PadmÃ© Amidala is the reason my wife watches Star Wars: The Clone Wars with our son and me, instead of wandering off to read the paper. (We watch the episodes on DVR the next morning, since 9pm’s a little late.) She’s not crazy about Jedi or clone troopers, preferring instead the human dimension the senator brings out.
Season 3 of The Clone Wars begins next Friday at 9pm, and all indications are that the plots will necessarily become a little darker, and motivations a little murkier. To help get us ready for next week’s premiere, I spoke with Catherine Taber, the voice of PadmÃ©, by phone.
GD: Has your approach to PadmÃ© changed, now that the show’s in its 3rd season?
CT: With everyone’s characters, as the war is going on, as more things are happening, it gets a little bit darker in general. There’s more disappointment when people don’t turn out to be who you’d thought they were. For PadmÃ©, she really is an eternal optimist, she really does believe in the good in people, but in season 3 it’s a little more trying to do that because there’s stuff happening all around that’s not what she would want it to be.
There will be secrets revealed in season 3, but also the lines between good and bad, and what’s right, get blurred when you’re introduced to characters on various sides of issues. PadmÃ© does a little bit more growing up in season 3–as everyone does: Ahsoka, for instance, does a lot of growing up in season 3, and there’s a lot of seeing things for what they are, rather than what you’d thought they were.
GD: How do you see your approach to PadmÃ© as distinct from Natalie Portman’s?
CT: What’s interesting about our show is that we go so much deeper into that time period. Obi-wan, Anakin, PadmÃ©–we’re all in situations that you didn’t see in the movies, so you have to interpret what the character’s reactions would be in situations that they’ve never encountered before. My take on PadmÃ© is that we get to see a lot more of who she really is in our show than we did in the movies. I really like to put all of that in–that she’s a senator, a politician, a former queen, so she really does have diplomacy and she has decorum. She knows how to behave in certain situations. But I also believe that she’s a fighter, and a person who believes in fighting for what she believes to be the right cause. So I want to make sure that she’s never seen as just a lazy politician who doesn’t care about things, because it’s so not who she is. She’s ready to pick up a blaster anytime that duty calls for it. She’s really ready to do anything for the cause, and I love showing that. I look at both PadmÃ© and Leia from the movies and put some of both into our PadmÃ©, because she’s a fighter.
GD: As an actress, do you prefer the fighting scenes, or the diplomatic episodes, or the episodes with Anakin . . . ?
CT: I like all of them. I love the episodes with Anakin, because the relationship that we’ve been able to establish between the two of them has worked out really well, and the fans have been so receptive of it. The thing I like about PadmÃ© so much really is the balance of all these aspects. She can be feminine and she can be at the fancy dinner party and fit in perfectly there but she also can be hiding out with a blaster in some dungeon and running around on hands and knees getting the job done. I think the two of those things together are more interesting than if it were just one or the other.
GD: People had expected that PadmÃ© would interact with Anakin a lot, with the Senate and with the Chancellor, but one of the things that’s been clear from the first two seasons is that PadmÃ© also has to spend a certain amount of time corralling C3PO and Jar-Jar, and she gets to be funny, as well . . . :
CT: We try! The take on Jar-Jar is funny. The kids adore that character, and our series has been a great place for Jar-Jar to grow, because he really is a funny character, and so well-meaning. And the same with C3PO, he’s such a classic character from old comedic movies–they make things funny with their innocent silliness, which is fun to play off of. One of my favorite scenes is from “Bombad Jedi,” in which I’m asking where the ship is, and C3P0 basically says it doesn’t exist anymore. And I say, “Battle droids?,” and he says, no, and I ask “Jar-Jar?” and he says yes. I really do enjoy that kind of humor. My parents, who have become avid The Clone Wars watchers these days, they love the character of Jar-Jar, too. It’s just good to have that comedy in there.
GD: Do you have a favorite episode from the first two seasons?
CT: There are a couple that I really love, and for different reasons. I loved “Innocents of Ryloth,” from season 1, where I played Numa. I just thought it was such a beautifully written script and it was really touching. I loved “Rookies” from season 1, because I loved what Dee [Bradley Baker] did with the different clones, and with their relationships. And I really loved “Senate Spy” from this last season, because I had so much fun recording with Matt [Lanter], capturing the Anakin/PadmÃ© dynamic. And also the actor who played Clovis, who I know from video games, Robin [Atkin Downes]. There were moments during the recording of that episode when it really felt like we were doing live action. It just felt magical, because everyone was in the moment. I’ll never forget that one, because it was super-fun. I hope we get to do more like that, when they’re based on film noir and other old movies. It’s just an interesting way to approach it, I think, and the fans really responded.
GD: I remember when that episode came out, you compared it to a Hitchcock style . . .
CT: Dave Filoni is the coolest director, because he gives me these assignments, which he knows that I, as an actress, really love. I’m not someone who likes to come in and go, “Ok, where’re my lines? Let me say ‘em.” I kind of like to sink my teeth in a little bit. He had me watch the film Notorious. The episode is 100% inspired by that. I thought that was really fun.
GD: In what ways, or to what extent, do you see PadmÃ© as a woman from 2010, as a contemporary, rather than a woman from a galaxy far, far away?
CT: She almost reminds me of an old Hollywood character in that she would never be tacky or intentionally mean. She has *manners*, if that makes sense, and I really appreciate that. She’s a modern woman in the sense that she knows what she believes in and she’s not afraid to go out there and fight for it. I enjoy that part of her character. I also really enjoy her relationship with Anakin that Dave has tried to establish. It’s a flawed relationship, just like every relationship. It’s not perfect, and we wouldn’t want it to be shown in that way. They have their ups and downs, just like everybody else. We’ve had a really good time showing those situations, so that hopefully husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends watching it together can go, “Uh huh–I recognize that.” For instance, in “Senate Spy,” when he tells her basically, “You’re not going to do this.” Well–for me, and for a lot of women, that’s the wrong thing to say if you don’t want us to do something. I enjoy the fact that we get to do these kinds of scenes that span different generations and are always true between men and women.
GD: Fair enough–I’m certain that’s why my wife prefers PadmÃ© to Ahsoka to this point. Ahsoka’s a Padawan, she has to defer to Anakin in certain ways, whereas PadmÃ© is allowed to be . . .
CT: Her own woman.
CT: That’s one of the things that’s great about the show: There really is something for everybody, and it really does span generations. There are certain episodes that some people are going to like better than others, and there certain episodes that are going to appeal more to the 7-year-old boys and certain ones that will appeal to the 37-year-olds. There’s something for everybody. We try hard to do that, and have gotten great feedback that it’s succeeding.
GD: How do you see the women characters on the show? On the one hand, there are definitely more strong women characters in the show than in the movies; on the other hand, it’s still, necessarily, very much a story about Anakin, Obi-Wan, the Chancellor, and maybe Yoda and the clones . . .
CT: I really do think the show has done a good job of having lots of women. You can go down the list of episodes so far, and plus in season 3 there’s some cool stuff coming up with females. You have characters like Satine, and Luminara, and a lot of good characters on both sides. There’s quite a bit of Ventress coming up, which, as far as female characters go–I know she’s evil, so not necessarily someone we can look up to, but she’s pretty cool. There’s a great female presence in The Clone Wars, and there’s more to come. There are a lot of women writers on the show, and so that influence is definitely felt. I’m proud that we do that, and are continuing to do more.
GD: It is good to have evil women, right?
CT: Yes . . . she is pretty cool, I have to say, and Nika [Futterman], who does her voice, is so great. The voice that she creates–you can feel the room vibrating when she’s talking.
GD: Are there advantages to voicing the character instead of having to embody her?
CT: I approach it the same way. Not everyone does that, but I come from an on-camera background, and really enjoy that. A lot of times they’re actually recording our faces as well as our voices, so you do get to see a lot of yourself in the character, in the finished product. The animators do a fantastic job–I really appreciate it. The main benefit is that you get to play things that you wouldn’t normally be able to play. For instance, I probably wouldn’t have been able to play Numa, the 6-year-old Twi’lek, if it were live action! Also, you can go to work in whatever you want, as opposed to getting dressed up in a tight little costume when you don’t want to wear it that day. That’s nice, too.
GD: Have there been significant differences in technique playing a character over an extended show, as opposed to in a video game or feature?
CT: The approach is really the same. The cool thing about the series is that we record all together, which you really don’t get to do on video games. It’s pretty rare that you get to do that. I got to work with David Hayter on the last Metal Gear which was a huge treat, but generally you’re by yourself. So that makes a difference. It’s so much better when you’re with your fellow actors. When you’re doing a scene with someone, you can can feel their energy, look at them if you want to, and it just makes the whole thing have a depth that I really appreciate as an actress.
GD: Has being on the show changed your relationship to the extended Star Wars universe?
CT: I was already a huge fan, so I’d been exposed to some stuff, but I had no idea how much is out there. What’s funny now is that people give me suggestions about what to check out, particularly some of the different incarnations of PadmÃ© in different literature. I now feel that I have to be careful about that, because we stay pretty true to canon, and some of the extended universe stuff is not. (I know that there are arguments about that all over the place.) I want to be in the Star Wars universe as George intended it to be, and so I watch, to some extent, how far out of that I go. I don’t want to start imagining a different reality than what he does. But there’s so much! I had no idea that there was *so* much, even though I was a huge Star Wars fan — I just didn’t know. It’s like the Arthurian legend, in a way: it’s this great mythos that people can push into different directions, and see what happens from another perspective, or tell a part of the story that maybe was untold.
GD: It’s true–and continuity problems drive my kid crazy.
CT: Star Wars fans are very serious about their continuity, and so I want to stay within what it’s meant to be, so that I don’t have a bunch of fans up in arms.
GD: You’ve said in other interviews that you came to the Star Wars movies late growing up–I wonder what kinds of things you enjoyed reading?
CT: Total science fiction and fantasy reader. Lord of the Rings, 100%. Alice in Wonderland has been my favorite book since I was teeny-tiny [totally clear from her website]–Ashley Eckstein, who plays Ahsoka, it’s her favorite book, too. A lot of different Ayn Rand stuff, and a lot of Stephen King . . . I just liked stuff that was weird, and stuff about magic, about space. I like elves . . . I really am a big geek!
GD: Has the Ayn Rand stuff worn well with you? Do you still read that, or . . .?
CT: I do. And what’s funny now is to re-read some stuff as an adult. It’s so different–I mean, I read Fountainhead when I was quite young, and I can’t even imagine what I was thinking that everything meant at the time. But I knew that I loved it and it was exciting. I just liked things that were a little bit different, a little bit off of the beaten path. That was interesting to me as a child.
GD: One last question: I know that you’re associated with Games for Soldiers–what is that?
CT: It’s something I’ve been doing since 2008. I had a website up, but the fellow who did my website offered to redo it so that it would be more palatable. My father is retired Army, and I just have such admiration and respect for all the service members in all the branches of the military, and felt that I really wanted to do something. My background in video games seemed like the perfect thing to do, since I found out that the soldiers like to play videogames in their spare time. I started contacting the companies that I worked with and asking for donations, and asking individual friends who I knew were big gamers. It just became this thing where I collect video games, sometimes brand new, sometimes used–I’ve had kids send me all their old games. So they come from all sorts of places, and now I also get comic books, too. Henry Gilroy, for example, who is a writer for Clone Wars, gave me a ton of comic books, because he also writes for Dark Horse, and that started it off. And then I just pack ‘em off in my garage, with the help of my Jack Russell Terrier, and I send them to troops who are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s gotten to the point now where units will contact me, and I’ll try to find out what platforms they have, and get stuff over to them. It’s been really cool, because my castmates, such as James Arnold Taylor and Dee Bradley Baker especially–Dee is a huge gamer, and has been super generous, always giving me consoles and games. It’s been a really cool thing.
GD: Given that work, and your father’s military service–how does he appreciate the show’s take on the clones?
CT: My parents both have been so in awe of what Dee has done with the clones. It’s interesting because we are a cartoon, but the show is so much more than that. It does appeal to 7-year-olds, but my parents enjoy the show, and my dad admires the way Dee portrays the clones. He does a great job of humanizing them, and making you see things from their perspective, and making more than just nameless, faceless numbers. It’s a really beautiful thing. The only sad thing, of course, is that at a certain point, we know that they’re going to all turn bad. That’s kind of the double-edged sword that goes along with the beautiful job Dee has done in making us love the clones. It’s going to be that much harder when they turn.
GD: Thank you so much!!!
Read this article:
PadmÃ© Speaks out: GeekDad Interviews Catherine Taber
- Installing Virtue OLED Board & Laser Eyes in Dye DM9 Paintball Gun
- Bridging Digital and Physical Worlds With SixthSense
- Official Angry Birds 3 Star Walkthrough Theme 3 Levels 1-5
- HTC Schubert
- Sketching Out a Future for the Stylus
Incoming search terms:
- Powered by Article Dashboard 2009 the unit episodes
- Powered by Article Dashboard 2009 the unit
- Powered by Article Dashboard funny videos
- Powered by Article Dashboard science stuff
- Powered by Article Dashboard science fiction authors
- Powered by Article Dashboard adult fantasy
- Powered by Article Dashboard short science fiction story
- Powered by Article Dashboard video game comics
- Powered by Article Dashboard episodes
- Powered by Article Dashboard the unit episode guide