For Star Wars fans, Catherine Taber is best known as the voice of Senator Padmé Amidala on The Clone Wars, though she first got her start in voice acting working on different Star Wars video games. Taber provided the voice for a new character, Vette, for the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic game, and recently was heard as a tactical droid in The Clone Wars episode ‘Shadow Warrior’. She was kind enough to answer our interview questions about her work on The Clone Wars and The Old Republic, as well as talk about her Games for Soldiers project.
James: Padmé Amidala is a very versatile character in The Clone Wars – she can go from idealistic politician to action hero to secret wife. What are the keys to bringing such a well-rounded character to life?
Catherine Taber: You know, I think it actually makes her more realistic because she has the different facets to her. Most of us do in real life too! It certainly makes her fun to play. I have a very clear sense of who she is and between, Dave Filoni, our supervising director, and the writers, I have great material to work with.
James: While we know the future of Padmé in the movies, tell us more about her character progression on the show. Is the war changing her character? What are some things we should be looking for this season?
Catherine: The war is taking a toll on everyone. For Padmé, she has struggles and frustrations, but I don’t think her resolve is ever shaken. She experiences betrayals and disappointments in others, but I think both she and Obi-Wan, actually, are two characters who have a goodness and a strength to their cores that is unflappable.
James: In Season 3, we saw Padmé’s husband, Anakin Skywalker, take some steps toward the dark side – how do you think that this impacts their relationship?
Catherine: I think to a large extent she doesn’t see it. I think she has such faith in Anakin, that it is not something that would ever be a clear to her, until it was undeniable and at that point too late. I think she sees most of his actions, even when questionable, as decisions he is making for the greater cause, as she is, and not for his own ends.
James: Do you ever get a chance for creative input about your role, such as refining dialogue with “Padmé would say it more like this…”?
Catherine: Oh yes! I mean, first let me say our writers are fantastic, so it’s not like we actors go around changing scripts, but Dave will always let me rephrase things a bit if I feel it is truer to Padmé’s “voice”. It usually is a case where Dave and I are wary of her sounding weak, which she isn’t, so we will tweak something to make sure it shows her strength. It is perfectly reasonable to me that Padmé can rely on Anakin to help at times when things get dire, I mean he has JEDI powers! But we never want her sounding like she is weak, because she most certainly is not. She is actually one of the truly strong characters in the Saga.
James: Part of her strength comes from her selflessness and her ability to reach out and listen to others and give them the benefit of the doubt. What other aspects of her character do you try to bring out in your work? Are there any parts of Padmé’s life that you think the show could develop more?
Catherine: Strength, bravery and self reliance. Also, the fact that Padmé is not a pacifist, she believes in diplomacy, but is a fighter when push comes to shove. I would also love to see more of her and Anakin, those are my favorite episodes. And her relationship with Obi Wan, mostly because I love working with James [Arnold Taylor]!
James: Periodically, you also get to voice other characters on the show, from a child to a Nightsister to a tactical droid – what are some of your favorite moments with those characters?
Catherine: I loved playing Numa, the young Twi’lek in ‘Innocents of Ryloth’. I just love that whole script and I have a personal affinity for Twi’leks, I seem to play them a lot! And Karis the Nightsister, is just a badass. I don’t often play characters on the darker side. And before those episodes Dave was like, “I have something really cool coming up for you….”. He was right!
James: What is the best part of working on The Clone Wars?
Catherine: The relationships that I have developed with my coworkers and the fans.
James: Can you tell us a little more about the bonds you’ve developed with your coworkers on the show and with the fans you’ve befriended?
Catherine: Speaking of James Arnold Taylor! I have made some really great friends working on The Clone Wars, my castmates, Dave, our producer Cary [Silver]…everyone is like family now. I feel like I have discovered mentors too because we have such legends working on The Clone Wars, people like James, Phil Lamarr, Corey Burton, Dee Baker and Ian Abercrombie! I love to watch them work and learn from them.
And as far as Star Wars fans, I have met so many cool people. It is so nice to see familiar faces at conventions, a few of my favorites are Taylor aka Lady Vader and Steven who is a big Padmé collector. The best is when I get to meet soldiers who are Star Wars fans!
James: In the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, you provide the voice for Vette, a Twi’lek criminal. Tell us more about her and how you brought her to life.
Catherine: I really have had fun with Vette. She represents to me, the classic Star Wars humor that I love so much. She is smart, and sarcastic and has some quirks. I thought about certain aspects of Indiana Jones when creating her. I think she adds some fresh air to the dark side…
James: Good to hear that the game is incorporating that classic sense of Star Wars humor. Interesting that you mention Indiana Jones – is Vette all about fortune and glory?
Catherine: Umm, let’s just say she really, really, really hates K’lor’slugs.
James: One of your first voice acting jobs was playing Mission Vao, another Twi’lek in the first Knights of the Old Republic game – how is Vette different from Mission?
Catherine: Mission was much younger and although she had a tough beginning she was still very youthful and innocent. Vette, although still young herself, is a woman. She is much wiser and self aware, and tougher ( although Mission would take serious offense at me saying that!) I do like to imagine they are distant relatives, but that is just me :)
James: What about The Old Republic do you think would appeal to fans who have never played an MMO before?
Catherine: Just one look at the cinematics, and I think it will appeal to a lot of people. But, on a deeper level, it is the Star Wars storytelling that I think will be a real draw. The struggle of good over evil in this enormous and complicated universe. The amazing characters that are created and that players will have a chance to BE, not just watch as a third person. And of course the battles. Who doesn’t have a dream of being a Jedi, or an all powerful Sith Lord?
James: You’re also a big Star Wars fan – how do you balance being a fan with your work as the voice of Padmé in The Clone Wars and the voice of Princess Leia and others in Star Wars video games like The Force Unleashed? What aspects of fandom are you most interested in?
Catherine: I like collecting, especially now items related to my characters! But mostly I still just enjoy the movies. It makes me happy to watch them, no matter how many times I have seen them. I don’t worry about balancing my fandom, I think it has only helped in playing Padmé and Leia. Understanding Star Wars and its history makes my job easier. When you know what a Rodian would look like or have a concept of the size of an Imperial Star Destroyer, for instance, it makes it easier to be play around in the universe…it is familiar, instead of foreign as it may be to actors with no knowledge of Star Wars.
James: You’re also the organizer of Games for Soldiers – how did that get started?
Catherine: I just wanted to do a little something to let our deployed soldiers know that there are people back home thinking of them and thankful for their service. I feel really lucky to live in a country where I have such freedoms. Just being an female and pursuing a career as an actress would be impossible many other places in the world. A lot of troops are gamers, so it seemed a no brainer. I am always taking donations of new or used games and comics, so any individuals or companies who would like to help, please check out www.gamesforsoldiers.com. (Thanks Club Jade for letting me do a plug!)
James: What’s the best way for people to donate games and comics? Do you sponsor game dropoffs at conventions that you attend?
Catherine: People can email me through the website to get donation info. Even one PS3 game sitting on your shelf could help fill a box and make some soldiers happy. I had my first “sponsored” collection this year by BABES (Bast Alpha Babe Elite Squadron) a part of the 501st Bast Alpha Garrison in Louisiana. A wonderful lady named Karen, contacted me and set it up there, then they sent me what they collected. Even cooler, they were just my sponsors for my honorary 501st induction! So I have a lot to be thankful for there!
There is also a shop, The Gamer’s Armory (www.gamersarmory.com) in North Carolina, whose owner, Scott, does collection drives throughout the year and sends stuff to me. So if you live in North Carolina, go check out his shop!
James: As Padmé Amidala, you play one of sci-fi’s role models, and with your work behind Games for Soldiers, you are a real life role model – what do you think about that? Who are your role models?
Catherine: I wouldn’t consider myself a role model, but thank you! I do think there is something really special about Star Wars and its messages that makes it a great learning tool. The themes of standing by your friends, working hard, fighting together for what you know is right… those are great messages for kids (and adults!) to see and they are so lacking in society today. I am glad to have a chance to be a part of that. I want kids to grow up knowing what you do matters. Being honest, working hard to achieve your goals, being courageous in the face of adversity, I hope kids can take away those ideas from watching The Clone Wars.
Two of my role models are for sure my parents. They are both amazing people. My father is a real example of integrity and the power of hard work and my mother is the embodiment of kindness and patience. I if can make them proud, I know I am doing something right.
Thanks James & Club Jade! MTFBWY!
James: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us!