STAR WARS MINDFUL MATTERS Interview With Creator And THE CLONE WARS Star Ashley Eckstein (Exclusive)

Ashley Eckstein has spent the past decade and a half playing Ahsoka Tano, but she's now collaborating with Lucasfilm on Star Wars Mindful Matters for StarWarsKids.com. Here, she talks in detail about that!

To celebrate May The Fourth, a.k.a. Star Wars Day, Lucasfilm has launched Star Wars Mindful Moments. This brand new series of shorts on StarWarsKids.com was written by and stars The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels star, Ashley Eckstein, as she looks to bring mindfulness to the forefront and focus on the lessons our favorite Star Wars characters and stories have taught us over the years.

Created by Eckstein and Lucasfilm in collaboration with Citrone 33, each instalment sees Eckstein lead one Star Wars-inspired mindful exercise, teaching viewers that it only takes a moment to make a powerful difference in one's day. Using the lessons taught throughout the franchise by characters like Luke Skywalker, Yoda and, of course, Ahsoka Tano, it's a fascinating, inspiring new project. 

Earlier this week, we spoke with Eckstein about her latest trip to this Galaxy Far, Far Away to get some insights into the series and what fans can expect from it. Detailing how Star Wars Mindful Moments came to be, the veteran voice actor explains the important role Ahsoka played in that and goes into great detail about the lengths she went to in order to make sure these shorts can help kids. 

We also hear from Ashley on The Clone Wars, the impact her character has had over the past decade and a half, and what exactly she plans to do at Star Wars Celebration a little later this month!
 

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It’s great to speak with you again. I know we chatted about Her Universe last year, but it’s awesome to touch base about a project like Star Wars Mindful Moments. You must be really excited?

Thank you, I am so beyond excited about this project! This has been a passion project of mine for about five years now. To see these videos finally come to life is a dream come true and at the perfect time. 

Mindfulness has always been an incredibly important part of the teachings we've seen in Star Wars, but what about this franchise do you believe makes it such a great launching point to start teaching kids early about their mental well-being? 

Well, there are so many important lessons that we learn from Star Wars. When it comes to lessons of the mind, I’ve actually learned these lessons myself from Star Wars. Jedi Master Yoda actually says ‘A Jedi must have the deepest commitment; the most serious mind.’ He teaches us that training our mind is just as important as physically training our body. As I’ve been on my own journey with mental health and mindfulness, I’ve realised that a lot of these lessons we learn have already been taught to us in Star Wars. Over the past fourteen years of being the voice of Ahsoka, one of the most common questions, especially from kids, is, ‘What is it like to be a Jedi?’ Or ‘How can I become a Jedi?’ Some of the lessons I share with kids especially are these lessons of the mind about confronting fear, grounding yourself, and staying in the present moment. Just breathing and learning to connect with your breath. Being able to teach these very important lessons, but coming from the Star Wars point of view is a unique and different way how we can teach these lessons and combine them with our favourite stories. 

It’s an amazing idea and I know each of these episodes will include mindful exercises, so what can you tease about what viewers should expect from those?

All of these videos are rooted in the lessons that we learn from Star Wars. We actually use clips from the films and The Clone Wars to show how our favourite characters like Luke Skywalker, Rey, and Ahsoka Tano learn these lessons. Then, I come in as myself, Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano, and share how we can learn these lessons too. I take the viewer through a very quick one-minute exercise. All of these videos are bite-sized. They’re three minutes or less. So, I teach them the same lessons their favourite characters in Star Wars learned and prove that it only takes a moment to make a powerful difference in your day because being mindful matters. All of these lessons and exercises are clinically based and we worked with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and their ‘On Our Sleeves’ movement for children’s mental health. I worked with the doctors, but what was very, very important to me was that these lessons are the same ones as our favourite characters learn in Star Wars. So, I also worked with Matt Martin from the Lucasfilm Story Group to really root these exercises in Star Wars. These are the same lessons that we’ve seen in our favourite stories, so I think it’s a unique way to share storytelling and encourage the viewer to look at the story in a different way and how they can relate it into their everyday life. It’s also a different way to do these clinically based exercises that doctors and teachers teach, anyway. It’s kind of combining the two. 

What exactly led to you collaborating with Lucasfilm to impart those lessons to a younger audience? Was it something you approached them about?

This is something I actually approached Lucasfilm about. As I said, this has been five years in the making. Truthfully, these would have come out prior to COVID. We were one week away from filming these videos when COVID shut the world down and put everything on pause. I remember going through the pandemic just wishing that we had these videos, but also understanding why they couldn’t happen at the time. Honestly, I feel like the Force works in mysterious ways, and for these videos to come out now…I think they’re more needed than ever. We’re all going back safely and cautiously into our everyday lives and trying to get into the new normal, and I think lessons like these are more important than ever to take into our daily lives. I’m so grateful to be able to release these now. 

These were inspired by the fans and, especially kids, asking me how they could become a Jedi. I would try to relate to them from a story perspective saying, ‘Well, what grade are you in? How is school going?’ Oftentimes, kids say, ‘It’s just going okay’ and I would share with them, ‘You know what, Ahsoka had to go to school as well. She would have to go to classes and go to school just like you, but it was called the Jedi Temple. Before she could fight in the Clone Wars and go do all of these fun things you see in the episodes, she had to go to class.’ When I would put in those terms, you could just see their eyes get really big. That was when I realised there’s a way to connect with fans by connecting with Star Wars. I got this idea of teaching mindful exercises, but relating it to Star Wars. 
 

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Actually creating these exercises was my own mindful exercise. When I started this process, I didn’t believe in myself or that I could write these. I wrote some initial concepts pre-COVID, but post-COVID, I changed the concept to be these short, bite-sized videos, and I didn’t believe I could write them myself. I had to overcome my own doubt and fear and realise that I’ve learned a lot, closely collaborating with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and ‘On Our Sleeves,’ and they’ve taught me a lot about mental health and mindfulness. I locked myself away in my own Jedi cave [Laughs] for the weekend, a.k.a. my own room, and wrote all weekend. So, not only did I create this concept, but I also wrote these exercises myself. It’s something I’m very proud of because I had to overcome my own fears to do this. I also did these in collaboration with Citrone 33 and these videos would not be possible without them. I made these with Lucasfilm and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, so it has been a joint effort, and a real passion project for everyone to bring these to the fans. 

We’re launching these online with the first two. We made five videos in total. The remaining three are coming later this month, and we’re just trying to get these out as far and wide as we possibly can. They’re going to be released in children’s hospitals, in schools, on social media, I’ll be doing them live with fans at Star Wars Celebration. I just can’t wait to get these directly to fans. They’re free resources and, hopefully, they’ll help people. 

Hayden Christensen recently shared high praise for The Clone Wars and Rebels, saying both were pivotal to his return in Obi-Wan Kenobi. What does it mean to you to hear that and know those shows you were such a big part of continue to inform the wider Star Wars Universe? 

It’s incredibly humbling to hear how The Clone Wars and Rebels have become such an important part of the Star Wars Universe. Trust me, I read that about Hayden Christensen and totally geeked out. It’s definitely surreal [Laughs] that Anakin Skywalker himself watched our series. He’s always been so kind. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him in person yet, but he’s always been so kind when talking about our show. It’s much appreciated. Going to the broader point of what Rebels and The Clone Wars mean to everyone, I’ve had the pleasure of getting out now and going to several conventions and events and have had the chance to meet fans. To hear the stories of how those shows and what Ahsoka Tano means to fans and how she’s changed, and in many cases saved, lives…that changes you. It really is so impactful. It’s changed my personal mission. I’ve realised that I can be a real-life version of Ahsoka and I want to be a real-life version of her. As she says in the final season of The Clone Wars, ‘In my life, when you find people who need your help, you help them no matter what. I guess it’s just who I am.’ I just want to help people through this character and through this franchise. I can still continue on with my role by doing things like Star Wars Mindful Matters. I can help fans. This is just the beginning I feel of a new path for me of how I can be a real-life version of Ahoksa Tano. 

Ahsoka, by her nature, is a very mindful character in touch with the Force and her feelings; was that something always planned or were you able to work with Dave Filoni to inject that into her?

I can’t speak to the writing of the series because that is something Dave Filoni and his incredible writing staff did. One thing I feel so fortunate I’ve always been allowed to bring to Ahsoka, and what many people don’t realise, is that I was cast as her to be myself and to bring my own heart and soul to the character. Dave Filoni always told me, ‘Ahsoka is genuine.’ She wants to help people. She wants to do what’s right. She is a light. I always try to bring that in everything I do. I try to be genuine and try to help people. I try to be a light in the darkness. For me, I feel Ahsoka now not only lives in my heart and soul, but she lives in everyone’s heart and soul after fourteen years of this character. We all take a piece of her with us throughout our daily lives and I just try to use the lessons that she’s taught us and continue them in projects like Star Wars Mindful Matters.

To check out these Star Wars Mindful Matters shorts, head to Lucasfilm's YouTube account!

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