tv & movies

Dee Bradley Baker talks of his 'Star Wars: The Bad Batch' experience

The voice actor discusses the challenges and excitement of voicing five distinct characters in the show, that drops on May 4

After playing Captain Rex, Commander Cody, and all the clone troopers, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars film and television series, Dee Bradley Baker has gone a step further in Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The 58-year-old gives voice to the bad batch, a group of five elite clones with genetic mutations. Over a video call, Dee talks of the challenges of differentiating between characters, the magic of Star Wars, his process and the joy of collaboration. Excerpts:

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You have done a lot of voices for the Star Wars animated series. How was the process different for The Bad Batch?

It is a whole different level from what I have done in other Star Wars projects. I am most of the principal characters on camera for much of the show, which is quite a challenge. It was kind of intimidating when I learned that they were going to take the story in this direction. I feel that Clone Wars was the wind up. And this is the “knocking it out of the park” part. It is the most interesting challenge I ever had as a voice actor.

Do you find yourself a little lonely without Matt (Lanter as Anakin), James (Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi) or Ashley (Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano) from The Clone Wars?

It is like I was placed on an escape pod and fired off on another planet, while the rest of the crew hung out on the ship. I do miss having the ensemble together. As an actor, it is fun and fulfilling, and mostly why people get into acting. As a voice actor, your collaborators in the acting studio are also your audience. With these stories, it is a little different. Although, sometimes we do our recordings as an ensemble, often, it is just me talking to myself (laughs). I do miss working with The Clone Wars ensemble. But, I accept the responsibilities of this universe that I am playing in now.

Could you comment on the long first episode?

It was a blast to jump into this new storyline with what feels like a movie (laughs). It is like a Star Wars movie where we establish these characters. I am pleased that Brad (Rau, director) and Jennifer (Corbett, writer) and Dave (Filoni, creator) decided to open it so strongly.

How did you distinguish between the members of the Bad Batch?

Hunter is kind of smoky and covert. Tech is easy-breezy, nothing really gets to him. Wrecker is his own adjective (laughs). Crosshair is like a coiled snake; there is something of an implied threat to him. Echo is the grumpy one of the group. He is the odd clone out of a bunch of misfits. He is dealing with being half human and half machine. He is still kind of working his way into this dynamic, and tends to be a little sourer on things.

What is your recording process?

We recorded scene by scene. For the most part, I just read straight through as the characters and we record it that way. We do little spot checks and corrections, line by line. We probably do the scene two or three times with directing adjustments from Brad and Jen. Occasionally I arrange to record some of the more boisterous, or loud lines at the end of the session, just to save my voice, because I don’t want to blow out my voice (laughs).

What was it like collaborating with Filoni?

Dave Filoni’s presence is always felt, even though he was not directly involved in the voiceover sessions. That was all Brad and Jennifer. I had not worked with them before. I was pleased that it felt every bit as good as anything I have done with Dave. The Bad Batch felt like stepping beyond the threshold of where The Clone Wars finished. They have upped their game in terms of the cinematic sophistication. You are seeing a Star Wars movie in the best sense of the word. It will appeal to not just the fans, but also anybody who enjoys a fun adventure, an emotional story or the whole grand political story that plays out.

Are the Bad Batch superheroes?

The Bad Batch is a band of hot shots that play their own song. They don’t necessarily play with other bands but they get the job done. They are like a five-man army. They have heightened powers but they are not super beings like the Jedis with the Force. They are relatable because they are humans — they are super competent, hard-working dependable humans.

Are you a Star Wars or a Star Trek person?

I started out with Star Trek, which is such a great show because of the writing. I moved to the Star Wars side of the table, once it dropped back in 1977. While I am still very affectionate to both of those universes, I have a more personal and professional connection to the Star Wars universe now.

People talk about what that original Star Wars movie did to them, and how it was a transformational influence in their life. That was very much the case for me. I liked the optimism of Star Trek, how it painted the future and our capacities to work out our differences, and make things work. I think that kind of optimism is too often missing in our world. Star Wars is also ultimately an optimistic story. It is one of overcoming personal difficulties, of good triumphing over evil. This is a story that we need to tell ourselves. And it is part of why the story lives on and continues to expand in such wonderful ways.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch airs on Disney+Hotstar from May 4

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