Star Wars: The Clone Wars comes back tonight, with more awesome droid-on-clone battles and lightsaber-wrangling. To celebrate, here's an exclusive image of the evil Asajj Ventress. We talked to star Ashley Eckstein and director Dave Filoni about what to expect.

We were excited to catch up with Eckstein, who voices the young Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano, as well as Filoni. First, here's our conversation with Eckstein:

It really seems like Ahsoka is growing up a lot and getting self-reliant. Are we going to see that continue in season three?


We saw that in the finale of season two. Ahsoka really grew up a lot in season two and she matured a lot, and that was definitely a hint for what to expect from her in season three. You'll see her grow up a lot in season three overall. She also becomes more like Anakin, she becomes a bit darker. And look for her to grow up in many different ways in season three.

When you say "darker," do you mean as in the Dark Side?

Ummm... she has different tones. But I don't think the Dark Side... to me, this is just my personal opinion, Ahsoka has so much good in her, and she still wants to do things the right way. I still feel like she's a long way from the Dark Side. But a lot of the spontanaiety from Anakin, Ahsoka is taking on. And sometimes you'll see that temper and that spontaneous anger come out of her. But I still think she's far from the Dark Side.


You say "growing up in many different ways." Is there going to be a particular love interest for Ahsoka in season three?

I'm not allowed to say, but you can take that any way you want, really. She grows up many different ways. Also, you'll see some connections with the old saga in season three, including some with Ahsoka.

Ahsoka does go out on her own more in season three. You'll see her away from Anakin. There's one episode where Anakin literally drops her off on a planet. He says, "Good luck, Snips," and then she's on her own. She gets herself into some trouble. But Anakin has taught her enough at this point, where she can handle it on her own. She's not quite a Jedi knight yet, but she's learned a lot. She's come a long way.


Do you think she's going to start recognizing there's something not quite right about her mentor?

I'll say this about Ahsoka: She is a mix between Plo Koon, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. She has a lot of Anakin's spontaneous ways and the way he thinks and the way he solves problems... but she still is very practical and conservative like Plo Koon and Obi-Wan, so you still see that mix in her. But I don't know if she still sees any of the Dark Side in Anakin like that yet.

So how much are you like Ahsoka in real life?

I wish I were more like Ahsoka, but I'm still a big scaredy-cat. I'm starting to learn to be more like Ahsoka, because I've started taking classes on how to fight with a lightsaber... I actually live in Orlando, FL. I have a trainer there. So I've learned a couple sequences, and even how to fight backwards with a lightsaber like Ahsoka does.


So when they do the live-action series, you'll be ready.

I'll be ready. I'm even working on my crunches, because Ahsoka's a little more in shape than I am, but I'm working on it.

And here's our chat with Dave Filoni:

So will the new season keep getting darker and more adult?

We keep Star Wars for everybody, that's always part of the goal. Empire Strikes Back might be the darker of the first three films, but everybody can watch it. I think that people react to that darkness by saying, "Wow, it was different than the first season. But I think it's still a lot of fun like the first season, while having a lot of more intense moments — like what we saw with the Boba Fett trilogy. We're not going to abandon that. We go with that kind of idea as well.


But we've found a way to weave in some of the fun, more light-hearted moments. Like when the droids are on Tatooine in the first Star Wars movie, that's classic stuff. You can't forget that aspect of Star Wars, because that's what makes the big moments, the "I am your father" moments, work.

We're huge fans of the Karen Traviss Republic Commando novels, which focus on the clones. Will we be seeing the clones continue to get more individuality and more self-awareness in the new season?

They definitely are more independent. People are going to see how this all weaves together and flows together nicely. Guys like Rex, and guys that you barely know, like Commander Wolf and Commander Cody — we're going to see their differences of personalities, and get into, "Why are they different?" And look at the battles that they've been through and how that's changed who they are. Those guys have now survived a long time in the clone war. Are clones even supposed to do that? There's a lot of great questions about clones.


In the episode "Deserter," in season two, it challenged Rex's view of his duty to his military, and by the end he didn't turn in [the deserter] Lawquane. So we're developing Rex as a character, as kind of the every man in the Clone wars.

Now we've seen Anakin torture somebody. We've seen him flip out a little bit more. We're seeing more of his unsavory side.

We have to remember how Anakin is going to go. And no matter how you look at the Clone Wars, it ends in a very dark way. The Jedi get extinguished. So we have to build Anakin in a way that we show where he gets these ideas over time, so when he gets to the decisive moment to choose between helping Palpatine to help Padme, or staying true to his commitment to the Jedi order and helping Mace Windu, he makes the decision to help Palpatine. And I think we can do a lot of things along the way that add to that final decision where he goes to the Dark Side.


It feels like the Clone Wars is getting a lot more complicated and messy, with the bounty hunters and all the different factions.

It does get complex. I mean, one of the things you read at the beginning of Revenge Of The Sith is where they say, "There are heroes on both sides" in relation to the Clone Wars. And really in season three you're going to see what that statement means. You're going to get into [the question of] "who are the Separatists? Are they just Grievous, Ventress and Dooku leading a bunch of corrupt corporate heads, leading battle droids, or is there a lot more to it?" Remember, many, many old Republic planets left to form the Separatists. It does make things more complex, but it also explains the mechanics of Palpatine's real plans for the Clone Wars in a much better way.

And finally, when are we going to get to see the coolest Jedi of them all, Quinlan Vos, on Clone Wars?


We shall see.

Is there something we can do to convince you? Can we send you peanuts or something?

No, I don't respond to that. But we shall see. Have faith.

I have faith in Quinlan, because he's the best Jedi.

Awesome. Well, you'll have to get back to me on that one. Wait and see.