Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Hera Syndulla in a scene from Disney+'s 'Ahsoka.' Hera is a Twi'lek with green skin, bright blue eyes, and two long, tentacle-like appendages coming out of the back of her head and hanging behind her. She wears a brown leather aviator hat with goggles at her forehead and a brown leather bomber jacket with light brown fleece at the collar.

This Is Why ‘Ahsoka’s Hera Syndulla Looks So Familiar

Disney+’s Star Wars shows have attracted some top-tier talent over the past few years, drawing actors normally known for their work on the big screen to our smaller TV screens. Of course, getting to play in the Star Wars sandbox is a huge deal even for the most casual fan, and as we’ve seen from shows like Andor, even a TV series set in the world of a popular genre franchise can allow for intelligent, incisive work as an actor.

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Ahsoka is General Hera Syndulla’s first live-action appearance after audiences got the chance to fall in love with her over four seasons of Star Wars: Rebels, in which she was voiced by Vanessa Marshall. So, who did they choose to bring this beloved character to life?

None other than Ramona Flowers herself—Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Where do we know Mary Elizabeth Winstead from?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers in a scene from 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.' Ramona is a white teenage girl with chin-length, bright pink hair wearing a blue hoodie under a brown jacket.
(Universal Pictures)

Winstead has been acting for over 25 years, and should be familiar to fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror for her early work as the antagonist in Disney’s Sky High, as the protagonist in Final Destination 3, and as one of several badass women in Death Proof—the much better half of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double-feature. Yes, that’s a fact. No, I will not be taking questions at this time.

She’s had a long and varied career in film and TV, but it was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright’s film adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, that took Winstead to the next level. She played Ramona Flowers, the damn-near-mythic love interest to Michael Cera’s Scott Pilgrim. Winstead epitomized “cool,” but also infused the role with a sweet vulnerability, making it nearly impossible for viewers not to have a crush on her.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle in a scene from Paramount's '10 Cloverfield Lane.' Ramona is a white woman with chin length brown hair and bangs. She's wearing a white undershirt and shorts and holding a white blanket up to her chest with a shocked expression on her face as she sits on the ground against a concrete basement wall.
(Paramount Pictures)

And then there was 10 Cloverfield Lane, directed by Prey‘s Dan Trachtenberg and hands-down the best installment in the Cloverfield “series” of films. Again, facts, and I will not be taking questions at this time.

Winstead played Michelle, a woman who leaves her fiancé after a fight only to get into a car accident during an emergency causing blackouts in several major cities. She’s knocked unconscious and wakes up chained to a wall in a concrete bunker. A very creepy man named Howard (John Goodman) has “saved” her, not only from her accident and injuries, but from a huge attack by either Russians or martians that has made the air outside unbreathable. He tells her that they can’t leave the bunker for a couple of years at least, because of fallout. The rest of the film is a compelling, tense thriller as Michelle tries to figure out her situation and get free of Howard.

While Ramona Flowers made me take notice of Winstead, her performance as Michelle in 10 Cloverfield Lane was what firmly made me a fan. It is fierce, brilliant, and thoroughly human while also bringing the action hero vibes.

Who is Hera Syndulla?

A side-by-side image of Hera Syndulla in the animated series 'Star Wars: Rebels' (voiced by Vanessa Marshall) and in the live-action series 'Ahsoka,' played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead
(Disney+)

We first met hotshot pilot Hera Syndulla on Star Wars: Rebels, as the revolutionary leader who builds a resistance movement on the planet Lothal along with a small but mighty team of rebels on her starship, The Ghost. Hera and her “Specters” eventually free Lothal from the Empire, and Hera, having risen in the resistance ranks throughout, eventually becomes a General in the New Republic.

She also experienced her fair share of heartache. One of the Specters was the Jedi Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.), her romantic partner and eventually the father of her child. During their resistance efforts, Kanan sacrifices himself to ensure that the rest of the team can get away safely and becomes one with the Force, leaving Hera heartbroken raise their child on her own.

She also loses another beloved Rebels teammate when Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) allows himself to be taken into hyperspace by purrgil to ensure Grand Admiral Thrawn’s removal from Lothal. There’s no way for the other rebels to know if Ezra or Thrawn would survive that or not, and as Ezra leaves, it very much sounds like he’s saying his final goodbyes.

It’s after these events that we meet Hera again in Ahsoka, where Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) has gotten word that, despite the fall of the Empire and the dawn of a New Republic, a new threat is emerging: folks are actively looking for Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), which means he might still be alive.

Which means Ezra (Eman Esfandi) might also still be alive.

So, when Ahsoka tracks down her first clue to Thrawn’s whereabouts, her first order of business is going to Ezra’s closest people, Hera and Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), for their help.

What Winstead brings to live-action Hera

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Winstead talked about what a luxury it was not only to play a role that already had such a rich backstory, but to have access to Dave Filoni, who created both Rebels and Ahsoka, in preparing her performance.

Winstead had this to say about Hera:

“I see Hera as an incredibly strong but complicated person. She is very maternal, but also she’s this leader of this crew. And as we see, she continues and becomes a general. And so she’s leading quite a lot of people and she’s become something of a legend in her own right. […] She’s also very soft and warm, and people come to her for advice and solace and comfort. Seeing those things combined is very unusual, and something that I really wanted to play on screen, because that’s such a aspirational thing, I think, as a woman — or just a person — to be able to be all of those things in one.”

In addition to being a fierce actor, Winstead is a mother, so she surely brings these parts of herself to this performance. She’s also the newest member of a Star Wars family; her husband is actor Ewan McGregor, whom we know as Obi-Wan Kenobi. So, in addition to getting to play an amazing and nuanced female character, she has knowledgeable support at home as she becomes part of one of the biggest franchises in pop culture history.

Here’s to more General Hera Syndulla in the Star Wars universe!

(featured image: Disney+)


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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.