Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Catherine Taber Talks The Clone Wars

When asked to name female characters in the Star Wars trilogy, Princess Leia and Padmé Amidala come to mind first. Padmé is the heroine of the prequel trilogy,  whether she’s wielding a blaster in combat or addressing a senate. Her death may have been contested, but before Episode 3 she got a lot of chances to shine alongside the Jedi and clones who accompany her through the war. The woman who brings her to life for The Clone Wars is Catherine Taber, who may also be familiar to Star Wars fans as the scrappy Twi’lek Mission Vao from Knights of the Old Republic, or Princess Leia in The Force Unleashed I & II, and most recently as Vette in The Old Republic. I got to talk to Taber about her wishes for season five, her interactions with fans, and more.

Megan: What has been your favorite part of season four?

Catherine Taber: I’ve really enjoyed Ahsoka and Padmé this season.

M: One of my favorite episodes is “Assassin”, which features a lot of development between Ahsoka and Padmé. How would you describe their relationship?

CT: I love that one. They have a kind of big sister relationship. Padme feels like there are things that she could teach Ahsoka but they’re not in a mother-daughter way, more like “I went through that a couple of years ago”. Like an older sister.

M: You got to hang out with Ashley Eckstein at Disney Star Wars Weekends this year.

CT: I did. She just sent me my Leia Her Universe hoodie, which is super exciting. I collected Star Wars t-shirts before, and felt like I’d hit my limit. There wasn’t much else out there. So she came around for all of us female fans at exactly the right time, when not only did I need more t-shirts personally, but so many more women were really becoming involved in the sci-fi world in general. They’ve always been there; there’s always been a presence, but there’s more and more. You used to go to Comic-Con and just see dudes for miles, and now it’s pretty even.

M: When you said “before”. Was that before you started working on The Clone Wars?

CT: I actually had been to Comic-Con before, as a fan. One year before we were announced on The Clone Wars I was doing autographs for my previous Star Wars project, Knights of the Old Republic.

M: I was so excited when I found out that you played Mission, because I love that character.

CT: That was literally my first voiceover job ever, so that was really exciting.

M: That is really exciting. She’s like Han Solo in little blue form.

CT: That’s really funny that you say that, because I modeled her after Han Solo in the audition. When I auditioned I didn’t know for sure that Zaalbar was a Wookiee. They don’t tell you that. I thought Zaalbar is my sidekick, so is he a big dog? And then I found out he was a Wookiee and I thought yes, that’s so awesome. So she’s definitely modeled after Han Solo. She’s also Scoundrel class, so that’s perfect.

M: Have you played Knights of the Old Republic?

CT: I haven’t played the whole thing on my own. I love to play all the games that I’m in - and some others that I’m not - but I can’t get consumed, otherwise I would probably not have a life. [laughs]

M: There is always that balance.

CT: I like to check out as much as I can without getting into one of those situations where I haven’t left the house in five days. [laughs]

M: I think it’s great that you come from a fan perspective. You can see it all from the acting side but then also bring a love of Star Wars to your performance.

CT: Yes. When I auditioned for Mission Vao, I found out later that they were having trouble casting that role. I think that my love for Star Wars and knowledge of Star Wars helped me to become one of the characters. The thing about acting in sci-fi is that it really helps if you love the material so that you’re not being patronizing towards that material. You’re not over-the-top. You have to believe that you’re in space and fighting this battle. If you don’t, it’s easier for it to come off as phony.

M: How much are you influenced by Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Padmé in terms of the voice that you use for her?

CT: The great thing about our director Dave [Filoni] was that when we first started he said, “This is your Padmé. You don’t have to worry about being Natalie or anybody else who played her previously.” Prior to auditioning, I re-watched the movies and Natalie’s performance to see the character again and do my research. I also used the Database on the internet to find out more about Padmé’s history, and who she is and who she was. I did research as an actress in the same way that I would if I was taking on a role that had been played by somebody else. Which happens a lot, especially if you’re talking about plays or films based on works of literature. If you’re doing Ophelia, somebody’s played Ophelia before. You don’t go back and try to be the last actress; you try to be true to the character. Padmé as played by Natalie, with the direct influence of George Lucas, was very true to who she was. In that sense, we tried to adhere to that. But I definitely try to make her my own, and Dave has been cool about that. We wanted to make sure that because we had the luxury of filling in some of Padmé’s life that you don’t get to see in the movies, we wanted to be sure that we showed her as the strong, brave, female full of integrity that she is.

M: One of my favorite episodes this season was “Shadow Warrior”, where Padmé has a big role in choosing Anakin’s fate.

CT: That was really interesting. People were trying to figure out what they would do in that situation. I really think that Padmé would try to do what was right for the greater good, but that’s a tough one when it involves someone that you love. I do think that she’s pretty good at putting herself and her own feelings second and putting the greater good first, which you definitely can’t say for all of the characters in Star Wars.

M: Do you think that Padmé’s decision was at all affected by her fear of the marriage being discovered?

CT: No, I really don’t. I think that at the end of the day she cares so much about doing the right thing and having integrity that she is harder on herself than normal people would be, and probably goes in the opposite direction. Makes decisions less for self-interest. I think that it was just about doing what was right.

M: In The Clone Wars, we get to see things Padmé hasn’t done in the movies. Is there anything else that you’d like to see her do before Episode 3 rolls around?

CT: In general, my favorite stuff is the development of relationships with her, and with Anakin, and with Obi-Wan. The more that we can show of that to get us to where we end up [in Episode 3] is what I would like to see. Not to mention I love working with Matt and James Arnold Taylor, so, that doesn’t hurt.

M: Do you typically get to record with them, or do you work separately?

CT: We almost always record together. Occasionally if someone is out of town working on a project then they don’t get to record at the same time, but there have been times even where Matt was off doing a movie where we would temp some of the dialogue, but we might still come back together when he was back in town and record some of the scenes that were really important, just to really make sure that relationship was still there, with the chemistry between the two characters. I think Dave and the writers and editors have really done a great job of bringing that out on our show.

M: It’s nice to be able to see episodes focused on the big three: Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padmé.

CT: I have to say, even as a fan and not just for me, the Padmé, Anakin, and Obi-Wan episodes are my favorite to watch. I love Rex and Ahsoka, who we’ve had on our show from the beginning, and the clones. And I love the ones that have the characters we started with and the old-school Padmé-Obi-Wan-Anakin relationships. It reminds me of why I love the movies so much. It’s also about the humor that comes with those: I absolutely adore action, but I also think that action is best when it’s supported by a good story and good characters.

M: What characters from the show are your favorites outside of the main three?

CT: Yoda is my favorite overall character in the Star Wars universe. I wish that I had had someone like Yoda in my life, teaching me. My parents probably have a little Yoda in them. [laughs] That may be why I like him. But to have someone reinforcing the idea of “do or do not”: what a great message that is! What Yoda says when he’s teaching Luke is some of what drew me to Star Wars in general. Yoda’s my favorite, and Tom Kane, who does our Yoda, is himself such a wise, lovable man. I wish there was some more of Yoda. There’s fun stuff coming up.

I also love Ventress. Nika [Futterman] does such a great job, and it’s great to have a female villain. Although of course we’ve seen some other sides of Ventress, which has been very interesting to explore.

M: She’s been one of my favorite characters because you can never quite tell what side she’s on.

CT: Yeah, and that’s probably more true to life for most people. They have that gray area, and also there are reasons for why they end up as who they are. I think that our show is really cool in that you can look at Vader and then see Anakin. It’s so interesting to think of how he ends up and the reasons why. They’re not as black and white as you would think if you just took Vader at face value and thought ‘oh, he’s just evil’. You start to understand how people sometimes get to that place.

M: On the topic of Yoda, have you read Sean Stewart’s “Dark Rendezvous”?

CT: I haven’t. I have a whole lot of the books on my shelf that I haven’t gotten to.

M: Have you read other Star Wars books?

CT: I read the Zahn books, and then I have a whole bunch of books with Jaina.

M: I’d heard from Tricia at Fangirlblog that you’d want to play Jaina if there was a chance.

CT: Yeah, I do! I don’t know if it’s gonna happen but I just keep hoping. It would be so much fun to play mother, daughter, and granddaughter. I wanna do that one live-action. That would be really cool.

M: Do you enjoy events like Star Wars Weekends and San Diego Comic-Con?

CT: Being someone who lives in Los Angeles and experiences Hollywood, I see that it’s like Hollywood descending on San Diego for a few days. It’s overwhelming in its size and scope - and crowds! Luckily, because it’s sci-fi fans, everybody’s pretty nice. I can’t imagine another genre where you could have that many people together and it go that well than at Comic-Con, and that says a lot for our fans.


  1. Wow, Nem! Congratulations in landing an interview! This was really interesting, seeing what she thinks of CW (and OH MY GOSH, you interviewed Mission). Great question choices, too. Well done! :D

    1. Thanks! It was really such a thrill to talk to her, especially about Mission.

  2. I...I have no words for how awesome you are!