Friday, February 21 will be a day long remembered, as Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns with a seventh and final season that will finally bring the series to a proper close. After the show was abruptly cancelled following Season 5 in 2013, things looked bleak, and while promised “bonus content” did eventually arrive in the form of a sixth season comprised of episodes that were in the works when the show ended, it never actually had a true series finale to actually allow the Clone Wars of the title to come to an end, as the events of Revenge of the Sith get underway.
Season 7 will remedy that, with Dave Filoni — who guided the show’s original run alongside George Lucas — returning to bring us 12 new episodes. The cast is back as well, including the incredibly crucial presence of Dee Bradley Baker. While Baker’s entire resume as a voice actor is amazing, The Clone Wars has given him quite a body of work just within one show, given he voices every single Clone Trooper we meet – and we’ve met quite a lot.
With The Clone Wars Season 7 premiering Friday on Disney+, Baker spoke to Fandom about getting to come back and finish what they started, the key to voicing so many Clones, and Captain Rex’s life beyond the Clone Wars.
So what was it like to hear the news that The Clone Wars, which last debuted new episodes six years ago, was actually returning? Said Baker, “I was floored when Filoni informed me we were giving Clone Wars a proper finish. That dream had been shattered for me with the abrupt finish of what we’d been making before. I never thought that it would be possible to revive this. The way it was talked about, it was done. They’d smashed the creative pipeline and everything we had was going to sit there and that was it. The first indication of a new hope, shall we say, was the lost episodes [airing], which in and of itself was very exciting. And then a successful new series [Star Wars Rebels] that they generated under the care of Disney. When Filoni informed me of this though, I was floored. I did not expect it. I couldn’t have wished for anything more wonderful to hear. There’s no other project I’d rather do in this town or in my career than finish The Clone Wars.”
Once work progressed on the new episodes, Baker said that when it came to reuniting with his castmates, “It all felt very comfortable jumping back into this because it’s Dave at the helm and the same writers and it’s really finishing the mission that we’d been working on for all of those years. It felt familiar and fun and natural. We picked right up where we left off and we’re bringing it home.”
While the cast were thrilled about the show coming back, it would be awhile before it would be revealed to the public, via a huge surprise announcement in the midst of a video played at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, at what was billed as a 10thanniversary retrospective look back at the series. The crowd went absolutely crazy – I was lucky enough to be there and experience it firsthand — and Baker remarked, “That’s one of the greatest thrills of my career, was to be in that room when the fans realized what we’d been doing. We’d been working on it and working up to it and, as normally happens, shows and projects develop in a high degree of secrecy until they’re finally let out into the world. And this one, it just spoke to such a groundswell of demand and yearning from the fans that it was really quite thrilling to be in that room where the whole place just kind of blew up once they realized what was coming.”
THE NEW BATCH
The new season begins with a story arc that will be familiar to some Clone Wars fans, “The Bad Batch,” which was shown in very rough, animatic form at Star Wars Celebration in 2015 and then released online. Now though, the episodes have been completely finished, with some story and dialogue tweaks from what was seen before.
The storyline introduces the Bad Batch of the title, AKA Clone Force 99, a group of Clones who did not come out as intended and physically don’t exactly match one another, while also having distinct personalities and voices that set them apart from the other Clones. Baker still voices all of the new Bad Batch characters, but this time, he was tasked with making them sound far more individualized from the get-go, while still retaining a hint of those core elements.
Said Baker, “It was definitely a fresh challenge and one I approached with not so little trepidation. I wanted it to work and it was such an odd, interesting idea that I really think they pulled it off beautifully. I really like these guys and I’m very confident the fans who may not have been able to see that animatic will really like these guys. They’re quite fun and it’s a really appealing dynamic that they bring to The Clone Wars and this big battle they start out with. At first, it was similar to like when I started on Rebels, where it’s like ‘This is great, but I hope that this works. I really don’t know how this is going to play out.’ And then finally seeing it and saying ‘Oh, thank god, this works beautifully!’ I always step into it with a challenge like that and that’s part of what’s fun of it. They’re not just cranking out the same things. There’s a freshness and a new level of sophistication and challenge that Dave and the whole team brought to the series with escalating levels of artistry and good writing and storytelling that I think made the show better and better. It really pays off with this final season in a big way.”
The Bad Batch storyline is one where there are long stretches of Baker performing multiple characters in the same scene, speaking to one another with no other actor involved. As far as performing those scenes go, rather than record one character, then move on to the next, “The way it plays out is we just go straight through it. We kind of agree upfront on the tone of [each] character. There may be an adjective that guides that separation and I rely on Dave and those in the booth to keep me on point. We’ll go straight through the scene and maybe go back and do spot fixes on individual lines maybe for acting or phrasing or the shading of the individual character to keep them separate. You may have one that stays calm most of the time but if that character gets loud, which he rarely does, then he starts to sound like another one. Because they are all related. They are all Clones. We still exercise a lot of attention to that separation of character.”
With the Bad Batch, Baker noted that he feels the more varied voices may have people praising him more than usual, though from his perspective, “It reads as more impressive, I guess, because they’re more different than the Clones typically are from each other. But that, in a way, actually makes it easier to jump from one to the other than the [regular] Clones, which is more shades of difference. It’s great fun to do. It’s a really interesting, weird, unique assignment. I’ll never have anything like that.”
Baker added that he loved getting to perform a lynchpin element in The Clone Wars, “But I don’t lose track of the fact that this is an elaborate collaboration of all of these artists and technicians. And even behind the scenes, all the producers that weave together to create each individual character. I’m part of it but I’m only part. I stand there with a whole army of really brilliant people in making this stuff and it’s to everyone’s credit. Not just mine.”
REX AND BEYOND
While Baker has voiced so many different Clones over the years, it’s safe to say Captain Rex has had the most prominent role. The trusted Captain of Anakin Skywalker’s 501st Legion, Rex not only appeared throughout The Clone Wars, but he also resurfaced, in older, more grizzled form, in Star Wars Rebels.
For Baker, returning to The Clone Wars meant returning to doing a younger version of Rex, and the actor noted, “I think older Rex tapped into his younger, more able self once he got on board with working with the Rebels. And this feels more like jumping back into a slightly more energized, fighting soldier who wants — as all clones do — to finish this [war]. They want to win this, they want to do this. To have them part of the finish of this whole grand, tragic space opera of a chapter in Star Wars is really gratifying. It’s part of Rex’s story in particular that I really wanted to be able to be a part of that telling. Because it really needed to be told. And it is now going to be told.”
Regarding Rex not participating in Order 66, Baker said, “There’s a lot to play out in these twelve episodes that falls right around all of that and that the fans are going to be quite fascinated to see.”
When The Clone Wars began, big questions quickly arose about where not only Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka Tano, but also Captain Rex had gone by the time of Revenge of the Sith, given their close ties to Anakin Skywalker and absence from that film. While Baker said he loved getting to reprise Rex on Rebels, and thus confirm the character survived The Clone Wars, he added, “Beyond that, we got the official acknowledgment, at the end of [Rebels], from Dave himself, that Rex makes it to [the Battle of] Endor. That’s the golden prize for me right there. He made it to Endor! He was indeed around. He may not be the one guy you see in Return of the Jedi [who some fans think may be Rex], but he was there and in that area. He made it. And that is the dream right there, that at least one clone made it through without being wiped out in this grand operatic ballad.”
Beyond Rex, when asked to name some of his favorite Clone characters he’s voiced, Baker replied, “That’s a hard one to narrow down. I really loved 99. I thought he was a really interesting, noble, heroic character I was very proud of and very emotional about. I loved that guy. I also loved Cut Lawquane. He was a family man, an interesting variation of clone. There are a lot of others. Gregor has a fascinating arc and his transformation into a kooky old clone. I loved that guy too. On a darker side, Fives, his arc is really disturbing and sad and affecting to me. It’s hard to narrow down to a single clone.”
While we will now get closure on Rex’s time fighting the Clone Wars in these new episodes and already know how he re-joined the fight during the Rebellion thanks to Star Wars Rebels, there are still plenty of gaps in his life to fill in. Regarding the possibility of playing the character again one day, Baker remarked, “I think all fans — and I count myself among the membership of that — would hope for that and the opportunity is there. Star Wars is an endless universe, with all sorts of possibilities for exploration that are fresh and fun. This, to me, is an indication that Dave and Lucas Animation and Disney are interested in continuing going. With the success of The Mandalorian, as well as the feature films and the theme parks and all the series that they’ve created, it would only seem logical that we just keep doing this. It’s not a tired thing. It’s a vital and regenerating, fascinating world that we want more from and that so many people love. I can’t imagine pulling this thing off the side of the road, parking it and pulling it away. I think we have to keep making more. Live-action, as well as animation.”
In the meantime, Baker is excited for Star Wars: The Clone Wars to begin airing new episodes again, both for longtime fans and for those being introduced to the series for the first time.
“I can’t wait to hear the enthusiasm from all the fans and all the new people stepping in, saying, ‘What is this?’ and then, ‘Wow, this is amazing” and then they go back and watch Rebels or [earlier] Clone Wars and start tapping into how amazing it is. Not just now, but if they go back and check out The Clone Wars from the start, they will be surprised and very gratified. The new season is spectacular. I’m very excited for fans to meet the Bad Batch and see the final, grand finish of The Clone Wars. It’s amazing, it’s incredible, it’s Star Wars.”
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 premieres Friday, February 21 on Disney+.