Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Editor
Official Description: The almost 20-year stretch of Star Wars history between Episodes III and IV is a dark time in the galaxy that has never before been explored on screen. The evil Galactic Empire has tightened its grip and only a select few are brave enough to stand against tyranny and ignite a rebellion. Join Star Wars Rebels executive producers Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg as well as series stars Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, and Taylor Gray for an exclusive preview of what’s to come this Fall on Disney XD in this eagerly awaited television series from Lucasfilm Animation.
The panel opened with a clip from the TV show, which looked absolutely fantastic. The animation is smooth and comparable to the Clone Wars series. The fight sequence of it all looked fluid and absolutely thrilling like any other Star Wars production.
Dave Filoni talked about the lightsaber of the antagonist, the Inquisitor–the one that turns from the single to a double blade and spins. It was actually an unused design from The Force Unleashed.
Simon Kinberg: The question was “when” this show was going to be made. We wanted to create a show that was a precursor to those films. That was the first decision that we made–that it was pre-New Hope and really be the formation of the Rebels.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. talked about how he would act out his characters movements during recording for the show. He’ll use a lightsaber or act out the force push.
Dave Filoni: There are pivotal lightsaber fights that are important to the characters. These characters don’t want to be out in the open–what happens to all these people that are out there that are intuitive with the life force that way? The lightsaber fights are held back so that they’re for a pivotal point in our character’s development.
Collins: What’s your relationship with the other characters of the show?
Taylor Gray: Ezra first meets the Rebel crew and isn’t sure he wants to join them. At first, he’s a little standoff-ish, but as he progresses, he gets close to each one of them.
They showed another clip of the show, featuring Ezra running through a cityscape, pursued by Stomtroopers, and gets rescued by Zeb. Again, the animation was done incredibly well: fluid and seamless, it appears to have gotten better from The Clone Wars.
Kinberg: Comedy was a huge part of the first films, and that came from character, characters we love. We sort of imagined the crew as a little family. Zeb’s like the bully older brother and Ezra’s the youngest sibling and the newbie. Obviously, family is such a big part of the original Star Wars as well. We mine a lot of that in the show. In the room, there’s a mandate to make it fun, but always from a place of character. It has to feel organic to the character.
Collins: How long have you been recording for Rebels? How has it been?
Vanessa Marshall: About a year.
Freddie Prinze, Jr.: When we get to be there and record together, it’s organic. I think you’re foolish if you don’t look for those moments of levity in the script.
Marshall: It moves so quickly, so when we’re together it just moves so fast. We can see the action in our minds and it’s so much more vivid when we’re together.
Tiya Sircar: We’ve each begun to embody our characters. For example, Hera’s the mother of the group and so is Vanessa. Freddie is sort of the big bro and making sure everyone’s cool. Steve is the clown, always making us laugh. Taylor’s Ezra and we’re always picking on him!
Collins: Is there any opportunity for improv?
Prinze, Jr.: Not really, since it’s pretty solid. You don’t need too much to be solid.
Sircar: Dave pushes us to take liberty and speak up to make it a collaborative effort.
Steve Blum: One out of thirty times, they choose the one I threw out!
Prinze, Jr.: Before we start each episode, Dave sort of addresses his soldiers. We get so much information and so many details from him–he sets up the world that we follow. If you don’t understand the Star Wars world, it’s like being in Greece! By episode 5, 6, we’re speaking the language.
Collins: In this era, you get to deal with Stormtroopers and TIE Fighters–what was that like?
Filoni: I love that era, I love the prequel era, but when we sat down and drew Stormtroopers and TIE Fighters, it was surreal. We’ve never done that. It’s really special to see these things coming to life again. I haven’t seen a Star Destroyer in a new shot in a long time. All our vehicles are relating more towards the original trilogy. There’s going to be so much Star Wars content coming out–it’s going to be incredible, but we wanted to make it have its own feel. The crew that works with me–many of whom were on Clone Wars–there’s no fatigue. It’s like Day One all over again!
Kinberg: When I was a kid, I never imagined I would be making a new Star Wars–I just wanted to see one! There is a religion of Star Wars that’s different from any other title, and so there’s a different responsibility that comes with it. The fun of Rebels is to return to the original films.
Collin: Do you feel the pressure?
Marshall: No! It’s just so effortless because the writing is so amazing!
Sircar: Also, I think the fans have been so overwhelmingly supportive, in person and on Twitter. Initially, I was a little intimidated, but people who haven’t even seen the show yet have been loving and supportive! I can’t wait for everyone to see the show and hopefully love it still! I’ve been getting tweets and messages in Mando, so I’m trying to learn quickly!
And another clip was shown between the two women characters of the show: Sabine and Hera. They’re entering into an abdoned hanger, looking for something. The clip took a turn to a more suspense and horro-feel to it, with ominous music in the background and creatures lurking in the shadows.
Collins: What I love about that scene is that it’s different, with the suspense. Can you talk a bit about that?
Filoni: The great thing about Star Wars is that you can tell any kind of story. When you’re dealing with dark characters like the Inquisitor or strange creatures, it gets a little darker. You know, when Vader came on in the old movies, it gets serious–you get out! We haven’t had that in a long time and I think we need to establish that, that there’s a hierarchy to these villains and what our heroes can handle. Our heroes are like level one–they haven’t had enough missions in the dungeon to level up!
Collins: What does it mean to be in this fledgling Rebellion?
Kinberg: Well, it’s the very beginning. It’s the origin story of the Rebel Alliance. They’re rebels that don’t imagine they’re going to be a part of a larger organization one day. And so, it’s really watching those first seeds. It’s just four or five people bonding together against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Filoni: There’s a big assumption that a Rebellion happens right after the Empire, but that’s not the case. The Jedi are labeled traitors and Palpatine is in total control. They’re seen as a large disappointment because they “betrayed” the Republic. There’s a time in Star Wars when the Empire has complete control of the galaxy, and that’s the wrong way to go when oppression is happening across the galaxy.
Prinze, Jr.: You get to see why these guys would want to fight for what they fight for.
Sircar: Each of these characters that have formed the ghost crew, who have joined this Rebellion for very specific reasons, it’s pretty incredible. It’s very real. I think as the story goes on and unfolds, you’ll get to see why each of these characters have joined this crew and why they feel so passionate.
Marshall: At the end of the day, they’re trying to get food and gas, so there’s a little bit of an element of that dysfunctional family. That brings levity to essentially a genocide that’s occurring.
Prinze, Jr. talked a bit about his character’s role and how he acts. There’s going to be part of him that’s adolescently stunted and he struggles with it. “Fortunately, he has Ezra who has no control, no discipline, and he can learn by doing and teaching. Everything he would want to control within himself and he puts it on his kid. At times, it’s a little much, because it takes time for him to learn that. He loses his patience at times.”
Collins: Can you talk a little bit about what Ezra is going through?
Gray: Everything is so new to him. He just saw a lightsaber and everything is new. He looks up to Kanan. This kid has been alone for so long he feels like he’s fine on his own. In that clip, there’s a lot of feat and a lot of trust. Even though there’s some insane like the Inquisitor, he has enough faith in Kanan that everything’s going to be okay.
The panel then opened up for questions from the audience.
How much can we see of James Arnold Taylor?
Kinberg: I don’t know if I can answer! But, more than you see in the trailer!
For Tiya, are you really into Star Wars?
Sircar: I watched those films and since I got this jobs, I’ve been binge watching everything I can get my hands. I can truly fully say that I’m an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 on the fan scale. And now that Clone Wars is on Netflix, I’ve been catching up on that, too. I can’t say I’m a lifelong fan like Freddie or Vanessa, but I’m just as a big fan now!
Are you guys using any of the Expanded Universe in your designs and writing?
Kinberg: I would say we’re drawing from everywhere. Most of the show is the tone and essence of the original series and then something completely different. I have two sons–five and nine–this will be their point of entry into Star Wars. The intention is for everyone, especially the next generation of Star Wars, to fall in love with this crew. That’s the focus of the show.
How expansive is Rebels?
Filoni: It’s definitely more contained. We want to be in one, kind of local system. In Clone Wars, we had to build entirely new civilizations–we built Mon Cala for four episodes and then never used it again. You want to build stuff and then build and build upon it. In this show, things start out simply, and then it builds and builds and works with the flow of the story.
What’s it like working with Greg Weisman?
Filoni: We couldn’t have gotten off the ground without Greg. He brings a complex level of detail to the production. Simon and I had an idea of what we wanted, but Greg really focused it.
Kinberg: If anyone authored this show, it would be the three of us together.
What was your favorite season to make of the Clone Wars and why?
Filoni: We always improved one season to the next, so the last one has a special place in my heart. If there’s an episode I go back and watch, I was the two episodes when Asoka meets Chewbacca. That character is very important to me, something George and I created together. To where she started out to where she ended up, she was a fun character to make.