Star Wars: Where Are They Now? – Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano)
Born on the 22nd of September, 1981, in Louisville, Kentucky, Maria Ashley Drane quickly fell in love with Star Wars. Whether it was watching The Empire Strikes Back on repeat, or playing as R2-D2 with her three siblings, she always dreamed of having some connection to the galaxy far, far away. Ashley also harboured a passion for all things Disney from an early age, having been raised in Orlando, Florida, by a long-time Disney employee. While her father played an integral role in landing her a dream first job, however, it was Ashley's mother who helped establish her early acting career. And so, at the age of twelve, the youngster departed her role at Disney's MGM Studios to pursue theatre and television work. Through recurring roles in Phil of the Future and Drake and Josh, as well as significant portrayals in The Brady Bunch in the Whitehouse, Blue Collar TV, That '70s Show, and That's So Raven, Ashley cemented herself as a capable actress. This led to the role of a lifetime - the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The Togrutan quickly became a fan favourite, thanks to Ashley's charisma and charm. But what has she gone on to do since her days as the Jedi Padawan? Well, let's find out!
In 2008, Ashley was inducted into the universe she'd grown up idolising, though it wasn't quite the introduction she would have hoped for. To begin with, the cinematic release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars received mostly negative reviews. Then, early into the subsequent TV series of the same name, Ahsoka was disliked by most fans due to her “annoying” nature. As the character matured, however, fan perception of Tano slowly began to change for the better, to the point where she was brought back for seasons one and two of Star Wars Rebels. In fact, it was entirely due to the fans' love for the character that Disney and Lucasfilm decided to publish Ahsoka – a young adult novel that details the Togrutan's journey post Order 66. But Ashley hasn't just openly thanked her supports, in return; she's also attended countless Star Wars conventions, which led to an exciting career opportunity. As Eckstein described on The Star Wars Show, she wanted Star Wars clothes made for her to attend the aforementioned events. Consequently, backed by Lucasfilm, Ashley began 'Her Universe' – an online store dedicated to “geek fashion”. Producing everything from Dalek dresses to Boba Fett handbags since 2009, Her Universe has firmly established itself as a niche outlet for female sci-fi fans across the globe. And it doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon.
Away from producing tailor-made clothing, attending conventions, starring in movies, and hosting events, Ashley has supported a variety of organisations and causes - such as Mid-America Transplant Services, Donate Life, and the Ronald McDonald House - alongside her husband, former Major League Baseball player and two-time World Series champion, David Eckstein. Both of whom married on the 26th of November, 2006, in David's home state, which was appropriately followed by a wedding reception at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida. Such a fairy tale wedding was something Ashley had dreamt of ever since her days spent roaming the renown theme park. Though its fruition should come as no surprise. After all, since the third grade, Ashley has lived by the words: “Don't just dream it. Be it!” And given her incredible success thus far in life, this quote is something we can all live by...
So, what do you think of Ashley's performances as Ahsoka Tano? And what are your thoughts on her career path to date? Let us know in the comments below.