Of all the characters introduced in Disney XD’s new Star Wars Rebels, the Mandalorian demolitions expert Sabine Wren is the most unique. That’s because in addition to being a skilled warrior she’s also an artist, someone we’ve not seen as a protagonist in a Star Wars TV show or movie. Like most of Rebels‘ cast, little is known of the pink-helmeted Sabine when we meet her in the series’ double-length premiere episode “Spark of Rebellion” (debuting Friday, October 3 on Disney Channels worldwide); so we tried to get some answers from the actress who voices her, Tiya Sircar (The Internship, 17 Again). Here’s the conversation that followed, in which Sircar discusses her own love of Star Wars and her experience wearing a slave Leia costume…
Nerdist: How was Sabine described to you when you first got involved with Star Wars Rebels?
Tiya Sircar: Yeah, well, she is obviously a Madalorian and is all those things that Star Wars fans want out of a Mandalorian. Without getting too much into her backstory, she has that background, of being a Mandalorian and a warrior and highly skilled and a munitions expert. So she blows things up, but she’s really good at it. [Laughs] Yet she is an artist, and that dichotomy is very interesting and unique in a Star Wars character, and it’s really fun to play. She’s got this interesting sensibility about her. Also, it’s interesting because she’s so young. She’s a teenager, and yet she’s very sharp, she’s very quick-witted, she’s highly intelligent, and she’s not worried about any of the superficial stuff that many teens are. [Laughs] She’s really a fun character to play. I really wish I could tell you more about her backstory because it’s so interesting.
N: Can you say how much of that backstory we’ll learn in this first season? Does she remain more mysterious than most of the characters by the end of this season?
TS: Yeah, I think that the crux of what happened in her past and what led her to this rebel faction and fighting against the empire, I think it’ll get fleshed out in seasons to come. I’m looking forward to that. But it is really interesting. Each of these characters has had serious stuff that’s happened to them in the past. Yes, there’s witty banter and there’s the comedy and fun and levity, but they’re damaged, and they’re here for a reason. I can’t wait for the audience get to see all that stuff fleshed out.
N: In the first episode, it looks there might be some sparks that fly between your character and the show’s youngest protagonist, Ezra. Or is that just my imagination?
TS: I think it’s in Ezra’s imagination! [Laughs] Yeah, Ezra’s this cocky little teenager, and he’s got this swagger about him. Sabine has no time. They’re only two years apart, but in her eyes he’s a child. “Who is this little pipsqueak?” She’s very busy. She’s got things to do. [Laughs]
N: She’s got bombs to build. [Laughs]
TS: Yeah, she’s got bombs to build. So it’s a little one-sided. It’s more just like, “Oh, who’s this girl?” He’s probably never even seen a girl like this before. She’s this super-savvy, very sophisticated… He can hardly believe she’s a teenager. So he wants to see what’s with this girl and she doesn’t give him the time of day. She’s the hardest one to win over when he becomes part of the crew. Zeb and he have a little bit of a combative nature to their relationship, but I think it’s all in good fun. And Kanan and Hera react to him in different ways, but of course they’re much more accepting of him. He really has to win Sabine over. She’s not nearly so accepting of this new kid becoming part of the crew.
N: You’ve said that you became a Star Wars fan later in life than most people…
TS: Yeah. The question of gender always comes up when we’re talking about Star Wars fans, and because I am sort of newer to it, when I take part in events I don’t even see it.
N: Some believe there’s a far greater number of young girls who are fans today than there were back in the ’70s, when all of the toys were marketed towards boys.
TS: Yeah, there are tons of female Star Wars fans, and they’re just as fanatic about it as the boys. Maybe I’m lucky because I have a different view of it. The special thing about Star Wars is you can come to it and become a fan at any age. It’s such an interesting franchise. I wasn’t lucky enough to see it as a young kid, and I didn’t have an older siblings that loved it and made me want to watch it too. But that’s okay, because once I finally got to it… I am a bonafide fan now and I love it and want to know as much about it as I can learn. I think that’s what makes Star Wars special — you didn’t have to grow up on it. You can come to it at any point in your life and still really come to know it and love it.
N: As an artist, your character is someone we haven’t followed before in the Star Wars universe. Instead, we’ve had plenty of soldiers, Jedi, and scoundrels. One would imagine she’ll inspire quite a few young women. Are you looking forward to seeing a lot of people cosplaying as Sabine?
TS: Yeah, I hope so. I think it’s amazing. I’ve gotten to see a few things on Twitter and online – people putting their Halloween costumes together. But man, the outpouring of excitement and support from Star Wars fans about these characters has just been overwhelming and so wonderful. It could have been really intimidating. It was initially, because this is Star Wars after all. And even though I’m not an expert like Freddie [Prinze, Jr.] or Vanessa [Marshall], I know it’s Star Wars, and I know what that means, the scope of that… Although maybe I didn’t really know and now I’m getting the sense of that. [Laughs] But yeah, the fan reaction has been so positive that all of the initial anxiety that I might have felt about big shoes to fill has dissipated quickly. Because it’s like being welcomed into a family.
N: Hey, speaking of Halloween, what are your plans this year?
TS: I probably should dress up as a Star Wars character I think. [Laughs.] I don’t know. Getting caught up in all this stuff, when I see these characters…
N: Your costume would definitely make the fan sites.
TS: [Laughs] It’s so awesome, yeah. In a movie, the character I played was a big cosplay enthusiast, and her fantasy cosplay character was Star Wars‘ Leia, and they actually made me a Leia costume. It was slave girl Leia.
N: Well God bless them for that.
N: [Laughs] Let me just tell you, I had to wear this on camera, and I have a whole new appreciation for those girls — and dudes — whoever wear slave girl Leia costumes. There is not a lot to it. Oh my gosh. They didn’t let me keep that, and I don’t know if I’d have the guts to wear it out. But I have done it once!
N: You’ve paid your dues. I guess there are other Leia costumes you can wear.
TS: Yeah, yeah. I’ll find something. [Laughs]
N: Thank you so much for your time, Tiya.
TS: Thank you so much!
Star Wars Rebels premieres tonight, October 3, at 9 pm on Disney XD.