“Ahsoka” star Rosario Dawson popped up at Star Wars Celebration on Saturday to bring anxious fans a special surprise — some first look footage from the upcoming Disney+ series, which played exclusively for attendees.
After missing Thursday’s Lucasfilm Studio Showcase presentation due to filming “Ahsoka,” Dawson appeared at the end of “The Mandalorian” panel, which featured creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, director and newly-promoted executive producer Rick Famuyiwa, stars Pedro Pascal (the titular Mandalorian), Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon), Emily Swallow (The Armorer), Katee Sackhoff (Bo-Katan Kryze), Temuera Morrison (Boba Fett) and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga).
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“I’m here because of people like you,” Dawson told the ecstatic crowd as she sat down with the panelists. “It’s just such a thrill and honor to bring her to life and feel the energy of everyone wanting to see her come to life.”
The live-action series just finished its third week of filming, so Dawson was able to make the panel. “Luckily we don’t shoot on Saturdays,” she quipped.
And Dawson came armed with more surprises. First, she introduced a very special guest: the trusty droid Chopper, who makes his live-action debut alongside Ahsoka in the series. Then, she cued up a less-than-30-second clip, which featured Dawson in her full Ahsoka regalia, along with quick glimpses at “Star Wars Rebels” characters Hera and Sabine Wren. The footage ends with Ahsoka looking at art of the cast of “Star Wars Rebels,” which implies other characters from the show will make their live-action debuts.
The final surprise came after the lights in the arena came back up, just in time for Natasha Liu Bordizzo to make her official debut as the actor who will bring Sabine to life.
“I feel like I’ve just been adopted into a new family,” Bordizzo said after taking the stage. “I know how much Sabine means to you, and after watching ‘Star Wars Rebels,’ she means so much to me as well.”
In an interview with Variety senior culture and events editor Marc Malkin that followed the panel, Bordizzo and Dawson discussed joining the ‘Star Wars’ universe, revealing how secretive the process of joining the storied franchise is.
“The audition process is as confidential as everything else, so I had no idea what I was reading for at first,” Bordizzo told Variety. “I was reading from another film, that had nothing to do with ‘Star Wars,’ and I was trying to analyze the material with no information, but I was like, ‘I feel like this is almost like a young Han Solo vibe to this character,’ not knowing it was Star Wars, mind you.”
Dawson, meanwhile, spoke on the red carpet about how much playing Ahsoka means to her, and the process of working on the show, which includes learning martial arts.
“Embodying a character, literally, physically, every single day, has brought on a whole other level of experience to working on a project, and bringing a character to life,” Dawson said. “It’s changing me.”
She explained: “So often, I take pieces from a character, and then I inject so much of myself in to things of my own experience and what I have to draw from. But this is absolutely going in the other direction and she is so influencing me. It’s just been so powerful to be on that journey, to be taken along with it; it’s not something I could have hoped for, or dreamed of, so it’s really out of this world.”
The Disney+ series follows Ahsoka Tano, an exiled Jedi who was once Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice before Anakin turned to the dark side and became Dark Vader. Their time together was chronicled in the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” and by the time the series concluded, Ahsoka had become a fan-favorite and one of the few examples in “Star Wars” of a major female Jedi.
Bringing Ahsoka into live-action has been a dream of “Clone Wars” writer and director Filoni, who co-created the character for the show. Dawson — who was fan-cast as the character — first played Ahsoka on Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” in an episode written and directed by Filoni, and she appeared again in the sixth episode of “The Book of Boba Fest” — again, directed by Filoni.
Naturally, Filoni created “Ahsoka” as well, along with “The Mandalorian” impresario Jon Favreau, and the show started production earlier in May. A social media post by Dawson appeared to confirm rumors that Hayden Christensen is co-starring as Anakin (aka Darth Vader), but Lucasfilm has yet to officially confirm it. Given that the events of “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” take place after Vader’s death in “Return of the Jedi,” any appearance by Christensen would almost certainly be either as a Force ghost, or in flashback.
Other co-stars include Bordizzo (“The Society”) as Sabine Wren and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Birds of Prey”), Ray Stevenson (“Vikings”) and Ivanna Sakhno (“Pacific Rim: Uprising”) in undisclosed roles.
The surprise footage was part of the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, Calif. — the first time “Star Wars” fans have gathered in person since the pandemic. Saturday’s event marks Day 3 of the convention, which kicked off Thursday with the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase, and featured news about “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “Andor,” “Star Wars: Skeleton Crew” and more, plus other Lucasfilm properties including “ Indiana Jones 5” and “Willow.”
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