On Sept., 25, Lucasfilm held a special event press day for their 3rd animated series, Star Wars: Resistance. Staged at the Disney offices in Burbank, CA, selected cast and crew were in attendance and were ready to talk about this new Star Wars adventure originally created by Star Wars animation veteran, Dave Filoni.
The series focuses on Kazuda (Kaz for short) Xiono, a young pilot who is recruited by Poe Dameron to join the Resistance and spy on the impending threat of the First Order. The time period for the show is set just months before the events of The Force Awakens so the First Order hasn’t shown their destructive power just yet and General Leia Organa’s Resistance is helping to secure the galaxy.
Members of the press waited patiently as cast and crew were brought from table to table. Then it was showtime!
Donald Faison is in the house!
First up at our roundtable was Donald Faison who voices Hype Fazon, the hotshot pilot full of swagger and ego. I was really excited to meet him since I am a big fan of the NBC sitcom Scrubs. There he played Turk Turkelton who is a lot like Hype but instead of being an egocentric surgeon, he is now an egocentric pilot. He’s as energetic in person as he is in his performances from Scrubs to Robot Chicken.
Donald got rolling into conversation right away. What really excites him is that he FINALLY gets to be part of the Star Wars universe. He made it just up to the finish line with the animated series that never made it on air, Star Wars: Detours, however, it was pulled after Disney bought Lucasfilm since it portrayed the characters in a silly way. And Donald is super-stoked to not just see his character in action figure form of all sizes but because they used his name for the character.
“The name ‘Faison” 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.”
Now, tell us about your character…
“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 platform…. Well he will teach lessons later on, and his character will go through things that will make him way more human than he is. And I think, I hope, that young people will watch the show and think, I am like Hype Fazon, and maybe a little misunderstood.”
How did Donald get the role of Hype Fazon?
“I created a stop motion animated short called Black Stormtrooper. I ran into Dave Filoni at The Force Awakens premiere. He saw me and said “hey, Black Stormtrooper!” I have something in mind for you, it’s not for a really long time, but I have you in mind, just so you know. And then Rebels came out, and I thought, “I guess he didn’t really have me in mind!” And then I got the call for this.””
Since Star Wars Celebration Chicago is coming up April, 2019, it’s a sure bet there will be a Star Wars: Resistance panel. I just cannot wait to how Donald Faison’s excitement will fill the room.
Behind-the-Scenes with the Executive Producers
Sliding in next were executive producers Athena Portillo (sporting Leia hair buns), Justin Ridge and Brandon Auman. This is their baby, so they were excited to talk with us and find out what we thought of this new series. All three are new to the executive producer title. Athena Portillo and Justin Ridge have both been at Lucasfilm working on Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Brandon Auman is the self-proclaimed “newbie”, having jumped ship from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The three went over background information which leads up to the main story and behind the scenes information that was good to know before going into the series….
Justin Ridge: “This show, the concept was by Dave Filoni, and early on he had the idea for Kaz. Amy Beth Christenson our art director helped design the look of the show. For final design, Tam, was the first character we locked down.”
Brandon Auman: “It was always designed that it was gonna be 6 months before The Force Awakens. It also gets a little hard for the younger fans that, if it was 15 years before, 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 let’s kids and any fan of any age just know, immediately, oh, this is the new movies!”
Athena Portillo: “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.”
“We can say that we definitely have the 6 months before The Force Awakens and we definitely have a little overlap with the movie.”
I know what I thought as a semi-grown man, but I really wanted to know if this was screened for kids, and what was their response?
“Testing was like, through the roof. They loved it. They had a tremendous response to it. They gravitated towards Kaz. It 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 b/c 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.”
I feel like we are in great hands with these animation veterans. As you can see, so much care is being put into every detail. And if you are a fan of the classic creatures that were missing in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, you will not want to miss this show.
“Live from Burbank, It’s…” – Bobby Moynihan
Bobby Moynihan, voice of Orka, was escorted over to us next. He struck it big in 2016 with Star Wars fans as the writer on the Saturday Night Live parody sketch, ‘Undercover Boss – Starkiller Base’.
We all wanted to know about Orka since so little was known about him.
“It’s the best! Jim Rash plays Flix. We are a bit of a duo. They showed me my character the first time, and my first thought was, I’m one of them, a Chadra-fan! When I first saw Flix I thought he was a porg. 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 SW you’ve seen before is about the Force. This is a whole brand new dense universe that feels very lived in.”
Being a longtime Star Wars fan, we wanted to know how deep his fandom ran. “Star Wars I found as a kid. There was a toy story near our house called Play By Play that sold used toys. And I would go there a lot because I could afford it. The woman who owned it would ask me about Star Wars toys and I ended up kind of working there. I have very vivid memories of watching the Ewok specials.”
His fandom ran all the way to adulthood and possibly saved his life.
“I built an R2-D2 one summer when I quit smoking. I just always wanted one and SNL afforded me some spare cash. I built this R2-D2 and, when The Force Awakens came out and I ended up writing some stuff and using it for SNL. And I took it to the show and they ended up putting lights and sound in it and made it really nice.”
With the enormous galaxy of characters, who would you want your character to have a scene with? “Orka might be involved in a Jabba World, maybe Donald and I keep joking around that we’re going to write a buddy movie called Hype and Orka.”
I know the sketch, Undercover Boss – Starkiller Base is property of NBC and SNL, but I’m sure at some point we’ll see Matt the Technician as an Easter Egg. My money is on season 2.
The newest recruit to the Resistance – Christopher Sean
Christopher Sean came around next. As the voice of ace pilot Kazuda (Kaz) Xiono, I was interested to hear what he had to say about his character and being associated with Star Wars. He was thunderstruck to land this starring role in this animated series so quickly, as it was only his 2nd voice over audition. Christopher Sean comes to us from Hawaii Five-O and a 4-year role in Days of Our Lives. We came out of the gate asking him what he would do when he sees cosplayers dressed as Kazuda at Star Wars Celebration in 2019. “They wouldn’t be cosplayers, they’d be #kazplayers!” Insert Mic Drop!
Now, tell us in your own words all about Kazuda Xiono…
“Kaz is confident, a little too much bravado, clumsy, great person who commits 110 percent passion for whatever he does. I took the Han Solo charm and Charisma. I took Poe Dameron 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!”
What was the casting process like?
“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. 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 had one voice over audition prior to this. I always wanted to get in the voice over world. I get a phone call from my agent in NY and he said “Lucasfilm is calling, who are you?” 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.”
It was nice that he pulled examples from on end of the Star Wars spectrum to the other, he definitely knows his stuff. And, his positivity is very infectious and can light up a room.
Suzie McGrath will ask the questions now….
Lastly, the lovely British actress, Suzie McGrath sat down with us sporting a spinning BB-8 pin that she was very proud of. She was excited to talk with us about her role as mechanic Tam Ryvora, but turned the tables in asking us what she can expect when meeting Star Wars fans at the upcoming Celebration Chicago in 2019. She also, unknowingly dropped a hint that Tam is from the planet Kuat. Sitting at a table full of extreme Star Wars fans, mentioning Kuat the planet famous for building ships for the Empire and Republic spoke volumes to us. Not knowing if that was a spoiler (it’s not) she quickly moved on. Suzie then spoke about the tight-knit feel of the cast. After recording all the episodes for this first season, she felt like they had all come on a journey together, and created a family, “which is what we try to do with the show.”
How far back does Star Wars go for you?
“I grew up watching Star Wars and it being in my life. But Star Wars: Resistance has made a fan out of me. And I’ve made it my mission to get through everything.”
Now, Suzie turned the tables and asked, “how does it make you feel when there’s a new character?” I then said, “we want something different, and so far Resistance has really gone that way.” At that point Suzie noticed my R2-D2 jacket, “ I like your jacket!” Then continued, “I feel like so far, I haven’t seen anyone in the Star Wars Galaxy that’s like Tam, so I’m happy about that.”
“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 he’s so loveable a character and I think that softens her. Yeah, it’s exciting, I’m excited for you to see how their relationship unfolds. You will get to know Tam.”
What is the best part of portraying Tam Ryvora?
“I think this outspoken side of Tam inspires me. I was a shy child and sometimes find it hard to ask for what I want, but Tam does that. That’s cool to see someone who will stand up for yourself and what she believes in.”
Living in a world of social media, I asked her what would Tam’s hashtag be?
#GetThingsDone #NoRules #HandsOff”
All of which sums up this new incredible character that will inspire lots of little girls to be outspoken and get what they deserve.
Afterwards, the remaining members of the press took pics with Christopher Sean and Suzie McGrath who like the recent batch of voice actors from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels, really knows how to make their fans feel special.
Star Wars: Resistance, which is aimed at kids 6-12 years, will premiere October 7th on the Disney Channel and Disney XD. UK transmission date to be confirmed soon, although it is scheduled for this month.