Dave Filoni, executive producer, director, writer, and Star Wars mastermind of Disney+’s The Mandalorian, recalls Rosario Dawson’s screen test as Ahsoka Tano. Filoni helped George Lucas create Anakin Skywalker’s Togruta Padawan (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) in the animated feature Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008). While “Snips” wasn’t instantly beloved by fans, Ahsoka matured into what is essentially The Clone Wars series’ most important character in its epic final episodes. Compile that with her return in Rebels and fans couldn’t wait to see more of her in a galaxy far, far away.
Following Rebels, Filoni began work alongside Jon Favreau on Disney+’s first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, which has gone to admirable lengths to connect the films and animations. Season 2 of the series introduced The Clone Wars and Rebels characters Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and Ahsoka Tano (Dawson), the latter of which was inspired by a viral fan-casting. “Chapter 13: The Jedi” saw Dawson wield the character’s dual lightsabers and cross paths with Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu before dropping a line about Grand Admiral Thrawn. Not long after Ahsoka’s live-action debut, it was announced Dawson would star in an eponymous spin-off series, which would also star Hayden Christensen’s Anakin. More recently, Dawson appeared in The Book of Boba Fett and further cemented herself as the character.
In a recent interview with Vanity Fair detailing the character’s conception, Filoni talked about bringing Ahsoka into live-action. Specifically, Lucasfilm’s small-screen guru recalled Dawson’s screen test and how it answered every question he had about how the character would work. Read the full quote below:
“You’ve got these strange head tails and horns. It looks great in animation, but suddenly you’re making this a main character and it’s a big question. I was like, how much are we going to get drawn in by this face, all orange with markings on it? Is it distracting, is it believable, can we have that dramatic feeling? Can we connect with her?”
“As soon as [Dawson] showed up on set in the costume, she was the character. I had this tremendous sense of relief, which was, ‘Okay, so I don’t need to worry about that. Ahsoka’s going to be Ahsoka, I’m going to focus on everything else going on, and I’ll advise her when she needs it.’ But she really gets it.”
While the word seamless might be an inaccurate characterization, to say Dawson’s Ahsoka has been well-received (early on, no less) would be an understatement. As is usually the case when beloved animated characters make it to live-action, Ahsoka did undergo some changes to her signature head tails/lekku, but nothing dramatic enough to warrant valid criticism. For the most part, Dawson’s worldly roles in The Mandalorian — which served as a litmus test for the character’s live-action future — and The Book of Boba Fett have done the fandom proud in its casting of Dawson. The actress has become one of the faces of Disney/Lucasfilm’s new era and plans to play Ahsoka for quite some time.
Since inheriting the character, Dawson has given credit where credit is due, often supporting Ahsoka’s original voice actress—who breathed life into the character for over a decade. Dawson will pick up where Eckstein left off as her series follows Ahsoka and Sabine Wren’s search for Grand Admiral Thrawn and, in turn, Ezra Bridger, who disappeared at the end of Rebels. Director Bryce Dallas Howard has teased fans will be “greatly rewarded” by what’s to come in Ahsoka, which began production this month and is reportedly slated for a 2023 release.