Get hyped (Or Hype-erdrive-ed?… nope, that’s nothing. Sorry.) because tomorrow is May the Fourth, nerds! And that means, Star Wars! Nothing but Star Wars! Coming your way! To celebrate, The Nerds of Color had the opportunity to attend a press event for the brand new installment in the beloved “Filoniverse,” Star Wars: The Bad Batch. Present at the event were Star Wars voice legend, Dee Bradley Baker (who voices the entire Bad Batch: Hunter, Crosshair, Wrecker, Echo, and Tech), producer and Head Writer of the series, Jennifer Corbett, and producer Brad Rau.
The show centers on the eponymous crew of misfits known as Clone Force 99, first introduced in Season 7 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and is set concurrently with the events of the finale of Clone Wars and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Together, Baker, Corbett, and Rau teamed up to chat with moderator Ash Crossan about the direction of the series, its place in the Star Wars cannon, and what the future holds for this ragtag group of mutant clones! Here’s what they had to say about the series:
“Would it be like asking you all to pick a favorite child if I asked who was your favorite member of The Bad Batch?” asked Crossan.
“It’s fun to be Wrecker, because he’s so honest, and so clear, and funny,” stated Baker. “But I have great affection for all of them. They’re all very interesting fellows. But Wrecker is probably the furthest away from me from all of them. And he’s great fun!”
Crossan then asked Rau and Corbett what it was like to collaborate with Dave Filoni on the series.
“I got to work with Dave on Star Wars: Resistance, which was such a great experience. And getting the chance to develop this series with him is like a Master Class in writing Star Wars,” said Corbett. “This being a sequel series of sorts to Clone Wars, it was crucial that he would be involved with this process because these are characters he’s created and the world that he knows. But every day every script is a learning experience, and it’s so exciting to see the show grow and develop with this team. And he’s been fantastic to learn from.”
“I’ve known Dave for a long time,” Rau began. “When he was starting Clone Wars I first met him up at Skywalker Ranch. And I happened to just be starting my own animation studio at the time, and was unable to join the forces of Clone Wars. It was one of my regrets that I rectified later on Rebels to join as an episodic director, and then on Resistance… I couldn’t think of a better mentor, especially for Star Wars. The stuff he tells us every day is fantastic and amazing. And just collaborating with him and being able to work with you, Jen so closely on the show has been so awesome. It’s been a dream come true.”
The crew was then asked to describe what’s happening in the galaxy during the time that the show is set, and the challenges The Batch will face.
“This time period is one of the reasons I got so excited about this show,” said Corbett. “Other than this oddball group of characters. I just found it intriguing and engaging to watch a series where… it’s the height of the clone troopers doing what they’re meant to do and what they’re created for. And the question became what happens after the war is over, what happens to all these clones, who all they know is being soldiers. Especially for The Bad Batch who do things differently as it is with The Republic, and how they fit in once it becomes The Empire. Because obviously [these are] two very different regimes. And how they react to the new environment and new way of doing things, and a new way of following rules, which isn’t their favorite thing to do. But it was interesting to just talk about the transition from The Republic to The Empire and what that looks like. Because it’s not what we saw in the Original Trilogy, where it’s the dominance of The Empire. It’s the early stages. And I found it kind of interesting to show places and planets that were happy the war was over and they don’t understand the implications of what an Empire actually means. And it’s laying the groundwork for what everyone knows The Empire to be later on.”
“It’s an interesting point you make there Jen,” continued Baker. “That in the sudden shocking transition from Republic to Empire, that it becomes a suddenly much more rule-based power structure of the galaxy. The Universe. And that The Bad Batch is not so much a rule based unit. They’re very much a team. But they’re not like the clones are, where there’s more of a top-down command structure. And it’s very interesting to place them in the middle of this transformational moment and see how this moment plays out.”
Crossan then went on to ask about the new character of Omega, introduced in the series’ pilot episode, and what her importance is to the story, as well as the “reluctant father/daughter” dynamic between Hunter, leader of Clone Force 99, and this new character.
“It’s a fascinating relationship that unfolds,” began Baker. “The team is kind of their own sealed unit, and they’re certainly not used to having anyone else along or working with anyone else. Although they did bring along Echo and brought him on board after he proved himself to them. And they came together on that. But it’s interesting in terms of the story and the writing to have this kind of personal relationship with the younger character. And to see how that changes and how they accommodate that and how that works. Because it’s kind of an ‘uncle/niece’ or a ‘father/child’ dynamic. But not entirely, because Omega is her own interesting potential of powers maybe. And so it’s interesting to see all of that unfold. But I think it connects you to the story in a personal way. It’s not just an action story, which Star Wars never is. There’s a personal story that’s also playing out as well that connects you to the entire story.”
“She’s so great,” said Rau. “We have this awesome team of elite clones in this changing galaxy, in this time period that, as a fan, I’m excited to see because we have not seen that much about the rise of the Empire. So to have these clinical ‘best-of-the-best’ soldiers are suddenly fish-out-of-water in this changing galaxy, and then to have this kid that they do look to to help raise in a very parental way. And it’s a two way street. None of them are really equipped to go out into the world. And how do they eat? They don’t have a mess hall to go to. How do they get their gear fixed? How do they get fuel for their ship? These are all things we get into. It’s really interesting.”
Crossan then took some questions from the chat. The first was about how the series felt very “stripped down” and “focused on a group of reluctant, rag-tag soldiers” like in Rogue One, and what it was like to make that, instead of a show with larger-than-life characters like Jedi and Sith.
“We love all of that stuff,” stated Rau. “But it is really interesting to deal with this family dynamic. And having the stories be emotionally charged and emotionally based gives the action a lot more texture. Because we’re blowing stuff up and having fun doing that. But having the emotional context of that is the challenge in any of these stories… We’re coming into characters that are familiar, and yet don’t know much about. It gives us room to play around with how those characters to develop.”
The next question was about Baker’s approach to voicing Clone Force 99 versus the rest of the troopers.
“Clone Force 99 is kind of another step beyond what I’ve been asked to do in the Clone Wars series. The tricky part [for the clones] is that the differentiation is much tighter between characters. Although it has to be decisive. It has to be clear. The Bad Batch are actually much further apart from each other, which oddly makes it easier to jump from character to character to character. For me it feels like I’m jumping rock to rock on a stream. I can see the rock. The writing is clear. And that’s what I jump to is that character… It helps that they’re further differentiated vocally and also in terms of their personality and their mood… so it comes off looking like more of a magic trick than it does with the clones. But it’s still a really fascinating process as a voice actor to have these scenes where I’m just talking to myself, switching from character to character to character as we go through the script, which is typically how we do it. We just go through it.”
“It’s impressive to watch him do it in the room,” chimed in Corbett. “Because when we first started, I thought he was going to go a character at a time. And just watching him act out a scene with himself with all of these clones… there’s no pause. He just goes right into it. And I was blown away. Each time we do one of these recording sessions, I’m just amazed by Dee’s talent.”
The next question was about the importance of why it was necessary to maintain the same animation style between Clone Wars and The Bad Batch.
“That’s very intentional,” stated Rau. “The Bad Batch is a spiritual successor to Clone Wars, so we wanted to honor the style and the legacy of that. That said, the whole team at Lucasfilm, and our partners at CGCG, we’ve just tightened everything up so the fidelity is tighter, the style is tighter, the rigs are tighter. The way that it’s designed is still the legacy of the Clone Wars but a little bit more detail, a little bit more focus. And the work we’re doing, having worked on a lot of these shows, with a lot of the same people internally, it’s just the best team. And I think we’re doing our best work ever. It’s really fun.”
Crossan then asked about team member Crosshair, and his journey in the first episode, as well as the threat he may pose to the rest of the team during the progression of the series.
“Crosshair is a really interesting linchpin member of the team,” Baker began. “His practical usefulness to the team is that of a sniper. He stands further back from the rest of the group and just takes them out one by one. And that’s very much to his character. He’s not someone who’s running around with the team. He’s assisting the team in a very strategic, and laser focused kind of way. His nature is kind of set to be apart with the team that he’s a part of. And so that very definitely plays out as the larger, political story plays out of this instantaneous mega-transformation from Republic to Empire. Which is… a profound moment in the entire story of Star Wars which is part of what’s so interesting. You have the personal dynamics of these few characters that are a lot of fun to hang out with. They’re really competent, really fun, and interesting. And that this whole larger process is playing out within their dynamic as well. There’s a lot there to unpack, and it’s coming.”
The next question for the team was about how Corbett’s experiences serving in the U.S. Navy helped with writing and developing The Bad Batch.
“It’s a good question,” began Corbett. “When I first saw the original story arc during Clone Wars’ final season, I immediately responded to it because I got the dynamic between this squad. I understand how people in the military become like brothers and sisters very closely when you’re sent on missions together when you’re in close quarters. And the camaraderie and the banter that comes with living with people so closely in high stress situations. So that’s what I try to bring to it, is how this squad, even though they are these elite soldiers, they are this family, but they don’t have to agree all the time and all the things and all the different perspectives that each of them brings, because they’re all so different. And I think that speaks to the military. No one comes from the same background. Everyone has their different reasons for doing what they’re doing. And it is a family dynamic in real life.”
Crossan’s last question was one that teased everyone. “Is there a final plan [for the series] at the moment?”
Succinctly, and jokingly, Rau simply said, “Yes,” as the whole team smiled and laughed knowing that we, the audience, are sure to be unprepared for the adventure to come.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch hits Disney+ on May 4, 2021.