There was so much to see and do at Los Angeles Comic Con 2023, but my most anticipated event was the Ahsoka panel with Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Eman Esfandi, Ivanna Sakhno, and Diana Lee Inosanto. These actors weren’t allowed to promote the series when it launched due to the (absolutely necessary) SAG-AFTRA strike, so everyone was thrilled to hear them discuss their work for the first time!
I tried to get individual interviews with the cast members, but was unsuccessful. I’m not upset though because the Fandom panel moderator asked most of the questions I was dying to know about. In this Ahsoka panel breakdown (the first of three), the actors discuss general topics about the series and some fan theories. The other articles are linked at the end of this article, or visit the L.A. Comic Con tag.
From the chemistry between Sabine Wren and Shin Hati, to whether Inosanto knew about Morgan Elsbeth’s trajectory when she first guest starred on The Mandalorian, read on to learn more!
[Editor’s Note: Quotes have been edited slightly for clarity, and may not be presented in the order the questions were asked during the panel.]
Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Eman Esfandi, Ivanna Sakhno, & Diana Lee Inosanto break their silence on Ahsoka
This is the first time Ahsoka cast members have been able to comment on their involvement in the series at a public convention, so that was obviously the first question on the Fandom panel moderator’s mind!
Moderator: I’m going to start out this panel being a little meta, guys, because when you join a Star Wars project, you gotta keep secrets, obviously. And even before it launches, you have to be careful what you [say]. And then the show premieres, and the strike was going on for very good reasons, but you still couldn’t talk about it. So what’s it like to finally be able to acknowledge everything that happens to your characters in the series, and in one case that you’re in the series Ahsoka?
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: Thank you guys so much for coming. This strike was really painful, not to be able to interact. But the positive side of it was that I feel like the show got to exist by itself without commentary and the story got to stand on its own. So I tried to take that positive, but I really wished I could interact and respond, and it was really painful not to be able to. So finally, I can say thank you so much for watching the show.
Eman Esfandi: I will echo the same thing. Hello, everybody. It is nice to be here. It’s nice to say anything about the show. I was watching at home and really, really wanting to just say that I’m Jabba. Just say that I’m the new Jabba the Hutt [which is] a huge twist. Huge twist. So it’s an honor to be here. Thank you all, we wouldn’t be here without you all. Thank you.
Ivanna Sakhno: Hi, everyone. It’s so meaningful to be here with you because the last time we got to interact with you, I think, was Star Wars Celebration in London. And just to now see you after Shin and Baylan [have] gotten to be in the world, it’s just so meaningful and getting to see and interact with you. It just means the world. It’s so cool. So thank you so much for having us.
Diana Lee Inosanto: Yeah, all I can say is I love you fans. You guys are amazing. And we appreciate all the love and support. I’m so grateful to you. I really am. So you guys know how to bring the joy. Thank you so much. And I’m so glad that finally Eman could be with us. Our Star Wars family together, here.
The Ahsoka actors dive into their characters at L.A. Comic Con
There were so many strong characters in Ahsoka, many of whom didn’t get much backstory. I’m looking at you, Shin and Baylan! Luckily, Ivanna Sakhno was able to shed some more light on Shin’s motivations and personal turmoil.
Moderator: Ivanna, I found your character so fascinating. I mean, her and Baylan because we’ve seen Jedi, and we’ve seen Sith, and even Ahsoka who left the Jedi [is] still obviously kind of the best of the Jedi. But then we have your character who’s something different. Something new, you know? She’s a mercenary. She’s a bad guy. But she’s not the level of Sith evil. So, was that kind of interesting for you to figure out how evil, how bad do I play this? Because this is [a] new dynamic for a character, [for] the Force.
Ivanna Sakhno: Totally. Yeah, I think it had a lot to do with getting to know Dave [Filoni] and his understanding of what that area of gray is. And we got to know Baylan and Shin together with Ray [Stevenson] from scratch. So we got to create them from the very beginning. And I owe so much of what Shin is to Dave, to Ray and his presence on screen, their relationship. And that gray area, you know, it’s not absolute. It’s more or less about your relation to the light and how far away you are from the dark, or vice versa with Shin. And I really think that towards the end- because we kind of see her be a little bit more towards the dark. Then kind of meeting Sabine, meeting Ahsoka and beginning to ask herself questions that she necessarily didn’t ask before. So I think that actually, by the end of the first season, she truly was left in that gray area by herself. Because before that, it was Baylan’s approval was her reward all along. And she’s now beginning to carve out her path. So I think it’s just surrendering to whatever comes along in that journey and just understanding that it’s not absolute, and allowing that to happen.
Moderator: Ivanna, I think nothing reflects the fact that these are not Sith that Baylan and Shin have a peaceful goodbye because usually Sith don’t say goodbye in a nice way to each other. Obviously, she has her own goals and she’s very forthright. But does she have any regrets, you think, that they couldn’t sort of stay on the same wavelength more, her and Baylan, as he kind of goes off on his own journey?
Ivanna Sakhno: It’s a difficult question to answer because I think we will really know regarding her regrets and thought patterns in the future if we get the chance to tell that story. Personally, I think if anything, she’s learning maybe the heartbreak for the first time of being left alone because Baylan is her family. And, you know, working for him and working with him, getting to know his world, is the only admiration and love she’s ever known. So, of course, I think there’s a lot of turmoil, and within the storyline in the first season, we see her break down kind of more and more. But I think in order to create a better future for herself, whatever that might be, and whatever that might look like.
I was also desperate to find out if Diana Lee Inosanto had known anything about Morgan’s future when she first joined the Star Wars universe, so I was thrilled to see the panel moderator reading my mind.
Moderator: Diana, you had this interesting in here, as far as that you were on this great episode of The Mandalorian that ended up kind of being a backdoor pilot for Ahsoka. Obviously, Thrawn gets name-dropped in that episode. But you know, Dave, I don’t know how much was being kept close to the vest. Were you given any kernels of what was to come, or what her full sort of deal was?
Diana Lee Inosanto: You mean back when I was doing Mandalorian? No, I didn’t even know that Ahsoka was even a possibility. I honestly didn’t know. In fact, I didn’t even know my name was Morgan Elsbeth. Until the night The Jedi episode appeared on Mandalorian season two. I was just stunned. Like, I got a name. I just knew I was the magistrate. I know everybody’s like, “Oh, Grogu!” but I had no idea it had been Morgan until Rosario [Dawson] said the character’s name. So that gives you an idea [of the] kind of secrecy that they keep, you know? So yeah, I wasn’t privy to it. And then when I found out that I was going to be possibly considered for Ahsoka, ironically, I was at Disneyland with my family when I got the call from my manager. And I just literally screamed and cried in the middle of Disneyland. So yeah, it was kind of crazy how that happened. But I tell you, it was beautiful because when it felt real for me that Ahsoka was happening is when we had our first Zoom table read, and then that beautiful chemistry that we were building in real time on Zoom. I loved it. I was so happy.
We got to hear more about the relationship between Ahsoka’s baddies, too, which is never a bad thing.
Moderator: Diana and Ivanna, your characters, it was such an interesting thing, where along with Ray’s character, the three are working together. But it’s not like they’re all on the same agenda or belief system. And there’s definitely some tension with your two characters. Is there any sort of underlying respect there? Or is it just like, “we’re working together because we have to work together, and we’ll just see this job through”?
Diana Lee Inosanto: It’s so interesting because we had a saying, “the bond of the baddies”. We were very close on set. So it’s interesting actually, how the editing was. I was actually more fascinated by the editing choices. But I think for me, I just felt like my character had a job to do, and she was gonna fall in order, and Baylan was my right-hand man, and she was there to do what she has to do. But it’s kind of funny because behind the scenes, we were just so close. So it is interesting how it came to be on the screen.
Ivanna Sakhno: With all that being said, and with all the deep love that I have for you and our bond of the baddies, speaking from the Shin side, there’s something fishy about Morgan. It’s just… she has a bit of beef with witches, I think. I think because it’s quite unknown for Shin, who Morgan is and her intention, for lack of a better term, there’s something unorthodox in Morgan and how she chooses to interact with the Force. So I think, if anything, it’s just Morgan is unfamiliar for Shin, and she doesn’t quite know how to understand her.
Diana Lee Inosanto: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to put it. Even for me, what I’m seeing is they’re… putting a lot of mystery behind Morgan, but I do love the scene, like “you’re a witch?”. I just love the way that came out.
Ivanna Sakhno: I think it has to do with whatever story Baylan has told Shin because I think the knowledge that she carries regarding witches is the knowledge that Baylan has shared with her.
Moving on to the good guys, Eman Esfandi and Natasha Liu Bordizzo were more than happy to shed some light on Ezra and Sabine’s respective times on Peridea.
Moderator: The way we leave the finale was so interesting, where the characters are left off. Natasha, I’m curious, she had this goal, Sabine, she would do anything to get Ezra home, and she succeeded in that goal, probably not exactly how she thought it was going to succeed. Ahsoka tells Sabine that they’re exactly where they need to be. Is that something you think Sabine can kind of accept? Or is this sort of a tricky situation for her as far as accomplishing something but…?
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: Gosh, on a personal level, I don’t know how she could accept that. I mean, I don’t know. I think Sabine probably feels bad about how blind she was. But then again, above all, she trusts her master. She trusts Ahsoka. And if Ahsoka says that they’re exactly where they meant to be, then she’s brought some peace by that, I think. Whether she agrees with that, I don’t know. She probably still feels guilty. I hope she does.
Moderator: Eman, we get some idea of what Ezra has been up to. He certainly has a cool group of friends that help him out. But how much of you, whether you’ve discussed it or not, how much have you thought about what his life was like out there during all that time and the chain mail and all these little things, signs, of what happened to him?
Eman Esfandi: I’ll say no, nothing else about the chain mail. I’ll say nothing about that. But it’s one of those things, as an actor approaching a role, when you’re questioning like, “Okay, so this is where they find me. So then, as I arrived here, what was I up to, what was I really doing?” And some of that is answered in the sense that I joined this nomadic tribe of the Noti, and they give me that bada- I mean cool, cool pod. But interestingly enough, just as a parallel, I had been in a very meditative, sort of isolated space myself for the six months prior to a few months of learning about Ezra. And so I was having this very, almost “alone on an island” experience in my real life. Just like meditating, grounding, all that stuff, and then I come on to this character, and they’re like, “Yeah, you’ve been stranded on this planet with this peaceful, nomadic tribe”. And I’m like, “Well, it just sounds like me hanging with my homies”, you know what I mean? Like, I think I’ve been doing that, and I can relate to that pretty easily. So I did.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: And the theories about what you and the Noti were getting up to on your own, which was hilarious. We would make jokes that they would have a show every week where they would like, force him to do the Force. And then like “Ezra, Ezra, Ezra!”
Eman Esfandi: My friends had a theory that I was around a fire, like, rapping with them. But nobody, like you guys, are gonna listen to this. They don’t even know what I’m saying. They’re like “Ezra, Ezra, Ezra!”
Moderator: “That’s so Ezra”, there we go. Then we sadly said goodbye to Morgan. But look, there’s some weird stuff going on here, the witches? Should we count her out for good, do you think?
Diana Lee Inosanto: I have no idea. I have no idea. So we’ll just, I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see. But it was quite a moment, wasn’t it?
Moderator: It was. Were you warned about your death ahead of time? Or did you see it in the script?
Diana Lee Inosanto: No, to me, it’s just part of the storytelling process, and so I knew early on that this was going to be the process, and I was fine with it. One thing I did want is that her weapon would be used against her. That, I made a request, and they worked that in so the Talzin Blade would be part of the process of her last breath.
I love hearing about the influence actors have on their characters because Morgan’s own blade being used to kill her was certainly a memorable death for such a ritualistic warrior. But finally, the topic on everyone’s mind was addressed: the WolfWren ship!
Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Ivanna Sakhno address the chemistry between Sabine and Shin
Moderator: You guys kind of referenced earlier, Ivanna, Natasha, the duels you guys had, and it was a nice sort of runner through the season. Was that fun for you guys? And was this just pure animosity? Was there any feeling like, “Oh, this person could actually take me” or what was going on with the two characters?
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: I mean, so much left unsaid here. I think Shin and Sabine, as the fans have reacted to the, shall I call it chemistry? [audience cheers]
Moderator: It’s a good word.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: Yeah, we felt it filming, we were like, these characters have this crazy magnetic connection to each other, and sometimes not in the best way. But it was really special, and we felt it on set. It was just something that, Dave, I don’t even think he’s aware of what he’s created.
Ivanna Sakhno: He was aware. I think he was aware on set, he would just look at us, and we’re like, “Dave, do you see what you’re writing?” And he’s like, “What are you talking about?”
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: No, I mean, I think that they’re such great opponents for so many reasons. And it’s interesting because it isn’t that feeling of like good versus evil or anything predictable like that, you know. Sabine’s got some darkness in her, and Shin has some other interesting elements in her, too.
Ivanna Sakhno: I think there’s a lot for them to learn from one another, truly. It’s a good combo, I think.
Moderator: I hope people are sending Dave the fan edits.
There’s plenty more of interest from the moderator portion of the panel (including fascinating discussions about Star Wars Rebels and Dave Filoni, not to mention all the behind-the-scenes stunts and costuming). But there were also some audience questions that were relevant to the topics discussed here!
Audience Question: Hi, so my question is for Ivanna and Natasha. So as you guys mentioned earlier, the chemistry between Shin and Sabine [is] quite intense. And now that they’re both stranded on Peridea, do you guys ever see a kind of a team-up or working together? Because even though Shin didn’t want to, I don’t know, if push comes to shove, you know?
Ivanna Sakhno: Ha…it’s another trap! […] publicly about the future of Shin and Sabine.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: I don’t know! We don’t know. But I hope so.
Ivanna Sakhno: I hope so. Yeah, I do see them crossing paths. That’s for sure.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: Definitely. Hopefully not crossing sabers every time, like maybe we could have a tea together at some point. I hope so.
Moderator: Are you happy that Dave finally said Sabine’s loth-cat is okay in an interview recently? That was a big concern.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: Yes, everyone was very concerned. Yes.
Moderator: She would make sure her loth-cat was accounted for.
Other audience members couldn’t wait to hear more about Sabine and Shin, and I’m right there with them. One question was particularly interesting and really made everyone think!
Audience Question: Considering the different circumstances that Sabine and Shin were in when training with their respective masters slash mentors, what would you say would be the similarities or differences between them in the way they practice the Force?
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: I think that Sabine is still obviously in a very early stage of using the Force, and a lot of that is the continued need for her and Ahsoka to reach their zen, or their peace. And the Force to me is a metaphor for other things in your life clicking into space, like your mental space, your heart space. So Sabine is really struggling a lot more with that, and Shin doesn’t seem to be as much.
Ivanna Sakhno: It’s such a good answer, but I so agree that it translates into everything else that surrounds you. And you kind of can see Shin struggle even with her fighting technique a little bit more towards the end because she gets more and more conflicted, not being able to control herself as well. But she’s got so much to learn as well. She’s only, in a way, in the very beginning of becoming who she’s meant to be.
It was wonderful to hear some of the biggest stars of Ahsoka celebrate their achievement for the first time. It’s my favorite Star Wars show and I love hearing more about it. Stay tuned for two more articles covering the Ahsoka panel, diving into Rebels and Dave Filoni as well as stunts and behind-the-scenes television secrets!