While visiting Lucasfilm Headquarters for the Rogue One press event, we had time to sit down with Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni and talk about Rogue One tie-ins on the show. What’s extra fun about this interview is that it’s my 2nd interview with Dave! My very first Disney press trip 2 years ago included the premiere of Star Wars Rebels and an interview with Dave Filoni and Freddie Prinze Jr. So fun, right?! It was awesome chatting with him about Star Wars again, here’s what we learned this time around.
On not overdoing Star Wars tie-ins
It’s fun when you have a tie-in but I like it when it’s more of a wink. It’s not something that was ever missing, if it was important, they would have done it. So I’ve always kinda looked at it that way. And I learned a lot of that from my years of working with George (Lucas). So it’s fun to do, but you have to be careful that don’t overdo it, that your fandom doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story.
Rogue One Connection Forest Whitaker as Saw Guerra on Rebels
He was fantastic. it’s one of the secrets when you’re a very good director, you just have a really great actor. He doesn’t need a lot of advice – I just gotta put him into place and tell him what’s going on. And he’s just fantastic.
So it was great to work with him and it’s added to a long list of incredibly wonderful performances that we’ve had in Star Wars across the board. Not just on Rebels. But across the board.
Star Wars Rebels is great for the whole family
When I talked to George he would always say he created Star Wars for kids. That was the big thing. When I was a kid it was a great thing because my parents liked it. It’s not that they didn’t like everything else but they were very big into opera, very big into the symphony, very big into those types of stories. And there is a great relationship between those stories and what Star wars presented. So it wasn’t talking down.
And there were a lot of things to talk about, as a family. And characters that we could relate to. So I think especially in the beginning, a lot of fans would say, “Dave, why are you making Rebels for kids?” ‘Cause that’s such a perplexing question to me. ‘Cause I would say to them well, when did you first watch Star Wars? When I was six, and it was the greatest experience I ever had. And I’m like, okay. So my whole goal is never to take that experience away from kids, is to involve everybody in it, to make it a place where the best compliment we can give for the series is that it’s something that the family watches together. And I’ve had parents tell me they watch it with their kids.
On keeping Rebels interesting for kids and adults
There are some challenging things we get especially when you deal with the Jedi. Things get dark at times. But you always have to monitor that, it’s like fairy tales have frightening moments in them. Otherwise when you shine bright and things are good all the time, it doesn’t shine as well. I was raised reading Tolkien, THE HOBBIT and things of that nature. C.S. Lewis and there are scary parts in those books. Darth Vader is intimidating. Everybody says, “Oh, Darth Vader, put Darth Vader on, I’m like, okay. But he’s scary. I used to be a little kid and freak myself out just thinking of how he breathes. I would be alone and be like, Oh my gosh. But that’s what you want – kids to be afraid of the bad guys because they’re evil. And they recognize that.
So I just always think of those stories I had as a kid and those relationships I had. And I try to make something that’s not as much for myself but for my younger self. But my older self will still watch it and be like, that’s cool. It’s a delicate balance. Because I see a danger in a lot of the fans that have grown up. You kind of have a generation of filmmakers now, they’re all fans. More than you ever had before, I think. And they’re very vocal about being fans. Which is great. It’s great because they have the understanding of why the material is important. But there’s a danger of trying to take the material and accidentally change it into being for them now. Their 40-year-old self. And you see that kind of in a lot of different franchises out there, that things get darker. And you kinda go – but that’s not what I remember I liked as a kid. But there’s that impulse to say like, yeah, but now I would do this. And wouldn’t that be cool?
But you just always have to remember, Star Wars is a story ultimately, the original trailer says, A boy and a girl in a galaxy. Which is the big opening of the door, a wonderful thing, a magical thing and the adventure? So I just try to maintain that.
On Voicing Star Wars Rebels Characters
I don’t voice characters, I’m a killer AT-AT driver. I’m so good as an AT-AT driver. But I have also instinct to want to make sure that the show is good. So if I think at all, I actually need a good performance, I will not use myself. I use myself because of, I’m SAG and it’s easy for me to record the lines, you know, like “Stop, look up.” It’s very hard to mess those up.
Steve Blum (Zeb on Star Wars Rebels), in all honesty, is one of the best storm troopers we have. Steve actually played Storm Troopers in the Lucas games. The first time I heard him do the voice, I’m like, Oh my gosh, I think I’ve killed you, several times.
Freddie (Prinze Jr.) is a very challenging storm trooper. ‘Cause he can’t just drop his personality, so easily. I’m like, “Freddie you’re just too interesting to be a storm trooper.” But every now and then you’ll see he gets to play a storm trooper. I make him do this more bookwormy voice. And it works.
Best Advice from George Lucas
There are so many things. Mainly it was editorial, how to look at the story, how to cut the story, how to move things. I torment everybody with it. And the script in that sense is just a beginning point. It’s not ever per word. And so the scripts that will always go the easiest for me is the ones that I write ahead of time. ‘Cause I know how I’m gonna shoot it the whole time. But there’s how you write something, and there is how it needs to be shot. And those things can conflict and then you see the lines need to change and you don’t have all these sets and all these characters all the time. So he just taught me to be incredibly flexible with the opportunities that are on hand and when you see something, to go for it. And it’s better to attempt to do something great than to just stay safe. He will push. And we would look at some stuff we were doing, and he would say, “You know, we’re right on the edge at this time, this is either really gonna work, or people are gonna hate it. But we’re gonna go for making this great.”
So he just taught me to be incredibly flexible with the opportunities that are on hand and when you see something, to go for it. And it’s better to attempt to do something great than to just stay safe. He will push. And we would look at some stuff we were doing, and he would say, “You know, we’re right on the edge at this time, this is either really gonna work, or people are gonna hate it. But we’re gonna go for making this great.”
He used to say, “Dare to be great.” Which is something I always say to my team, and it seems simple, right? Of course, everybody thinks that when they start out. But it’s amazing how many times you pull yourself up or you hold back or you get afraid. And in STAR WARS as with everything, fear is the root of everything that is failure and jealousy and greed and evil.
On keeping the cast in the moment
When I sit with them, I’ll be able to explain everything, the physicality, the depth, everything that’s going on. Because we have to get some very emotional places. But I try to suspend the actors so that they’re only ever in the moment that’s happening. They don’t know really what’s going to happen. Unless it’s something that’s really intense and then like I’ll take them aside and I’ll say, okay, you need to prepare for the next three weeks. We’re gonna do this story and I’m gonna give you the broad generalization of it. But I want them to be able to prepare their mind for getting to an emotional place.
So there were some things we were doing just this week that only one of them could know about. Because the others weren’t present. And I want them to kind of react to that as they hear it. So it’s really fun, they are a fantastic cast. I couldn’t ask for better. We did a killer job getting them. So I’m really pleased with them.
Check out the Star Wars Rebels Mid-Season 3 Trailer
Star Wars Rebels airs on Disney XD. Season 3 resumes this Saturday (1/7/17) at 8:30 PM ET/PT.
Disney hosted me during the #RogueOneEvent press event. As always, all opinions, and experiences are my own.