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The Voice of a Hundred Faces: Dee Bradley Baker’s ‘Star Wars’ Journey


For “Star Wars” followers who’ve seen solely the theatrical blockbusters, clone troopers are peripheral figures, at most recalled because the title menace in “Assault of the Clones,” from 2002. However over the previous 20 years they’ve develop into important to the franchise, the pillar of animated “Star Wars” sequence together with “The Clone Wars,” “Star Wars Rebels” and most not too long ago, “The Dangerous Batch.”

And in that point one man has been important to the clones: Dee Bradley Baker, who has voiced all of them.

Not the entire reveals — the entire clones, tons of of them since getting forged for “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which debuted in 2008 with a function movie and an animated sequence that lasted for seven seasons. Now Baker’s extremely prolific gig, which additionally included loads of non-clone roles, has lastly come to an finish: “The Dangerous Batch,” the “Clone Wars” sequel sequence, concludes its three-season run on Disney+ this week, and there aren’t any plans for extra clone reveals.

“It’s been splendidly gratifying to go on this journey,” Baker mentioned.

Baker, 61, has been a voice actor for practically 30 years, engaged on sequence like “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “American Dad,” “Codename: Children Subsequent Door” and “House Jam.” Earlier than “Star Wars,” he nearly solely performed humorous components: He voiced each animal in “Avatar: The Final Airbender,” Perry the Platypus in “Phineas & Ferb” and creatures in live-action tasks like Sebastian the rat in “The Suicide Squad.”

“I might get forged as extra younger, energetic and comedic as a result of that’s how I considered myself,” Baker mentioned. The “Star Wars” reveals “pulled a lot extra from me as an actor as a result of it requested issues of me I wouldn’t even consider.”

Lots of the dramatic and emotional tales early on in “The Clone Wars” concerned the clone troopers. In spite of everything, it’s simpler to kill a replaceable clone, considered one of thousands and thousands, than a Jedi who additionally reveals up within the theatrical films.

Although the sequence was on Cartoon Community and geared toward youngsters, the conflict tales have been intense and put the more and more hard-bitten clones via one wringer after one other. One story arc channels the novella “Coronary heart of Darkness”: The troopers are led by a ruthless Jedi Basic in a jungle planet, till the final’s fixed sacrifice of lives results in insurgency. One episode was directed by Walter Murch, the Oscar-winning sound designer behind the Vietnam Conflict epic “Apocalypse Now,” itself impressed by “Coronary heart of Darkness.”

“Voice appearing is appearing, you want the identical talent and the identical expertise,” mentioned Ashley Eckstein who performed Ahsoka Tano. (This central “Clone Wars” character final 12 months turned the middle of a live-action present, “Ahsoka,” starring Rosario Dawson.)

“It will probably even be tougher and harder to do voice appearing,” Eckstein continued. “Dee and I needed to do some deeply emotional and action-packed scenes, and we needed to stand nonetheless behind a microphone. You’ll be able to’t act it out or transfer round. You must convey all of it simply via your voice.”

“The Clone Wars” was adopted by “Star Wars Rebels,” which follows a small Insurgent crew that ultimately features a group of surviving clones, and “The Dangerous Batch,” centered on a squad of “faulty” clones with much more distinct personalities.

One impediment to creating clone troopers compelling is the problem of differentiating them. (They’re, in spite of everything, clones.) There have been small makes an attempt from the start to make them distinct from a design standpoint. The creators gave them colourful armor and insignia to distinction them with the Empire’s extra well-known stormtroopers, in response to Dave Filoni, who was supervising director and an govt producer of “The Clone Wars” and is now the chief artistic officer of Lucasfilm.

“They have been in a position to categorical their individuality, the place stormtroopers are people taken into service and stripped of their persona and id,” Filoni wrote in an e-mail. Nonetheless, a glance is little with out the voice and persona that goes with it, and Baker’s efficiency was a giant cause the characters turned so central.

The primary take a look at to see if Baker voicing all of the clones would work got here in “Rookies,” the fifth episode of “The Clone Wars.” The episode got here from an concept by George Lucas, who needed to do an episode of simply clones, and follows a gaggle of cadets who come collectively as a squad and stave off a droid invasion.

As Henry Gilroy, the present’s head author, recalled, “That recording session was truly a revelation, for we realized that we might write something for the clones to do with story and character and Dee would execute to perfection.”

The clones quickly went from being one-off characters with little persona to correct members of the expanded forged, with their very own emotional and dramatic arcs that carried on all through the present’s seven seasons and into “The Dangerous Batch.” (The character Echo is the final surviving member of that rookie squad.)

All of the clones are primarily based, fittingly, on the identical voice: the one Baker created to play Captain Rex, the second-in-command to Anakin Skywalker and his closest buddy in “The Clone Wars,” after Obi-Wan Kenobi. Baker would choose one or two defining qualities for every clone — rank, age, angle, quirk — to information his performances. He used to file one clone at a time, going via a whole script with one after which doing the identical with the following and so forth till an episode was finished.

However as “The Clone Wars” developed extra complicated arcs, he took a quicker, extra daunting strategy. “I might begin to play all of them and simply soar backwards and forwards,” Baker mentioned. “I simply learn via the scenes straight via as in the event that they’re characters taking part in out a scene, but it surely’s simply me going from one voice to the opposite.”

Michelle Ang, who stars in “The Dangerous Batch” as Omega, is amazed by this course of. “He cannot solely carry out the completely different personalities, however maintain 5 completely different viewpoints of all of the ‘Dangerous Batch’ characters and argue for each,” she mentioned. “It seems like there are 4 distinct individuals I’m working with.”

Eckstein referred to as Baker a mentor, evaluating their relationship to that of Ahsoka, her younger Padawan character, and Baker’s seasoned Captain Rex. “He taught me the methods of the Drive, the methods of voice appearing,” she mentioned. When she too was requested to play a number of characters in the identical episodes, “I discovered from Dee, who’s sensible at doing that.”

Baker, who began out in comedy, mentioned improv helped prepare him to embrace the odd vocalizations “Star Wars” reveals can require and to maneuver fluidly between characters.

“I’m not a lot ready as I’m prepared,” he mentioned. “You wish to be open and out there to steer this and configure that in a approach that the writers you’re working with need issues to go. You’ll be able to’t put together for it. You get that within the instant human connection of now, and that’s inherently improvisational.”

The tip of “The Dangerous Batch” is the top of an period, even when different “Star Wars” roles ultimately come Baker’s approach, just like the upcoming online game “Star Wars Outlaws.” Although characters like Ahsoka Tano reside on in live-action, and Captain Rex made a cameo in “Ahsoka,” “The Dangerous Batch” characters have been the final characters that Lucas, the “Star Wars” mastermind who’s now not concerned with the franchise, had direct enter on. The importance of this isn’t misplaced on Baker.

“I’ve liked ‘Star Wars’ since I used to be a child,” he mentioned. “Nothing may be extra enjoyable than to play within the universe that captured your creativeness as a child.”



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