“This really is 1976. This is the year before, so a lot of things are going to happen,” said author John Jackson Miller towards the end of the Star Wars: A New Dawn panel on October 11, 2014, at New York Comic Con. Since the Disney acquisition in 2012, many things have happened, including the release of the novel A New Dawn and the animated television series Star Wars Rebels. The novel kicked off this new era of collaborative storytelling, taking readers on an adventure conceived under one unified vision. The series continues that vision, and given the acclaim from both critics and fans, Star Wars Rebels was renewed for a second season prior to its premiere on October 3.
The series keeps to the tone of Star Wars — Episode IV: A New Hope, which successfully combined humor, dark themes, and adventure. Fans got a deeper look at the brand new series this past weekend at NYCC.
Moderated by Christian Blauvelt, Deputy Culture Editor at BBC.com and a long time fan of Star Wars, the Star Wars Rebels panel kicked off with an insightful Q&A portion with Rebels voice actor Vanessa Marshall. From her personal interests to her role behind the scenes, the panel reaffirmed Marshall’s love for the Star Wars universe, proving once again that she is a wonderful role model and ambassador of the Star Wars community.
Blauvelt had an assorted collection of questions, some of his own and others from Twitter, making for an entertaining interview session. One of my own questions appeared during the panel, “Hera is so focused on her goal to fight back against the Empire, both in the series and in Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. We are aware of her strengths as a pilot and caregiver, but everyone has faults and weaknesses. Do you think Hera’s ‘obsession’ with fighting back is a weakness? If not, what sort of faults does Hera have that the rest of the crew may or may not know about?”
“She is supremely focused, as I said. I think maybe she needs to lighten up a little bit,” Marshall replied. “She is playful and she obviously has humorous remarks that she makes, but I wonder what it would be like if she could lighten up a little bit. Of course, the stakes are so high, there’s absolutely no room for that.”
Blauvelt also asked a question from TheForce.Net’s Eric Geller, “I’m sure you’ve seen Hera’s face on hundreds of collectibles already, but what is the one piece of Hera merchandise that you want to buy that you haven’t seen yet?”
Marshall laughed softly and went on to say that she has all of the merchandise, so far. “When I went to Star Wars Weekends, Allison from Cosplay For Jedi made me a set of lekku. She stayed up all night, made them with her own hands, and gave them to me at Star Wars Weekends and I wept. I would love to see my green lekku all over the place!” Marshall also mentioned her lekku from Spain, which she acquired from Twi’lek Paradise. It is with great hope that we see green lekku everywhere as the series continues.
Star Wars in the Classroom also had an excellent question about Marshall’s inspirations to which she responded with Han Solo and Princess Leia as well as the courageous female revolutionaries in Egypt.
On how Hera fits into the tradition of strong female characters in the Star Wars universe: “She’s very much like Leia. I did a lot of research of the Twi’leks, most of whom were slave dancers, as we know. But of course, there’s Aayla Secura. She was a Twi’lek Jedi. I also loved Bo-Katan. I think [Hera’s] an evolution of those characters.”
On Hera’s relationship with Sabine as a mentor: “[Sabine’s] the munitions expert. What I love about Sabine is that she’s an artist, and when she blows things up, she doesn’t just get rid of them. She tries to make them magnificent and beautiful and magenta, sort of like her armor. I love that her hair is blue. I mean, she’s so awesome. But I think, specifically, Hera does mentor her in the sense that Hera has scooped up all these people that have been maligned. I think she really needs to let Sabine know that this rebel alliance is not just another version of an organization, like the Imperial threat, because she was in school and had horrible things happen to her and her family. So I think she is constantly assuaging those fears that she’s becoming part of another organization. She’s sort of like a big sister and like a mom to her and has a ton of respect for her, so it’s not necessarily hierarchical. It’s quite equal.”
On Hera’s bond with Kanan: “If you read A New Dawn, you get a very good sense of how they came in to one another’s lives. Seeing as this is such a dark time and all the Jedi had just been slain, if you reveal that you are a Jedi, it’s a death sentence. What’s interesting is how–it’s almost like she sees his Force sensibilities, but she’s not going to take him on unless she knows for sure. He wants to let her know, but if he does, he might get killed. It’s a very strange way to get to know someone. And also, they talk about [how] Jedi aren’t supposed to have attachments, and people have asked about their possible romance or something like that. I think because they’re so organized around creating the rebel alliance, there’s really no room for romance. But, I also think that his relationship with Hera brings out his true nature and his true nature is to really, fully embrace being a Jedi. I think she brings that goodness out in him, and therefore, it’s an attachment in that sense, but it’s one that makes him more truly who he’s meant to be in a time when that’s probably not a good idea.”
On Hera’s relationship with Ezra: “Once again, you see how he proves himself. Hera sort of tests people, and when he opens the holocron, he obviously shows promise. She wants him on board. Hera is very much the leader, but most of the decisions are made with the entire crew, so everyone’s in agreement that he can and should join us…I think she has more faith in him than he has in himself, and I think what makes Hera so cool is that she helps these characters discover things that they didn’t even know they had inside to really get this job done. And what’s really lovely about it is that [Ezra] discovers [Kanan’s] lightsaber, you see how Kanan gets to realize that he is, in fact, a Jedi because I think he’s filled with doubt when his master was lost in Order 66. As it usually happens, the master also grows as he teaches his Padawan. And I think Hera’s excited to see that evolve and you really get that she’s rooting for Ezra.”
On the recording process: “It’s very collaborative…Luckily with Rebels, we all get to interact with one another. Dave Filoni brings us all together, we huddle up, he tells us what our goals are in this particular episode, how it impacts the entire saga, and then we break and we each go to our microphones. It just makes it so much more vibrant, and the collective energy, there’s so much love and we all love Star Wars so much that I think it’s palpable in the room. Sometimes, there’s some instances that we’ve done where there’s chase scenes or fight scenes, and we’re running the lines so quickly, I can see it in my mind. It’s so vivid, and it’s not necessarily the case with other jobs. The fact that Dave Filoni is really open to any line changes–I’ve said it before, Freddie Prinze, Jr., is hilarious. He can come up with anything and Dave embraces it. He is open to us exploring what our characters might do in that situation, and you don’t often find that either, especially with something as sacred as Star Wars.”
On Vanessa falling in love with Star Wars: The Clone Wars: “Anything Star Wars is going to speak to my heart. There’s that. I cannot thank them enough for making the original trilogy even better for me, because when I watch Return of the Jedi–that final moment–where there’s Luke and his father, you have such a deeper understanding of Anakin. I’m so grateful to The Clone Wars for that. Dave had us go back and watch certain things…so it was fun to go back and re-watch things in the context of knowing that we would be dealing with this portion in between III and IV. There are moments in that show that have touched my heart, like no other show on television. The animation, the music, Snips–I love Ahsoka.”
On what Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans will appreciate in Star Wars Rebels: “It’s the same team, so if you enjoyed Clone Wars, you can trust that the same people who created that–obviously, Ralph McQuarrie’s style is quite different. People commented on the Wookiee fur. Things look very different; it is its own unique brand. The flavor and the style are very much like The Clone Wars. Obviously, The Clone Wars dealt with a time that was incredibly dark…[Rebels] manages to have the high stakes more so of the original trilogy, where it is also dark and dangerous, but it’s the levity that keeps them going. There are a lot of jokes amid high drama, if you will. The darkness is like The Clone Wars and the quality of it is like The Clone Wars, but the fun and funniness of it is a lot like the original trilogy because we’re going from the darkness into the new hope. I think they’ll enjoy that journey.”
Other highlights included her reaction to the enthusiasm about the fan community, a handful personality questions about her favorites in Star Wars, and her story about Jason Isaacs playing golf during a recording session.
Following the Q&A, fans were treated to a brand new episode, premiering Monday, October 27. Directed by Steward Lee and written by Henry Gilroy, “Rise of the Old Masters” involves a deadly rescue operation into one of the most fortified prisons in Imperial territory.
Star Wars Rebels airs Monday nights at 9pm ET/ST on Disney XD. Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray exclusively at Walmart locations with a wider release on Tuesday, October 14.