It’s no secret that I love Star Wars. From the original trilogy to the sequel trilogy, to the comics, to the novels, nearly every piece of material in the series has managed to capture my imagination. And nowhere has that been more prominent than Star Wars: The Clone Wars and its sister series Star Wars Rebels. These series have managed to not only expand the lore of the Star Wars universe in bold new ways, but they have also managed to paint the much-maligned prequels in a positive light.
The second night of Emerald City Comic Con concluded with a panel featuring voice actors James Arnold Taylor (who voiced Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Vanessa Marshall (who voiced Hera Syndulla in Star Wars Rebels), which I was lucky enough to attend. Moderated by actress Clare Kramer (best known for her starring role of Glory on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the panel was a love letter to Rebels, Clone Wars, and Star Wars in general.
The panel began with both actors talking about how they entered the industry. Marshall said she attended Princeton University, where she studied writing. She confessed her love for great stories. After a few stand up/sketch comedy shows, she moved back to Los Angeles where an agent convinced her to try her hand at voice acting.
Taylor says he knew he wanted to be a voice actor since he was four, and practiced accordingly by reading comics out loud, doing stand up comedy, and even took a job sweeping at a radio station where he would watch the DJ’s at work. One day when a DJ failed to show up, Taylor took his place.
A highlight of the Star Wars Rebels Panel was hearing Taylor switch between all the different voices he had done in his career. He mainly did his Obi-Wan voice but also showed off his voice double skills by performing as Marty McFly and Doc Brown from Back To The Future, Captain Jack Sparrow, Christopher Walken, and many others. “An impersonator will take a voice and over exaggerate it,” he said, “I just picture the person in my head and then it’ll come out,”
Though Marshall said she never thinks she sounds like a person she’s imitating, she has doubled for Angelina Jolie, Tilda Swinton, Elizabeth Hurley, and Sandra Bullock. “I have a good ear-I was mimicking people all the time when I was growing up.”
Talk turned to Taylor’s role as Obi-Wan, a role that he has now been playing for 18 years which is longer than Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness combined. At first, Taylor acted as a voice double for McGregor during the Clone Wars micro-series created by Genndy Tartokovsky and the Revenge of the Sith video game. “There are two layers to his voice,” he said, slipping into character to demonstrate. “I try to be a homage to both of them.”
Marshall talked about her role as Hera. She said she was very close to the cast mates and performed most of her scenes with them, with two exceptions: Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. “The Thrawn scenes scared me to death!” she admitted. “I had no idea what to expect, and when that organ music came in, oh my goodness.” She also said she saw Williams while out shopping and hyperventilated. “What am I gonna say? I’m the one with the green braintails!”
It was clear that both Marshall and Taylor were huge Star Wars fans even before they took their roles in the animated universe. Marshall said that her house is essentially filled with Star Wars memorabilia. Taylor said he geeked out over all of the fans. “You’ll never find a greater group of people than Star Wars fans.”
The floor opened up for Q&A, and I was the first person to the mic. Both Marshall and Taylor remembered me from earlier in the day since I had gotten autographs from both of them. I asked what their favorite episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels were respectively? Taylor cited the Mandalorian episodes of Clone Wars were among his favorites, as well as Darth Maul’s return. Marshall picked the Dathomir episodes of Clone Wars, along with the episodes that focused on Saw Gerrera and Asajj Ventress. For Rebels, she chose the episode where Kanan sacrificed himself to save the other Rebels. “It’s really tough to choose…I love all of them equally.”
Other great moments included a back and forth where Taylor, as Obi-Wan, having a conversation with Marshall as Black Canary, Taylor meeting Michael Rooker and revealing that he voiced Yondu on the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series, the two giving advice on voice acting, the motivation they found while pursuing their careers, and what other characters they wanted to voice. Both picked members of the X-Men. Taylor wanted to voice Nightcrawler and Marshall expressed her lifelong dream to voice Jean Grey.
You can listen to the panel here.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.