Ahead of the show’s premiere, Winstead revealed that this older version of Hera is "something of a legend” and has become even more of a “maternal” leader. From what fans have seen across the first seven episodes, the actress was right on the money.
But according to Winstead, despite having Vanessa Marshall’s voice performance as a template, it wasn’t an easy task bringing the highly respected New Republic General to life.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Unique Challenge of Bringing Hera to Life
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly on its Dagobah Dispatch podcast (which was likely recorded prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike), Mary Elizabeth Winstead revealed that playing Hera Syndulla in Ahsoka presented her with a unique challenge.
First, Winstead was asked if she did her homework ahead of joining Ahsoka, to which she confirmed she watched all four seasons of Star Wars Rebels. This put her in the unique spot of already having a fully fleshed-out character before she was ever involved:
“I did, and I mean that was such a fantastic thing to get to have four seasons of something to work with in terms of backstory. You know, usually, you’re trying to come up with your own backstory to fill out a character and make them more interesting or more real to you.”
The actress then revealed that after watching Rebels, it became “a different challenge of stepping into some shoes that have already been filled:”
“So, after four seasons of watching 'Rebels,' those characters are real already, so it becomes a different challenge of stepping into some shoes that have already been filled in one way and kind of bringing them into a literally different dimension and trying to bring myself to that and also marry it with what had already been done in the cartoon. So that was interesting to take that with me but also let that go so I could carry it forward myself.”
When asked what it was about Hera that appealed to the actress, she pointed to
how “she’s such a strong leader and fighter” while also being “so maternal and nurturing:”
"What I love about her is that she's such a strong leader and fighter, and she's also so maternal and nurturing. We don't often see that depicted on screen. We see army generals being these very masculine, hard figures. And Hera has that, but she also has this softness to her. She really wants her crew to be loved and looked after, and at the same time, she's pushing them to be better and to basically sacrifice whatever they need to do for the greater good. So I thought that was a really interesting combination and something that was very aspirational, and I was excited to try and represent all those things in that character."
Honoring Hera While Bringing Something New to the Table
While it was previously known that Mary Elizabeth Winstead watched all of Star Wars Rebels ahead of time, fans will always appreciate being reminded of the dedication the actress put forth.
Winstead clearly cared about honoring Hera’s character as she was initially conceived while also making sure to leave room to inject her own performance into this older iteration. Needless to say, she’s done a fantastic job so far.
Her approach is far different than some others who have previously helped bring a Star Wars character from animation into live action.
One example is Rupert Friend as the Grand Inquisitor in Obi-Wan Kenobi. For that role, the actor actively avoided watching any of the character’s previous appearances, instead looking to bring to life what was on the page.
Needless to say, that method was questionable at best and led to a fairly forgettable adaptation of the villain.
Thankfully, other actors like Rosario Dawson and Natasha Liu Bordizzo approached their roles in a similar fashion to how Winstead did. Both of them were also able to maintain consistency with their characters while making room for their own unique touch.
When it comes to Hera, hopefully, Ahsoka is only the start of Winstead’s time in the role. Perhaps she’ll become a leading character in Dave Filoni’s big MandoVerse crossover film.
Ahsoka is now streaming on Disney+.