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SDCC 2014: Star Wars Rebels Interviews

We chat with the executive producers and voice actors about the upcoming show. Characters, lightsaber duels, Darth Vader vs. Magneto, and bounty hunters are discussed!

It was sad to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars go, but it's looking like the Star Wars universe still has a bright future on television! A new animated series is heading our way and it has an all-new cast. It takes place between Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and we had a chance to talk with the people behind the show about why we should get excited and what makes these characters unique. The roundtable interviews we attended included executive producers Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg as well as voice actors Freddie Prinze Jr. (Kanan), Steve Blum (Zeb), Tiya Sircar (Sabine), Vanessa Marshall (Hera), and Taylor Gray (Ezra).

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On the show's tone and story

SIMON KINBERG: I think The Clone Wars is a little more akin to the prequels and Rebels is little more connected to the original trilogy, both in terms of the timeline and in terms of the tone. I think Clone Wars is a slightly more story-driven, slightly darker show. And Rebels is more character-driven, sort of more aspirational, brighter show -- the way the original movies were. So that's really the inspiration for the show: to tell an origin story of characters that's very connected to the beginning of A New Hope. It doesn't feel like it's a generation away. It feels like it would lead very naturally and quite quickly into A New Hope. You'll see because of certain cameos in the show that it would have to.

The show has, like the original films, moments of real darkness -- dark, scary characters. The villains are really hardcore. Clone Wars took place in the middle of war -- it had "war" in the title. So does this, but it's the beginning of a new one and it's the beginning the rebellion. It doesn't feel like we're deep into the years of oppression and battle. From the beginning, the inspiration tonally, visually, and emotionally was A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. We kept focusing on that... how do we create a new story and a new set of characters that could fit into episodes 4, 5, and 6? That was what was most exciting to me as we got started.

COMIC VINE: Like you said, Star Wars has so many memorable characters, so what is it that the new Mandalorian, Sabine, and the Inquisitor will bring to the table to help them standout?

SK: As we built the show, one of the things that I loved so much about A New Hope is we met these characters who have really complex backstories and you felt like these people had a real history to them. We spent a lot of time building the backstories of the characters and you see evidence of that throughout the first season. The specifics of their stories are rich, interesting, complex stories that would differentiate them from any character. And certainly her attitude is different than any Mandalorian we've ever seen. She has a sparky, rebellious, fun side to her despite having a darker history.

DAVE FILONI: Since we all work with George [Lucas], we feel the responsibility, not just to Star Wars, but to him to get this right and to show fans it's not just going to be okay... it's going to be awesome. I know J.J. [Abrams] is working very hard on 7. Everybody is. We all have the same goals and we're all fans of Star Wars, so we're going to take care of it.

TIYA SIRCAR: There is a lightheartedness and a levity to all of what we do, but I think what we're doing is such a serious matter. There's a balance. It's not all fun and games. There's jokes, but there's some real stuff to it, especially when you get to these characters' back stories and what brought them here. That stuff is heavy stuff.

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On their characters

STEVE BLUM: They call me the muscle. I'm a big dude and I'm a new species to the Star Wars universe and to me that's a really exciting thing. And also a lot of pressure. His relationships on the ship are going to take some time to develop. He starts off very close with Hera and Kanan -- there's a lot of mutual respect and trust there -- but with the other characters on board, especially Chopper, it's pretty estranged from the get-go and it's going to take awhile for that to warm up, I think. He has a deep sense of loyalty and sort of protective older brother kind of nature.

He's so multilayered and that's my favorite kind of character. I've played characters like Wolverine who also has that deep sense of layers. He's got a really messed up past and he's sort of growing as a human being, as a mutant and all that stuff. I feel the same with Zeb but to a different degree because the stakes are so high. We don't know what's happened to his people and these are his only people now. This family on the ship... that's all he's got left. He really cares about the greater good and I don't take that stuff lightly. It may just be a cartoon character to some people but, to me, it's an important role -- and important task.

CV: Since you brought up Wolverine and Zeb's the tough guy in the group, could Zeb hold his own against Logan?

SB: (laughs) Zeb wouldn't heal as fast if he was injured, but they could be great sparring partners. Actually, I don't think the fight would last that long because they have so much in common and they'd just go out for a drink. That's one of the few characters I think would understand Wolverine. They would have a lot to talk about, so in the midst of the fight, I think they'd probably go "Dude, what are we doing? Come on, let's talk! Lend me your shoulder!"

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FREDDIE PRINZE JR: He's [Kanan] not a master. He's going to be called one by Ezra at some point and it's going to be a conflicting thing for him. He's going to lack confidence, which gets answered in the most awesome Star Wars way. I can't tell you, but I'm getting goosebumps just talking about it. I'm literally getting goosebumps now but I can't tell you! He's forced into this teaching role. He's very protective of Ezra, he's very disciplined in those moments.

TAYLOR GRAY: Ezra doesn't want to be a part of the rebels -- he doesn't want to be a part of anything. He's all about himself which is a bad thing and a good thing. He's very independent, he's very self sufficient, but at the same time, he doesn't really know how to care for people. He's a young kid that's actually very cool.

TS: She's a Manalorian and who doesn't love Mandalorians?! But she's a chick Mandalorian, which I think is awesome. She's also got this extra layer of complexity -- she's an artist. She's not just busy blowing things up. She's doing it with flare and panache. I think it's very fitting that she's a graffiti artist because we're rebels. We're anti-establishment. That sort of goes hand in hand, I think. I think she's a really cool and unique character that hopefully people will enjoy as much as other iconic female characters in the Star Wars universe. These five characters are new but there are elements that make them fit in this universe.

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VANESSA MARSHALL: She's the owner of the Ghost -- the main ship -- which is, for all intentions and purposes, the Millennium Falcon of our show. She's sort of the the getaway driver. An ace pilot, a great fighter in the air, on land. While she is a bit of a brute force, she also is quite kind and loving and maternal. She has an innate ability to lead and guide these people and bring the best out of them so that they can work together as a team and face impossible odds and overcome them. We mess around with each other. We're a group of cons. It's a little like the Guardians of the Galaxy. We've created a very dysfunctional family and in a weird way it's fascinating to see how that bond is actually stronger than blood. There's that deep love beneath it but you'll constantly see banter like the original trilogy. It's very fun. Fun and funny!

On the franchise in general and being a part of it

SB: Man, it's a whole different animal. Going out to Star Wars meetings kind of gives you the scope of how big this universe really is. I've been a Star Wars fan since '77 and this brings it to a whole different level. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to the fans -- I think we all do.

FP: That's what I played as a kid. I didn't play cowboys and indians, we played Luke and Darth. That's what we played -- that's the scar on my chin. I bent an aluminum flagpole until it snapped -- which is highly intelligent -- and my cousin and I were playing lightsabers with it. I was sliding down the slide, trying to get away from Vader, and the flagpole hit the ground before I did. Thoomp! Right in my chin! My mom was watching from afar, lost her mind -- she thought I died. She ran out, grabbed the piece of chin, took me to the doctor and they stitched it back in.

Yeah, I mean, I jumped off my roof when I was 12 because I thought I could. I thought I could use the force to protect my fall. I sprained my ankle. A million kids will tell you the same story, or maybe they won't because it's embarrassing. But yeah, man, that was my whole childhood. I think every guy, when they saw Hayden [Christensen] do Anakin, every guy was probably like "Aw, that would have been sick if I could have done that!" You know what I mean? Same with probably Spider-Man and all those others, but to be a Jedi? Superman ain't beating a Jedi! He's not!

CV: Do you have a favorite lightsaber fight from the movies?

FP: Honestly, my favorite one isn't from the movies, it's from The Clone Wars. It's Pre Vizsla versus Darth Maul. If you haven't seen it, it's literally like, super, ultimate technology versus Sith ninja skills. You're literally watching technology dominate discipline until discipline recognizes -- through discipline -- what has dominated it and destroys that. Once Maul gets that advantage and recognizes what's beating him, he takes out the technology and now the Mando has to rely on his skills -- which are so far inferior to ninja Sith skills -- and he's freaking done! He doesn't even present a fight after that! That fight holds up against any live-action lightsaber fight.

CV: So what about Darth Maul vs. the Inquisitor? The new badass versus the older badass!

FP: (laughs) I've gotta say Maul! Look, man, it takes 2 guys to beat him unless you're the big boss. He's the man, bro. I'll say Maul.

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On bounty hunters

DF: We already have an arms dealer named Vizago who is a different type of smuggling scum than Hondo. Hondo's more like your classic mafia boss that wanted to deal mainly in olive oil and Vizago's into more seedy and evil things -- things that Hondo would look at and say "that's not even moral for me!" It's a different time period. Evil's more prevalent. Bounty hunters fit right into it. I would probably lean more towards creating new ones than actually reusing guys. I would love to find a way to get Embo or Cad Bane in there but their stories are in some ways up in the air. We were working on more stories with both of them in Clone Wars. Part of what we did is we figured out all of the stories we're telling with George when we say "okay, what are we keeping? What do we we like and will we use it in a different way?" So you never know. Cad gets a lot of likes and it means something when we're in the story room.

SK: It's a world that Dave and I love -- the bounty hunter world and actually the crime world of Star Wars. That's one of my favorite things about Star Wars.

On their favorite Star Wars comedic scene

TG: The walking carpet line!

TS: I love Han and Leia's interactions. I like the dynamic between the two of them.

We also asked Kinberg, an X-Men producer and writer, which mutant he'd select if he could see an X-Men character cross into the Star Wars universe

SK: (laughs) That's a fascinating question. Wow. I think just because he's my favorite character: Magneto. I'd put him in the original trilogy. The notion of Magneto and Darth Vader in a scene together is as good as it gets for me.

CV: Ian McKellen or Michael Fassbender?

SK: Oh, that's a good question also! Ian McKellen.

CV: What if they had to fight in this crossover?

SK: (laughs) There's a lot of metal on Darth Vader!

CV: But could he force choke Magneto first?

SK: Force choke or magnet choke... what would come first? I would put my money on the guy with force powers! That's a fun question -- I will continue to think about it!

Star Wars: Rebels will begin this October on Disney XD.