While on my trip to Skywalker Ranch and Lucasfilm HQ last month, we also got to sit down with Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni for a chat and also screen two upcoming episodes of Star Wars Rebels that tie into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story! It’s so fun to have Star Wars Rebels in between the big Star Wars movies coming out. My husband and son love to watch Rebels together (#1 on my son’s Christmas list this year was a Seventh Sister vs. Darth Maul toy that I had to hunt down!) and I so wanted to share what I saw in the 2 episodes I screened – but I held it in!
Read on below for our exclusive interview with Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni and information on two upcoming episodes of Star Wars Rebels!
The Star Wars Universe
Dave was asked about the process of writing Star Wars Rebels and obviously knowing spoilers for Rogue One and other upcoming Star Wars movies. Dave shared, “It’s not that difficult, it’s just all one big story. You’d never really think in terms of like, well this piece is a movie and this piece is a book and this piece is a TV series.…I know these characters. I know Saw because I helped introduced the character of Saw. So when they were doing stuff with him in the movie, my office is right next to Kiri Hart of the Story Group. We talk all the time, and ask questions. And then I got to meet Gary Whitta and Gareth Edwards and we’d talk. So it’s really just like any good storytelling.
It’s a bunch of people having discussions and talking about the things they like, things they don’t like. Getting different opinions, and then, I always feel strongly about them going off and making their choices. I did Saw for the part that I had to do him. And CLONE WARS set him up but I was excited that anybody could see where that went. So if anything, you’re more involved and that has huge pluses. ‘Cause you get to see it. But at the same time it’s like you’ve seen it and you’ve read it.
And then you work on it. So you keep trying to find for me as a fan, a little pockets of STARS WARS that you don’t know. Which are almost treasured for me at this point. ‘Cause, as opposed like, so that’s how that went. I would be lying if I told you it’s not really fun, even 12 years later.”
Image courtesy of MomStart.com
Tying into the Existing Star Wars Universe
When asked if he takes more joy in creating his own storyline or tying into the existing storyline, Dave shared, “I never really have a huge feeling about tying in. A good story didn’t need me, they hunt me and my help. The STARS WARS universe was great before I got there, it’ll be great long after I’m gone. And that’s just how I feel about this, it’s not my story. I’m privileged to be in a position where I get to add to it. I’m very grateful for that. But when I look at the work we’ve done in animation especially, and the characters that we’ve added with Captain Rex, Chopper and Ezra, Sabine and Kanan and Hera, is, adding those characters can give us dimension in ways that the franchise didn’t have before.
I think it’s telling the stories that’s been long overdue. And so we’ve been telling the stories and adding dimension to these characters. That’s the great part. And it’s fun when you have a tie-in but I like it when it’s more of a wink. It’s not something that was ever missing, if it was important, they would have done it. So I’ve always kinda looked at it that way. And I learned a lot of that from my years of working with George. So it’s fun to do, but you have to be careful that don’t overdo it, that you don’t, that your fandom doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story.”
Star Wars Rebels is a Family Show
With Star Wars Rebels, Dave feels very strongly that it should be both parent and kid-friendly. It’s a goal of his and he feels very strongly about it. He also shared, “When I talked to George Lucas, he would always say he created STAR WARS for kids. That was the big thing. When I was a kid, it was a great thing because my parents liked it. It’s not that they didn’t like everything else but they were very big into opera, very big into the symphony,. Very big into those top types of stories. And there is a great relationship between those stories and what STARS WARS presented. So it wasn’t talking down.
There were a lot of things to talk about, as a family. And characters that we could relate to. So I think especially in the beginning, a lot of fans would come up to me and say, “Dave, why are you making REBELS for kids?” ‘Cause that’s such a perplexing question to me. ‘Cause I would say to them well, when did you first start watching STAR WARS? When I was six, and it was the greatest experience I ever had. And I’m like, okay. So my whole goal is never to take that experience away from kids, is to involve everybody in it, to make it a place where the best compliment we can give for the series is that it’s something that the family watches together.
I’ve had parents tell me they watch it with their kids. There are some challenging things we get too, especially when you deal with the Jedi. Things get dark at times. But you always have to monitor that, you know, it’s like fairy tales have frightening moments in them. Otherwise when you shine bright and things are good all the time, it doesn’t shine as well. I was raised reading Tolkien, THE HOBBIT and things of that nature. C.S. Lewis and there are scary parts in those books. But then when you come through, I mean, Darth Vader is intimidating. Everybody says, “Oh, Darth Vader, put Darth Vader on, Vader,” I’m like, okay. But he’s scary. I used to be a little kid and freak myself out just thinking of how he breathes.
I would be alone and be like, Oh my gosh. But that’s – what you want – kids to be afraid of the bad guys, because they’re evil. And they recognize that. And so I just always think of those stories I had as a kid and those relationships I had. I try to make something that’s not as much for myself but for my younger self. But my older self will still watch it and be like, that’s cool. It’s a delicate balance. Because I see honestly, in today’s world, I see like a danger in a lot of the fans that have grown up. You kind of have a generation of filmmakers now, they’re all fans. More than you ever had before, I think.
And they’re very vocal about being fans. Which is great. It’s great because they have the understanding of why the material is important. But there’s a danger of trying to take the material and accidentally change it into being for them now. Their 40-year-old self. And you see that kind of in a lot of different franchises out there, that things get darker. And you kinda go – but that’s not what I remember I liked as a kid. But there’s that impulse to say like, yeah, but now I would do this. And wouldn’t that be cool?
But you just always have to remember, STARS WARS is a story ultimately, right, the original trailer says, A boy and a girl in a galaxy. Which is the big opening of the door, and a wonderful thing. And a magic thing. And the adventure. So I just try to maintain that.”
Creating and Animating Star Wars Rebels
We asked Dave a bit about creating and animating Star Wars Rebels and he shared some interesting facts with us! When it comes to how far ahead they are with the series, Dave laughed and said, “I’m so far ahead now, frighteningly far ahead. It’s not as far ahead as when we worked on CLONE WARS. CLONE WARS, we would practically work at three seasons simultaneously. Have a season that was being aired and color corrected, I’d have a season that was still in animation. And then I have a season that was development, in script, This is a little more like two. One is usually coming to an end and an another one is well on its way.”
When asked if the animation or recording of the voices comes first, Dave revealed, “We do a funny thing. We do a story reel that’s a shot proxy, the little limited shapes and objects of the characters. But it’s very clear what’s going on. And we record that with the temp actors right here on our floor of Lucasfilm. That fact goes all the way back to CLONE WARS. Because we developed that technique because George and I would change what was happening in story and the dialogue so much, there was no point in bringing in the actors to record them. Because you’d have to re-record them.
And I want them to react,- so we develop it with all those kind of temp voices but if it works with these people, it will work great with real actors. I can’t even tell you. People fall in love with the temp, and I go, don’t fall in love with the temp. It’s all temporary. And then we’ll record the voice actors. And what’s great about that is that pretty much by the time I see them I’ve shot the whole thing. So I know how it all fits together and I have a really tight script by that point. And we’ll do a final revision of all the lines, not all but the ones that need work.
Then when I sit with them, I’ll be able to explain everything, the physicality, the depth, everything that’s going on. Because we have to get some very emotional places. I try to suspend the actors so that they’re only ever in the moment that’s happening. They don’t know really what’s going to happen. Unless it’s something that’s really intense and then like I’ll take them aside and I’ll say, okay, you need to prepare for the next three weeks and we’re gonna do this story. And I’m gonna give you the broad generalization of it. But I want them to be able to prepare their mind for getting to an emotional place. Tiya had to do some very, I thought, performing very intense things that revolved around Sabine’s family.
I wanted to talk with her well in advance of what that was. Because she didn’t know that she had all this information. So when we nailed down the story, it was like okay, so this is who your parents are. And this is what’s going on and this is why you’re not with them and this is happening. She had to get a download of all that, and this is how you feel about it. And then we would discuss it in case she had thoughts about it. This is a very important relationship between the director and the actor. It’s a tremendous amount of trust in that relationship. And you have a responsibility to them to keep them and to let them realize where they are in the story.
So there were some things we were doing just this week that like only one of them could know about. Because the others weren’t present. And I want them to kind of react to that as they hear it. So it’s really fun, they are a fantastic cast. I couldn’t ask for better. We did a killer job getting them. So I’m really pleased with them.”
Star Wars Rebels Connects with Rogue One
I mentioned that we were able to screen two episodes that tie loosely into Rogue One. Well, if you’ve seen Rogue One by now then you know that Saw Gerrera is in the film – and you’ll also see him on upcoming episodes of Star Wars Rebels!
Dave shared with us about bringing Forest Whitaker on to the show, “Yeah, it was a huge benefit to us. We have an attitude about the characters. Which is, if the person that kind of originates the role, the person – especially on screen, we want as much continuity for the audience as possible. When you have people, because for example he is a very big STARS WARS fan and a lot of these actors do it because of the opportunity, because they love it.
So when they say the character’s gonna continue, they absolutely would like to continue being the character. They don’t really care what form it’s in. And so it’s always exciting when we have people come and maintain their character. You have great continuity. They’re always incredibly gracious and super fun to work with. It might not be the last one you see in that regard, on REBELS. But I can say that. Don’t want to get in trouble.
He was fantastic, it’s one of the secrets to, when you’re a very good director, you just have a really great actor. He doesn’t need a lot of advice — I just gotta put him into place and tell him what’s going on. And he’s just fantastic.
So it was great to work with him and it’s added to a long list I think of incredibly wonderful performances that we’ve had in STARS WARS across the board. Not just on REBELS. But across the boards. I just love that they want to do it, with is my favorite thing.”
Image courtesy of MomStart.com
Get a peek below of the Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Mid-Season Trailer!
I don’t want to give away ANY spoilers but you’re going to want to tune into Ghosts of Geonosis Part 1 and 2! Both will air on January 7th at 8:30pm EST on Disney XD. Take a peek below for some pictures from the upcoming episodes, including a glimpse of one of my new favorite characters!
Don’t forget to tune into Star Wars Rebels when it comes back on January 7th on Disney XD! Keep up with the latest Rebels news by liking Star Wars Rebels on Facebook!
Disclosure: Thanks so much to Disney for bringing me out to San Francisco for the event. All thoughts and opinions are my own.