Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch - Writer Henry Gilroy, p3

Clone Wars Weekly: Henry Gilroy, p3

In our last edition, head writer Henry Gilroy explained how he was handed the keys to the Star War: Clone Wars Universe, fully knowing that it would be done under the watchful eye of George Lucas. Now it’s time to see just what he did with it.

A good place to start is with the young Jedi and new addition to the Star Wars mythos, Ahsoka.

“[She’s a] spirited young padawan who has something to prove,” says Gilroy. She's very well learned at the temple in a book smart kind of way, but she doesn't have much practical experience. That doesn't stop her from jumping into any situation, sometimes ones she probably shouldn't.

“She's got a great potential for growth as a character because she's training under Anakin and takes some of her cues from him as far as improvising and being proactive and also impatient and brash. At the same time, she's got Obi-Wan around, who is more thoughtful and cunning, and she's picking up some of his ways, so she's kind of getting the best of both of Anakin and Obi-Wan as she learns from their example.”

This, of course, leads on to her two masters, Anakin, who actually has been assigned to train her, and Obi-Wan, Anakin’s former mentor.

“In the Clone Wars, Anakin is a bold, swashbuckling Jedi hero, bravely fighting to save the Republic from being destroyed by the Separatists,” says Gilroy. “He's a good guy in every sense of the word. He's selfless, courageous and loyal. As a full-fledged Jedi Knight, he's not in Obi-Wan's shadow anymore, and he's coming into his own and is more upbeat and positive and good humored, plus he's maturing as he becomes a mentor to Ahsoka.

“I like to think of Obi-Wan as the Errol Flynn of the Star Wars universe, he's got that dry wit and he's always cool under pressure. Where Anakin flies by the seat of his pants and like to solve problems with force, Obi-Wan likes to solve problems with diplomacy and negotiation and is more methodical and by-the-book.”

As everyone now knows, the voice of Yoda has been replaced, from Frank Oz to Tom Kane. Does this mean there are changes to the master Jedi as well?

“Wise and powerful, I always think of Master Yoda as this great teacher, who can use just about any situation to instruct those around him,” says Gilroy. “All of whom are able to learn something from him. He has this great connection to the Force that gives him a deep insight into just about problem. However, he also has a lighter, comical side to him that we didn't get to see too much in the prequels that we will be seeing more of in the series.”

Which takes us to key villains. After all, there’s no good show without some good villains. In this series, the two primary ones are Assaj Ventress [pictured above] and her master, Count Dooku.

“Ventress is Count Dooku's assassin, who does his bidding with hopes that she will be taken as his apprentice and become a Sith Lord one day,” says Gilroy. Dooku is secretly teaching her, behind Sidious' back, because he eventually wants to overthrow his master. However, Dooku knows that if Sidious found out he'd kill them both, so he trains her on the sly. She's a very emotional character, who is egocentric, arrogant and bloodthirsty. She really embodies the dark side, the vicious animal kind of seeps out of her every moment she's on screen. She's deliciously evil.

“Dooku is a sophisticated villain because of his two faces, one as this seemingly noble benevolent diplomat and the other as this power hungry murderous traitor. We wanted to explore Dooku's side as a master manipulator, this erudite leader who seems beyond reproach, then have him be able to suddenly turn on the evil and remind the audience that he is a powerful Sith Lord.”

Add in the eventual Emperor Palpatine, Grievous, C3-PO, the Fett Clones and you start to populate one heck of a Universe. Of course, the next step is to set them all in motion.

The process began with the Clone Wars feature film released last month. The film’s primary purpose was to introduce Ahsoka, but it also introduced a storyline that had Jabba The Hutt’s offspring being kidnapped. As it turns out, the kidnapping was a Maguffin.

“Originally, the Maguffin of Jabba's son being kidnapped was inspired by a Sonny Chiba samurai film entitled Shogun's Shadow that I always liked,” says Gilroy. “It's about this disgraced samurai who's entrusted with escorting the very young son of the Shogun across the countryside back to the royal palace. There's a lot of intrigue about who's really behind the attempts on the kid's life and the samurai forms a bond with the kid. That was the inspiration of the idea, but I had specific ideas for why I did it.

“I also wanted to touch on Anakin's history and illustrate how he has a tendency to hang onto his past. Because we were going back to Tatooine eventually for the story, I wanted to give Anakin a physical representation of his past. Some in the audience would know that Anakin has an issue with the Hutts -- besides being Mafia-like criminals, they originally sold him and his mother into slavery, so he's bound to not like Hutts because of that. Just the idea of Anakin having to save this little huttlet, Rotta, and carry him around on his back is like a constant reminder in the back of his mind of what the Hutts did to him and his mom. A literal 'monkey on his back' is what we were going for.”

From there, it was time to work on the TV series. After all, setting up the series Universe is half the process. Then there’s the matter of providing the required number of episodes.

“I think there will be 22 episodes for the first season,” says Gilroy. “As far as the biggest obstacle on a project this big and ambitious, it would have to be trying to put everything we loved about Star Wars in all the shows. Early on in the production process the studio resources were very limited so the stories were a little smaller in scale, as we were just getting the studio going and building the world of the Clone Wars in CG. We had a smaller crew as well, but as the series has gone on, more crew members have come aboard. As we built more characters and ships and worlds, the shows began to fill out and really grow in scope from stories with a few characters to stories with a cast of thousands so to speak. That's the sort of thing you expect on every animated show, CG in particular. Once the world is built however, watch out, the series gets beyond amazing.

“As for 'what it's like writing that much',” says Gilroy, “well, it my pleasure, it is Star Wars, after all and I could write it all day every day. It was never easy and there was always pressure because the bar had been set so high on the films and George and the fans have high expectations. By far, it was the most difficult writing job I have ever had, but that made it fun and always challenging.

“The toughest part about writing 'that much' was the time factor combined with the lack of writing manpower on season one. I was the only staff writer on the show for the first year. Because we were writing a TV show more like a feature, with far more drafts and rewriting than usual it was very challenging because we were still on a TV schedule. I had to keep the scripts coming in to meet TV deadlines. This made for about triple the work, very tough for one person to be able to physically do, there just were not enough hours in the day.”

But Gilroy apparently got the work done. Still, it was an experience previous work for other major studios hadn’t quite prepared him for.

“If I was doing a show like this at Disney or Warner [Bros.] there would usually be about 3-4 staff writers plus support staff,” says Gilroy. “I had really great freelancers, like Steven Melching, who wrote about a third of the first season scripts and part of the movie, but he was down in Los Angeles. I remember at one point I was working on 9 scripts at once in various stages, from premise to outline to script to revised animatic as well as preparing recording scripts and I was the only writer working on them. Though scriptcasting coordinator Ellen Connell came in a few months into the process to help me out with copying and such.

“Still, the crew used to joke that the writing staff was me and the lizards that are all over ranch. I think I worked 12-16 hours, 7 days a week, for months then I remember one Sunday morning I tried to get out of bed to go to the studio and my body wouldn't move. I remember thinking, ‘How am I gonna finish that script for George by tomorrow from here?’ I have to hand it to Catherine [Winder], she was patient because I was always bugging her to get me help. I finally got some help about a year into production when former Dark Angel story editor Scott Murphy joined the show at the ranch to help complete the scripts for season one, even though most of the stories were written. It was great to have another mind to bounce Star Wars ideas off of at last.

Now ask Gilroy if he’d do it again.

“Regardless, of how hard it was, I think all the hard work is on the screen and I'd do it again in a second!,” he exclaims. “I wasn't alone in working that hard, the rest of crew put in long hours and made life changing sacrifices. Dave Filoni, Catherine Winder, our two talented designers Kilian Plunkett and Russell Chong tore up their home and relocated from other parts of the country to work on the Clone Wars. I think that's one magical part of starting up a studio, being the first project created from it, that makes it special is that people really bond and come to feel like family. It was like we were all in the trenches, fighting the Clone Wars, all in it together to build something that we knew was going to be really special. It's rare to have such a great collaborative experience on a show. There were few egos, it was really about making the best show and continuing the saga. Everyone really came to create something extraordinary and I think the audience will see that come October.”

As for what’s coming up, Gilroy drops a couple of hints.

“I can't give you many details, but there's a fog planet, a coral planet, and some pirates and new bounty hunters. Ever wonder what a Gundark looks like? You won't have to for very much longer. We also will meet an important figure from Obi-Wan's past. Intrigued yet? The Clone Wars have only just begun.”

NEXT EDITION: Talk about filling some big shoes. We next talk to Tom Kane about replacing Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda...

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