HER UNIVERSE Celebrates Fangirls as Ahsoka Says Last Goodbye
It has been quite the couple of weeks for fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. First, Ahsoka Tano's journey came to an end in the Season 5 finale episode. Then came the news that while new stories are still coming somehow, officially, The Clone Wars is cancelled, and won't be coming back to TV as a regular series again.While we remember five seasons of a series that made the prequel era all worthwhile to so many fans of all ages (and genders), we've been talking with Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano, in her definitive exit interview. In part one of our Ekstein Ahsoka interview, we talked about preparing for the end, and how it was uniquely approached by Supervising Director Dave Filoni. In part two of our interview on Ahsoka's end, we talked about recording the final scene itself, as well as what she personally thinks of Ahsoka's choice and its effect on Anakin. Today, we wrap up our conversation with Ashley Eckstein, talking about her geek girl apparel line Her Universe, her campaign to let all fangirls know they're welcome in the community of the geek, what Ahsoka means to her personally, and her thoughts on the Disney/Lucasfilm acquisition. Newsarama: Of course, playing Ahsoka and being part of The Clone Wars opened up many other opportunities to you, personally, not the least of which is your geek girl apparel/accessory company Her Universe, which also has to be a bit of a surprise for you in where it's gone, huh?
Ashley Eckstein: Certainly! It's certainly been a surprise. I have just been shocked but grateful for all the support. I said from day one, hey guys, here's this brand and this company I'm creating because I know there's a need for it, and I know you're out there, but it just can't go anywhere without your support. So from day one, it had to be a group effort, otherwise we wouldn't still be around. So I have to say, again, thank you thank you thank you! The reason we're still here is because of your support.
I try to say that at all costs, we're a company for the fans. So many of our decisions are guided, and really made for us by the fans. Right before this interview, I got off the phone with Del Rey, and we're designing a collection of shirts with the female Star Wars Extended Universe characters on it! So, I was going through art and talking about characters and quotes and everything. That is 100% because of the fans. They've asked me about it for the last couple of years, and we didn't have the rights to it, but because the fans spoke up about it I talked to Lucasfilm and they were kind enough to give me the rights, and now we're getting started on it!
Nrama: So in other words: more Mara Jade is coming.
Eckstein: Oh definitely, definitely! We have some pretty cool Mara Jade artwork. Jaina Solo - we're working on some new designs. Again, we're still around because everyone's been supporting us, and I hope not to let the fans down.
Nrama: Well that's wonderful, congratulations! And you segued perfectly into talking about your Year of the Fangirl campaign. What can you tell us about this to help young girls and girls of all stripes celebrate their fandom?
Eckstein: Yes! Thank you for asking; it's something I'm really excited about. It stemmed from something last year when I was helping Carrie Goldman promote her book Bullied which talks about everything she learned and dealt with when her daughter Katie was being bullied for liking Star Wars. It's just been incredible - she's such a huge advocate for anti-bullying. I was asked to give my advice to girls on how to handle bullying. I found it to be very difficult to me! I didn't quite know what to say, I didn't feel like I was the expert they were looking for to give advice.
Instead, I wanted to create a platform for girls to step into the spotlight, and feel comfortable to say, "Hey, I'm a girl, and I like scifi. I'm a fangirl and proud of it!"
Over the course of the past three years, I have met so many amazing girls, and those are the stories I want to share. I don't want to be the one talking about it. There are so many girls, all over the world, telling me how they're dealing with bullying and how they live their daily lives, and how they're proud to be a fangirl. So I wanted my fellow fangirls to do the talking, not me. I figured I can't go into school with these girls and help them fight bullying on a daily basis, but if I can create a place where every single day a girl can log into our website and see a different girl, they can see someone just like them, and they love scifi and they have similar interests. They see that they're not alone - I feel like that will make their day a little easier.
So that's what we're doing. And we've already had the most incredible response! I already have over 200 nominations, in just the first week. I definitely need more! I need girls for the rest of the year, and it's something that depending on the response, I hope to continue after that and make this a regular thing.
I appreciate sites like Newsarama helping spread the word, because I think we can make this a safer community for female fans. In the past, they've been bullied just for what they like. So I want it to be safer for them.
"Fake geek girls" do not exist on our page, everyone is a geek girl on our page. If you think you're a geek girl, then we take your nomination!
Nrama: I'd argue that "fake geek girls," or "fake geeks" don't exist period. It's so funny to me that anyone would ever complain about wanting to be more geeky.
Eckstein: Yes. Can I change that quote then? I want to say "fake geek girls don't exist anywhere." I agree, wholeheartedly. You know, I haven't gotten very involved in that debate, because it's so silly. So instead of getting involved in that, we created this campaign. I don't want to continue to harness the negative - I just want to create a positive platform. If you consider yourself a fangirl, then you are a fangirl, and you're welcome on our site and our community. That’s part of what this campaign is about, this is our response to that. Even if there’s a small seed of interest in a girl, and she may not know that much, if there’s a small seed, it’s our job to help that person grow that interest. We need to be a welcoming community, because suddenly a casual fan could become a hard-core fan, with someone taking them under their wings.
Nrama: Well Ashley, let’s close on Ahsoka here. After living with her for seven years, I know this will be a difficult question, but what was your favorite part of having Ahsoka in your life, and what was the most challenging?
Eckstein: My favorite part of the experience was being a small part of a character that I think has shaped a whole generation of Star Wars fans. I think she’s helped shape female fans and male fans. For a lot of kids, The Clone Wars is Star Wars to them. They’ve grown up with this show, and so many kids saw The Clone Wars before they saw the movies. So to this generation of kids, they’ll always remember that they grew up with The Clone Wars, and I think having such a strong character like Ahsoka to look up to – and she’s been such a great role model, such a strong character – just to be a small part of that, for so many young fans, has just been incredible. It’s an honor that I do not take lightly. I welcome the responsibility to just be associated with her and her strength of character. It makes me want to be a better person, because of it.
The challenging part… You know, I’d say it was challenging at first to come into the Star Wars universe as this new character, Anakin Skywalker’s padawan that nobody knew about. She wasn’t in the movies, so she didn’t really earn people’s respect. They thought she was just this silly, snippy character that was only in the cartoon show.
Luckily, I didn’t quite realize how much people hated her in the beginning (laughs). That was challenging at first. I do hope that after this finale, people do consider her as part of this franchise now. Hopefully they’ll look back and consider her part of the overall story.
Nrama: I know there’s not a lot you can say as part of the Lucasfilm family, but honestly, when I first heard the acquisition of Lucasfilm from Disney about my second or third thought was, “Oh my gosh, Ashley has to be freaking out!” Those are your two loves!
Eckstein: (laughs) Yes! Yes! Honestly, if I could work for Disney and Lucasfilm for the rest of my life I’d die a happy person. I love those two companies so much.
It’s funny, my whole life keeps bringing me back to Disney, and I don’t mind it! Disney is the biggest influence in my life. From the time I can remember, I was going to Disney World. When I was a kid, pretty much the only movies we watched were Disney movies, you know, wholesome family stuff. So growing up in Orlando and my dad working for Disney, those were my influences.
I had opportunities, with my parent being an employee, I got to see one of the first screenings ever of The Little Mermaid. The color wasn’t even done. I remember Michael Eisner was there, and we were the test screening. It was amazing. Having those opportunities as a kid, to be a part of the creation process… I got to go to live tapings of the Mickey Mouse Club when I was seven, being on set for that. It just all really shaped the type of person I am today, and showed me that if you have a dream, it really can come true, and it really is possible through hard work!
I always wanted to be a part of what was so special about Disney. Then enter Lucasfilm. Working for Lucasfilm for the past seven years has shaped the person I am today, too. All the amazing people, and just like Ahsoka grew up in The Clone Wars, I grew up while working on this show! I was so young, so naïve. Through Lucasfilm, it’s allowed me to start my own company, and now I’m sitting here negotiating deals for dresses in Hot Topic and I never in a million years would have thought I’d be doing that in my life. Lucasfilm has given me those opportunities and now, for the two of them to come together, my mind is blown.
I don’t think I’ve ever used as many exclamation points as I did that day, when that news was announced. So we’ll see what happens, but I am so, so excited for the future.
Nrama: Okay, briefly tell us what else you’re working on, and where people can hear your voice when they’re going through Ahsoka withdrawals!
Eckstein: (laughs) Well people can hear my voice currently on a new Disney show called Sofia the First, I’m the voice of Mia the Bluebird. So, very very different than Ahsoka, but it’s such a cute show for kids. I… definitely can’t announce it yet, but doing a very fun summer thing... So I’ll be around this summer. A lot!
Oh, Disney Star Wars Weekends! I can talk about that! Disney Star Wars Weekends is going to be awesome this year. Of course it’s the first year since they’ve come together. James Arnold Taylor and I will be back to host, and we’ll be doing our shows again, and I’ll have all-new merchandise in the stores there. It’s honestly, I’m not just saying this as a promo, this is one of the coolest things Star Wars fans can do all year, and this will be the best yet.
Catch Ashley Eckstein around the convention circuit this summer, including C2E2 in Chicago from April 26-28, Disney’s Star Wars Weekends (on the weekend) from May 17 – June 9, and Comic-Con International: San Diego July 18-21. Visit Her Universe for geek girl apparel and community!