There was a moment during Star Wars Celebration — the fan convention where Lucasfilm previews its upcoming Star Wars content — when attendees witnessed history.
When Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Mary Elizabeth Winstead took the stage for the “Ahsoka” panel, it marked the first time in the event’s 23-year history that three female leads were showcased. In the live-action series, Dawson plays the Ahsoka Tano, Liu Bordizzo plays Sabine Wren, and Winstead plays Hera Syndulla — characters that were previously introduced in the animated “Star Wars The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” shows.
“I think what’s so cool about this show is that these characters have existed for years now in animation,” Dawson told TheWrap following the panel. “I definitely feel like there’s a breakup in the fandom from the movies to the live-action shows to the animation. And to now have that confluence I think is really special. And I think it’s going to mean a lot to this generation coming up. We’ve long since been waiting; we knew what Leia was capable of, and now we’re getting to see it even better realized and actualized with this leaderful moment of women on screen.”
Daswon’s co-stars echoed her sentiments.
“I was saying to Rosario that I really didn’t even notice until we had been shooting for a little while — that it was such a female-led show — because we never commented on it,” Winstead explained. “It was just ‘Star Wars’. We’re just all here making Star Wars. So one day, I’m like, ‘Oh my God. Wait a second. This is really amazing.’ So there’s something really revolutionary to me about the fact that we didn’t even need to talk about it.”
“‘Star Wars’ started a trend starting with Princess Leia and has continued and it has grown and it’s grown to the point where now, that sort of doesn’t really matter, gender doesn’t matter,” Winstead added. “It’s ‘Star Wars’. We’re all in this together. So there’s something really special about being a part of something like that, that we don’t really need to call attention to it. Because these characters transcend gender in that way.”
“I mean, gender is just such a non-existent thing for the portrayal of this warrior,” Liu Bordizzo said of her character Sabine, a Mandalorian warrior. “What I loved about it was that I was in full body armor with sometimes short hair through the whole show, so there was just no pressure to look any kind of way or be aware of [gender roles]. I was just very in my body.”
For Katee Sackhoff, who also plays a Mandalorian warrior, fandom can also be gender-agnostic.
“As the mother of a daughter, it is such a beautiful thing to know that she has so many different characters, women and men to look to,” the Bo Katan Kryze actress explained. “We don’t necessarily have to be inspired by somebody that’s just our gender. I wanted to be Bruce Willis when I was a little kid. And so as long as there’s good writing, good stories, and it’s a character that we can fall in love with and root for — that’s what inspires me.”
“I think that we have created now not only some really great female characters, but we’ve got a lot of women working in front of the camera and behind the camera,” added Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “And I think it’s created a kind of amazing balance to what’s going on. Because storytelling is all about point of view, and having the widest variety of points of view, whether it’s ethnicity or whether it’s gender, that shouldn’t be a deterrent. And the more the merrier.”
Among the “more” to come: the previously mentioned “Ahsoka,” “The Acolyte” series with lead Amandla Stenberg and directed by Leslye Headland, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s film set 15 years into the future with Daisy Ridley’s Rey Skywalker building a new Jedi Order.