Just recently, Ahsoka Tano made her first live-action appearance on television in “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, and fans of the animated Star Wars shows were ecstatic! But Star Wars Weekends fans know that wasn’t actually her first live-action appearance. We discuss her appearances and speak with the one who originated the role, Ashley Eckstein.
For those of you who don’t know, Ahsoka Tano is a former Jedi Padawan to Anakin Skywalker who helped establish a network of rebel cells against the Galactic Empire, under the codename Fulcrum. She made her debut in 2008 with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (animated film and series), and made appearances in “Star Wars Rebels” and “Star Wars Forces of Destiny.” She even had a voiceover cameo in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and has a novel called “Ahsoka” by E.K. Johnston. She actually made her first live-action appearance at Star Wars Weekends 2008 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the same year she debuted in any form.
Ahsoka was one of the only female Jedi in the series whose journey was prominently featured in the entire franchise until Rey’s debut in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Since her debut, Ahsoka has grown with her fans, who have grown to love her in so many different ways. She’s become so popular that she has her own dedicated merchandise in the Disney Parks – like Mickey ears, apparel from Her Universe, legacy lightsabers from “Star Wars Rebels” and the new color-changing legacy lightsabers from “Star Wars The Clone Wars.”
And now, Ahsoka is being introduced to an entirely new audience through her debut in “The Mandalorian,” played by Rosario Dawson. We got the chance to interview Ashley Eckstein, the voice of the animated Ahsoka Tano and the founder of the Her Universe clothing line, about Ahsoka and more.
How does it feel to see Ahsoka brought to live-action life on screen and to see her introduced to a whole new audience?
To see how much joy this character is bringing the people is really, really exciting. And then, to know that because of Ahsoka appearing in “The Mandalorian,” millions of more people are finding out about Ahsoka for the first time. That’s really exciting and I hope they go back to watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels,” because to truly understand the power of Ahsoka, I think you have to go on that journey with her.
I watched Ahsoka grow in the Star Wars universe—”Clone Wars” to “Rebels”—in the animated series. As she grew as a character, people grew with her, and grew to love her if they didn’t instantly, like I did. How would you describe or summarize her path throughout the shows? I know that’s a big question.
Oh, my goodness. It is a big question, because there are not too many characters we have the opportunity to truly grow up with. I mean, we got to meet Ahsoka in 2008 and so, if you think about it, you don’t have too many characters where you have the opportunity to spend that much time with [them]. There are certain fans where they literally grew up with Ahsoka Tano. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of Ahsoka’s journey from the beginning. And you know, I am so grateful to all the fans who have been on the journey with her […] and boy, the journey is a lot longer than I ever thought it would be. I didn’t know Ahsoka would go on to be in seven seasons of “Clone Wars,” then four seasons of “Star Wars: Rebels,” “Forces of Destiny,” [Star Wars] Episode 9, books, comics and then now “The Mandalorian.” Ahsoka Tano is such a beautiful gift and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
You recently surprised guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during a lightsaber meet-up and offered them the chance to be the first to buy Ahsoka’s brand new lightsabers. How was that experience?
So the backstory to that was truly the Force at work. It was very last-minute, impromptu, and it started with the fans. A couple of fans from the lightsaber Discord actually reached out to me a couple months prior and let me know they were having this meet-up, inviting me to come. Well, I was actually in the middle of a move and I had completely lost track of all sense of time – I had forgotten about the actual dates. But, a very good friend of mine that works for Disney – he’s a cast member, Brad Schoeneberg. He and his team actually created the lightsabers and they’re the ones who brought them to life and reality for all the fans at the parks. I reached out to Brad because I knew the lightsabers were going to be released soon. I said, “Hey, I know we can’t necessarily do traditional signing because of COVID, but I know the lightsabers are coming out soon—I don’t know when they’re coming out—and I just want to reach out to see if I can pre-sign some cases, help promote the launch and whatever I can do. I just want to help and bring joy to the fans however I can.”
The day before the meet up, Brad said, “Shoot. We’re actually having a meet-up with the fans tomorrow and we’re gonna surprise them by releasing Ahsoka’s lightsabers as a surprise. They’re gonna be the first to get them.”
Then, it clicked! I remembered the fans had actually invited me to that photo. I said, “Well, Brad, they actually invited me to that photo. Would it be okay if I showed up and be in the photo too, and maybe I can help you launch the lightsaber?” He was like, “Let me check with the parks and see if I can set it up.” I asked, “Would be okay if I showed up early and sign all the cases?” So he called me back about 30 minutes later and said, “Yes, let’s do this!” This was literally five o’clock the night before.
So, sure enough, the next day, I showed up a couple of hours prior and I signed all the cases they had. I think I signed 296 cases […] I was able to walk out from behind the Millennium Falcon as they were posing for the photo and I said, “Hey guys! Is it okay if I join your photo?” It was truly one of the most memorable days of my entire life and I got to be in the photo, then went into Dok-Ondar’s, had a socially-distanced kind of meet-and-greet with the fans and take photos with everyone. It was a special day.
Have you ever gotten the chance to appear in the parks as Ahsoka? If not, would you jump at the chance?
Oh, absolutely! I have had the exciting opportunity to completely dress-up in Ahsoka cosplay [in 2012]. It was truly a surreal day. To combine the voice with the costume with the lekku (head-tails) and the lightsabers, it really felt like I became Ahsoka Tano and it was so exciting. It was truly one of the most memorable days of my entire life, so I hope I get to do it again!
The bulk of my acting career was actually in live-action. Being the voice of Ahsoka was my first big voiceover job. Prior to that, I was mostly [in] television and film. I’ve been outspoken for years that I hope I get the opportunity to play her in live-action one day and, of course, I would jump at the chance, but I always say, I celebrate anything with Ahsoka Tano. Whether I get to be involved or not, anything with Ahsoka should be celebrated.
If you want to see Ahsoka in a whole different light, check out her many appearances in the old Hyperspace Hoopla,Dance Off with the Star Wars Stars from Star Wars Weekends:
Here’s a video of Ahsoka’s first appearance on stage at Star Wars Weekends in 2008:
Look for our full interview with Ashley Eckstein in the Spring 2021 issue of Attractions Magazine coming in mid-March.