When Rosario Dawson was announced to be joining The Mandalorian this season, many speculated on what role that would be. You didn't have to travel far on the rumor mill to see many guessed it would be arguably Dave Filoni's greatest contribution to the Star Wars' franchise in Ahsoka Tano. The character, originally voiced by Ashley Eckstein in the animated series The Clone Wars and Rebels, made her live-action debut on the popular Disney+ series in the episode "The Jedi". Dawson spoke with Vanity Fair about getting into the fan-favorite role.
"Actually it first came from fans online," Dawson said. "Someone tweeted me and fancast me. I retweeted back and I was like, 'Absolutely, yes please' and '#AhsokaLives.' And apparently that got the attention of someone who has been doing the Star Wars press for years. She forwarded it to Dave Filoni. That kind of started a whole thing. I was like, 'Oh my goodness, did I just get fancast in something?' And then nothing happened." "That was the first time and I looked at Rosario and I thought, 'Huh. Yeah, I think maybe she would make a good Ahsoka,'" Filoni added. "I just kept loosely aware of what she was up to, and she was doing some Marvel things. But I'd seen interviews with her where she would talk about wanting to play the character and her excitement, so it was interesting."
Dawson played a huge role on the Netflix wing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Claire Temple aka Night Nurse across the Defenders TV shows in Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. In the development phase, Filoni and creator Jon Favreau tried to figure how to pencil Ahsoka in. "Oh, no. Not at all. I was still trying to figure out how to get off Tatooine myself at that point," Filoni said. "But when I started working with Jon [Favreau], I'd bring up the character and he's like, 'Well, who are you thinking of playing her?' I said, 'Well, Rosario Dawson's top of my list,' and he's like, 'I know her!' So immediately that starts to fit really well."
By the time Dawson got the call, there were other roles in mind fans thought of. "People have been fancasting me on all kinds of things, like She-Hulk and stuff," she said. "And I always just think it's really fun, because I get to see myself in different kinds of art. But then I got a Facetime call from Jon Favreau and Dave. They were building out The Mandalorian, and I got to have a behind-the-scenes look at visuals and concept [from] what they were planning on doing with this second season." The actress noted this happened around the time the first season was about to premiere in 2019. Dawson was nervous about meeting expectations given Ahsoka's popularity. "I actually was glad because I had really bad reception, and so I ended up just going to the audio," she continued. "So I was pacing and jumping up and down, trying to keep really cool in my voice, but I was freaking out. I mean, this is real Star Wars—the font, the look, the art, the everything, and my face in there. I just, I couldn't. I was beside myself, and they were asking, 'Do you want to do this? I mean, we appreciate if it's not something you want to do.' And I was like, 'Oh no, no, that would be cool, actually. I think we could maybe work this out.' Trying to play it cool, but I was sweating.'"
The MCU star followed TCW on TV and became fascinated by its main character. "I'd seen some of Clone Wars, and once I got the role, I actually went and started watching everything in its order," she said. "I started seeing a lot more of the connective tissue. There was always that conversation around Ahsoka leaving the Order, and that being a major trigger for Anakin going towards the Dark Side. It was just really incredible that the character started off as a teenager, you know?" Dawson empathizes with Ahsoka given her own early career start as a teenager. "I found it so fascinating that there was this whole other world that existed in the animated series, and this young girl was the heart of that space," she said. "I had a particular kind of interest in her and in that character because when I first started acting at 15, I did this movie, Kids, and I got paid like $1,000 to work on it. When the movie came out, I decided at 16 that I wanted to continue pursuing acting. My dad's mom said, "Well, if you're going to do that, and you're 16 years old, then you need to study acting," and put me in Strasberg. And it happened to be that summer when Hayden Christensen was in—we had the same class."
Christensen played Anakin Skywalker in the Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). Anakin, who's Ahsoka's Master, is voiced by Matt Lanter in the animated series. Christensen and Dawson appeared together in the 2003 biopic Shattered Glass. You can check out more about how Dawson screen test as Ahsoka, getting into character, her co-stars Diana Lee Inosanto and Michael Biehn, The Child's identity in Grogu and their link, and more alongside Filoni at Vanity Fair. The Mandalorian streams Fridays on Disney+.