NYCC 2015: Star Wars Rebels EP Dave Filoni on the Importance of Diverse Characters and Star Wars Rebels’ Female Characters

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief

Compare the Star Wars universe to how it was when Return of the Jedi came out to today and you’ll see a significant increase in diversity within the Star Wars universe. That push for more diverse characters isn’t lost on Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni.

“I’m just trying to get to a point where [representation is] equal,” Filoni said. “Right now, it’s great and a lot of the times, it’s special,” he said in the success of the female characters on Star Wars Rebels. “It’s special because it’s uncommon and you realize how sad that is.”

So how does Filoni keep that at the forefront of his mind? “My wife is hugely educated and knowledgeable about female fandom and female point of view—I don’t have those point of views. She’s been tremendous at educating me on what’s important to her as a fan,” Filoni said. “All I can do is give opportunities and bring some balance to the Force, so to speak.” This isn’t a new narrative, to give more opportunities. It’s something Emmy Award-winning Viola Davis spoke about in her acceptance speech and it’s something Hollywood needs to do better in. For anyone concerned those kinds of characters only reach a specific audience, Filoni had this to say: “You do these characters right, they are for everyone. Hopefully, these characters are very empowering for young girls, too. We just have to keep that ball rolling. A lot of creative teams are doing that in the industry and I think that’s great.”

One of the new female characters on Star Wars Rebels is the Seventh Sister, the Inquisitor voiced by Buffy alum Sarah Michelle Gellar. “We get a little bit into what an Inquisitor is this season. The Grand Inquisitor has an impact on Season 2. Learning about his character helps you understand the Inquisitors even more. The Seventh Sister is a little more probing. Her attack style is quicker and she tries to see what your weakness is and go for it. They all have different ways and that helps make those characters feel differently. I’ve wanted to do a blonde haired villain that wears all white. Sometimes the most beautiful and appealing characters can be the most evil. What’s the Emperor if not grandfatherly to Anakin?”

The other major female character that makes a reappearance on Star Wars Rebels is Ashley Eckstein’s Ahsoka Tano. “There’s never been a Jedi quite like Ahsoka before,” Filoni said. “As a director and a storyteller, I find it interesting that there’s a lot left unsaid [between Vader and Ahsoka]. It’s stuff I’ve talked about with George. I’ll always respect he was the creator of Star Wars and took the time to teach me and gave me this job. I hope he sees these episodes and it’s something he likes. I’ve based a lot of the story on discussions we’ve had, but it’s been thought about for a long time what would happen if those two met.”

“You want to tell great stories,” Filoni ultimately said. “I love saying, ‘This hasn’t been done yet, let’s do it!’ I want to expand the vocabulary of what’s possible. George [Lucas] was never afraid to do something and go after it. Sometimes the fans weren’t ready for that. Star Wars is at its best when you’re not relying on everything that came before. It relates to our everyday, it’s just in a fantastic setting.”

Be sure to check out the Season 2 premiere of Star Wars Rebels on October 14th.

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