Warning! This article contains Season one spoilers, including minor ones from this week's new episode airing on Sunday...
"An inventive mechanic who longs for something more..."
Star Wars Resistance had an uphill battle from the get go. Not only did it premiere during a time when the Star Wars fan base was at its most vocally divided and online vitriol was at an all-time high, but it also came on the heels of Star Wars Rebels.
Rebels ended on a very high note forever affecting the Star Wars universe with emotional and impactful storylines, unforgettable characters and strong thematic concepts which deviated from the traditional timeline. In other words, it was a tough act to follow.
And then we heard Dave Filoni, the showís creator, was taking a more hands off approach from the new series to focus on other things, which ended up being a seventh season of The Clone Wars and his live-action directorial debut with The Mandalorian. So running things day-to-day would be Athena Portillo, Justin Ridge, Brandon Auman and Amy Beth Christensen.
They were employing a new style of animation, new to Star Wars anyways, and were once again going to run with a cast of mostly new characters. There was this unspoken expectation that the fans had to have faith and be patient.
Well, now that we are three episodes away from the end of Season One, I can safely tell you that while the first half had a few small bumps, the second half has been outstanding. In fact, each episode as we approach the finish line gets better and better, and the technical aspects of the show (animation, visuals, sound, etc.Ö) which have been steady all year really, are delivering at a very high level. This is good television folks.
One of the aspects of the show which by design requires patience from its audience is the introduction and development of a new cast of characters. The cast is led by Kazuda ďKazĒ Xiono (Christopher Sean) but one of the standout characters and performances this season has been Fireball mechanic/pilot Tam Ryvora, brought to us by first time voice actor Suzie McGrath. It's this character along with one or two others that have propelled this series to Season One greatness, a feat even The Clone Wars and Star War Rebels couldn't accomplish.
The success of Tam as a character really isn't that hard to put your finger on as she's charismatic, empathetic, vulnerable and most of all authentic. More than any other character, Tam represents in the most relatable way, the silent majority of the populace.
Tam is the embodiment of the hard working, blue collar middle class starting with her grandfather who worked in an Imperial Factory under the rule of the Empire. They were good people who earned a living wage, not rich by any standards at all, but happy and content. And whatís more common than perhaps the films would have you believe, they had no issues with the ruling body of the Empire. The quality of your existence and how you perceive the government can entirely depend on your point of view and in the case of Tam; her family had an okay life.
Her father was a racer who traveled from system to system competing in races, and inspired Tam to follow in his footsteps to become a racer herself. Like most people who grow up with little, she wanted more for herself and racing was something that she was good at and could help her achieve those goals. Unfortunately, her own career as a racer was derailed when she had to borrow credits for repairs in preparation for an upcoming race, a race that she would lose. The problem was she used her ship as collateral so when she lost the race, she lost everything. But Tam is a dreamer, and dreamers don't quit.
This is how she ended up on Colossus working as a mechanic at Jarek Yeagerís garage, and getting mixed up in Kazudaís double agent life. She came to the station to start over and eventually be the racer she knew she could be but ended up getting more trouble than she bargained for. Tam also found balance and a family on the station, with Yeager, Neeku and Bucket so when Kaz showed up, it threw off her entire equilibrium. Her relationship with Kaz has been a complicated one full of growing pains and frustrations and their co-existence is akin to a brother/sister rivalry with Tamís no nonsense approach being in complete odds with Kazís court jester style.
Tamís character arc this season so far has been that of skeptic, but she's slowly coming around as she gathers more information. She just recently found out that Kaz is a Resistance spy so that lack of being in the know has kept her from the main thread for most of the season and her screen time down. But sheís had moments where we get a glimpse into her past, such as her fractured friendship with Hype Fazon and new pal Synara San. And you can tell from those brief encounters that Tam is a guarded individual who has been burnt before, but in one of her most redeeming qualities, she's hopeful that things can and do turn around. You also get to see a generosity and kindness that makes Tam such a good and loyal friend, like in her defense of Synara.
How Tam will end up by the end of season we just donít know yet. Will she join the First Order as some have suggested? Will she be able to forgive Kaz once she finds out the truth? For that weíll have to wait and see, but there's so much more to Tam that we don't know about yet.
In a galaxy with billions of inhabitants, Star Wars typically tells stories from a micro point of view, choosing to focus on a select few. In this respect Resistance is no different, telling stories and putting the spotlight on some characters that stake out their claim in a tiny part of the universe. The larger galaxy will likely never hear of Tam Ryvora, but mark my words, to us she'll be a giant.
For her part, Suzie McGrath plays Tam to perfection, striking the right balance of inflection and tone with every line delivered. It'd be easy to get bogged down by Star Wars idiom's and vernacular but Suzie's delivery is silky smooth, effortless and even poetic.
In person, Suzie is warm and engaging and a pure delight and while maybe not as overt and direct as Tam is, she prefers tact and diplomacy; she does admit to having adopted some of Tamís traits as time goes on. Suzie is very generous and charming and has a natural ability to leave you with a sense of feeling uplifted after your conversation, a rare and important commodity nowadays.
You wouldn't know it but this is Suzie's first voice acting role but I have a strong sense it won't be her last. Additionally, there is next to no voice alteration or effects in the final mix, so when you're talking to Suzie, you're talking to Tam. It's awesome!
She's going to be a hit at Star War Celebration I guarantee it. The bottom line is, if you get a chance to speak with her, I suggest you do.
I was fortunate enough to speak to Suzie about this role and two things become clear very quickly, she loves playing Tam Ryvora and sheís absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Star Wars family.
Tell me about Tam Ryvora?
Our lovely Tam Ryvora is an aspiring pilot and part of Team fireball. She, along with Neeku and Bucket, is one of the mechanics in Jarek Yeagerís garage. Sheís a no nonsense and feisty young lady whoís just really, really cool.
How far along was the character when you came on board?
When I came on board and first heard about Tam it was still at the general audition stage. What was really cool about that was that they (Lucasfilm) gave me a description of the character but it was mostly left open to the actorís interpretation. At that point there was no specific accent or voice type attached to her.
Initially, all they gave us was just a few character details that allowed me to relate to her and in turn allowed me to come up with my own interpretation of her. So, what youíre hearing from Tam, the final characterization of her, is definitely a result of my input and my personal touches.
This is your first voice acting job, howís that going for you a year into it?
I love it so much. It is certainly and easily one of my favorite jobs that Iíve ever done. For me, it all seemed kind of strange at first because itís such a different skillset that is required from an actor. I find the voice acting process incredibly creative and Iím the kind of actor that likes to study. Like, I love studying the scripts, I love marking them up, I love putting my notes and personal touches on the page.
And one of the best things about voice acting is that you do get to have your notes in front of you when youíre recording, so you can really try the things that sometimes youíve forgotten. When youíve got your pages in front of you, you can incorporate all those lovely things that youíd discovered while you were studying the script and reading through your character. So, I really enjoy that part of the process immensely.
Youíve described yourself in the past as less vocal than Tam, has playing her for a year plus now changed how you interact with people?
Perhaps, I think so. I think I am certainly learning to speak my mind more often and realizing in certain situations you do have to speak up for yourself. I think I am saying what I want a bit more and drawing the line more often. So, yeah, playing Tam has influenced me a bit.
Though perhaps still I would do things with a bit more tact than Tam who would run head first into a room, screaming and yelling.
Tamís point of view on the First Order at this point differs from Kaz, but actually would be more in line with most people.
As far as the First Order is concerned, yeah, she definitely respects their authority at this point. Sheís not necessarily the type of person that questions too many things and thatís because her intentions are mostly always good. Sheís the type of character that likes to follow the rules so in that sense sheís definitely very relatable, and thatís one of the first things I observed about the character, was that she is just this very normal kind of person.
Talk to me about the relationship between Yeager and Tam.
Jarek and Tam definitely have a more of a father/daughter relationship going on there between them. She looks up to him more than anybody else in her life right now and he watches out for her, but at the same time doesnít let her get too far ahead of herself either. She likes to do things to make him proud and definitely seeks his approval.
Will we be meeting anyone from Tamís family anytime soon?
Iím discovering things and details about the character as we delve deeper into the story. Iím on a journey just like you are when it comes to discovering things about her family and past so I donít really have an answer for you. Personally, I would love to see and learn all those things about Tam.
Her relationship with Kaz may not seem that complicated but going forward itís likely they will become more reliant on each other.
Kaz is probably the person that has the biggest journey to go on with Tam. Remember, heís the outsider that came into her world, not the other way around. And so their lives are interconnected now and that relationship will need to develop more than anybody else. Sheís learning about what his true purpose is for being on Colossus and that will shock her but she will soften towards him eventually.
But for right now, their relationship is definitely more of a brother/sister sibling rivalry type of relationship. She mostly just calls him out on some of his bizarre antics, not knowing the full truth, and thereís lots of eye-rolling.
She sees so much thatís not quite right about him but because she sees him as odd and goofy, she couldnít possibly think he could be serious in any sort of way. She just prefers to keep working, keep to herself and stick to her plan. Itís not to say sheís naÔve, she just doesnít have too many suspicions about other people.
How has past relationships affected her present state of mind?
Iím not totally sure but what Iíve really interpreted from it was that sheís a very straightforward and practical when it comes to relationships. Sheís definitely been burnt before, especially by Hype Fazon, and you can see how that specific relationship with Hype affects the way she deals with Kaz.
Her and Hype had a deal together, a common agreement as friends, that if she ever got to the Tower he was going to help her along. For different reasons, that didnít happen so sheís upset with him because he duped her, left her on the ground. Heís out flying planes and getting all the attention and sheís left working on them.
So she views Kaz as a threat to her career since thereís only one Fireball and the similarities in that relationship as with the one she shared with Hype, she thinks are there. She of course is slowly learning that Kaz isnít a threat to her career at all, but it will take time for her to trust him completely.
Tam and Synara San had a really strong connection from the onset. Even though Kaz has taken over that role a bit, will there be a chance for Tam and Synara to reconnect? The fans loved that brief encounter between these two.
Iím glad the fans enjoyed this relationship because I really enjoyed making this episode. It was a really great opportunity to learn a little bit more about Tam and her past. I donít know yet what the future holds for them but I personally would like to see her making more friends outside of Yeagerís garage. But, weíll have to wait and see.
Seeing and hearing your character for the first time can be an emotional experience.
Tell me about the first time you saw Tam fully realized.
When I first wanted to become an actor I wanted to become a cartoon character, so this opportunity was a huge bucket list kind of achievement for me. The very first time I saw Tam she was actually in the background of a clip and she didnít speak any lines. She was just sitting on a ledge sort of swinging her legs and I felt this huge rush of excitement. Nothing can prepare for the excitement that you feel when you see a character youíve spent so much time on developing.
It was some months later when I actually did get to see some scenes where she spoke. And youíre always wondering during production, is it going to sound right? Is it going to look good? How is it going to come across? I was certainly blown away when she started speaking and moving around, and it was an amazing and satisfying feeling to see the whole puzzle come together.
What can you tell us about the remainder of the season?
Thereís only so much you can say because we really donít want to spoil for it anybody, right? I would say that weíll see more of the First Order in the show and the possibility of more encounters with different types of characters.
Itís going to be really interesting to see how all these stories connect and do start to intertwine with the events in The Force Awakens. The show just keeps getting better and better and you are definitely going to see more of the things that you would expect to see from a Star Wars series.
Is there anything specific you can tell us about Tamís future? Is it going to be a happy one?
What does a happy future for Tam look like? Tam is obviously one of my favorites and I have a huge soft spot for her so I hope she achieves some of her goals. Her number one goal is to become a pilot, so I would love to see her get into that Fireball and take flight someday.
After having crashed her old ship in the sky races sheís a little reluctant to fly it just yet. The Fireball isnít the most reliable of ships at this point so I think just from a practical standpoint; sheís fixing it up to fly it safely. Someone like Kaz, who is more impulsive, overlooks those types of things and is quite happy to take a risk where Tam tends to be more overly cautious. Itís definitely a source of frustration for her every time he takes it out.
Overall, for me personally, I just want what she wants and I want to see her start to achieve some of those goals because she is so ambitious. Itís important to her.
Youíve mentioned youíre now a devout Star Wars fan and that Ahsoka Tano is your favorite character. Tell me how is your Star Wars education coming along, have you met Ashley Eckstein yet and what did you think of Amy Ratcliffeís ďStar Wars: Women of the GalaxyĒ?
My Star Wars education is certainly coming along quite well but thereís so much to learn with all the characters and situations and planets. But Iím getting there, slowly. No, I havenít yet got to meet Ashley and hope one day I do because Ahsoka is such an awesome character, I certainly look up to her. Maybe at Celebration!
I bought a copy of ďWomen of the GalaxyĒ and I think itís just amazing. Iím certainly overwhelmed and very proud that Tam was made a part of this amazing group of women. Itís all very exciting. I love what Amy (Ratcliffe) said about Tam and the artwork by Amy Beth Christenson is so great.
The book captures Tam really, really well, the way she is looking off in the distance dreaming and longing of being up there in one of those ships. Iím very proud to be a part of the book and part of that whole group of women in Star Wars.
You are schedule to attend your first Star Wars Celebration this year. Has anyone told you what to expect?
People have described it to me and one of things I keep hearing is that itís unlike anything else Iíve ever experienced, ever. Iím so excited and am fully prepared and expecting to be blown away. Iím going there completely open minded and looking forward to all the fun.
Itís going to be so cool to meet the fans and give me a whole other sense of the impact that Star Wars has. I canít wait to speak to people about Tam and see how sheís impacted their lives. As actors, weíre in a bubble a lot of the time and I donít go online very often so it will be really nice to meet people in person.
I really am humbled by the whole experience and I canít wait to meet everybody because this entire thing, Star Wars, is for them! Itís all about the fans!
Life is about moments and I try to always experience things and be happy and I really canít wait for Celebration in Chicago.
Finally, any message for the fans?
Huge shout out to Team Tam and thank you all very much!
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