By George Bate and Josh Reilly B.
WARNING: Contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 9: Bounty Lost
After following the adventures of Clone Force 99 in a quickly changing galaxy over the course of eight emotional and unpredictable episodes, Star Wars: The Bad Batch hit its halfway mark this week in characteristically superb fashion. We recently had a chance to attend a roundtable looking back at the series so far and orienting ahead as to what’s to come with supervising director and executive producer Brad Rau, head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett, and the voice of Fennec Shand herself Ming-Na Wen. Here are some of the highlights from the press event.
Ming-Na Wen became an instant fan favorite upon her debut in The Mandalorian and she has since reprised her role in The Bad Batch before appearing in The Book of Boba Fett later this year. In a response to a question posed by us at Star Wars Holocron, Wen spoke how excited she would be to see Fennec Shand appear in other mediums.
“Anything at all! Bring back the holiday special! Whatever! I’m excited about any venture into this universe. Of course, if I got to participate in a cinematic release of a film in the future that would pretty much make me pee in my pants! But yeah, anything. You know, I’m just excited to see the dolls and the toys that are gonna come out. Like I hear that one of the black series is coming out and I’ve collected Star Wars toys since I was little, so this is insane. It’s just unbelievable.”
Despite her sprawling role in a galaxy far, far away now, Ming-Na Wen was initially unaware of how important Fennec Shand would be, as revealed when she spoke to Endor Express.
“I had no idea [of the depth of my role], but, boy, am I happy it happened the way it happened. When Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni offered me this role, I was really excited, because my entire life has been trying to manifest this moment when I get to be a part of a Star Wars project, but when I read the script and she dies I was like, ‘…Oh.’ [Laughs]. That’s kind of sad. So, I wasn’t sure. But you realize, this may be my only opportunity so I gotta check this off my bucket list. And of course talking with Jon and Dave, it’s three people talking the same language, because we all love Star Wars so much.”
In The Bad Batch, Ming-Na Wen is not only approaching the character in a new medium, but at a different time in her life as a less seasoned bounty hunter. Wen revealed to Fantha Tracks how she sees the Fennec we see in The Bad Batch compared to the Fennec we see in The Mandalorian and beyond.
“I know that the 22 year old me is very different from me now. But, at the same time, I’m still that geek nerd girl [where], every time I get on a new set and see the Star Wars characters, I geek out and freak out like I would if I was a teenager. So those are the elements I try to bring into the young Fennec. Definitely less experience. More ambition. More of a drive to prove who she is and make her mark in the world. I think her energy and her focus and her tactics might be a little bit more raw and different. And I give her a slight, little pitch change, but not too much.”
Incredibly, in response to a question by Coffee by Kenobi, Ming-Na Wen revealed that she delivered her performance as Fennec Shand in The Bad Batch under interesting circumstances…
“With live action, you have other actors to work off of. You have a set or scenery. You have a director to help you – producers, writers. You have costume, makeup. It’s a full-on process. When you do voice acting you could be in your pjs and in fact with The Bad Batch because of Covid, they brought in all this equipment. The computer – they delivered it all. The microphone, everything. I had to set it up in my home and the only place that I found to be really good for sound buffering was in my closet because of all the clothes. So I did the season of The Bad Batch in my closet. So can you imagine you had to like create this whole – like bring this character to life with your imagination while you’re surrounded by your clothes. It’s pretty crazy. I love it.”
Wen also spoke to the team at the Skywalking Through Neverland Podcast regarding how she draws upon attributes of the fennec fox when playing the bounty hunter:
“It’s interesting, because I watched a lot of videos of foxes, especially fennec foxes, and there’s a slinkiness to their walk. They’re loners and they listen, they’re mean. The fennec fox has huge ears, so they’re very, very alert and aware, and another thing that I actually said [Fennec] can read people or she thought she could read people really well except for that one time with Toro but, you know, he has no scruples. That’s why that’s a whole other thing. But for the voice, I wanted to kind of give a little bit of that quality to her so there’s like a sort of a more elongated slinky rhythm that, you know, came from the fox and so when she talks it’s there. There’s a little bit of an exaggeration and a stretching of words here and there, and whenever she does speak it’s, you know, there’s a pointed reason for it.”
When speaking to Dork Side of the Force, Ming-Na Wen spoke about her conversations with Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau about Fennec’s origins, but remained guarded as to what these conversations entailed.
“It’s kind of difficult for me to talk about that, because the stuff that Dave Filoni and I, and the writers of The Bad Batch discussed about what young Fennec Shand would be like and why she became a bounty hunter – we collaborated and we threw out a lot of ideas. You know, [we] threw a lot of ideas out at each other. So I don’t know what will stick and what won’t. So, I’m worried that if I reveal something from that conversation that hasn’t been explored yet or brought to life in the animation or in future episodes, in either, you know, down the line or in other venues, so I can’t discuss that. I really wish I could.”
One of the highlights of Star Wars: The Bad Batch so far has been the newest member of the crew – Omega. Ming-Na Wen spoke to Ion Cannon Podcast about the interesting dynamic between Fennec and Omega.
“I feel like with Fennec, especially young Fennec, she is good at reading people, manipulating, and playing a certain quality to invite herself into that particular person’s trust. So I’m not sure how sincere and genuine her care for Omega is, or if she sees her as a bounty and a gig that she had to fulfill. So, that’s really interesting…I’d like to think there is also a quality and a side to her that she connected with Omega in a certain way, but we’ll see.”
Ming-Na Wen spoke to Star Wars News Net and Fangirls Going Rogue about the role model figure Fennec is and how important greater Asian-American representation is in such expansive roles.
“I think it’s kind of cool to see sort of this young civilian female bounty hunter who’s able to kind of keep up, if not, be feared by the others and making a mark for herself. I think it’s a great role model, in many ways, for women even though she’s an assassin. I know okay, okay that’s a technicality, but I love roles like that. Where she’s sort of an outsider and yet she makes up her own rules, and she believes in herself. She believes in what she’s capable of doing and she’s fearless in pursuing her goals…For me, I’m just grateful that more characters have been incorporated…What was lacking early on was Asian characters and now there’s been so many [like] in Rogue One…It’s great. And I wrap Temuera [Morrison] in this expansive Asian blanket. It’s just wonderful and I’m so thankful that fans like her, because, as a big Star Wars fan myself, it’s a gift. I’m grateful and I hope that this sort of success story will only encourage them to create more Asian characters.”
On a touching note, Ming-Na Wen emotionally outlined to Syfy how much Star Wars meant to her during her formative years.
“I grew up and I came to the United States when I was younger and I had to learn English in 3rd grade. I think for me science fiction and fantasy was always like a great form of escapism, and so I was already a fan of that genre. But, when Star Wars came out, I had no idea what it was. We didn’t have social media back then, you just kind of hear word of mouth that there’s another great movie out and everybody was kind of crazy about it. The experience I felt from the moment the music came on and the scrolling of the story, and then the big Imperial cruiser going over our heads as a young kid you’re just like it’s endless. It just went on forever. I just knew I was in for an amazing adventure and the connection I felt with Luke Skywalker especially at the time when he looked at the binary sunset. I think this might be for all of us – that one moment. It’s like 30 seconds of celluloid, but with the music and him staring out there thinking about ‘Will I ever fulfill my dreams? Will I ever be who I want to become?’ That was me. I totally understood that being a kid stuck in Pittsburgh – I mean not that I was stuck, but I felt stuck – and wanting and dreaming about being an actor, being Asian and being a woman, and knowing the obstacles ahead of me. So, I think it was just all of that. I mean the force became a religious experience the whole thing, and I’m sure for you guys too on many levels, right? It’s so cool. It unites us all. Oh! And then when I got on the set of The Mandalorian and that volume lit up and it was Tatooine with the binary sunset – oh you should have seen how much I freaked out! I cried. I literally cried! I was so happy and then I had the AD take a picture of me looking at the binary sunset.”
Supervising director and executive producer Brad Rau and head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett also spoke at the roundtable event, detailing a host of interesting information about the Disney+ series.
Rau and Corbett spoke to us at Star Wars Holocron about their favorite characters beyond Clone Force 99 to approach in an ensemble piece like The Bad Batch.
Rau: “I love Sid. Sid is so good because she gives everybody an equal amount of guff, and it’s just delightful. Rhea Pearlman is such an outstanding actress. It’s been fun seeing how her voice when we first started recording affected some of the future scripts – some of the way that Syd would talk. Then when our animation and lighting department started bringing Sid to life, it’s just this awesome character. It’s exactly the kind of character that I love as a Star Wars fan. So yeah, she’s a blast.”
Corbett: “I personally loved Cad Bane, just being a massive The Clone Wars fan and you know him being so terrifying to watch on screen and intimidating. Having the chance to just see how he interacts with the batch compared to a different bounty hunter and what’s changed for him in his life since we last saw him. So he was fun to bring back.”
Speaking of Cad Bane, Coffee with Kenobi asked about the evolution of the infamous bounty hunter from The Clone Wars to The Bad Batch.
Corbett: “When talking about the first half of the season, obviously the Kaminoans put this bounty to have Omega return to them and we knew we wanted to have the batch interact with Fennec Shand – just to see how they end up because they’re still not fully street smart yet. They’re still very much soldiers. They don’t really know how the galaxy works in different ways and while Fennec is new to the scene, she’s still very dangerous. To sort of compare that interaction with when the Kaminoans hire an even bigger gun, and just a completely different experience for the batch where Hunter was able to get away that first time, but this time no one is going to outdraw Cad Bane. So, it’s kind of like just a continuation of who this squad is interacting with, and how each interaction, each experience they’re learning something new about other threats that are out there in the world, and how that affects them moving forward.”
Rau: “I’ll say Corey Burton – he’s such an amazing, fantastic, decorated actor. We have such a blast working with him. For the design of Cad Bane we were looking at some designs that had never fully gone into production that were in progress in The Clone Wars both for his look, and also for his ship that you see in 109. It was a lot of fun to go back to those and sort of take them out of the garage and tinker with it , push it, and rework it a little bit so that Cad Bane and his ride felt familiar, and yet a little bit more nuanced. A little more detail, but yeah Corey and his performance – it just informs all of the animation and a lot of the blocking. He’s phenomenal.”
Cad Bane isn’t the only antagonist Clone Force 99 bump heads with though, as one of their own – Crosshair – shockingly allied with the Empire in the series’ pilot. In speaking with Dork Side of the Force, Corbett revealed what it was like to make Crosshair the central antagonist.
Corbett: “Early on in the development process we knew that Crosshair was going to be the one who would sort of be the foil to this group and and be our main antagonist, but you bring up a good point because one of the things we always try to talk about with this series and when The Bad Batch are dealing with the regs, is that question of choice. Because with the chips, they didn’t really have a say and they’re conditioned to follow orders. With Order 66, we see them execute that without hesitation, so what the regs are going through and what Crosshair is going through is something we continue to explore throughout the season. So we don’t want to give too much away, but the discussion of choice is a big topic.”
Rau detailed to Star Wars News Net the mystery surrounding Omega and the fact that she is, technically, Boba Fett’s brother.
Rau: “There’s definitely a mystery that we won’t go into too much today, but we’ve just had a lot of fun playing the mystery up, to be honest. Just to see that there’s something to this kid. Something that makes me excited is when we can show this kid whoever it is, wherever she’s from, whatever her deal is. When you see her training alongside these other guys and failing, honestly sometimes and then seeing her overcome, that’s the most exciting part of her character. More than anything else, but there are other parts of her story to tell that we will be excited for you guys to see in the future.”
The exploration of the era in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope has been one of the highlights of The Bad Batch so far. Rau and Corbett spoke to Fantha Tracks and Syfy about telling a tale while navigating the ins and outs of this interesting slice of canon.
Rau: “It’s something that we’re really excited about in this era that hasn’t been really explored in the Star Wars timeline. There’s so many things going on, there’s so much change. There’s like a kind of wild west sensibility, and yet, the rise of the empire. How does that look, are things that get us really excited for the stories that these characters go into 100%.”
Corbett: “The [Lucasfilm Story Group] keep us very honest. Because, as Brad said with this timeline, we have a bit of wiggle room before we start getting into Rebels and even Solo and A New Hope. There’s an opportunity for us to explore lots of things, but anytime we have a story discussion or an episodic discussion the story team weighs in on things that could potentially be an issue or things that could potentially be a tie-in. And if it makes sense creatively that’s something we discuss and talk about, but we’re never really confined by things. It’s just if we like to shoot for the stars and if it gets into a certain area we have to be careful about, then we have a longer discussion on what we’re trying to accomplish and if it can fit with anything else.”
Rau: “…in this era there are a lot of different characters sort of bumping around, so anytime we can maybe see one or two of them in our show we’re just super excited about that.”
Speaking of characters bumping around, Rau teased the inclusion of characters from Star Wars Resistance to Jedi News.
“That might be too loaded of a question actually, but I’ll just say Resistance was an awesome show with this amazing cast of characters. Our crew working on the show primarily is the same crew both here at Lucasfilm and overseas as well, and it’s interesting how that show and the production of that show has affected what we do as we continue to push forward in the animation process. As far as specific characters, I mean I’m not going to go into too many details. There is definitely a long amount of time from where we are to where Resistance was, but it’s an interesting question.”
The adoptive father-child bond and the theme of found family are not only at the heart of The Bad Batch, but also The Mandalorian too with Din Djarin and Grogu. Rau and Corbett spoke of the similarities and differences between the themes explored in the two series.
Rau: “Really, for us, there are some similarities for sure that rollover the idea of a found family especially with grizzled warriors sort of having parenthood forced upon them, and then learning how to deal with that for good and for bad is just this classic storyline that when we were looking at The Bad Batch, it made sense to go that way really quickly. Not intentional as a symmetrical nod to The Mandalorian necessarily, more so just to create interesting point of view that could get the audience into the series where you might not always identify as a super soldier or as a clone, but as a family as a big brother a little sister – whatever it might be – it seemed like a natural way to get into this show.”
Corbett: “I think, to ground it in real life, when you see different families on the surface, they all may seem similar or you know have similarities, but really when you get into their dynamic and what they’re going through, that’s where you see the different shades. So, I think that’s kind of true with Star Wars as well.”
The Bad Batch has made headwaves with many of the series episodes being written by women so far, another example of Star Wars’ commitment to representation in front of and behind the scenes. Rebel Cells – the Star Wars Animation Podcast asked Corbett and Rau what makes a successful writers’ room.
Corbett: “It’s definitely all about collaboration and it’s great to bring in so many excited writers who love Star Wars, and who just want to play in that sandbox. The enthusiasm they bring and then from story breaking on through the whole script stage, and then production, we work closely with each freelancer and then with Brad and his team to each step along the way fine-tuning, adding, giving it that extra Star Wars thing to really kind of make the episodes pop. And yeah if i could say anything it’s collaboration, collaboration, collaboration, and I owe a lot of that to to Brad and the production side, because we give them stuff written on a page, but then seeing how they execute it – it’s like they take it from here to here and each time I’m amazed with every script.”
Rau: “I’m gonna swing that right back to you Corbett. You are the best. I mean really this collaboration that we have is unlike any other show i’ve ever worked on because truly when these amazing scripts – and they are amazing – and they’ve gone through so many stages, there’s so much love, blood, sweat and tears on each page, you can just feel it, but once we launch into our story phase, and into animation and lighting, and all the way to the end – we’re constantly talking, we’re constantly reworking things, and making sure they line up. So it’s that part of the collaboration that is really great and not every show is like that. I think it’s one of the special things about Lucasfilm Animation.”
Especially after speaking with Brad Rau, Jennifer Corbett, and Ming-Na Wen, we’re more excited than ever to see what Clone Force 99 will be up to in the remaining episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. With Cad Bane on the table now, and the threat of Fennec, Crosshair, and the entire Empire looming over the Bad Batch, Hunter, Omega and the team will have plenty on their hands as The Bad Batch heads into its second half.
New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch are available to stream on Disney+ every Friday! Stay tuned to Star Wars Holocron for more coverage of Star Wars: The Bad Batch!
Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm