Star Wars Rebels may have ended in 2018, but like all things Star Wars, its legacy lives on. One character from Rebels who commonly stands out among all of Star Wars, is Hera Syndulla. We recently got the chance to chat with Hera Syndulla herself, voice actress Vanessa Marshall! Vanessa talked about Hera’s optimism and leadership skills, her role as Wonder Woman in DC Comics cartoons, the importance of voting, and much more. Check out the interview below!
Shaun Hood: Now that it’s been a while since the series finale of Star Wars Rebels, what does the role of Hera Syndulla stand for in terms of personal meaning within your voice acting career?
Vanessa Marshall: Well, I’m sad that Star Wars Rebels is over, but I’m very grateful to have been a part of it. I would have to say that, Hera Syndulla stands for the idea that dreams can come true, that you never know what life can bring you. I’ve been a lifelong Star Wars fan, and I never would’ve guessed growing up watching movie after movie, that I would have anything to do with the saga. So, for me, it’s a constant reminder that you just never know what gifts are ahead.
A friend of mine said, “We live life looking through the windshield and sometimes we can’t see what’s ahead of us, but when we look in the rear view, it kind of all finally makes sense.” It seems like all of my life experiences leading up to this gave me everything I needed to be able to play Hera – my martial arts and my acting school degree, and all of these things just sort of came together magically and it really was a dream come true. To this day, it is the highlight of my career and my life to have played Hera.
SH: So you said that she stands for dreams coming true. Is that also synonymous with the rebellion and how much progress Hera made with fulfilling her own dreams as well?
VM: I would say her limitless hope is something that always inspired me and will forever and ever. I love her one line, “we have hope, hope that things will get better” and they will. Especially in these times, I hold on to that idea. I know that things got a little rough for Hera at the end with Kanan, but she has a son and anything is possible still, and I think she came around finally in the epilogue – I saw that hope in her eyes again. So for me personally, she helps inspire me to believe that dreams can come true. As a character within the Star Wars universe, I think her dedication to holding that light for others and inspiring them and nurturing them and fighting for what’s right and for those who can’t fight for themselves, I think she stands for so much more. So I think the dreams coming true is really more for me personally, but I would say Hera stands for hope in the world.
SH: You reprised the role of Hera in the video game, Star Wars Squadrons. This time, you took part in motion capture as well as voice recordings. Because of that, did you feel like it gave you a new perspective on your character at all?
VM: It did actually. First of all, I’ll just say that it was a dream come true to work with Lucasfilm and the whole team at Motive and EA – they were just phenomenal to work with and they were so supportive throughout the whole process. It was my first motion capture job. I’d never done anything like that before. I’ve played Hera in front of a microphone and I’ve read words off of a page. It was something entirely different to memorize those words, to act them out as more say an on-camera job. It felt really cool to embody her in that way, which I’d never done before.
What was kind of cool about it was that I played Jan Ors from Jedi Knights to Jedi Outcast and I was directed by Darragh O’Farrell and that was in the 90s, and Darragh directed me in the Star Wars Squadrons video game. So it was a bit of a reunion there as well. He directed my first Star Wars game and he directed my first MoCap. So he holds a very special place in me for that reason. So, it was special all the way around.
SH: I know you’ve had the opportunity to attend a convention that many Star Wars fans dream of, which is Star Wars Celebration. Could you tell us about what that’s like for readers who are unfamiliar with the event? Also, is there anything memorable that you’d like to point out regarding it?
VM: Well, Star Wars Celebration is essentially heaven on earth.
SH: Yeah, I’ve never been, but I know.
VM: I mean, if you’re a Star Wars fan, and you go, you’ll feel like you’re finally home, because the cosplay and the community and all the panels are just, it’s just nonstop and it just goes and goes and goes. It’s so much fun. But my first one was in 2014 in Los Angeles and my fondest memories were being asked into the 501st Legion, as well as The Rebel Legion. They had a whole ceremony for us and, I was crying. I was so honored. Then in 2017 in Florida, when we got to go, there was one night, I think it was like the last night that we were there, and I got to go on all the rides with the cast members, even Dave Filoni. I have never laughed so hard and eaten so many weird things. It was down at Disney World and it really was the happiest place on earth for me, that weekend.
Then, more recently, in 2019 in Chicago, we all were there at Star Wars Celebration, and man, we had the pictures with different fans and the number of people who cosplayed as Hera and Kanan and Ezra, and even Hera’s son, Jacen, I mean, it was really so sweet to meet people and see people that I had seen at other Star Wars Celebrations. You know, there’s a hashtag, #StarWarsFamily. I feel like when I go to these events, it’s more than just a hashtag, it’s a way of life and it’s very real and I recommend it to anyone who is a Star Wars fan.
SH: Are there any qualities of Hera that you think we need more of in Star Wars characters, or that you think make her stand out as a good leader within these stories?
VM: Well, what I love about Hera is that she’s very strong minded, but at the same time, she’s very warm and nurturing. She’s a bit of a mother figure with the crew and the ship, and she really knows how to talk to each individual person and to keep them together when they fall apart and, to help them find things in themselves that they didn’t even know they had, so she can inspire people in that way.
I also love her sense of humor, her diplomacy, her intelligence, her skills as a pilot, as a markswoman, and as a combatant. I mean, she’s pretty skilled. I think you’ll find a lot of that in various characters throughout Star Wars, so I don’t know necessarily that we need more or less of that. As far as her ideals go, as one of the founding members of the Rebel Alliance, I think you can see many of those attributes exhibited in those characters that are not on the dark side, but yeah, I think she really did stand out and I’m grateful to have had anything to do with that, and, to really embody those qualities, I try to bring some of those to my own life. So, maybe more than needing to see them in Star Wars characters, I would love to see more of it in the real world.
SH: We’ve talked a lot about your experience portraying Hera Syndulla, but I know that you have also voiced a few DC Comics characters too, mainly Wonder Woman. Could you tell us a little more about that role and what it’s like to be a part of that fandom as well?
VM: Well, there is another female icon for you! Growing up, I wore the Wonder Woman underoos, in all honesty. I loved her bracelets and the way she stood for truth and justice and equality. Those are all things that I still stand for today. It was an honor to step up to the microphone and do my very best to bring out all those very strong feminine elements of my own personality and just give it a go.
Most recently, I got to play her in Red Son this year that came out on Blu-ray for Warner Brothers, and that was an interesting Elseworld’s tale. What they pondered was, “What would it be like if Superman landed in the Soviet Union, as opposed to America?” And Wonder Woman got to, sort of, go between both worlds – America and the Soviet Union – I don’t think we’ve ever seen her like that before; equally, in Crisis on Two Earths, she was very diplomatic and helpful. I also don’t think we have seen her as she was portrayed in Flashpoint Paradox. That Justice League Movie was sort of opposite day, if you will – no spoilers – but she has an interaction with Aquaman that you might want to check out because it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. That’s the whole point of Flashpoint Paradox, is that everyone’s sort of the opposite of who they are. So that was lots of fun to portray.
I also get to play Wonder Woman in the Harley Quinn cartoon on DC Universe, and I believe that eventually our third season will be on HBO Max. That’s also a unique version of Wonder Woman because that show is so broadly comedic, and it’s very campy, and it has been a joy to portray her in that regard as well. So each and every version of her has been really fun and I’ve learned a lot each time, but I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to try so many times to get it right.
SH: You were also on DC Universe All Star Games, where you’ve spent time with fellow Star Wars voice actors, Sam Witwer and Freddie Prinze Jr.. Could you tell us a little more about that game show and what it was like to be a part of it?
VM: Freddie gave me a call and said, “Hey, do you want to come play this role playing game? It’s a DC role-playing game.” Before he even finished the question I said, “Of course.” Then he told me that Sam was going to be the DM. Clare Grant, whom I’d met briefly before, was also participating, and Xavier Woods – I love that guy, he has such a great presence on social media. He’s absolutely hilarious. So he said, “We’re going to show up and we’ll film it.” I was like, “I’m there, I’m already there!” The way the set was built was really beautiful, and they gave us these funny mocktails. I would happily play that game again anytime, but I actually got to play Diana, so I was Wonder Woman on that one as well, but that was role playing for the sake of the game. But yeah, I think if you get a chance to see DC Universe All-Star Games I think they’re still streaming on the DC service, but the way they’re directed with all the music and the way it all came together is a really fun time. Especially now, when things can be somewhat bleak, it’s a good way to escape and have a good time. So I’m grateful to have been able to play, and I revisit it when I feel sad.
SH: On social media, you’ve had some involvement in a non-profit organization, Nerds Vote. I LOVE that organization myself as well – is there anything you’d like to say in terms of what Nerds Vote means to you and what they stand for?
VM: Absolutely! NerdsVote is so amazing. If there’s anyone who hasn’t registered to vote, please go to nerdsvote.com immediately and join the family. What I love about it is that it’s essentially non-partisan, and their mission is really to get all the cosplayers, the gamers, the pop culture fans, and nerds of all kinds involved in the American democracy by voting. I love them for doing this. I think everyone’s voice deserves to be heard. That’s something I believe in general, but particularly right now, I think it matters, words matter, what one needs and wants in life matters. I feel like expressing that at this time is just so vital and the fact that they give people an opportunity to do that. I actually did an Instagram live with them and they have all sorts of really cool people in the community, and it just allows, another sense of family that I think is so important right now, but mainly what I love is that it’s nonpartisan. So everyone is welcome, and I love things that are diverse and inclusive and they hit a home run on their website. So, please register to vote if you haven’t!
SH: Is there anything else you’re working on or you have coming up that you’d like our readers to know about?
VM: Well, the Star Wars Squadrons game just came out. Harley Quinn announced that they’ll be having a third season on HBO Max, and Young Justice should also be returning – I’ve played Black Canary on Young Justice for several seasons. If you get a chance, I was just recently on Star Trek: Lower Decks, it’s a pretty funny episode. I got to play the voice of a ship and there was an Ensign who I got to play. That’s on CBS All Access. Also, The Clone Wars, if you didn’t get to see the most recent season, that’s on Disney Plus. I got to play Rook Kast, a Mandalorian character, and that was an honor to be working so closely with Sam Witwer, as Darth Maul. I was his little minion, but anyway, those are a few things that people can check out. Again, I hope everyone stays safe and, and well, and we will get through this and hopefully we can all nerd out at conventions again, as soon as possible.