MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN EPISODE 2×05 “THE JEDI” AHEAD
One of the biggest open secrets in Hollywood finally became official fact during this past Friday’s episode of The Mandalorian as Rosario Dawson made her hugely-anticipated debuted as the live-action version of massively popular Star Wars character Ahsoka Tano! Originally appearing on the animated series Star Wars Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, Ahsoka was Anakin Skywalker’s former padawan, previously voiced throughout her animated life by Ashley Eckstein. However, unlike the previous episode where The Mandalorian adapted Bo-Katan Kryze, another Clone Wars/Rebels character, and had original voice actress Katee Sackhoff play the character in live-action, it was Dawson who got the gig here as Ashoka. And it’s all thanks to the fans.
In a hugely extensive Vanity Fair interview with Dawson and Clone Wars/Rebels creator Dave Filoni (who also co-produces The Mandalorian with creator Jon Favreau and wrote/directed the most recent episode), the actress revealed that the entire process of her playing Ahsoka in live-action started by retweeting some fancasting.
Actually it first came from fans online. Someone tweeted me and fan-cast me. I retweeted back and I was like, “Absolutely, yes please” and “#AhsokaLives.” And apparently that got the attention of someone who has been doing the Star Wars press for years. She forwarded it to Dave Filoni. That kind of started a whole thing. I was like, “Oh my goodness, did I just get fan-cast in something?” And then nothing happened.
This was way before the world had even heard of The Mandalorian, but Filoni had seen the tweet and kept it in the back of his mind.
That was the first time and I looked at Rosario and I thought, Huh. Yeah, I think maybe she would make a good Ahsoka. I just kept loosely aware of what she was up to, and she was doing some Marvel things. But I’d seen interviews with her where she would talk about wanting to play the character and her excitement, so it was interesting.
As more fans brought up the wish-list casting to Dawson, she leaned into it. But it was still just a fun thing she was doing to engage with fans. There had never been any serious considerations. Until there suddenly was.
People have been fan-casting me on all kinds of things, like She-Hulk and stuff. And I always just think it’s really fun, because I get to see myself in different kinds of art. But then I got a FaceTime call from [Jon Favreau and Dave. They were building out The Mandalorian, and I got to have a behind-the-scenes look at visuals and concept [from] what they were planning on doing with this second season.
They were just about to drop the first one, and they had all of this art that had me as Ahsoka. They had already been preparing, knowing that they wanted to have her be a part of a story in the second season. They’d just been visualizing me in this role that whole time, and it was mind-boggling.
Continuing on, Dawson explained that she had really bad reception on the call resulting in the picture dropping out, but even that couldn’t damper her excitement.
So I was pacing and jumping up and down, trying to keep really cool in my voice, but I was freaking out. I mean, this is real Star Wars—the font, the look, the art, the everything, and my face in there. I just, I couldn’t. I was beside myself, and they were asking, “Do you want to do this? I mean, we appreciate if it’s not something you want to do.” And I was like, “Oh, no, no, that would be cool, actually. I think we could maybe work this out.” Trying to play it cool, but I was sweating.
What probably also helped Dawson’s case was that fact that by pure chance, she actually also personally knew Hayden Christensen, the actor who played Anakin Skywalker in the Prequel Trilogy. Dawson had only been a teenager when she broke into Hollywood with her role in 1995’s Kids, and it was around that time that she met Christensen in acting classes. The pair ended up doing a movie together years later, and old pictures of Dawson and Christensen hanging out together just fueled the fancasting of her as Ahsoka even more. But, as Filoni explained, on top of all of that, Dawson just nailed the role.
When I was first exploring the possibility of directing live-action, I asked [Lucasfilm president] Kathleen Kennedy about casting and when you knew someone was right for a part. She thought about it and said, “You just know.” And she was right. When I met Rosario, I just knew she was right for Ahsoka. Yes, there was the tweet and her interest in the part; yes, she has been in action movies and is a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy stories; yes, she knew Hayden Christensen and pictures of them together look like Anakin and Ahsoka. But in the end, when I met her and we talked, I just knew.
Based on the very positive fan response so far, I think Filoni, Dawson and whoever that person was who first tweeted out that fancasting and got this whole ball rolling, got it very right.
Last Updated: December 1, 2020