Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla)

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Vanessa Marshall
Hera Syndulla (Star Wars Rebels)
Interview: April 2016

Every Star Wars fan knows you as the voice of Hera Syndulla in Star Wars Rebels and you also did voice work for various Star Wars games. How did you get started working for Lucasfilm and how did you get the part of Hera?

In 2002, I was honored to portray Jan Ors in Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast. A few years later, I was thrilled to be a part of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords and then Star Wars: The Old Republic. When I auditioned for Rebels, the Top Secret project was called WOLF. When I read the script, however, it seemed very Star Wars to me, so I decided to plug in the various narrative elements of the Saga into the WOLF script, and fortunately it worked out! Because, obviously, it was STAR WARS! When I went to the callback audition, I saw a picture of a green Twi’lek on the wall, and that is when I knew for sure! I almost fainted! Ultimately, I booked the role of Hera, and it has been intergalactic ever since!

How did you ‘create’ Hera’s voice?

I could tell from the first script how dedicated Hera was to ideas of liberty, justice and freedom. Those are things I also care very deeply about, so I tried to bring my convictions and an open heart to each record session. In addition, my father is a pilot, and I have been flying with him in his open cockpit bi-plane many times, so I already had a unique understanding of the level of skill, focus, and courage necessary to make such bold moves in the air. I also study martial arts. I train several times a week in Muay Thai, MMA, and more traditional Boxing styles, so I am very familiar with combat moves and situations. I think I brought a lot of this to the microphone. I usually research and research for my roles, but Hera felt very close to me, so I only had to look within!

Can you describe how a day working on Rebels goes?

The cast usually gathers with Dave Filoni before we begin. He will show us pictures of new characters, and he will break down exactly what we need to accomplish in the episode. I feel like we are in a locker room, and when step in front of our mikes, it’s GAME TIME! I have tons of fun with the other actors. We work hard and play hard too! I always want to make sure everyone is ok, not hungry or thirsty! Like Hera, I am kind of the mom of the group!

You just mentioned Dave Filoni. How is he to work with?

He is a genius! He always encourages us to try new things, to go further than we might we might expect. He suggests various nuances, and then lets us do our thing. In the end, he knows exactly what he wants, and we enjoy giving it to him. When we finally see everything animated on television, it is immensely rewarding!

What is your own view on the Rebels series?

From initially reading the words on the page, I am blown away by the writing itself. When we perform the script, I am moved by how compelling the words are when read aloud. Finally when I see the produced show, it is so fantastic, beyond anything I could imagine previously, that I get to enjoy the show, like any other Star Wars fan! Working on the inside does not prevent me from enjoying the final product. Going from the page to the screen, it is so different that I forget I ever read the words in the first place. I get so caught up in the show when it airs! I love to live Tweet with everyone about it! I get to be a fan too!

You must have a favorite episode!

Honestly, it is hard to choose just one! I think the Season One Finale was perhaps the most special one for me, particularly as a huge Clone Wars Fan. I adore Ahsoka, and I have been worried about her ever since she left Anakin and the Jedi Order. I was so relieved to see her again! When she came forth as “Fulcrum,” I wept with joy!

Regarding Hera: how much does her character resemble you?

Very much so! We share a lot of values, ethics, and even facial expressions! It is almost spooky! They sometimes film us while we record, and I wonder how many things they use as a guide!

What do you think of Hera’s story arc so far?

I am elated that Hera got promoted, she got to fly a B-Wing, she got to heal issues with her father, and, in the end, she set up an actual rebel base. She has come a long way from the secrecy and planning required of her in Season One, when she always knew more than her crew. Now everyone is on the same page. Unfortunately, as the rebels have gotten stronger, so has the Empire, and subsequently the casualties are even more numerous! I look forward to seeing where she goes from here!

In the season 2 finale of Rebels were a lot of cliffhangers. Do you already know what will happen in season 3? Or is it a mystery for you as well?

I know a few things about Season 3, but I too have many questions!

You were a kid when the original Star Wars came out. What memories do you have of your first encounter with Star Wars?

I saw Episode IV in the theater with my cousins. I still thank my aunt today for taking us! From the moment the Star Destroyer moved across the screen, I was hooked. I particularly loved Princess Leia! She was such a great female icon! The movie had a huge impact on me then, and it still does when I re-watch it today.

You have Dutch roots on your mother’s side. Have you ever been to the Netherlands? And –since this interview will be published on the Dutch Star Wars site- is there anything you want to say to your Dutch fans?

Yes, I have been to the Netherlands. I went when I was a teenager, and I was delighted! Hope to visit again! To my Dutch fans? “De Kracht is met jullie!

That’s great! Many thanks for your time and I look forward to Rebels season 3!