(L to R: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Dave Filoni)
At San Diego Comic-Con International, Lucasfilm Director of Fan Relations Steve Sansweet chats with Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice actors James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi and Plo Koon), Dee Bradley Baker (all the clone troopers), and Tom Kane (Yoda, Clone Wars announcer) — as well as supervising director Dave Filoni — about their process, character building and why it’s so much to act like more than two characters at once. The cast also talks a little about their support of the original voice cast of Futurama reprising their roles during salary disputes.
How important is it to cast the right voice for an animated series?
Dave Filoni: At the end of the day we need actors to bring the characters to life with dimension and emotion. We’re not trying to mimic previous actors, but instead take nice notes of things from Ewan McGregor or Alec Guinness, but ultimately you have to be Obi-Wan Kenobi. For Dee with the clones, he had to invent how you do that kind of role and not just mimic a certain sound or tone.
What’s harder to do — voicing an established character like Obi-Wan Kenobi or coming up with a voice for a character that’s never spoken before like Plo Koon?
James Arnold Taylor: Well, there’s more pressure because you’re doing Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness and you combine them both and hopefully get something that the fans like. And if I’m doing it right, you’re not hearing me, or Ewan or Alec, you’re hearing Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Plo Koon was great though because it’s Dave Filoni’s favorite, and he was great to do the voice for. And I have to give Matt Wood a lot of credit too because he takes it and turns it into this whole other thing. There’s also more freedom in playing Plo Koon.
Dee, your clone voices are all alike and yet they’re not alike. You have to come up with individual personalities. An excellent example of this is in the season one episode “Rookies.” How do you make all of these characters seem different?
Dee Bradley Baker: It was very important for us to try and maintain distinct personalities and feel for each of the clones — which is something we try to do in all of the episodes. So we recorded each of the clones, straight through on their own — giving them different status, different ages, personality quirks. Giving them slight adjustments from the basic voice — a little younger, or a little gruffer. Then when you piece them all together they feel like they are distinct humans — which adds humanity to these heroic soldiers.
James Arnold Taylor: I always wonder if the clones sit around and do imitations of each other. Or have them talk to each others’ girlfriends. (laughs)