CLONE WARS Using Force #1: In Defense of Jar Jar


Star Wars: The Clone Wars came back last week, and started things off with a 2-part story spanning quite a bit of time. One part prequel to the fan-favorite Season 1 episode "Rookies" and one part sequel to it, the premiere held a lot for fans of the animated series. Grievous and Ventress returned, Kamino was featured, and the Clones had their day.

In the first of our new regular feature here at Newsarama, we spoke with one of the main men behind Clone Wars, Supervising Director Dave Filoni. Filoni let us in on why he loves the Clones, why you should love Jar Jar (seriously!), and gave us a little tease for tonight's episode. Beware, there are some spoilers for the season 3 premiere inside.

Newsarama: Let me just start, Dave, by saying bravo…on the rain! It looked great. (laughs)

Dave Filoni: Thank you! That's really hard to get right, or at least to make it convincing.

Nrama: You kicked off a brand new season with a prequel episode. What's the benefit to prequel or flashback episodes? How often can you go back to that well without it going dry?

Filoni: I think the benefit is, it just rounds out some of the characters, and completes some of their stories. These first two episodes really work in concert with an episode from Season 1, it gives you a before and it gives you an after, and then you get a more complete tale of those Rookies and who they were.

As far as going back to the well, we do it a little bit in the forward half of the season, then move in a straight line episode to episode.

I think it was something that George Lucas felt, he had enjoyed some of the episodes that were more one-off in nature, and wanted to go back and explore those, give a little more setup and a better conclusion to them. After that, we can move forward with the bigger story and the characters from there.

Nrama: So you said George enjoyed that episode, so did fans, "Rookies" is constantly ranked as one of the best episodes.. Are you surprised when clone-centric episodes are so well received?

Filoni: I'm not sure it's so much of a surprise, given, as a kid, Stormtroopers were so popular, and you had to wonder what things would be like from their point of view. In that way the clones kind of fulfill the imagination a lot of people had about "this is from the stormtrooper's point of view." I thought it would be successful, but you always wonder how that would work with the bigger audience, once you get past the big fans. But I think people connect with their vulnerability and that they don't have superpowers like the Jedi. That's very appealing to people.

Nrama: When creating a character like 99, seemingly just to kill him, is there any regret; any temptation to change the plan when you see how fleshed-out he becomes?

Filoni: *laughs* That happens a lot. You know, I always say that, we'll finish an episode and be like, Hey this is a great character, I like Nahdar Vebb…but he's gotta die! So I did say to the gang, let's get to know these people before we really off them. In the case of 99, it seemed logical at the time, ya know, he was in two episodes, Sometimes for a new character, that's a pretty good run *laughs*. Honestly! To me, it's that there are consequences on this show.

This really feels like Star Wars to me even though it's animated. In this series, I though about how Obi-Wan Kenobi died in Star Wars, and they are fighting a war!

I think what's really interesting in the case of 99 is how much people liked him, and then how upset they were when he died. I had a lot of response like, "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?! WHY DID YOU KILL 99?" And all I can say is, that's kinda the best possible scenario, which is that it mattered to the audience that he did die, and it mattered to the Clones, too.

Nrama: It was funny seeing the reaction on Twitter, for people after the first episode loving 99, then after the second saying "Damn you!"

Filoni: I know, I'm the villain. Ya know my wife, after the first Zillo Beast episode,  she was like "The Zillo Beast is great, I love the Zillo Beast!" And I was saying, "Yeah. Boy. We should go out to dinner next week" *laughs*.

Nrama: The tension between Grievous and Ventress was palpable; when the order comes down on her head later this season is he going to be involved at all?

Filoni: Not right away, that's really gonna be more directly between Dooku and Ventress. It's a real look at the whole rule of two, master and apprentice, from the Sith side. I imagine in his own way, Grievous is pleased that Ventress has fallen on hard times so to speak, but he's his own kind of acolyte.

He's the General, and he really thinks he has a chance of winning this war. *laughs* So he's deluded in his own way. Ventress and Grievous though, there is a competition, and it will last for awhile, that's for sure.

Nrama: Why do you think their personalities make for such electricity?

Filoni: Well, you had the two major villains actually meeting. And it was fun to contrast who they are; they're both fighting for respect in their own way. I also really liked having her be kind of flirtatious with Grievous in that "There's no way you're ever gonna get this" kind of way. And Nika Futterman, as Asajj Ventress, she just has this voice that pulls that off so well. She really makes that whole flirtation something special every time.

Nrama: Yeah, it's very easy to fall in love with and truly hate Ventress.

Filoni: Yeah, exactly, and a lot of that is thanks to Nika.

Nrama: This one is kinda about the previous episode, and kind of about the rest of the season; you already have a huge cast, and based on these episodes and the promos, that growth doesn't show signs of stopping. How much can you grow the cast and still have a manageable serialized tv show?

Filoni: It's probably one of the more fascinating things about this series. I've been on this show five and a half years now, creating it. We still haven't gotten to some of the ideas I thought we would've done in the first season. Meaning that, there seems to be a never-ending well of Star Wars tales to tell. I could take any one of these things, like the Clones or Boba Fett and make an entire series that's just them. And it's amazing that the audience will travel all around the galaxy and listen to these tales.

I think as long as we have Rex and Ahsoka as the anchors, and you can kinda tell where you're at in the timeline based on where they are; based on Ahsoka's maturity level you know when these events take place, where we are in time.

Definitely if we had just done Clones vs. Droids in every episode, it would've gotten predictable and boring. But since George has opened it up to Boba Fett and getting into the Mandelorians and this new character of Satine that we never knew about, these are really interesting things and it helps the overall picture. It lets us do dark stories, and some of the more comedic lighter ones. That's the thing about Star Wars, is it's action and drama, but it's also quite funny at times. You know, Harrison Ford's portrayal of Han Solo, he has a lot of comedy going on there. It's hard to squeeze that into 22 minute installments, so we spread that across a season instead.

Nrama: It's interesting what you say with Rex and Ahsoka being anchors. Is that something you looked at initially with them?

Filoni: Yeah, I think that at least for Ahsoka we always knew this was going to be her show. That kind of got away from us a bit, and I know she doesn't appear in every episode, but it's still her story at its core. And it's been fun to see her grow, and see her become more of her own person and also more like Anakin.

Nrama: Next time: We see Jar Jar Binks gets another focus episode; is this meant as a break from the very heavy and serious first couple episodes?

Filoni: Not necessarily, I think that can be deceptive. Definitely there's more comedy involved when Jar Jar is there, but to me, in a lot of ways, Jar Jar's involvement in the Clone Wars, his involvement in Star Wars, he kind of gets exploited and abused by Palpatine to devastating affect. I think there's a sympathetic side to Jar Jar. I also think that he might be a bit more in on his foolishness than we're led to believe at first.

There's a chance to use this character in ways that I don't think the audience has anticipated yet, and I think the episode you're about to see tonight will display that. I think we've shown that a lot of the characters in our series, in this universe, react much like the fans do when Jar Jar's around, but that actually opens up more potential for him and what we can do with him.

People will be surprised by what we do with him in tonight's episode, and how many important things can happen when Jar Jar's around.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars airs Fridays at 9/8 Central on Cartoon Network

What do you want to see this season? What do you want to see this season?

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