The Big Picture
- Ahsoka Tano has developed into a beloved character over the years, with Ashley Eckstein’s voice becoming synonymous with the character’s identity.
- Ahsoka’s growth and journey as a Jedi reflect the failures of the Jedi Order as a whole, and her decision to leave the Order is both justified and a demonstration of her rebellious nature.
- Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Ahsoka in live-action lacks the same charm and essence that Eckstein brought to the character, with the fighting style and personality feeling off. However, there is hope for improvement in future episodes.
Ahsoka Tano hasn’t always been a fan-favorite character. In fact, a lot of fans disliked her when she first appeared in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars film. But as The Clone Wars animated series went on, Ahsoka grew and developed into a bright, courageous, and fascinating character to watch. And now, Ahsoka is beloved enough to get her own self-titled show. She isn’t just a foil for Anakin, but a way to reflect on the failures of the Jedi Order as a whole. And for over 10 years, Ashley Eckstein was the definitive voice of the character. From her first appearance in Clone Wars to the recent Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, Eckstein’s voice characterized Ahsoka. But now that she’s finally made the jump to live-action and Eckstein’s voice is switched out for Rosario Dawson, the character just doesn’t hit the same.
Who Is Ashley Eckstein, and What Does She Mean to the Character of Ahsoka?
Eckstein is an actress who really found her stride in voice acting. From her first appearance in The Clone Wars animated film, through the series, and into Star Wars: Rebels and beyond, her voice was synonymous with the character. Even in recent years, she reprised the role for the beloved Season 7 of Clone Wars, voiced her in a cameo in The Rise of Skywalker, and came back again for 2022’s Tales of the Jedi. Eckstein has been playing this role for almost two decades and has become a widely beloved figure in the Star Wars community for her love and dedication to the character. While Star Wars isn’t the only thing Eckstein has worked on, Ahsoka Tano is by far her longest-lasting and best-known performance.
Why Fans Fell in Love With Ahsoka Tano
Ahsoka would not be the character we know and love today without Eckstein, as her voice is how fans have known the character for well over a decade. We start with a young and overzealous Ahsoka — a padawan always getting in over her head and giving Anakin a headache. She’s a fun kid with a good heart, but she has a lot to learn. And watching her learn is where the audience starts to love her, too. As Ahsoka grows as a person and as a Jedi, she starts to understand the world more. She sees how the Jedi have failed, how the people around her have been hurt by it, but also how they are an essential force against the rising tides of war. She is the emotional core of The Clone Wars, which is why most of the final season seems to focus on her. Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order entirely when she is framed as a terrorist and realizes she can’t abide by their teachings anymore. It’s a flawed institution and rather than try and live with it or fix it, she decides to do things her own way. And she’s always been like that — it’s what made her such a problem child. But it’s also eventually what makes her a great leader.
What Is Rosario Dawson’s Version of Ahsoka Missing?
There are a lot of changes that come with transitioning mediums. Rather than being created by a team, Ahsoka now relies even more on the performance of a single person, and Dawson’s portrayal feels off from the character we’ve come to know. She fights some droids in Episode 1 of Ahsoka, but the motion feels stiff. It lacks the playfulness and rogue movements that made Ahsoka feel distinct. She fights seriously, more like a grizzled veteran than someone who is scrappy and acrobatic. Ahsoka’s fights are some of the most fun to watch because of this unique fighting style, but that just has not yet come across in Dawson’s fight scenes so far. Of course, it’s difficult to portray the same animated fighting style in live-action for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t seem like Dave Filoni has attempted to translate her swordsmanship in the same way.
The vibe Ahsoka gives off has changed, too. When we catch up with her in Rebels, she definitely acts more mature. She is an adult and a spy by that point — but she always still has this air of kindness and mischief to her, no matter how much time has passed. The fight was a lot bleaker in those early days of the Rebellion, but her hope never wavered. Eckstein brought a softness to the character through her voice that made her feel so human. She’s a leader, yes, but she’s also vulnerable. That vulnerability isn’t something we’ve seen in Dawson’s Ahsoka yet. From her first appearance on The Mandalorian until now, she’s seemed calm and competent. She doesn’t joke around the same way we’ve seen Ahsoka do in the past. She’s much more sullen, and it seems like more than just a consequence of time passing; Ahsoka almost feels like a different person.
And it seems like a conscious choice from Filoni to go for this more aloof persona because Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) comes off a lot closer to her animated counterpart (aside from the whole Jedi thing). She’s bombastic, a bit childish, and charismatic as hell, so when the two are juxtaposed, Ahsoka comes off even more stiff. These are both characters with a deep sense of distrust in the institutions that raised them, but a simultaneous desire to see these institutions do better. They have a lot of history between them too, clearly, with their failed padawan and master relationship. But the awkwardness between them makes Ahsoka feel even more distant, almost ethereal. She feels like a Jedi Master on the council — and a Jedi is the last thing Ahsoka would want to be. Her rejection of the Jedi Oder is completely justified and something she’s historically been able to accept. She’s a rebel first, but Dawson’s portrayal of the character seems stuck in those stuffy halls on Coruscant.
There Is Still Hope for Ahsoka’s Live-Action Portrayal
Eckstein was always going to come out with the advantage over Dawson. In many ways, she is Ahsoka to many people. But we don’t need Rosario Dawson to be Ashley Eckstein’s Ahsoka, we just need her to be Ahsoka. And so far she’s just not quite getting it. She’s too clean, too proper, and too distant. Ahsoka is your friend — she’s been through a lot, but that hasn’t changed who she is fundamentally. At her core, Ahsoka is kind, optimistic, and good to a fault. She goes out of her way to help people, even when they don’t necessarily deserve it. Dawson plays Ahsoka like an action hero, but that’s only a small portion of the character. We love her for when she is weak just as much as when she is strong. Ahsoka is only on Episode 2 though, so hopefully Filoni’s writing and Dawson’s performance can inject some more of the character’s nuance in the episodes to come. But for many people, Eckstein will forever be the definitive version of Ahsoka Tano.