because of Ahsoka. Ahsoka inspired me to do more and be more and it really, taking a step back for a moment, I was a full-time actress in L.A. I primarily did live action and did film and television.
Ahsoka was my first big voiceover job. But I always wanted, and dreamed, of playing a hero. You know? Like a sci-fi hero. And so when I was cast as Ahsoka, it was literally a dream come true. It was like I won the lottery. But I very quickly realized that Ahsoka was different, that she was a trailblazer. You know, it’s hard to forget because our world has changed so much since then, but this was back in 2008 and, at the time, Ahsoka was the first female Jedi who was a lead character in the Star Wars universe.
And so it was the first time that, on a regular basis, we put a lightsaber in a female character’s hand and we got to follow her journey. And that was groundbreaking, like literally groundbreaking, and I truly believe, and I saw this at the time, that if a character like Ahsoka can be popular, imagine how many more female heroines we’re going to get. And now, fast-forward, we have Rey and Jyn and Sabine and Hera, and we’ve had a Wonder Woman movie, and we’re getting a Black Widow movie, and I really feel that Ahsoka helped blaze the trail for other strong female characters to come. But I was so inspired by her that I wanted to be a real-life version of Ahsoka Tano.
And so whenever something would come up, like when I saw the need for more merchandise made for female fans or when I wanted to spread the message about your dreams can come true, or when I wanted to become an advocate for mental health—truly because we need to break the stigma and we need to be outspoken about mental health and the fact that our mental health is just as important as our physical health—all of these things … I almost ask myself every morning “What would Ahsoka do?”
And my answer is always “Well, Ahsoka would help others.” She’d help others no matter what. Ahsoka would be a voice. Ahsoka would stand up for people. And so, literally, since 2008, I’ve been kind of guiding my choices, and I’ve dedicated my life to becoming a real-life version of Ahsoka Tano.
TMS: This is going to be a compliment, but hearing you say that is very much why I, going back for a second, love Carrie Fisher. Yes, it was about Princess Leia, but it was also about her using her platform to be this different female figure in the world, and with what you just said, it’s very much what you’re doing with Ahsoka. You’re using your platform and this character you helped bring to life, but you’re using it to help benefit all different kinds of women all around the world. Is that a mantle that is easy? Is that hard sometimes, to balance that you did bring this character to life, but that you’re a real-life hero to so many?
Eckstein: That is what guides me every day. And it’s not hard to wake up every day and want to do that. I think where it can get hard is if I’m not able to do everything I want to do because I care, so much. That’s the message I think I’m not ever able to put into words, or I’m not ever able to reciprocate and tell everyone truly how much I care.
I read everyone’s comments, I read the posts, I read the articles, and everyone’s support only fuels me to do more. So when I get frustrated is if I feel like I can’t do everything I want to do to help, because I almost feel like I’ve let people down or I’m not able to help as many people as I’d like to. But everyone’s comments give me the strength to keep going, and it really is just, going back to what I said earlier, I feel like I won the lottery with this character. I don’t know why I was chosen, but I try every day to live up to it. And it’s such a privilege and it’s such an honor to be the voice of Ahsoka Tano and to be a part of the Star Wars universe that I constantly try to live up to it.
And I have one little Carrie Fisher story for you because I think you’ll really appreciate this.
You know, I only got to meet Carrie in person one time, and she was so supportive. I got to be on a panel with her at DragonCon, and I remember walking up to the room, and there it was, a room filled with probably 3,000 people, and I asked one of the volunteers that was running the room, I said, “I think I’m in the wrong place,” and they looked at my schedule and they said, “Oh no, you’re in the right place. Go backstage, everyone’s waiting for you.”
And the panel was called “The Stars of Star Wars.” And I walked backstage and there was Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, and I think Ian McDiarmid and Temuera Morrison. Or maybe Ian McDiarmid wasn’t there, but for sure, Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew. And I couldn’t believe—like I walked up to the table, they were all sitting there, and I said, “I’m sorry but I don’t think I’m supposed to be here,” and she looked at me and goes “You absolutely are in the right place. You’re one of us. Welcome to the family.”
And she got up and gave me a huge hug, and she gave me a glitter bomb and she made me feel like I was part of her family. And after that—and I was so sad that I wasn’t at the booth, but at one of the comic cons (or, well, multiple cons), she always came up to the Her Universe booth and supported us. We tried to give her some free swag, but she always bought a couple of items to support Her Universe because it was very important for her to support the company. And I remember she signed us one of her headshots, and it was wishing us luck, and it became our good luck symbol and it traveled with the Her Universe booth to whatever convention we went to.
So, in many ways, Carrie Fisher set a very powerful example for any Star Wars actor to follow in her footsteps, and it is something I’m very mindful of.
TMS: Just to wrap up, I wanted to know, what is one thing you will always be grateful for with Ahsoka and her journey?
Eckstein: I will always be grateful for Ahsoka because she changed my life. She literally changed the course of my life. I was a full-time actress, and I was very lucky, I was able to work quite a bit, but as an actress, you kind of jump role to role, and once you’re done with one role, you move on to the next. I was fine with just being an actress. I had a teacher once who told me that I had to pick one thing, that I couldn’t be more than just one thing. So I chose acting because that’s where my passion was in. But it never really felt complete, I’m not going to lie.
It always left me wanting more—not more for myself for selfish gain. I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and I didn’t quite know how to put that into words until Ahsoka came along. And then I realized that this character was bigger than me, and yet she was providing opportunity to do so much more for so many people through this character. And so I truly dedicated my life to this character. It opened up so many doors—not only as an actress, but to becoming a business owner, to, like you said, writing a book, to becoming an advocate for mental health, it’s opened up so many doors, and it’s caused me to look at life differently and realize that I can be more than just one thing and kind of use this platform that Ahsoka has given me for the rest of my life to help people no matter what.
Ashley Eckstein continues to be a beacon of hope, just like Ahsoka Tano, and she continues to be someone I will love to support. Clone Wars is currently airing and has its series finale coming to us on May 4th. I can’t wait to see where Ahsoka will go next, and we owe a lot of her strength and beauty to Ashley Eckstein.
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