The Force will soon be strong with this one. Meet Ezra, a charismatic teenage con artist who is one of the main characters in the upcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels.
Premiering with a one-hour special this fall on the Disney Channel before moving to Disney XD as a weekly series, Rebels bridges the gap between the two Star Wars movie trilogies. Set in the Outer Rim territories in between Episodes III and IV — also known as 2005's Revenge of the Sith and 1977's A New Hope — the show follows the genesis of the rebellion that ultimately leads to the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. Fourteen years after the massacre of most of the Jedi knights in Revenge of the Sith, the Galactic Empire has consolidated power and its despotic intentions are no longer a secret.
When we meet Ezra, he has little interest in becoming a revolutionary. The suave teen has been living on his own on the planet Lothal and is just starting to learn how to use his mysterious new powers. "To survive, instinctively every now and then when he's in a jam he uses the Force," exec producer Dave Filoni says in the exclusive preview video below. "He doesn't call it that. He doesn't know that's what he's doing. He thinks he's got some abilities that are a little strange every now and then, but they help him out. It's instinctive, it's reactionary."
As Darth Vader and Co. begin to expand their grip on the Outer Rim, Ezra will be drawn into the burgeoning rebel alliance. "With Ezra we see how a kid is reacting to this imperial rule," Filoni tells TV Guide Magazine. "That becomes a big question: What is imperial rule like? We've seen it in the movies with a big rebellion that ends up blowing up the Death Star, but do we just assume that when the Empire took over in Revenge of the Sith it was seen as a bad thing? I would challenge that. It wasn't this terrible thing that came in and was cruel to everyone all at once. It was slow to build its power base and spread out, and then we get to see the rebel alliance it affects, and the repercussions of that tyranny."
Ezra is played by Taylor Gray, who starred in the Nickelodeon series Bucket & Skinner's Epic Adventures. "I'm excited to voice the role of Ezra in Star Wars Rebels but I'm even more excited to be a part of the Star Wars legacy," Gray says. "I can't wait for fans new and existing to come together and see the next chapter in the most legendary tale known in the galaxy."
Filoni chose Gray for the role because his voice wasn't too contemporary. "I don't want to sound like I just went down to the local mall [to cast the role]," says Filoni, who also oversaw the previous Star Wars animated series, The Clone Wars. "There's a rawness to him that feels very authentic. Taylor really seems to be able to occupy the character in this time period of the Star Wars universe. He's a real kid who's out there in the galaxy."
For those hardcore Star Wars fans who might be groaning over such a young protagonist — and Filoni knows you're out there — have no fear, Ezra will be mentored by Kanan, a Jedi who survived the Emperor's purge and is part of the rebel movement. (Freddie Prinze Jr. voices the cowboy-like character.)
Check out this exclusive first look at a preview of the character. And tune in to Disney XD on Monday, Feb. 17 during Kickin' It (6/5c) and Lab Rats (6:30/5:30c) for the premiere of two new teaser trailers for Star Wars Rebels.