NYCC 2018 Interview: Her Universe's Ashley Eckstein

Ashley Eckstein is an actress, author, and entrepreneur who voices the popular character Ahsoka Tano in the Star Wars animated projects.  She also created Her Universe, “a groundbreaking fashion brand and community for fangirls.”  This year, Eckestein wrote It's Your Universe, which “shares her own life lessons as well as lessons from iconic Disney characters, as a road-map to show you how to dream it and do it!”

Screen Rant: Hey guys, this is Joe with Screen Rant. We’re here at New York Comic Con 2018 and I'm here with the lovely Ashley Eckstein. How are you

Ashley Eckstein: I'm great. How are you doing?

Screen Rant: I'm great. First of all, I love the Jodie Whittaker get-up. The Doctor.

Ashley Eckstein: Sure. It looks great. Thank you. Yeah, I've got my 13th Doctor’s costume and I am so ready for Dr. Who to premiere this weekend.

Screen Rant: Listen, I've been watching BBC America. They've been doing like the 13 days of the Doctor. I can't turn it off.

Ashley Eckstein: No, seriously. I actually watched it today and I saw the Vincent van Gogh episodes from…. Yes, from Matt Smith because that was my first Doctor. Who was your first?

Screen Rant: My first was Paul McGann…. So right before the reboot with Christopher Eccleston. Yeah, I loved it. And that Van Gogh episode is so good. One of my favorite, greatest, one of the greatest standalones. So speaking of Dr. who, how is it for you that the Doctor is finally a woman?

Ashley Eckstein: Uh, I, I am so excited, you know, but it's, I think I've become more excited because of Jodie Whittaker. Because she is awesome. Like I feel like she is exactly what I wanted for the Doctor and I didn't even know what I wanted until I saw her as the Doctor and I got to meet her. Her passion is just infectious and I'm just like, okay, you're my Doctor, I will follow you. You lead me, I will go wherever you take me.

Screen Rant: So if people would like to dress like Jodie Whittaker, please tell me what you have on.

Ashley Eckstein: So I have on, it's basically her costume. But we’re a fashion licensee. So we tried to take a couple of liberties to make sure of, you know, the fit, but we have her coat and it has, you know, the rainbow striping on the inside and it has a pocket for your sonic screwdriver. And you gotta have that. Yeah. So you gotta have that. And then the lining on the inside, there's a full tardis on the inside of the jacket. There's pockets of course, and then her top, which I think is going to become her iconic top with also the Rainbow Stripe. And then her trousers I guess they say. So her cuffed trousers and I have to say it is so comfortable!

Tosin Cole Mandip Gil Jodie Whittaker Bradley Walsh and Sharon D Clarke in Doctor Who

Screen Rant: And it looks so comfortable. I mean, I'm going to gender bend that one for sure.

Ashley Eckstein: It's, it's actually, you know, and this is what I love about Jodie Whittaker is you know, she spoke at our fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con. And you know, she said the Doctor is any gender. Absolutely. And I love that because, I guess that was the goal for Her Universe from day one. But that's what this world is all about. These stories are for everyone and I hope we get to the point where we don't have to say like, oh, it's for a boy or for, it's for a girl or oh, we finally get a female Doctor. No, it's just, we're all here together to celebrate these stories.

Screen Rant: And I'm glad you said that because Her Universe, every time I would go buy the booths at every convention I would go to, I would say the coolest captain marvel sweater there. And I always was like, yeah, I want that. So you now you have Our Universe, which is men’s line. And I saw one of my favorite Star Wars characters, the Lando, Lando Calrissian Cape.

Ashley Eckstein: Ah, yes.

Screen Rant: Um, and you, and now you're getting into that now, what inspired you to do that? No, I know Her Universe was, was obviously for women, but what inspired you to get into the men's fashion as well?

Ashley Eckstein: Well, my mission from day one, like I said, is to say that this world is for everyone. I never wanted to say that this was just for women and girls and I, you know, fought hard to debunk the stereotype that this world was just for men and boys. To me, this story, or this world, is for everyone. And you know, to me Star Wars was my inspiration for that. That's what got me into it. And, you know, to me, I say Star Wars is a story of hope. Star Wars is a story of good overcoming evil and you can't put a gender on that. Like that's for everyone. That's for the whole family. So, my mission from day one was to bring the community together. So I said I wouldn't cater to men unless I felt like I could do something that men weren't getting. And so for example, when I started doing these fashion collections, like the Clone Wars fashion collection, there were no cool fashion pieces out there for men. And so I kind of felt like, well, if I'm doing this property and I have these cool fashion pieces for women, I don't want the men to feel left out. You know, I think we should work towards this world, you know, being for everyone. And so that was my goal. It's like if that's my message, then I want to fulfill it and I want to cater to both genders.

Screen Rant: Not too long ago you released a Tomb Raider line, which I thought was super cool. Talk to me about that. And also talk to me about some other franchises and properties that may be coming.

Ashley Eckstein: Well, you know, I've been wanting to get into gaming for the longest time. I've heard the fans. I've definitely felt that female gamers have been underserved, you know, for the longest time. But the thing is, is I've had one rule about design. Well, I've had many rules, but I've had a strict rule that all the design should come from a fan's perspective. And you know, I feel like you can't do the property justice unless you can design it from a fan's point of view. And so I'm not a big Gamer, and I don't know the properties, and so I felt like I couldn't do that these properties justice. And you know, therefore I was kind of too scared to design for them. Um, but now being a part of, you know, Hot Topic and the Hot Topic family brands, I work with so many incredible female gamers. And so the second that I had the chance, I was like, we are getting into gaming. I am using your knowledge of these games. And we're going to design for female gamers. So our first collection was Tomb Raider, but we have two more that we're releasing before the end of the year. Two gaming collections. One of them is just for fan girls, but one of them has a couple of pieces for guys as well. And I think you're going to be really excited. It's a very popular game right now.

Screen Rant: I know what I'm putting on my Christmas list, then. Then Star Wars Rebels. Star Wars Clone Wars. Rebels just ended. Clone Wars is just going to come back. And at [San Diego] Comic-Con we got a small scene, a little preview of an Anakin seeing Ahsoka as a, as a Hologram, as a surprise. Can you talk to me about how Ahsoka feels from her perspective and their relationship right now?

Ashley Eckstein: You know, all I can really speak about is, and you know, this is right after Ahsoka left the Jedi order. And so, uh, you know, I've been in this world of Star Wars Rebels where we, you know, we see Ahsoka in her mid-thirties and at this point. She's been through a lot. You know, she obviously discovers that Anakin Skywalker is now Darth Vader. But now we have to go back. We have to go back to that time where she just left the Order and she doesn't know yet obviously that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader. And so I have to go back to that place and it's going to be good. There's some really good stories.

Screen Rant: Is that difficult by the way, getting into the mindset because when we see her in Rebels, she's obviously, she's wiser. She has more experience under her belt. And when we're in Clone Wars, she's, I don't want to say more innocent, but she definitely doesn't have the life experience as the Ahsoka we know in Rebels. Is it harder getting into that mindset of switching it back on?

Ashley Eckstein: It is actually, it was a little difficult. It was actually pretty difficult for me to learn Ahsoka in Rebels because I was so used to Ahsoka in Clone Wars in Rebels, she's very different. She is more, you know, like Obi Wan, you know, she's pretty quiet. She's internal. She is wise, you know, and she's kind of a loner in Rebels versus in Clone Wars. In Clone Wars she was more like Ezra. She was snippy, a padawan and you know, had all these questions and she was very naive you know, while she grew out of that, but she's still, you know, she was still learning. So it was like I worked so hard to get out of Clone Wars. Ahsoka and now I have to go back to it. And it's weird because we've done a little bit of recording so far and some of my lines, I read them more like Ahsoka in Rebels and having to flip flop. It takes a minute to jump back and forth.

Ahsoka Tano in Rebels

Screen Rant: The Disney streaming service is going to be a brand new and this is where we're going to see Star Wars, Clone Wars. I don't want to say make its debut because it's like it makes a return. I guess now with the streaming service, it opens the door for a lot of Star Wars possibilities. As we know John Favreau is doing the live action, which was just recently announced as a Mandalorian tale and we also know that Ahsoka has taken up the Mandalorian cause. So, if there was a possibility to have you play the live action Ahsoka, which we all want, is it more likely to happen now? Possibly? Maybe?

Ashley Eckstein: I cannot speak to that. Obviously your guess is as good as mine. I can honestly sit here today and tell you that I have no clue about anything live action with Ahsoka. Sure, truly, your guess is as good as mine. What I can say is, you know, this year I had the opportunity to write a book and it was all about making your dreams come true. The first step in making your dreams come true is to through your dreams out into the universe and to say them out loud. And I've always been kind of shy to say aloud that course. I'd love to play Ahsoka in live action, you know, of course that's a dream of mine. But now I guess I have to take my own advice and you know, just throw it out into the universe and say, you know, if I was right for it, you know, if it was, you know, I, you never know, you know, it depending on what age they are. Of course I would love to play Ahsoka. That would definitely be a dream of mine to play Ahsoka in live action so I’m throwing it out to the universe.

Screen Rant: Now, between you and Dave Filoni, you guys know Ahsoka better than pretty much anybody. And just from your perspective as, as a fan, where do you think Ahsoka would be now in the current Star Wars universe? Just as a fan?

Ashley Eckstein: So, the only reason why I'm hesitant to answer that, not because I can't, because I can certainly, you know, speak add nauseum as a fan. But I had nothing to do with the writing of the series, you know, and I say, trust me, you don't want the stories that I would write.  Because I joke that Ahsoka, you know, the joke online is that Ahsoka would end up running a pony farm, which that is very much an inside joke. Pablo Hidalgo, his wife Kristen Hidalgo, loves Ahsoka and it always makes her sad when she walks away. So to make her happy, she tells herself that Ahsoka is just walking off to her pony farm. So I joke that you don't want the stories that I write. Dave Filoni and his and his writing team, they write beat most incredible Star Wars stories, especially for Ahsoka. Dave writes the most incredible stories for Ahsoka. So, you know, I don't know, because anything that I would come up with would be nearly as cool as what Dave would come up with. So I'm just grateful that they've allowed me to bring a lot of my own personality to Ahsoka, so I've had a pretty heavy influence in how I read the lines. But I have nothing to do with the writing. I'm going to leave that to Dave Filoni.

Screen Rant: I do want to talk about your book for a second because you are such an inspiration to everybody out there, mainly from everything you've done and everything you've created. What inspired you to write that book?

Ashley Eckstein: You know, it all started because of Ahsoka. All roads lead back to Ahsoka. I had the privilege of helping promote the Ahsoka book that E. K. Johnston wrote, and had the opportunity to do the audio book for that. And so I went on a book tour with them to help both the book and afterwards, the book was such a success. Because I wanted to prove that female Star Wars characters sell books. And we proved it. We, you know, it was, it was huge success. And so I was meeting with Disney and they said, well, we had such a great time working together. What more can we do together? And I was thinking fiction because Ahsoka was in a fictional show. And they actually asked, they said, you know, would you ever write an autobiography or a memoir? And I immediately was like, you know, it was kind of intimidating. I didn't actually feel that I had done enough to warrant a memoir, but I said, I thought about it and I said, well, if you'll let me, I will write my story, but more of as an advice book. On, you know, here's what I did, here's why I believed I could and here's how you can do it too. So it's a step by step guide on how to make your dreams come true and by the end of the book you should have a roadmap on how to dream it and do it.

Screen Rant: That's amazing. That's amazing. Well guys, you guys can get all of Her Universe, Our Universe at Hot Topic, check it out online. Amazing stuff and I can't wait for this winter where we're getting to video game pieces. I'm excited to see that as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

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