The Clone Wars is back, which can only mean a few things: One, some of our favourite Star Wars characters in the galaxy have returned. Two? It’s all about to end rather tragically for most of them. But Rex and Ahsoka will come out of the Clone War…mostly unscathed, and for the voice behind the former, their relationship speaks to one of the show’s greatest legacies.
“I’ve got to say”we, as voice actors…these characters on this show, in particular, we really care about these characters. We really connect with them,” Dee Bradley Baker, the voice of Rex, Cody, and the clone army of the Republic at large on The Clone Wars, recently told Gizmodo. That connection with the world and characters means that looking at the cost of the Clone War is a tough thing for Baker to contemplate.
“For me, it’s not easy to have a clone die or to have something like Fives’ [death in season six]. Those were challenging arcs for me to go through, just emotionally and personally. Because as a voice actor, I don’t bring my work home with me. I do my thing and I’m done. And then I’m kind of free of it once I get home,” Baker explained. “But there have been episodes of the Clone Wars that have been very affecting that I have to carry with me, and work my way through, because…these Clones in particular, they’re soothing. And they’re not outlandish or fanciful or stylised cartoon characters. They just feel very human.”
He continued. “And I think that’s kind of the key to what’s appealing about them. It’s that they’re heroic and ultra-competent and dependable, but they’re human. They are not superhumans. And so, when they get shot or killed or realise the tragedy of the Clone Wars or glimpse that, it’s affecting to me…So there’s that connection that I have [that] I think the other actors in the show share with their characters very much.”
For Baker, the humanity that makes the Clones so compelling also ties into one of the series’ understated, yet most powerful relationships: the evolution of the bond between Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano (played by Ashley Eckstein). Something we now know, thanks to the many years since Clone Wars was last on screens, was that their friendship developed into the time of Star Wars Rebels, and perhaps even further in the timeline beyond that.
“There’s a lot of water under the bridge with Ahsoka and Rex,” Baker said on the impact that the young padawan”now former padawan, having heartbreakingly left the Jedi Order behind”has had on his portrayal of Rex, in Clone Wars and beyond. “[Since] the first meeting of the two, Rex has kind of gradually loosened up, and [loosened up] his style of soldiering. I think that’s in answer to his working with Ahsoka and Anakin for such a long time. And for them to come through all of this together? For Rex to survive that fall and then to make it all the way through the end of the Clone Wars, it’s a real culmination. It’s quite exciting, and very satisfying, to be able to play that out, finally.”
The relief and satisfaction Baker feels about being able to deliver on this important chapter in Rex and Ahsoka’s story is something he shares with fans about the show’s return for one last season at large. “We all thought it would not happen, and I know the fans and those that love Clone Wars and Star Wars are going to be very excited and gratified to see how this plays out. For these two in particular, because they’ve got a very interesting friendship and a long friendship that stands the test of the time,” Baker told us.
“We see Rex, even older and knowing he and Ashoka made it all the way to Endor. So, it’s part of an ongoing saga, and friendship, and partnership, and collaboration, that continues past the Clone Wars,” he said. “But this is a uniquely decisive moment that’s coming down for both of them. It’s had a lot of pretty dramatic things happen so far, but what’s coming up with the Clone Wars‘ final season is uniquely operatic in the grand space opera that is Star Wars.”
That culmination for Baker is a bittersweet one, as it means putting an endcap on a particular era of his involvement with Star Wars that speaks to him not just as an actor, but as a fan of the galaxy far, far away. “This assignment, this vision is unique among my career. I don’t think I’ll ever be on a better show. And I’ve never had an assignment as a voice actor that was as interesting as this,” Baker said. “In addition, it connects back into my life”I’m a fan, like I was as a kid. I posted the picture on social media of the Jawa costume my parents made for me in the summer of 1977. I’ve had a longstanding interest in Star Wars. And I can probably say, like a lot of people do, that a lot of the reason why I ended up in Hollywood as an actor, or in the entertainment industry, is because my enthusiasm goes back to that movie.”
Clone Wars has given Baker the chance to put his own mark on a universe he loves, to the point that, for many, he is the face”well, voice”of the Clone Troopers, the definitive portrayal of not just a fundamental aspect of The Clone Wars, but the Star Wars prequel era at large. But, befitting an actor who lends one multifacted voice to a legion of soldiers, commanders, captains, and heroes, Baker champions the fact that his work on Clone Wars undoubtedly a team effort.
“Animation is a deeply collaborative art form, and while I do create the voice and the acting skill and nuance of the characters vocally…every frame of the story, there’s hundreds of artists and technicians and amazing people to make every frame of this what it is,” Baker noted when asked of his status among fans as the definitive take on the Clone Troopers. “So, I will accept some praise and appreciation, certainly, to what I bring to the character. But it’s important to realise I didn’t write it, I didn’t direct it, I didn’t light it…you can go on and on with all the different, brilliant people that put their blood, sweat, and tears into every frame of this. I realise this was a collaboration. I will take credit happily and gratefully, but I want to make sure the people who love the show realise it’s a whole team of artists and technicians making this the incredible show that they love.”
You might even say it takes a whole, grand army.
The first episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ first season is available to stream on Disney+ now, with new episodes arriving on the service every Friday.