Check out an exclusive clip from Star Wars Rebels 2×16 as Vanessa Marshall breaks down Hera’s challenges in “Homecoming.”
“Homecoming” will finally reveal Hera’s rather painful backstory. Did you know any of this information before recording this episode?
We had a little bit of a description when we started, and some of the things evolved. So I didn’t know specifically what was going to happen until I got the script. It’s interesting, I can’t wait to see the episode tonight because obviously I read it, and we performed it, but how it actually translates with the images, it’s going to be exciting to see it all come together. So I feel like I’m continuing to learn more about Hera’s backstory even tonight when I watch it with everyone else.
What was it like to explore this new side of Hera while reuniting fans with the defenders of Ryloth?
Well, I am a huge fan of The Clone Wars, and that whole Cham Syndulla [on] Ryloth arc. I was very familiar with that, and I was happy to see Numa come back, and of course, Cat Taber was brilliant and Robin Atkin-Downes [voice of Cham] is a genius. So from sort of a fangirl perspective, I was happy to see them still alive and well.
And of course, I was curious as to why Hera would have left Ryloth. It was really helpful and fleshed that out a bit more, hearing about [her and Cham’s] past and the troubles that they’d had. Hearing about certain things with their family background, and stuff like that. No spoilers, but [laughs] yeah, it definitely fleshed that out a bit more, and gave her a softer center than I guessed she even had. I think there’s a sadness about not working with her father, and feeling sort of misunderstood by him.
It’s interesting, individuating from one’s parents and stepping into your own power and stuff like that, I think we all go through a version of how we reconcile our differences with out parents — whatever that looks like. But it was really cool to see how Hera managed to join the Rebel Alliance, and hopefully she can sway Cham to do the same. I loved it.
Were surprised to see that Cham and Hera’s relationship seems to have gone bad?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily a bad relationship. I think she might be taking personally his priorities. He wanted to liberate the people of Ryloth at the expense of family time, maybe. And I think she wanted to expand that and spend more time with him, but unfortunately his priority took time away from her.
In a weird way, they’re on the same page. They have the same belief system, there are just a couple of things that are out of place there. It’s sad that they wouldn’t see eye-to-eye, because they actually both want the same thing. But I got the sense that she felt somewhat neglected, and wished he would expand his view, to embrace other races as well in the Rebellion and liberation.
It’s funny because Hera does the same thing — she prioritizes the Rebellion over her relationships. Do you think she sees herself in her father in that way?
Oh, definitely. Definitely. I think the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, absolutely. I think part of what makes her such a great strategist and fighter is her genetic predisposition to think so clearly in battle situations, like her father does.
But like I said, I feel like they’re just two degrees off in terms of their priorities, and it’s sad that they don’t see eye-to-eye because of those two degrees. If someone could just say, hey, you guys are fighting for the same thing. You’re actually not having an argument here. And Hera, maybe don’t take personally what your father was focused on. It’s not that you don’t matter, it’s that this required his full attention. I think on the one hand, it might have hurt her feelings, and she felt unimportant in comparison, because as Ezra says, at the expense of family, his priority was such that perhaps family was neglected on some level.
You can’t be all things to all people, but I think children demand that of their parents sometimes until they’ve had kids of their own. I think [Hera] does see parts of herself in her father, and I think she’s yearning to be seen and understood by him. It’s frustrating that they’re not communicating, because they are, in fact, on the same page. But they’d have to step back in order to see that, and maybe that will happen, considering they’re not that far off in their goal.
So let’s talk about Hera using her Twi’lek accent. Where did that idea come from? Was it in the script originally?
I remember [showrunner] Dave [Filoni] emailed me, and he said, “Do you think Hera would speak with a Ryloth accent if she ever went home?” and I wrote back, “Only if she was angry.” And that’s how we stumbled upon her lapsing into her hometown accent. He said it was something he wanted to play with, and we recorded it both ways. He wasn’t sure if it was right or not.
But Dave’s such a great director, because he really is into exploring what best serves the narrative. And I thought that was interesting, that she obviously has unlearned her Ryloth accent, if you will, to be more undercover maybe, or whatever it is. But that she would, in a moment of anger, lapse back into [it] — sort of like someone from Tennessee or Texas, or something like that, when they get into an argument with their father, all of a sudden, they’re a Southern Belle. It demonstrates a kind of vulnerability that goes straight to the core of who she is. Even in that moment, she can’t un-do that accent. But I think that’s how much she loves him and yearns to connect with him, that she even lets that guard down to speak in their shared accent.
Originally, when I got cast as Hera, I never read with such an accent. But the first day of recording, they had said to me, “Can you do sort of a French accent?” And I wrote back, “Yeah, why? I’m actually fluent in French, what do you need?” And they said, “Well, we may need you to do the whole thing in a French accent.” I said, “Oh, that’d be fun. Cool, no problem.”
And then when I got there, no one ever made any mention of it, so I guess they decided against it. Maybe it would be hard to understand, ultimately? I’m not really sure. But maybe they thought it was an interesting strategy that she would not have that accent, and that that would have been a choice on her part to hide that — to further her gains in terms of the Rebellion. So I thought it was interesting that that came full circle in this particular episode, going home, that it would sneak out in that heated moment.
Interesting! So you had thought about Hera in a French — or Twi’lek — accent before?
Yeah, definitely. And I thought it was interesting that she didn’t have one, considering that she was Twi’lek to begin with. But again, I think it’s a strategy.
I wonder if that’s something that Cham is upset about, that she lost everything about her homeland.
Yeah, maybe! That she might use that to pull him in at that moment, as well.
I love it, it’s is so Star Wars! It’s all about family relationships.
Yeah! [And] I love Kanan meeting my dad, and how nervous he was. Oh my gosh, Freddie [Prinze Jr.] was so hilarious! That was so awesome.
There’s definitely a “meeting the parents” vibe there, right? I’m not imagining that?
Oh no, not at all! [Cham], obviously, Sabine says that she studied his tactics. He’s a pretty famous, legendary military person, so I think even on that level [Kanan] wants to impress him. But I think also, obviously, he had a fondness for Hera, and the last thing he needs is for her father not to like him. But it’s so funny, because he’s such a cowboy, and he’s got so much swagger. I thought it was hilarious — also, very Star Wars — that he would become that, not inept, but sort of bumbling and nervous prior to meeting her dad. I thought that was so funny. It really humanized the Jedi in that moment.
We also will get a hint of Chopper’s backstory in this episode. Is that something that might be expanded on?
Yes. We will learn more about Chopper’s backstory. I think it’s really cool in this season, we learn a lot more about everyone’s history, and things that they didn’t even know about their history. The last episode with Steve Blum’s character Zeb, was just absolutely amazing, so I think every character is going to get their moment of discovery — so that’s exciting!
Speaking of the rest of the season, can you give us any hints about how the finale might make fans feel?
I wish I could, because I have no idea how it ends! Only Dave Filoni knows. Your guess is as good as mine! Really, I think only Dave has seen what it looks like, I don’t think anyone but Dave knows, and I don’t think we will know until it’s on the air… I have no idea. But I would imagine, if Dave Filoni continues to be Dave Filoni, it will break the internet. Again! He has a way of breaking the internet… We’ll see! We’ll buckle up and experience it together. I can’t wait.
Star Wars Rebels 2×16, “Homecoming,” airs Feb. 17 at 9:00 p.m. on Disney XD.