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EXCLUSIVE: Taylor Gray: Star Wars Rebel

September 29, 2014

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By: Lynn Barker

Barely 21-year-old actor Taylor Gray voices 14-year-old budding rebel Ezra Bridger in the Disney XD series “Star Wars Rebels” which follows the popular “Clone Wars” series. Taylor played Bucket in the Nick series “Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures” and has done TV guest shots as well as appearing in theatrical films. He also co-stars in Walt Before Mickey, a new movie about early Walt Disney in which he plays animator Friz Freleng. “Star Wars Rebels” is Taylor’s first voice actor role and he admits he had a lot to learn.

Taylor GrayTaylor Gray

“Star Wars Rebels”, which premieres on the Disney Channel with “Spark of Rebellion”, a 1 hour “movie” on October 3rd then starts as a series on Disney XD October 13th, occurs in the time between the end of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and the original, 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope. The series focuses upon teen Ezra Bridger who is street smart but also naïve. He’s a thief and rogue without parents when he tangles with a rag tag group of rebels just beginning to fight back against the evil Empire.

Ezra (Taylor Gray) after joining the RebelsEzra (Taylor Gray) after joining the RebelsCourtesy of Disney XD

Kanan (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. of the Scooby Doo films), a secret Jedi and captain of the ship “Ghost” will become Ezra’s mentor and teacher. His crew includes Hera (voice of Vanessa Marshall), Sabine (voice of Tiya Sircar), and Zeb (voice of Steve Blum) as well as their R2-type mechanic and gruff sidekick Chopper. The Force, it seems, is latently powerful in Ezra but, after “The Clone Wars”, all Jedis remaining are banned and hunted. It will take Kanan’s bravery to help Ezra be all he can be.

Kidzworld: Gotta ask. You are only 21 but were you a Star Wars fan from seeing it on DVD or video tape as a kid?

  • Taylor: I had seen (the movies for) episodes 4, 5 and 6 (the classic Star Wars trilogy) prior to getting the job but I hadn’t seen the other movies so I was, of course, a fan of that but I’ve played a lot of catch up since.

Ezra holds a light saber for the first timeEzra holds a light saber for the first timeCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: I would say that Ezra is kind of a fun combo of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo; he’s a bit naïve and has never left his home planet yet he’s streetwise and kind of a rogue. Would that be a fair description?

  • Taylor: Yeah. I think that’s awesome and that’s what I would hope people would take from it. It’s so cool to hear that. For a while we were explaining the characters without anyone seeing the show so it was all based on our word but, now that people have seen it, it’s so cool to hear what they actually think. I love that description.

Enemy of the Rebellion The InquisitorEnemy of the Rebellion The InquisitorCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: You are a young man rather than a young teen so, as a voice artist for this, do you consciously speak in a higher range than what’s normal for you? How do you tailor your voice for Ezra?

  • Taylor: This is the first voice thing I’d ever done and I think it’s so much harder than normal acting because you have so many tools to work with when you’re acting on screen. You can express things through your face or moves but when it’s just your voice you really have to fine tune it and figure out how the character would sound.
  • When I found out Ezra was a little younger than I am, I knew I had to pitch up my voice a little but otherwise, it’s very similar to how I talk.

Empire enforcer KallusEmpire enforcer KallusCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: Do you and Freddie Prinze Jr. (who plays Ezra's mentor Kanan) ever get to record in the same room so you can play off each other?

  • Taylor: We actually record together every time. It’s fantastic. The whole cast is together. It’s something that, I guess, George Lucas had taken a liking to when they made “The Clone Wars” (TV series) because, I guess on most animated shows, the actors don’t record together. That was surprising to me because there is such a great dynamic you get when you are actually able to look at the people you are reading with and acting off of.

Ezra's mentor and rebel Kanan JarrusEzra's mentor and rebel Kanan JarrusCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: Did you have to learn something totally new to you for voice recording?

  • Taylor: Yeah. The biggest lesson I had to learn was when we did the first episode. We’d do a take and I’d turn to Freddie when I was talking to his character, then Vanessa and Steve and Tiya. We finished the scene and (the directors) were like “That was such a great take but, Taylor, do you mind facing the microphone because we couldn’t pick anything up.” So, I got used to that. It’s so fun working together with everyone and I think it adds more to the performance.

Hot rebel Sabine WrenHot rebel Sabine WrenCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: Did they video record your movements while you were doing you voice so the animators could use some of your gestures or expressions?

  • Taylor: Yes, they do. They always set up these little portable cameras in front of each of us and, at first, I was like “What?” but it just records you while you are saying the lines so, when they animate it, they can make it as real as possible. They animate closely to how our faces move and how we move while saying the lines.

Rebel pilot Hera in actionRebel pilot Hera in actionCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: Have you watched Ezra in the show and gone “OMG, that’s me! I do that.”?

  • Taylor: A ton! Tiya said she was watching and said “I see Vanessa. I didn’t even see her character. It was Vanessa’s face”. I see it with Freddie bigtime.

Rebel Zeb kicks buttRebel Zeb kicks buttCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: What was the hardest scene to get right when you were recording.. either in the “Spark of Rebellion” pilot or the first episode “Rise of the Old Masters”?

  • Taylor: For me personally it was the action sequence at the beginning of “Spark”. My favorite scenes are when there’s a lot of dialogue and I really love the scenes between Kanan and Ezra when they have heartfelt conversations about the Force and his struggles. I really enjoy that and I find it a little easier than all the action sequences.
  • When I first read through the “Spark of Rebellion” script before recording, I was like “How am I going to act a jump? It just has lines written in like ‘Ugh’ and ‘Oooof’. That was the most difficult part in the beginning when he’s trying to evade all the stormtroopers and he’s jumping from building to building. Just making those sounds realistic was the hardest. It would say “gasp”. What is a realistic gasp when I’m being shot at?

Kanan and the crew of the GhostKanan and the crew of the GhostCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: How did the cast first meet? Did they just throw all of you together and say “Okay, record”?

  • Taylor: Yeah. We didn’t get to go out for a meal or an event together. The first time we all met was at the first recording session and I think we all went in and knew who everyone was because we’d gotten a list of who was on the show but it was like “Hey guys, you’ll be together for a little bit and we’ll see how it works.” But now, because of use recording every week, you really build that family dynamic and it’s a cool vibe between everyone.  

Stormtroopers chase EzraStormtroopers chase EzraCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: Did they show you drawings or early video of Ezra before your first recording?

  • Taylor: When I went in for the call back, there was a rough sketch of what Ezra looked like so I had that for going in to that last audition before getting the job. Once I got it, it was tweaked a little bit. We have had pictures since day one though. They animate it so well.  

Ezra action figureEzra action figureCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: How are you personally like Ezra and how very different?

  • Taylor: I’m a lot more like him than unlike him. I didn’t even see that until everyone in the cast, after we recorded the first episode, were like “Oh, God you are exactly like him.” Not that I’m a thief or anything but I really enjoy his self-confidence and independence. He believes he can do everything on his own.
  • I’ve always had a little hint of that where I’ve felt like “I can fare well on my own and be okay” but on the flip side, I did always feel like I needed someone’s reassurance or someone to bounce things off of. I need the whole family thing and he didn’t have family growing up so that’s our biggest difference. I love to connect to someone and love someone and Ezra is apprehensive.

Imperial base with star destroyerImperial base with star destroyerCourtesy of Disney XD

Kidzworld: Have you ever had a teacher that you knew could really teach you something (like Kanan can teach Ezra) but you just butted heads with them?

  • Taylor: Yeah I really did. I had a teacher in high school named Mr. Benner and he was my history teacher my junior year. I was maybe a little bit of a troublemaker in school and I got kicked out of his class for excessive talking or something. I remember being like “This sucks!” but over the course of the year (it changed). I never had a teacher I had a close relationship with until him. He was the coolest guy. He knew that he had stuff to teach me, not just history-wise but life lessons. He was just the coolest teacher I ever met. It really was that relationship that Ezra and Kanan have.

Star Wars Rebels: The posterStar Wars Rebels: The posterCourtesy of Disney XD

Check out Star Wars Rebels by watching “Spark of Rebellion” on the Disney Channel October 3rd, then the series on Disney XD starting October 13th.

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