Exclusive Star Wars interview: Voicing Obi-Wan Kenobi

James Arnold Taylor has lent his voice to many characters over the years, but is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Star Wars is the most successful licensed theme in the LEGO Group’s history, now with almost 20 years of non-stop new releases. The Clone Wars has become a significant part of the Star Wars story, with well over 100 episodes of television expanding the characters of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, and introducing the beloved Ahsoka Tano. The LEGO Group is still drawing inspiration from the animated series, despite it having drawn to a close three years ago, demonstrating the wealth of source material it provided.

James Arnold Taylor voiced Obi-Wan Kenobi for the entire run of The Clone Wars, as well as in the feature film and tie-in LEGO video game. He took some time out of his busy voice acting schedule to speak to Brick Fanatics about his experience in a galaxy far, far away…

What was it like being able to play a character, and tell a story, over seven years in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?

The truth is we worked on that show for ten years. Of course there are only six seasons that were released, but for like two years before it came out that we were actually working on it and nobody knew. George Lucas was footing the bill, doing it all on its own, then was looking for a network to release it on, and released it on Cartoon Network.

It was an amazing experience and we built such a family. I’m in contact daily with Catherine Taber who is Padme Amidala, I was just e-mailing Matt Lanter [Anakin Skywalker], the other night, Dee Bradley Baker [Captain Rex]… we’ve really built just a bond and Star Wars is such a thing that is so connected to all of us through our childhood. We are all always still working together on other projects but it was The Clone Wars that brought us together as a family and it was an amazing time, an amazing experience. Especially because it was the last Star Wars that George Lucas had his fingerprints on and was just so involved in with, that made it really special I think.

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During the final episodes of The Clone Wars, in contrast to the early episodes, you injected a real sense of resignation into your portayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi, as he seemed to see the galaxy beginning to crumble around him. Were you consciously putting that into your performance?

There was a concerted effort from everybody, on George Lucas and Dave Filoni’s parts as well, to give us that within the scripts and within the storytelling. I certainly was very aware of it, that we were drawing nearer to Revenge of the Sith. I always tried to put a little Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor in my Obi-Wan and make it kind of a combo of the two, as an homage to these brilliant actors that played him. But also yes, the weight of all that – when doing those things we were aware of what we were doing.

Now we thought we were going to go two more seasons, we thought we were going to go until Season 8. We had actually recorded up to Season 7, so there is a lot of audio sitting in vaults somewhere. The show had just won some Emmy awards and was really getting recognised as this important piece of animation. I think it was a bigger thing than we all realised, since then it has really paved the way for a lot of other animation.

There is a particular moment that encapsulates the change in Obi-Wan, as he departs Mandalore, walking up the ramp of the shuttle.

When we did that I was very choked up. I had no idea when I walked in that day that they were going to kill off Satine. I didn’t know, so all of the emotion was pretty real. It was an emotional day and there was a lot of weight in that. So I really appreciate you saying that, because what a great experience it was and I do, I watch those episodes and boy they are beautiful – they are very cinematic so I am very proud of the work we did.

For more from James Arnold Taylor, check out part one, part two and part three of an exclusive Brick Fanatics interview about his work on LEGO DC Super Heroes: The Flash, in which he also discusses his voice acting career more generally.

LEGO DC Super Heroes: The Flash is available now on DVD in the UK and on Blu-ray in the USA.

James Arnold Taylor will be appearing at MCM London Comic Con from Friday, May 25 to Sunday, May 27 at the ExCeL Centre.

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