The Season 1 finale of Star Wars Rebels was a game-changer. The animated series takes place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and Season 1 focused on a small band of insurgents fighting back against the Empire. We’re seeing how the Rebel Alliance was formed, and the finale showed that it’s all starting to come together. As our rebels rescued Kanan from the grips of the Empire, they learned about the existence of other rebel cells. Rather than continue to operate separately, it seems like they’re going to unite and strategically plan against the Empire. Hera’s contact Fulcrum is one of the rebel leaders who has been feeding missions to the crew of Ghost, and we now know that–spoiler alert–Fulcrum is Ahsoka Tano.
Ahsoka was introduced to the Star Wars universe in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. She was the Padawan of Anakin Skywalker and transformed from a somewhat bratty kid into a wise leader who eventually realized the Jedi Order was not for her. She’s gone on quite the journey, and Ashley Eckstein’s been right there with her. Eckstein has voiced the Togruta from the beginning and is reprising the role for Star Wars Rebels. I spoke to Eckstein about keeping her return a secret, what Ahsoka’s been up to, and Ahsoka’s future.
Nerdist: The identity of Fulcrum was the biggest secret of Season 1 of Rebels. What’s it been like to keep this under wraps?
Ashley Eckstein: It’s been a hard secret to keep. I’ve known the secret for about a year now, and it’s just been so tough because I haven’t lied to the fans–Dave Filoni [executive producer of Rebels] has told me we don’t want to lie about it–but I can’t tell the truth, so what do you really say? So when friends would ask me over and over and over again “Is Ahsoka going to be in Rebels? Are we going to see Ahsoka again?” I would just have to say, “Well, you know, she’s still alive. It’s kind of too soon to tell. You know, they’re still writing Rebels. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see her one day.”
But once Fulcrum came into the storyline and the fans–who are so fantastic–pitched up Fulcrum’s voice and said, “Okay, that sounds like Ashley and the way that she speaks,” I pretty much went into hiding because I didn’t know what to say. So I kind of avoided interviews, all podcasts, really all social media about the subject until after the finale aired because I didn’t know what to say about it, and I didn’t want to lie about it.
N: Social media pretty much exploded after the Fulcrum reveal. Were you online watching reactions or did you try to stay away from the Internet?
AE: No, I was definitely watching. I think the thing is because I’m a fan, too. As a fan of Ahsoka, I’m so excited that she’s back. I had actually never seen the episode before. I did get a chance to see just that clip when she walks down the ladder, but I didn’t get to see the episode in its entirety. I watched it on the East coast feed the first time, and I got chills. I did get emotional about it. It was so exciting. And then to find out the Season 5 finale of Clone Wars where Ahsoka walked away was on March 2nd, 2013. And the Season 1 finale of Star Wars Rebels where Ahsoka appeared again was on March 2nd, 2015. So it was exactly two years apart, and it was not planned. The fans actually pointed that out on social media, and it just gave me chills. I couldn’t believe it. I feel like it’s some kind of weird fate thing.
But I do want to apologize to all the fans who were spoiled by my social media posts. Because I did get a lot of complaints, and I did read all of the complaints about the fact that by my posting, I spoiled it for them. Honestly, I sincerely apologize. Please keep in mind this was a secret that I had been keeping for over a year, and I just couldn’t contain myself. I was so excited to finally talk about it that once the cat was out of the bag I just really couldn’t contain my excitement. So I do apologize, and I hope the fans accept my apology.
N: When we last saw Ahsoka at the end of Season 5 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, she was much younger. She has to be 30-ish now. Did that make you approach her voice differently?
AE: I definitely lowered my voice for Ahsoka in Rebels. It’s funny, Ahsoka and I are pretty much the same age now so I was asking Dave about how I should do her voice, and he said, “Well, think about it. You’re the same age as Ahsoka right now. How much older do you really sound than you did when you were in your late teens, early 20s?” And I do sound a little bit different, but not that much different. I definitely tried to lower my pitch, but I didn’t want to make her sound too different.
N: She did sound similar to before. And though I didn’t catch the similarities, some fans picked up on Ahsoka being Fulcrum because of the voice.
AE: Yeah, I voiced Fulcrum. I just spoke normal and then Dave worked with Matthew Wood and David Acord up at Skywalker Sound to change the voice. In one other episode Dave did bring in somebody else to do the voice of Fulcrum since the fans had already pitched up my voice and discovered it was me. Because technically Fulcrum could be anybody. That’s kind of an overall term. But that was more for deception. I had originally recorded all the Fulcrum lines.
N: I’ve seen Dave Filoni mention that Ahsoka will be around in Season 2 but used sparingly. What you can tease about where she is and her role in the budding Rebel Alliance?
AE: We’re still actually recording, so there’s a lot that I don’t know even, but there’s a lot of mystery. Ahsoka has become a very mysterious character, and she’s definitely on her own journey and trying to seek out answers. That’s really all I can say. There are a lot of unanswered questions that she has, and she still will remain very mysterious.
N: Hmm. Can you hint at whether we’ll learn anything about what she’s been up to since she left the Jedi Order and now?
AE: To tell you honestly, I don’t know. There’s still a lot that I have yet to record. So it’s an honest answer. I’m not trying to be deceptive when I say I don’t know. And as a fan, I hope so because I want to know what she was doing for all those years. I know it’s out there as a complete joke that she was on a pony farm eating cupcakes, but we all know with Ahsoka that was not the case. Whatever she did and wherever she was has to be beyond fantastic, and I’m dying to know what that story is.
N: Me too! Rebels has a different cast than The Clone Wars; what has it been like coming into this group?
AE: I just recently I did my first cast record which was very cool. I got to be in the studio with Taylor Gray and Freddie Prinze Jr. and Steve Blum and it was just so cool. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Vanessa [Marshall] and Tiya [Sircar] couldn’t be there that day; they had to record their lines separately. But I got to know Tiya and Vanessa as well. They’re just so lovely, so fantastic.
I think the biggest change for me though which is so weird–I did have to adjust my performance a little bit based upon this–because Ahsoka in the Clone Wars up until the very end really, she’s always the student. She was the Ezra Bridger of Clone Wars. She was the Padawan, the Jedi-in-training. And now she’s the teacher, the mentor, the veteran. And so to truly be that role, it was a big change at first. A mental change. I oddly feel that way just as Ashley interacting with the Rebels cast because after being a part of the Star Wars universe literally since 2008 interacting with the fans I feel oddly like the veteran. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve personally given advice to the Rebels actors about what to expect, what it’s like, and it’s weird. It’s weird to go from student to teacher, in a way, and I don’t say that in a cocky way of like I’m all knowing because I’m not. But it’s weird to see this fresh-eyed cast come in and all the excitement. And I’m just as excited, but it’s different. I don’t know. I can’t think of any other word besides veteran.
N: In your personal opinion, do you think Ahsoka knows what happened to Anakin?
AE: You know I go back and forth on this, and only Dave Filoni knows. You know, I don’t know. I don’t know if she knows because I don’t know where she’s been the past several years. However, I do think that whenever it is that she finds out that he’s Darth Vader, I think she’ll be crushed because it’s still Anakin Skywalker to her. It’s family and it’s essentially her older brother. And during the Clone Wars I don’t think Ahsoka ever believed Anakin could fall to the dark side. I mean, she only saw Anakin as a hero. So I honestly don’t know if she knows, but whenever that happens I think she’ll be crushed. That’s just my opinion.