Having grown up loving female action-hero characters, Rosario Dawson landed her dream job when she secured the title role of a wise ex-Jedi warrior in Ahsoka, the latest live-action Star Wars series from Disney+, debuting Aug. 23. The actress-activist talks with emmy about being part of the iconic franchise and the work it took to get there. The award-winning official publication of the Television Academy is on newsstands Aug. 14.
"Dream role? More like fantasy," says Dawson, who identifies with strong female characters in films such as Terminator and Alien. "I can't believe I'm playing someone in that sphere." She credits two things for helping her land the role—the magic of The Force and fan artist Kode Abdo. When Abdo tweeted artwork featuring Dawson as Ahsoka, it caught the eye of series creator Dave Filoni. "Who knows what would have happened if [Abdo] hadn't made a fan-cast of me?" Dawson muses. "Dave loves to [say], 'You didn't just get this job because of a tweet.'"
In "A Force to Be Reckoned With," Dawson reflects on a career that includes nearly non-stop work since age fifteen. "The hunger and the working-class background that I came from [meant] never assuming that [success] was going to last," Dawson says. "I've been working my butt off for a really long time, but when Star Wars came into my life, it finally made me feel like I could be okay. The community, we can take care of each other. There's just this magic there."
No stranger to hard work, Dawson sharpened her martial arts skills two hours a day, seven days a week, to prepare to play the fierce warrior. "By the end, I was muy macho," she says. "My arms were so big!" Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who plays Sabine Wren, admires her costar's dedication. "She's incredibly hardworking—we were shooting six days a week and then on Sunday, I would just be home on my bed, flat. And [Dawson] would be flying somewhere to speak at a panel or doing her sustainable clothing line or some political thing she is passionate about. And I just was like, how?"
"Rosario is just a ball of light," Bordizzo continues. "Even if she's really busy and has eight pages of dialogue, she'll still happily chat to every single person about what they did on the weekend." One day, Dawson took a lightsaber to the face and got a black eye, but rather than get upset, she laughed it off and insisted they keep shooting. "She just had the perfect attitude," Bordizzo recalls.
A tweet may have sparked the path to Ahsoka, but Dawson believes the journey was sprinkled with Star Wars magic. Not only did she take acting classes with Hayden Christensen—Anakin Skywalker in the franchise—but she also chatted with Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, while staying at the same hotel, which she now believes was predestined. Like Ahsoka, Dawson carries the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, and she has no plans of letting up—"I've still got work to do."
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
- In "A Lion in Winter," prolific television writer-producer David Milch talks with emmy about his celebrated career. Beginning as a writer for Hill Street Blues, Milch went on to create hit series NYPD Blue and Deadwood before penning a memoir in 2022 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
- Director of photography Ross Riege talks with emmy about the ever-changing genres of the Apple TV+ murder-mystery comedy The Afterparty. In "True to Form," Riege discusses his methods for juggling a range of aspect ratios, lenses and lighting for the same sets to emphasize each character.
- In "Muppet Master," an excerpt from Sam and Friends: The Story of Jim Henson's First Television Show, author Craig Shemin chronicles the development of Henson's local Washington, D.C., program that introduced the world to Muppets.
Please note: Interviews with writers and performers were completed before the strikes of their respective guilds.
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. With wide-ranging, inclusive subjects representative of the Television Academy membership and the medium as a whole, emmy showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make it happen, from the stars of top shows and artisans behind the cameras, to programming trends and technological advances. Honored with dozens of awards for editorial excellence, emmy is published 12 times per year and is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
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