A Conversation with Ashley Eckstein
Out of all The Clone Wars characters, who’s your favourite besides Ahsoka?
I would say my favourite character from The Clone Wars other than Ahsoka is Anakin Skywalker. I love the relationship between Anakin and Ahsoka, and I really feel that The Clone Wars does an amazing job showcasing the hero side of Anakin.
You know, a side that you know we didn't get to see as much [in the Prequels] because there's only so much time between Episode I, II & III to tell this whole story of Anakin Skywalker. We didn't get all of those, what I like to call, daily slices of life. Because of The Clone Wars, we got to see the day-to-day stories of what made Anakin the hero that he is and I just love it.
Oh yeah, I completely agree there. Would you want to keep voicing Ahsoka in some way if you were given the chance?
Yeah, absolutely I would return to voice Ahsoka if given the chance, you know, but I kind of I view it as I'm just so grateful for the 15 years that we've had. It started with The Clone Wars. I started recording The Clone Wars back in 2006, and you know, it came out in 2008, but a lot of people don't realize we recorded it for two years before it ever came out. I thought we'd be lucky to have a season or two of The Clone Wars. Never did I imagine I'd be here today talking about The Clone Wars and that we’d get to do a 7th season. So I feel very blessed.
That was my next question! What was it like after all those years to come back for Season 7 on Disney+?
The best way to describe coming back for season seven would be it just felt like such a gift, you know? I feel like people know by now, but The Clone Wars was cancelled at the end of season five and we were not planning on ending there. We were well into Season 6 and about to start Season 7. We were still making the show and it was cancelled out of the blue and we never had that chance to say goodbye to these characters, to the cast and to the crew. It was a very sad occasion for sure, so I think I put The Clone Wars into a chamber of my heart, locked the door and protected it because it was this very special thing. I give so much credit to the fans because they never gave up. They always used the hashtag #SavetheCloneWars. I’m a very positive person but I would have told you that there was no chance for The Clone Wars to ever come back.
I just thought it was done forever and I think in hindsight I was like protecting my heart because I didn't want to get my hopes up. When I did get the news that it was coming back, I was blown away. You could say in a good way. I was completely blindsided because it wasn't something that was even on my radar. So it's very, very cool. It was a gift because we got to properly say goodbye. Then we got to properly wrap up the stories of these characters, especially with Ahsoka and Captain Rex. And I feel like they deserved that after all those seasons.
Yeah, it worked out perfectly. I have to ask, what was it like to come back as Ahsoka for Rise of Skywalker?
Rise of Skywalker... It definitely is one of the most special things I think in my entire career. Being a Star Wars fan, to be a part of the Skywalker saga, like something that I grew up watching that shaped my childhood and has changed my life, to be a part of that is just so special to me. Hands down one of the top moments of my career. For Ahsoka, most importantly for the character of Ahsoka Tano, who started out where most people didn't like her.
And now she's a fan favourite.
Yeah! Bringing this character that most people hated to this fan favourite character and then, even though The Clone Wars is considered canon, George Lucas very much is clear that he considers it canon, but to give her credibility in such a way to be in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, it just it kind of cements her character. I was so proud of her to be included in in the film. Not to mention getting the chance to work with J.J. Abrams was incredible.
It’s so crazy because at that point Ahsoka was really just in The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, and then Ahsoka is now in a live action film. Obviously now we know she’s been in The Mandalorian and is getting her own live action show. Did you have any involvement with those?
I didn't have any involvement in The Mandalorian. I wish I did. You know, I sadly didn't have any involvement and who knows about this Ahsoka show.
Well, it's still far away.
I mean if they wanna ask Dave Filoni, that would be great.
We'll get that trending, get a new hashtag going. We once found out that there is a group chat with Marvel’s Avengers. Do you guys have any type of chat with all The Clone Wars cast?
Oh yeah, I mean we don't have like one thread but we're always messaging each other and we have a couple of group threads and then we have individual threads. But it's there's such a bond between our entire cast, where if anyone at any moment calls or sends out a message and needs help or needs support, we all come running. I mean, we are forever family, all of us. It's just truly a tight knit bond and I credit it to recording the episodes as a cast. We always came together like an old radio drama and recorded the show as a cast. Like I said, we've been working together since 2006, so we truly are family at this point.
I love that. I'm so glad everyone is still in touch. Now on Instagram you do #TanoTuesday every week with lots of Ahsoka quotes. If you had to pick one, what's your fave quote of hers?
Oh! Oh gosh. It's kind of a tie now between two, but I would say ultimately, my favourite, and I must say it’s just by barely my favourite because it’s so close, but it's a quote from Star Wars: Rebels where she says “This is a new day, a new beginning.” I just love what that stands for. I mean to me, Ahsoka represents hope and there's so much hope in that quote, meaning that every new day is a gift.
I do also love the quote from Season 7 of The Clone Wars, where she says “In my life, when you find people who need your help, you help them no matter what. I guess it's just who I am.” I just love that quote so much that it actually became my own personal motto. I often ask myself what would Ahsoka do and my answer is that Ahsoka would do the right thing and she would help others no matter what.
Haha, mine is "I am no Jedi". Changing topics a little bit, you founded the company HerUniverse. What inspired that?
You could definitely say that Ahsoka inspired me to start her universe but also the fans. I’ve been a lifelong Star Wars fan, so I started to promote The Clone Wars back in 2008. I wanted to wear Star Wars t-shirts to press events and movie screenings. I went shopping and I quickly came up empty handed and I was told to just buy a men's size small because women and girls would not buy merchandise made for them. So I thought, “well, this can't be right” because I know I'm not alone.
I would go to conventions and it almost felt like half of the attendees were women and this was back in, you know 2008, 2009. I started doing my research and I was able to get my hands on the attendance for the top five conventions around the world at the time and 45% of all attendees were women, and 85% of all consumer purchases were being made by women at these shows. I thought, well, I'm not a mathematician, but these numbers are not adding up. If you make merchandise, we will buy it.
But the thing that really propelled me to start HerUniverse was that in my research, I read story after story of women and girls who are being bullied and they're being bullied terribly for just being Star Wars fans. We had a huge stereotype to break and I thought, you know, it's so hurtful to not be who you are because as we both know being a fan is a part of you. It's a part of your heart and a part of your soul. It's not like a trend, it's not something you're into one day and out of the next.
So I literally asked myself. What would Ahsoka do? And my answer was, Ahsoka would stand up for fangirls. And so I created HerUniverse more as a community for female fans.
That’s so inspiring. Well I’m certainly glad you started it. Do you have a go-to Ahsoka piece from the collection that you wear the most?
I love the shirt you're wearing [referring to the TANO sweatshirt]. That's the original Tano shirt we worked on with Daniel Kennedy who worked at Lucasfilm. He was helping run conventions and many things at Lucasfilm and he was a brilliant artist. I went to him one day and I was like, hey Daniel, you need to design an Ahsoka shirt for me and he said “Oh my gosh, that's always been my dream.” I was like OK well I'm gonna make it happen. I told him that if he gave me an Ahsoka design, we will make it. Sure enough, he designed that original Tano shirt that you're wearing and it's become one of our most popular shirts to date.
Could you tell the fans about your book It’s Your Universe?
The fact that this book exists, the fact that I was able to write a book, it just proves that the impossible is possible. I said I would never write a book. I didn't believe that I could and I just didn't believe that I had the talent to do it. I was fine with that. I'm like, well I have many many skills and talents. Writing a book is just not one of them.
When the opportunity presented itself to write this book for Disney, I went to them and I said, hey, I don't think I can write it and they said that they were gonna give me an author and she can write it and we can work together. Her name is Stacey Kravtiz. I didn't want my book to be a memoir or autobiography. I want it to be very inspirational to the reader. I wanted it to be more of an advice book and so after we talked for a bit, Stacey came to me and she said “OK, here's what I think you're trying to say. You are breaking everything down into steps on how to make your dreams come true, of how to dream it and do it” and she's told me that's what I should do. She wrote a rough draft of the book and she presented it to me and it was a great book. But it wasn't in my voice.
I felt like if this was going to be my book, it needed to be in my voice. I realized Stacey gave me the best gift which was an outline and that's when I realized, that's why I couldn't write a book. I didn't know how to create an outline. Since I had it from Stacey, I just locked myself away at home for literally a week and a half. I wrote nonstop and I wrote the way that I talk and I ended up writing the book myself, and it's something I'm very proud of. I truly tell people if I can do this, then you can do anything.
Basically if you can write this book, anything is possible.
Exactly, haha. I share my story as an example to say: here's what I did, here's why I believed I could, and here's how you can do it too. The book is really a step-by-step guide for the reader on how to dream it and how to make those dreams come true. By the end of the book, the reader should have a road map on how to make their dreams happen.
I was watching your Instagram Live the other day and you said you’ve just finished writing a new book. Is there anything you can tell us? Or is that confidential?
Yeah, I mean I can tell a little bit. This is another nonfiction book and it's actually a Star Wars lifestyle book, so it's a book about how to live your best Star Wars life all year long. I am constantly incorporating Star Wars into my life, whether it's Star Wars recipes or throwing a Star Wars party or doing a Star Wars craft with my nieces and nephews or even turning my backyard into my own Kessel run. I'm naturally doing these things. So I’m talking with my friends over at Lucasfilm and they asked if I would ever consider writing a Star Wars lifestyle book. That’s how it happened.
It’s a years’ worth of how to live your best Star Wars life all in one book. It'll come out later next year. I'm very excited about it. I just officially turned in the first draft, so there’s a little more work to go, but it's all written.
I can’t wait. I’m sure so many fans will appreciate these tips on adding even more Star Wars into their lives. Speaking of fans, I want to know what the coolest thing is that a fan made for you?
Oh my goodness There have been so many things up and that's one thing I'm so grateful for. With Star Wars fans, Star Wars fans are so kind and I seriously come back with a suitcase full of gifts after every convention.
What, really? Oh my god.
Oh, it's unbelievable. Like the helmet behind you [referring to the 332nd Clone Trooper helmet], fans have given me helmets. I just got a real Ahsoka lekku that a fan made just for me. Fans have gifted me lightsabers and not just toy lightsabers but legit. Like $1000 lightsabers that they've handmade. Ones that change colors and have my voice in it. It's just crazy. You know they've given me hand stitched pillows that are on my couch and they've given me beautiful pieces of wood that have Ahsoka burned into it. There are so so many things. I just keep it all. I keep everything so I just want fans to know how special these gifts are to me and how cherished they are. I love them so much so I can't pick just one.
I saw a while ago there was a dragon that was painted like Ahsoka that you signed. Crazy! What are a few of the more interesting things that you’ve signed?
Oh gosh, yeah, I mean that dragon was really cool because it was a one-of-a-kind piece. It was so great. I really appreciate people's one of a kind pieces that they put a lot of work into. I think the thing I've gotten a lot over the past year is tattoos. People are having me sign their arms or their legs and then having my autograph tattooed on them. That is very nerve wracking because you gotta get your autograph just right.
Woah, has anyone come back and been like “here it is, I got it”?
Yeah! Fans have literally had me sign them and then they go straight to the tattoo parlor and come back to the convention the next day to show me.
I couldn't imagine the stress. If you mess up something like the ‘A’ even just a little bit, that's it.
Yeah, no, it’s uh, it's crazy. I will give a shout out to Marc Draven. He has the license to do Star Wars tattoos. He does several conventions all over. He's really good at perfecting my autograph on people's tattoos. If you're looking to tattoo my autograph on your body part, he's a good one to look at!
You go to the Disney Parks a lot when you're not at shows. So let's say dream scenario, you get to go anywhere. You get one Park, one ride and one restaurant. What are your top absolute must do's?
OK well this is going to be tough because. My one park would be EPCOT because I love all of the countries. I love the whole World Showcase, so if I could just pick one Park I would do that and one restaurant? It would probably be Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria at EPCOT because they have the best pizza.
I haven't had the pizza there. Is it that good?
Oh my gosh. Best pizza. I mean it's not even just at Disney World. It's probably my favourite pizza period.
Ever, it's so good. So that would be one Park and one restaurant, but my one ride would actually be at Animal Kingdom and it would be Flight of Passage. Everyone is like “oh what about Star Wars?” and I love the Star Wars rides but there's something about Flight of Passage that just blows my mind every single time.
Now your favourite restaurant is actually a good segue to my next question. On your website, you say you take your love of pizza very seriously, so I’m going to have you settle the age-old debate of pineapple on pizza, yes or no? As a professional pizza lover, weigh in.
I personally love pineapple on my pizza. I don't order it regularly, but I do occasionally love pineapple on my pizza. I will say instead of ham, I don't get pineapple and ham. I get pineapple and bacon.
Okay, any reason for that? Is the combo better?
Well I love bacon. But I don't know. I feel like bacon is a little bit saltier, a little bit crispier. The combination of the sweet of the pineapple and the saltiness and the crispiness of the bacon is such a good combo.
Then there we go! You have officially settled it. Pineapple does go on pizza. You’ll also get to try pizza from all over when you come to our FAN EXPO shows. What are you most excited for about coming to the shows for the first time?
I'm excited because I'm going to cities that I've never been to before for conventions, so I can't wait to meet new fans. Pretty much whenever I go to a new city, I meet hundreds and thousands of new fans that I've never met before, so I can't wait. For all the cities I'm coming to, I'm coming for you and I can't wait to make new friends.
Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans out there who are coming to see you?
Well, first of all, for everyone that's coming to one of the FAN EXPO shows I'm going to, I really, really hope that I get to meet you. I think you could probably tell from this interview but I'm so easy going and so laid back and I just I love spending my time meeting fellow fans. I guess I just want to say I can't wait to meet you.
Anything to the fans not coming to a FAN EXPO who just love you and Ahsoka?
I want to thank fans for their kindness. You know one lesson that I was taught was that kindness is powerful. Growing up my parents taught me to be kind. It was a rule in our house, but I never looked at kindness as a power. It wasn't until Ahsoka taught me that, in fact, it's the opposite. That kindness makes you extremely powerful, and it's one of the most powerful traits that you can possess.
I have been the benefactor from so many fans from around the world. They've been so kind to me and they've welcomed me and my family into their arms and I'm so thankful. I really just want to thank the fans for their kindness and I hope I get the chance to thank them in person one day.
Voice of Ahsoka Tano
I'm excited because I'm going to cities that I've never been to before for conventions, so I can't wait to meet new fans. Pretty much whenever I go to a new city, I meet hundreds and thousands of new fans that I've never met before, so I can't wait.