I have been super excited about Star Wars Rebels. My kids watch the Disney Channel all the time and the previews are super enticing to them. Every time they see it they start yelling at me that they have to watch it. They don’t want me to forget to record it and neither do I. This is going to be a great series that the whole family can watch together. It’s a cartoon series that Star Wars fans will love. While in LA last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Freddie Prinze Jr. who plays Kanan, and the Producer Dave Filoni. Here is their interview.
Q: Star Wars is such a legacy, a huge franchise. How did it feel to be a part of that?
Freddie: I didn’t know it was Star Wars. It was titled Wolf Pack. And you’ll have to speak to him about that. But uh, I went in and I saw some Character breakdowns on the wall at Disney and I looked at them and I’m thinking, these guys are either ripping off Star Wars real bad or this is a Star Wars thing. And uh, there was another girl in the waiting room and she was reading for Tia — for Tia’s character and she looked super nervous. And when she came out of the room, it was like this is definitely Star Wars. So I asked them and I think I said a word that I shouldn’t say, this first table run. I said is this bleeping Star Wars? And then — and then he kind of sits back, he sits back there, he sits back and he kind of like nods his head all cool and I was like “All right, give me a second”. I’ve got to turn around and compose myself and then get prepared. Instead of a Light Sabre, I had a Sun Sword, which Thunder the Barbarian had from Hanna Barbera. Remember that?
Dave: That’s good knowledge.
Freddie: But they ripped off Star Wars. They even had their Wookie. They had Klan, right? That was the Wookie that Princess Ariel, Princess Leah but she had Manly–Sorry, (he’s laughing) My ’80s Cartoon Knowledge is on point.
What made you want to do this?
Dave: Well you know, we were kind of wrapping up the Series, Clone Wars with the big Disney purchase, it was time for a change and fans, you know, felt very strongly about the show. In all honesty, it just felt like something that we probably shouldn’t continue without George (Lucas). It was just a part of him and his creation and working with him was like no other experience I’ve ever had. So we wanted to come up with something new that represented this kind of new era of Star Wars and working with Lucas Films Story team, we all quickly came up with the idea of Star Wars Rebels, the story team introduced the idea to make an A-Team like scenario and it just makes sense.
Talk about the strong female characters in Star Wars Rebels.
Dave: Yeah, I think that, I mean, it’s a strange word to use but like it’s just a necessity. I think most Creatives you speak to right now would say that if they had a choice to tell a story, they would use a female lead. I think some people feel that the stories have been told with the guys, you know.
Freddie: I was gonna say, Clone Wars is a good example where we can show good and evil, strong, powerful women at a young age to a more young adult age as far as young female protagonists. They did Clone Wars big time, both good and evil.
Dave: Yeah, so we didn’t want to repeat Luke so we did Soka. And then we did Ezra cause we didn’t want a repeat of Soka, so instead we made the women characters ones that didn’t have the force, ones that could be tough on their own. So when we direct like Hara, I say, I want you to say and be and do any of the lines you would have given Hans Solo. I don’t want you to change them in any way. You know, I want this character as being one that would react like Clint Eastwood when he got shot. Don’t make her, don’t diminish in any way or color it any way that you think has traditionally been. You see, I get schooled on this on a daily basis at home by my wife and honestly, she’s a way better storyteller than I am.
Freddie: And just because Leah is in a dress, don’t trip. She’s tougher than the guys in all 3 Movies. So I mean a dress doesn’t–You all are in dresses. I’m sure some of you can move on us. That existed in the Star Wars World long, long ago.
Dave: It’s got to be more about your spirit, your integrity, your emotions as a character, more than anything superficial so that’s what we try to work with. And like I said, my wife is definitely the hugest influence for me there. If I’ve been successful at all creating female characters, it’s because of her absolutely.
Talk about the Casting process.
Dave: Oh it went so fast. We made this show very quick, because we wanted to film in the time prior to Episode 7. You know, that’s gonna be this thunderous amazing thing! But it was gonna take time to produce so we wanted to get an animated series up ahead to kind of get kids up and going with Star Wars and in this new world and so it was one of the big challenges when we were sold. So it was gonna be very hard to cast quickly and my feelings was that you just, you know the right people when you hear them, when you see them. So we met everybody when they came in and we just brought in a group of people and pretty much without fail, Simon Kinberg, Greg Weisman and I always would give high marks to the same people. We’ve been so lucky that creatively, we’ve all collaborated really well with Lucas Film. And we’ve all pretty much agreed on the decisions. It’s really rare, so we would pick our top people and we were like wow, I agree, I heard he is really good. I like to judge things, you can be really talented but if you’re not a good person, if you’re not gonna be collaborative, then I don’t want to work with you. Talent’s not gonna outweigh that. I think that’s the important thing for young people. If you’re really talented and you’re arrogant, I don’t want to work with you. I want somebody who’s hard working. You know, right?
Dave: You know, when I went to play hockey growing up, you know, my coach always appreciated the kids that put in the work, not just the talented kids. You know, you got to work for things. And we got to work hard together to prove. We got to get along really well. And these guys have to become these characters. So it’s really worked out. I can see a lot of people might have the acting chops but you have the personality plus all the fans, the Star Wars Fans, I think an important part of being an actor in Star Wars is you have to accept the exposure to our fans and I want you to treat them with respect cause they’ll treat you with respect for the most part. I mean, they’ve all been great.
Freddie: For the most part.
Dave: You passed the test.
Freddie: There have been a few though.
Dave: Vision, to me Freddie’s kind of like a Star Wars goal, he gets it. He gets the attitude. He gets the kind of way that–You get the swagger, my friend. That kind of Hans Solo thing.
Freddie: It’s a generation thing though like it’s a genetic thing when you’re around our age like it’s just, you know, that was back when wrestling was real. That was back when the news told the truth. So it’s just, it’s ingrained and it’s a part of you so you know, you read lines and I’m literally, like before I even talked to him like I know exactly how he wants me to say that because I remember this from “Empire Strikes Back” when they’re–You know what I mean and like you just get the vibe of who you’re kind of summoning as you’re sort of figuring out who this–who this sort of Rebel Jedi is.
Cause he’s not the normal Jedi. He’s not together. He doesn’t have it all figured out. He has maybe 3 answers. Forget all the answers and then two of them, he’s guessing on. You’ll literally see him sort of BS Ezra on some of these horse things that something like Master Yoda would be like, you know, there is no try, there’s only do. Where’s–Kanan will be like give me your best shot. (Laughing) You’re not supposed to do that. I mean, you know what I mean? He makes mistakes cause he was young and he didn’t get to complete his training in the way that an Anakin or the way that Luke could, you know what I mean? He’s not the master that Ezra, you know, that a kid sees. Growing up without a father like Ezra, you put certain men in your life on a pedestal. And they become something to you. They become something special and spiritual and powerful. And it’s not fair to do to them by the way because they’re just men, right? They’re gonna have mistakes, they’re gonna get sick, they’re gonna cheat on their wives, they’re gonna do whatever it is they do that’s gonna destroy that image you have and make you angry at them, even though you projected that on them. And so they get to have that type of a relationship and you can really see it from Jump Street. You can see Kanan kind of resist, and you can see him get sucked in because the way Taylor plays Ezra is, he may be a smart alleck but he knows how to show you vulnerability and–and that’s what kind of gets me.
We read together like we’re in the room at the same time. It’s a very collaborative process. It’s very Breakfast Clubby, you know what I mean, like we do everything in order. It is, they shot that movie like a play basically. The scenes in the beginning and end were the only things they shot out of order. The rest of that Movie was all together and that’s–that’s kind of how we record. You know what I mean, unless we got a big dog and we got to shoot out there.
How did you get this role?
Freddie: It’s weird. I’ve taken a step back from acting when we had kids and I didn’t want to leave Los Angeles anymore. I wanted to be present. Since they shoot don’t anything in Los Angeles, that was sort of that. And so it became very easy to not work and I was starting to get kind of creatively antsy and I did a couple of voices on video games which these days are way more drawn out than Mario Bros. You know what I mean? You do a voice for Mario and it’s like ‘Hey look at me.’ Then you work on a video game today and it’s 6 months worth of work. And I really started getting hungry and those acting juices started flowing again. And when this script came around, you have to remember, I didn’t know that it was “Star Wars.” So I wasn’t that excited. I was like these guys are ripping this off. This isn’t even, you know what I mean, like it’s not that good. A Sun Sword? That’s not cool, you know. So you’re not hyped up and then it wasn’t until I read, I didn’t know if I–if I booked it. I know I did a good job. And so you know, you kind of dissociate cause you don’t want to be like yes. And then like no, no. So you know, you wait, you wait, and then I heard that I got it. And it’s just this very surreal moment, you know. And I’m sure it was different for Vanessa, for Steve, certainly for Taylor, Arden. We’re generationally so far apart. For me, I mean, I slipped down the slide when I was 4 years old with a broken flagpole cause I was Luke and my cousin was Darth Vader. I have to be specific, there are so many Darths now. Back then it was only this. But you know, the pole hit the ground first and it stuck in my chin and my mom ran out and my chin blew out. And you know, she flipped and threw me in the car and took me to the hospital and they stitched this little scar I have back here. I had 16 and it looked like I had a little Goatee and I was only 4. And so you know, those, all those images start racing back through your head and you’re reading dialogue, you know, telling a kid, come with me. Come learn the ways of the forest, you know what I mean? (laughing) From 4 years old to 38 years old, I mean, come on, it’s easy to know that I really care about this.
Do you have a real Light Sabre?
Freddie: A real Light Sabre? When do I get my real Light Saber? (turning to Dave)
Dave: No, you’re not ready for that.
The half-hour series will premiere on Disney XD MONDAY, OCTOBER 13 (9:00 p.m., ET/PT).
Our family is super excited and we have it scheduled to record.