We’ve been celebrating 10 years of Lucasfilm Animation here and it all started of course with the premiere of The Clone Wars film back in August of 2008. One of the more remarkable newer characters in that film was the Dathomirian warrior, and Sith assassin, Asajj Ventress. Even though she made her debut in the “Clone Wars” micro series a few years earlier, it was her role in The Clone Wars film and subsequent TV series that would make her one of the most popular Star Wars characters of all time.
The success of this character can be attributed to a few things, but perhaps none more so than the amazing work of voice actor Nika Futterman. Futterman, who has been a voice actor for over 20 years, has voiced countless characters on both television and video games and provided the voice for a few Star Wars characters beyond Ventress. But it would be her honeyed and often times smoky delivery mixed with an emotionally accessible take on the former Jedi Padawan that would grab the audience’s attention.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Nika who had very fond memories of both voicing Asajj Ventress and her fellow cast mates. Enjoy!
Let’s start at the beginning, and the audition process…
It started off with a regular audition, not really knowing what it was which is normal for that whole world. You often don’t really know what you’re auditioning for until you audition for it and before this show started they weren’t telling anybody what was happening.
So I went off on this audition, loved the character right away, but didn’t really put two and two together at first. I just remember auditioning and really loving the character in a big way and wanting the part really bad.
When I got called back for the first time they then told me about the show and it kind of confirmed by suspicion. I had never seen the “Clone Wars”, the micro series, so I had no idea about the character, I didn’t even know she existed. They had me read a really great juicy scene and just kept thinking how bad I wanted the part. I also remember really working for it; they brought me back for like 4 or 5 auditions and each time I would go back there would be more and more people in the room.
I would have begged for it but luckily didn’t have to!
Where did the voice for Asajj come from?
I pretty much just sort of felt it right away, what I wanted to do with her. Whatever it was in that first audition, I felt she was this kick ass chick but also was very intelligent. I played other kick ass characters but this was different from what I had ever played before, Asajj was sophisticated and there was something about her that I felt right away.
She was this incredibly intelligent and powerful person who, had she been allowed to carry on, would’ve been a beast of a character.
Right, which made the end of the series so painful, we never got to see Asajj’s final story thread. But at least we got the novel “Dark Disciple” and the short “Kindred Spirits”…
I haven’t read the novel but other people have told me about it. It is what it is but it’s a shame as we had just started getting her going in this other cool direction and then it just all went away.
Asajj to me is also one of the most honest characters; she is who she is in spite of experiencing incredible trauma…
Exactly, she has this inner strength that is incredible. What was interesting about where I thought she was going to go, even with her past, was that there was this transformation happening. She was at the point where she would’ve become part of group in a way. She has that history of being a part of a group, like the Nightsisters; even though to survive she portrays this lone wolf image.
Talk about what it was like to work with Dave Filoni…
Working with Dave was really amazing because he’s such a fanboy and he’s just so passionate because he lived for that world. He’s so ensconced in the whole world, it’s very inspiring. He’s one of those people that really appreciate the job and he’s just so into it.
You know, I’ve been doing this a long time and most of the time you meet people where it’s not their life, it’s just a job to them. But for Dave, it’s his life and that’s really cool to work in that environment because he really helps you get into it. So every session was an adventure.
And he sees it all; he can visualize it all because he’s an artist. He’s very detailed about what he wants but at the same time he helps you get to where you want and need to be. If you’re having trouble getting a scene, he’s great at helping you get there.
Asajj, unlike so many of the other characters, didn’t have that backstory to lean on…
I was one of the very few who didn’t know everything about the world of Star Wars. A lot of people in the show are huge fans and you could ask them anything about their characters and they would know it.
So, I approached her in a way like I knew nothing and just pretended I was her. Where so many approached their own characters with a lot of pretext, from a historical standpoint. It was great in a way because it didn’t come from a place where I had to imitate somebody; as a character it was a completely new space.
What was it like behind the scenes filming when you were in the studio?
Most of the time we would be in the room together, and that made the scenes so great and so much fun to record. Somehow they managed it most of the time, to get the whole cast there in the same room recoding. It didn’t always happen but when it did it was super fun.
The way the show worked was if you had like less than 11 lines in an episode you wouldn’t get a script, because they didn’t want too many scripts out in the world. They were afraid of it falling into the wrong hands. Sometimes you would get emailed the scene ahead of time or sometimes not even that so you arrived at the session with nothing. So there was a couple of times I would arrive to record with no idea of what was happening, so we would for sure sit around before and talk about what was going on and what was going to happen.
The rest of the time, when the microphones were turned off, we would have such a great time just sitting around joking and watching James (Arnold Taylor) do impersonations, it was such a blast. It was just a really great cast, even the guest spots were always just awesome actors. To be in that environment was pretty inspiring with all these cast members.
As painful as it was, can you talk about the show ending?
There were all kinds of things that were discussed that were hopefully going to happen that just didn’t. I remember originally somehow they were going to try to maneuver into something else in terms of a show. But everyone was just so sad about it ending, that’s where the book idea came from, to finish what was happening with regards to Asajj.
It’s interesting when Disney came in and cancelled it because it had such a huge fan base at the time. We all knew The Clone Wars was really expensive to produce it’s just too bad it ended when it did, with so much left on the table.
Looking back, where does Clone Wars rank for you in your career?
There’s nothing like that world, the voiceover world. It doesn’t have that kind of drama factor that you get with the on camera stuff. It’s basically a lot people who love to geek out and we’re getting paid to be the freaks that we are so everybody’s just super appreciative of that fact.
I would say, in terms of Asajj, she’s tops of all the iconic characters I’ve played. Just to be a part of that world, that Star Wars universe, to be a part of that feels like you’re part of history.
I just think women Star Wars characters in that world are so awesome. There isn’t any other franchise that shows women in such a strong light and they did it before anyone else did. To be a part of that is amazing and to be a woman in the Star Wars world is great and feels ahead of its time.
There’s definitely a lot of popularity out there right now for women Star Wars characters and there’s definitely a growing popularity for Asajj…
I think that everybody should just put it out there, an Asajj spin-off series!
Before we parted, I asked Nika about what she thought of Asajj’s look in the novel or how her life ended but she hadn’t read it yet, something she acknowledges would be painful but at the same time definitely regrets…
“You know, I really need to go and read it. So many people ask me about it and its kind of silly that I haven’t…I need to.”
Nika is a class act all the way and we talked for a long time. She has a deep love for Asajj and it shows even after all these years.
Till next time...MTFBWY.
*The content has been edited for clarity.
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