Powerful forces: 'Ahsoka' must save the universe in new Star Wars spinoff series

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Sarah Passingham / TV Media
Rosario Dawson in “Star Wars: Ahsoka”

Rosario Dawson in “Star Wars: Ahsoka”

A fan-favorite former Jedi Knight finally gets her live-action, starring moment in the new Disney limited series, "Star Wars: Ahsoka," debuting Wednesday, Aug. 23, on the streamer. Starring Rosario Dawson ("Dopesick") in the title role, the eight-episode series follows Ahsoka Tano as she takes on the not-so-small task of protecting the galaxy from imminent threats.

Former Jedi Padawan-turned-Rebel Alliance member Ahsoka is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe among fans of the franchise's animated films and TV series. Before Dawson's live-action portrayal of Ahsoka in the Disney series "The Mandalorian" and "The Book of Boba Fett," the character first appeared in the 2008 animated feature and subsequent TV series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" as a teenage apprentice of Anakin Skywalker.

The new series is set just after the events of the animated series "Rebels" and in the same timeline as "The Mandalorian." Hayden Christensen ("Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones," 2002) reprises his role as Anakin yet again in "Ahsoka," after appearing in 2019's "Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker," and bringing the character back to life in the spinoff series "Obi-Wan Kenobi" — presumably as a Force ghost, as he is long dead in this timeline.

So, who will the baddies in "Ahsoka" be without Darth Vader to represent the dark side? Returning to portray Grand Admiral Thrawn is "The Witcher" star Lars Mikkelsen, who lent his voice to the chilling Imperial officer in "Rebels."

Icy in demeanor and appearance — Thrawn is Chiss and his skin glows blue — he is only the tip of the villain iceberg in "Ahsoka." Portraying even more adversaries challenging the Jedi and the universe at large are Ivanna Sakhno ("High Fidelity") as Shin Hati, Diana Lee Inosanto ("The Last Tour," 2016) as Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth and the late Ray Stevenson ("Das Boot") as Baylan Skoll.

"Ahsoka" also stars Natasha Liu Bordizzo ("Day Shift," 2022) as Sabine Wren, Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Kate," 2021) as Hera Syndulla, Eman Esfandi ("The Inspection," 2022) as Ezra Bridger and David Tennant ("Doctor Who") as the voice of droid Huyang, reprising his role from the Clone Wars series.

From her first appearances as a strong-willed, 14-year-old student of the Force to her final act as a Rebel agent in "Rebels," Ahsoka has always been voiced by Ashley Eckstein ("DC Super Hero Girls") in animated form. While Eckstein dashed fan hopes of a cameo in "Ahsoka" as she recalled her visit to the live-action series' set, telling Entertainment Weekly's Dagobah Dispatch podcast last October, "I don't wanna start a rumor ... it was just a set visit."

However, she didn't close the door on the possibility of popping up in the future, saying, "I talk about throwing your dreams out into the universe, so it would be a dream come true if I got to do a cameo, because my background is in live action."

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “Star Wars: Ahsoka”

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “Star Wars: Ahsoka”

Portraying a character that is as cherished as Ahsoka, and held in such high regard by one of film and TV's most active and vocal fan bases, is a daunting task. Dawson was up for the challenge, however, crediting stunt co-ordinator Ming Qiu ("Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") with getting her into shape when it came to wielding a lightsaber like a Jedi, as she shared on the Dagobah Dispatch podcast in May: "When [Qiu] said, 'This one did not make my eyes hurt,' that was the first compliment that I got, and I think I cried."

Stunts are one thing, but harnessing the Force is another. Luckily for Dawson, that became second nature. "I feel like I have it more than someone who just wants to move an object," explained Dawson. "I feel that there is an energy that we have, and a power that we have, that if we do concentrate it and focus it in the right ways, we can move mountains."

Behind the scenes, "Ahsoka" welcomes another familiar face from Tano's past adventures. Creator of the character Ahsoka, writer and director of both "The Clone Wars" and "Rebels," Dave Filoni, carried her story into a new medium as showrunner of the new series. Admitting that he was worried about bringing such a stylized character as Ahsoka into live-action form, Filoni told the Dagobah Dispatch podcast in May that he questioned, "Can a performer bring that to life in a way that is meaningful?"

With one of TV and film's most talented actors bringing Ahsoka to life, Filoni shared that it didn't take much convincing once he saw Dawson to believe that "Ahsoka" was on the right track. "The whole thing kind of came together for me with Rosario when we talked with her and when she put on the costume and became Ahsoka," he shared. "I was like, you know, this is going to work. It really kind of was as simple as that."

Whether you're a Rebel or a member of the dark side of the Force, buckle in and get ready for an adventure across the universe when "Ahsoka" premieres on Disney . Catch the first two episodes of the eight-episode series when they drop Wednesday, Aug. 23, on the streamer, with new episodes added weekly.