On September 25th, Lucasfilm held a special event press day for their 3rd animated TV series, Star Wars Resistance. Staged at the Disney offices in Burbank, CA, many of the cast and crew stopped by to chat in an intimate roundtable format. Seven of us blogger/podcasters formed one table where we were able to fire away questions to each of the voice actors and executive producers in turn. You may recognize a few of them, as Star Wars fandom is a small world!
Here’s the talent lineup:
- Executive Producers: Athena Portillo, Justin Ridge and Brandon Auman
- Christopher Sean as Kazuda Xiono
- Suzie McGrath as Tam Ryvora
- Donald Faison as Hype Fazon
- Bobby Moynihan as Orka
First, let’s go over what we know about Star Wars Resistance so far, and where these characters fit in. This new animated adventure series is set 6 months before the events of THE FORCE AWAKENS and focuses on Kazuda Xiono (voiced by Christopher Sean), a young pilot recruited by Poe Dameron and BB-8 for a top-secret mission to spy on the First Order. His mission begins on The Colossus, a massive aircraft refueling platform on an outer rim water planet. He joins Team Fireball, led by Poe’s longtime friend Yeager (voiced by Scott Lawrence). Tam (Suzie McGrath), Neeku (Josh Brener) and an astromech droid – Bucket – make up the rest of the crew. The Colossus boasts a star pilot – Hype Fazon (voiced by Donald Faison of Scrubs fame), as well as two aliens who own an acquisition store – Flix and Orca’s Station. Flix (Jim Rash) and Orca (Bobby Moynihan) are cast perfectly, and really bring the funny to this animated series.
The Creation of Star Wars Resistance (This is Where the Fun Begins)
Star Wars Resistance was created by Dave Filoni, but the day-to-day process falls into the capable hands of three executive producers, all of whom are new to the executive producer role. Athena Portillo has been a Line Producer on Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Justin Ridge directed several episodes of Star Wars: Rebels. Brandon Auman started as a writer for Marvel and moved up to executive producer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on nickelodeon. All three were just as excited to talk with us as we were with them. Athena was sporting Leia hair buns which we couldn’t help but exclaim over. She, in turn, complimented both Johnamarie Macias and I on our choice in geek wear. I was wearing the HerUniverse Ahsoka athletic jacket and a Fangirls Going Rogue shirt, of course!
After the pleasantries, it was time to learn more about Star Wars Resistance. I asked them to describe what they do for this new animated series and how that role may be different than what they’ve accomplished before.
Athena Portillo: For me personally, it’s changed in the sense that I feel like I have more confidence in the voice I have in the room. I feel like I can say something and Justin is open to my ideas.
Justin Ridge: That’s because you have good ideas! I have my hands in every step of the process, from working with Brandon on the scripts to designs. Animatics with the story team, to post production, to Sky sound.
Brandon Auman: And for me, I’m the newb. I was executive producer for Ninja Turtles on nickelodeon. And before that I was a Marvel writer. So it was a nice, natural progression getting into it.
Upon hearing that Star Wars Resistance was set 6 months before the events of The Force Awakens, we wondered why Lucasfilm would set a show so close to a particular film. Star Wars Rebels had a 3 or 4 year gap before the events of Rogue One. The Clone Wars spanned 5-6 years in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Why give themselves so short a timespan for Resistance?
Brandon: It was always designed that it was going to be 6 months before TFA. If it was 15 years before, for younger fans, that’s a very nebulous time. Poe would’ve been a young kid. The fact that we have Poe and BB-8 from the very beginning lets kids and any fan of any age just know, immediately, ‘oh, this is the new movies!’”
Athena: “It makes sense for us to include Poe and Phasma and Leia in this timeframe. This is your first opportunity to see the Resistance BECOMING the Resistance. Poe’s relationship with Leia and also the whole First Order growing on Starkiller Base.”
Justin: We can say that Star Wars Resistance begins 6 months before The Force Awakens and we definitely have a little overlap with the movie.
Ok, now I’m excited. One of the best things about the Star Wars universe is all the connecting threads between films, books, comic books and TV shows. I can’t wait to see how they will overlap a TV show with a film.
Now let’s talk about the series’ main character, Kazuda Xiono (Kaz for short). Early on Dave Filoni developed Kaz as a character. He is goofy and clumsy, yet loveable and charismatic. Apparently kids LOVE these character traits.
Justin: Testing for the show was like, through the roof. Kids loved it. They had a tremendous response to it. They gravitated towards Kaz. He was representative of them because he’s clumsy, he’s awkward. We liken him to a bird. In the air, he’s flying, he’s sailing. But on the ground he hasn’t quite found himself. He’s 20 years old. He has kid-like qualities because he was raised in a wealthy household. Which is very different for Star Wars. That doesn’t define Kaz, though. He’s a very good person.
So let’s meet the voice actor behind Kaz, shall we?
Meet Christopher Sean – Kaz
Christopher Sean comes to us from Hawaii Five-O and Days of Our Lives. He is very new to voice acting, and Kaz was actually his 2nd Voice Over audition ever!
Christopher Sean: They were looking for an Asian American, because they wanted to promote diversity. Finally, after so many years of not having inclusion, it’s here, in your face. My job is to do my job the best I possibly can and make sure that he’s a likeable, loving character that people can relate with.
According to the kids Lucasfilm tested, he’s doing his job! Christopher was able to tell us a LOT about Kaz, and how he drew from his own experience and people in his life to inform the character.
Christopher: Kaz is confident. He has a little too much bravado. He’s a clumsy, great person who commits 110% passion for whatever he does. I took the Han Solo charm and charisma. I took Poe Dameron’s instinct and Rebel, and I took the navy from my father. And myself, I took the goofy, silly and clumsiness. I apply all that together and you get a nice beef stew, Kaz stew!
When Lucasfilm came calling they said ‘We want you to play this goofy, charismatic guy’; and I was like, ‘hey that’s me! I get to just be me??’ The producers have told me I bring this likeability to Kaz and that’s what he’s become. Kaz is old enough to know what’s wrong, but young enough to still make the mistake. We’re going to see him grow and learn from his mistakes. I need to tell the story of Luke Skywalker, Ezra; I need to tell the story of these young kids who are in over their heads, like I am now.
Christopher is incredibly excited to see Star Wars fans when the show comes out. He joked that any cosplayers that dress like his character would not be cosplayers, they would be #KAZplayers! Goofy and silly? Check! Overall, Christopher was a delight. He took extra time after the roundtable wrapped up to take some great pictures by the Star Wars Resistance poster cleverly placed inside the room. I’m eager to see his character grow over this first season.
Meet Suzie McGrath – Tam
Suzie McGrath voices the hard-working mechanic Tam Ryvora. Suzie is a British actress whose credits include EastEnders on BBC and Law & Order: UK. Like Christopher, Suzie is a newbie to voice acting.
Suzie McGrath: This is my first animation voice over job. And I definitely say it’s a bucket list. I’ve always wanted to be a cartoon character! So to get that and be able to experience this, and then you layer on top the fact that it’s Star Wars, it’s mind-blowing! And I’m really excited to interact with fans and do this next phase and how this pans out.
At this point we asked her about her character, Tam. Now, our table was full of actual Star Wars fans, not just press. See if you find anything interesting in the information she gives us.
Suzie: Tam aspires to be a pilot. She is very hard-working and she left her home planet of Kuat to be a famous racer and fell on some hard times. Crashed her plane and found herself on Colossus.
I think we definitely see [Tam and Kaz] go on a journey. He comes in and upsets the apple pot. She’s a hard-working girl and then he comes in and he takes things and breaks things. So I think there’s a bit of a struggle there. But Kaz is so loveable a character and that softens her.
Wait, did she just say Kuat?? Kuat is home to the Kuat Drive Yards, which manufactured both Republic and Imperial ships throughout galactic history. Basically, it’s a ship-building planet, and Tam grew up there. What does this mean for her character?? I’m sure we’ll find out.
Suzie was delightful and so excited to chat with us. She even stayed behind and took several pictures with us in front of the Star Wars Resistance poster, just like Christopher Sean. Later, she posted on instagram and used my pictures!
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Still beaming with excitement from yesterday’s #StarWarsResistance Press Day. So grateful to get to work with such amazingly talented people. And what fun it was to chat to the reporters and FAN reporters 😍 wow you guys made my day ❤️. October 7th is nearly here! Premieres on #disneychannel. #LucasfilmAnimation #Disney #disneyxd #Diversity #GirlPower #WomenOfStarWars #Amimation #CartoonCharacter #DreamJob #TamRyvora #britinla
Donald Faison – Finally Part of Star Wars
Donald Faison burst into the room as a bundle of energy. What really excites Donald is that he FINALLY gets to be part of the Star Wars universe. Back in 2012 at Star Wars Celebration, I attended a big panel promoting “Star Wars Detours”. Donald was heavily involved in its creation and voiced characters in the show. However, when Disney bought Lucasfilm, this show was shelved and never made it on the air. How does he feel about finally being in Star Wars?
Donald Faison: The name ‘Fazon” will live forever in Star Wars lore!!! It’s great to be on a show period, but the fact that it’s a Star Wars show means everything to me. And the fact that they created a character with my name, means EVERYTHING.
So let’s learn a little more about Hype from the actor himself:
Donald: Hype Fazon has the biggest ego on the platform. If you were to ask him, he IS the platform. You know how Palpatine was the senate? Hype IS the platflorm. He will teach lessons later on, and his character will go through things that will make him way more relatable than he is. And I think, I hope, that young people will watch the show and think, I am like Hype Faizon, and maybe a little misunderstood.
Hype is a rodian. Although Donald is excited to be in Star Wars, I got the sense that he was a little disappointed that his character was not black. Donald’s favorite character in Star Wars is Lando Calrissian. He talked about how his kids saw a picture of Hype and said, “that’s not you, dad!”
Donald: They said ‘hey, you’re a rodian’. I was alright with it. I thought Hype Fazon would be a black bald guy with a beard and mustache. When they said I was a rodian I was…happy. I’m not gonna say I was disappointed b/c any time you can have your name in SW, there’s no way you can be disappointed, but…
I wished, for his sake, that Hype was that big black bald guy with facial hair! Donald exudes confidence and charisma, 2 qualities Hype possesses as well. It also sounds like, even though Hype is not part of Team Fireball, we will learn more about his backstory and grow to love his character.
Meet Bobby Moynihan – Orka
Bobby Moynihan, voice of Orka, was escorted over to us next. Star Wars fans know him as the writer on the Saturday Night Live parody sketch, Undercover Boss – Starkiller Base. Do you remember Matt the Radar Technician as played by Adam Driver? Yep, that’s the sketch. Bobby is a HUGE Star Wars fan and has even built his own R2-D2. When he sat down, we asked him if he could tell us about Orka.
Bobby Moynihan: Yeah, Yeah I CAN now! It’s the best. I’ve been keeping my mouth shut for so long. They showed me my character the first time, and my first thought was, I’m one of them, a Chadra-fan! Jim Rash plays Flix. We are a bit of a duo. We work at the Colossus at the platform which is like a galactic truck stop, if you will. It’s like the floating cantina. All the Star Wars you’ve seen before is about the Force. This is a whole brand new dense universe that feels very lived in.
Having watched the premiere of Star Wars Resistance, I can say the Bobby and Jim Rash really play off each other, and their characters are some of the most memorable of the premiere. Though they have little screen time, the humor they bring sets them apart. Bobby was no exception, and kept making our little group laughj, telling us that he and Donald Faison keep joking around that they are going to create a buddy movie called “Hype and Orka.” Now I’d LOVE to see that!
When and Where To Watch
Overall these roundtable interviews give me hope for the future of Star Wars Resistance. After watching the premiere, I felt that the story and plot is overly simplistic. With only 10 episodes, of course everything has to be compressed. The show is also aimed at kids 6-12 years old, a bit younger than the audience of The Clone Wars or later seasons of Star Wars Rebels. Hopefully these characters will appeal to a younger generation of new Star Wars fans. The universe is forever growing!
After hearing Suzie McGrath talking about forming a family and going on a journey together, and Justin Ridge mentioning that there would be overlap with The Force Awakens, I am eager to see this show through. I want to see these characters forming relationships! Overall, the series is beautiful, with amazing visuals of racing ships and lovely saturated colors.
This new animated series also promotes diversity of characters, with Kaz portrayed and voiced by an Asian American actor, and Tam portrayed and voiced by a woman of color. Aliens, too, are diverse – Hype, Flix and Orka, as well as Neeku. I don’t think there’s been a batch of leading Star Wars characters that has had this many aliens at the forefront.
Star Wars Resistance will premiere October 7th on the Disney Channel and Disney XD. Tune in and enjoy this new animated series. Tell us what you think!
Star Wars Resistance Extended Trailer