Saturday, May 18, 2024

Journeys to the Dark Side: Exploring the Depths of Star Wars Characters in “Tales of the Empire”

Why do some characters succumb to the allure of the dark side in the Star Wars universe? This question has intrigued fans like myself for years. While some storylines in movies, books, and TV series offer glimpses into this phenomenon, they often center around central characters. However, in Star Wars: Tales of the Empire, we look into the journeys of two characters from the Empire: Morgan Elsbeth (voiced by Diana Lee Inosanto) and Barriss Offee (voiced by Meredith Salenger). Taji Mag had the opportunity to speak with the two leads of the series, shedding light on the motivations behind their characters’ decisions in the Star Wars universe.

The first three episodes of the series center on Morgan Elsbeth and explore how the tragic murder of her family shapes her actions and choices within the Empire. The trauma and loss she experienced haunt Morgan, hardening her heart and eroding her empathy for others. We witness the evolution of young Elsbeth into the mature woman we last saw in live-action in Ahsoka.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What were the challenges and rewards of bringing her character to life in this new format?

Diana Lee Inosanto (DLI): Well, for me, I think there’s always a sense of camaraderie when you’re an actor on set, surrounded by your fellow actors. In this case, the challenge was that they weren’t physically present. I spent so much time with, for instance, Lars that I could almost hear his voice in my head as I delivered my lines.

So, in a way, he inadvertently made my job easier because he knows how to inhabit a character so effortlessly. I carry his voice with me wherever I go, you know? But honestly, it was a wonderful experience overall. I approached it in much the same way as I would on a traditional set. I still employed my breathing techniques, physically prepared myself, and even made sounds during fight scenes.

Yet, despite the differences in environment and attire – yes, sweatpants were a perk – the essence of the acting process remained unchanged. I was still fully immersed in the character’s mindset, taking direction from Dave and giving it my all. So, in the end, the transition wasn’t as drastic as one might think.

Morgan Elsbeth in a scene from “STAR WARS: TALES OF THE EMPIRE”, exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

DDF: Would you say Morgan is purely evil or just evil because of what happened to her family? 

DLI: Well, I’m glad you asked that question because what I love about Tales of the Empire is how it goes into Morgan’s backstory, revealing why she was wired the way she was. It all stems from pain and suffering, witnessing the destruction of her people. What struck me was Morgan’s capacity for love—her bond with her fellow night sisters and her affection for her mother. The moment she loses her mom is particularly poignant. It’s fascinating to explore how trauma shapes an individual’s life and influences the choices they make. For Morgan, holding onto her anger may have been a way of preserving her connection to her people, ensuring that a part of them remained with her. As for her position, she works under Admiral Thrawn.

(L-R): Thrawn and Morgan Elsbeth in a scene from “STAR WARS: TALES OF THE EMPIRE”, exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

DDF: What makes her align with Admirable Thrawn?

DLI: I believe Admiral Thrawn respected her intellect. He recognized her as an intelligent woman. Just consider her background – she was involved in engineering and piloting advanced weaponry for the Empire, showcasing her proficiency in sophisticated technologies. Additionally, what I think Morgan values about Thrawn is that they both started as outsiders to the Empire. Despite their different origins, they each rose to prominence within the empire. Thrawn didn’t underestimate her, and I appreciate that. He ensured she was an equal partner in their larger journey together. That, to me, is the remarkable aspect of their relationship.

DDF: Given your extensive experience as a director, what Star Wars project would particularly interest you to explore creatively?

DLI: Wow, you know, when I look at all the different Star Wars shows, I still sense a connection between them. The main difference seems to be the presentation, depending on the showrunner. I could definitely do Mandalorian or Ahsoka; I could see myself in those.

Episodes 4-6 focus on Bariss in prison and her fate after her decision in the Clone Wars. The mild-mannered former Jedi in training is mostly dedicated to the protection and peace of those around her. Of course, you can see the difficulty in that because she has joined the Empire, yet she disagrees with her colleagues and leans toward joining the cause or even death. 

Barriss Offee (center) and Clone guards in a scene from “STAR WARS: TALES OF THE EMPIRE”, exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

DDF: What do you think would have happened had she not joined the Empire?

Meredith Salenger (MS): Well, I don’t believe Barris perceives her actions as aligning with the dark side. At the time, she likely believed she was doing what she thought was right. Trained under the guidance of the ancient Jedi texts, she carries a sense of nobility within her. While the Jedi are traditionally peacekeepers who eschew military involvement, Barris’s decision to resort to violence seems contradictory. However, I think she embraces a sense of independence and critical thinking, even if it means diverging from traditional Jedi teachings. Beneath it all, there’s a deep-seated frustration with hypocrisy, and she seeks to uphold certain values. Though her actions may appear to mirror a descent into darkness, it’s worth considering whether she’s simply challenging the conventional perception of the Jedi. It’s difficult to define her true sentiments, as they defy easy categorization.

DDF: Do you think there is a place for redemption in Bariss’ future? 

MS: I believe there’s redemption for everyone, always. At any moment, one can make a choice that alters the course of their life. For Barris, maintaining her convictions serves as a redemptive quality. If you hold onto what you believe is right, redemption is within reach. However, we’ll also witness how her actions reflect upon her, as sometimes they may appear unfavorable. There may be underlying motivations influencing her decisions.

General Grievous in a scene from “STAR WARS: TALES OF THE EMPIRE”, exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

DDF: What is it like working with showrunner Dave Filoni? 

MS: I believe everything Dave Filoni penned made its way onto the screen. He’s remarkably meticulous, understanding the arcs inside out. As a writer and showrunner, he’s exceptional. I think every aspect he envisioned found its place in this show. He managed to deliver a powerful narrative within these shorter episodes. So, everything is meticulously crafted, and I’m absolutely delighted with the portrayal of Barris and the overall presentation of the show. It’s an exhilarating and intense watch.

DDF: What do you think the audience will get from this series? 

MS: I believe fans have been wondering what’s happened to Barriss since her imprisonment for her actions, particularly against the Jedi. When we first encounter her in prison, she’s been there for a while, grappling with her thoughts. Questions like, “Was what I did justified? Was it wrong?” and “Do I feel guilt or shame?” weigh heavily on her mind. Amidst these internal struggles, she’s presented with a choice by an inquisitor—specifically, the fourth sister. This pivotal moment raises questions about her alignment: is she succumbing to the allure of the dark side, or is she steadfast in maintaining her moral compass? The impending conflict she faces is immense. In Star Wars, as in life, our choices shape our destinies. The message that one always has a choice is a powerful and resonant one, applicable beyond the confines of the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars: Tales of the Empire continues to impress with its intense storytelling, stunning animation, and emotionally resonant moments. The series features cameos galore, including General Grievous, Grand Inquisitor, and the great dark one himself, Darth Vader. It effectively utilizes its environments, music, and characters’ emotions to captivate audiences. Much like its predecessor, Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, which garnered much praise, I believe Star Wars: Tales of the Empire will not only meet but exceed expectations, potentially surprising both Star Wars and non-Star Wars fans alike. Be sure to tune in to Disney+ on Star Wars Day, May 4th, to catch all six episodes.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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