If you are hearing Clone voices, the chances are good you're hearing Dee Bradley Baker. Ever since the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 2008, Baker has played every single Clone in the animated Star Wars galaxy. If there's an episode that almost exclusively features Clones, then you're hearing a one-man performance.
Though his career is hardly confined to Star Wars or Clones, Baker's Clone work is prolific. Aside from The Clone Wars, he's appeared in Star Wars Rebels, the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, the games Star Wars: Battlefront II, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and so much more. And while he wasn't playing a Clone, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention him giving voice to both Frog Lady and Frog Man in Season 2 of The Mandalorian.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch not only sees the Clones return to animation, it puts them front and center. The show is all Clone, all the time, and Baker is rightfully the star of it all.
SYFY WIRE caught up with Baker to discuss the new series, his process in creating countless Clone characters, and whether or not certain beloved Clones would have complied with Order 66.
When you receive a new Clone to create, how do you start? Is there a baseline character that you then add to and augment, or does it go another way?
Great question. I look at Rex as like the core of where the Clones start. And then from there, it's a question of age, and status, and any kind of personality quirks that are suggested in the writing. That is, what's the arc of this Clone's life? What's the arc within the story that needs to be fulfilled in this script? And so that, I hammer that down, the specifics that, with either [series creator] Dave Filoni, or with [producer] Brad Rau and Jennifer Corbett [producer and head writer] in the case of Bad Batch.
I'll probably hang it on like an adjective or two, maybe, or an image sometimes. And that's how I see that individual Clone. Whether it's just a "reg," as we call them, the regular Clones, or it's [one of the] Bad Batch. Each has a little hook that I hang my vision of them on, and then I can just pull it off the wall and, and put it back in and pull off the other one. And I can do it quite quickly now.
You don't do one take as one and then another take as another. You do it all at once.
We tend to go straight through with them all now. I feel like I know them really well, and I'm fond of saying it's like jumping on rocks as you're in a stream, and just jump from rock to rock to rock. I can see the rock, it's solid, it's clear, and I can just jump to it. It doesn't feel like it takes effort.
What actions do you specifically alter when you're playing a Clone who's had Order 66 triggered?
Well, a post-66 Clone, who I'm going to assume has not had his chip removed, they tend to lock into obedience and authority and it's a profound shift to a more rule-based universe, a more hierarchical, top-down, tyrannical command chain. And so there's a severity. They're not as friendly either, but that's part of what's interesting about this series, is that at this moment of profound transformation from a Republic into this tyrannical situation... what do the Clones do? How do the Clones react? And in particular, what does this Bad Batch do? Because they're not just like regular Clones. Well, anyway, you'll see how it plays out in the show.
Would you say that the Order 66 programming is their true personality, and the personalities that we've come to know has been an illusion? Or is it the other way around, that those are the real guys that we got to know, and this is being forced on them?
I like to think of it as a technological overlay… I mean, we'll have to see, that it switches their personality, it transforms their core personality. In the prequels, in the feature films, it's more of the Jedi master that you know and are familiar with or cut down, that's the horror. But then thanks to The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and now Bad Batch, you have the connection to the Clones. And so when they're part of this horrific transformation, it deepens the tragedy and the horror of it even more.
That's one of the great things about these shows is it makes you realize it's a tragedy, not just for the Jedi, but for the Clones. And it's in a lot of ways more so for the Clones, because they didn't ask for this.
Yeah. It's a remarkable political military story that George Lucas paints. It's quite grand, it's quite grand in scale. And I don't think everybody who's just casually familiar with Star Wars grasps that. But it's pretty remarkable that it's not just a personal story of overcoming a bad early life or problems with dad or whatever, losing your wife, losing your mentor. But that it's also this grand political manipulation by a really evil and really smart, really capable fellow, Palpatine, who engineers democracy to give itself away to tyranny. That's the profound political tragedy that's really painted. I'm not sure if everybody grasps that, although I think fans do, is that, that's the horror is that democracy is a tenuous thing and that it can give itself away.
If he had lived, do you think 99 from The Clone Wars episodes "Clone Cadets" and "ARC Troopers" (and the Clone the Bad Batch are named after) would obey Order 66?
Man I wish 99 had lived... I so like that character, he's one of my very favorite Clones, such a sweet fellow. I can't believe that he would. I have to believe that part of why they let him go that way was because he was physically challenged, but also that the chip thing didn't work out so well either. I'd love to know.
Thank you for saying that. I'm just going to take your answer and that's just how it is now.
I love that idea.
What about someone who's cut himself off, like Cut Lawquane from The Clone Wars episode "The Deserter" or somebody like that? Do you think it affects him or is he just so disconnected that it doesn't register?
Cut Lawquane is, I'd imagine he's so far isolated that I can't imagine that registering with the fellow. He's also one of my favorite Clones too, by the way. Being a family man and all, his is a really interesting story. Love to know more about what's going on with Cut Lawquane. But yeah, he's not around… I would hope that he's clear of that.
I imagine you get the question a lot about who your favorite is, I always come back to Rex, but is it impossible for you to choose?
Yeah. I mean, it is. Some really stand out for me that I particularly relate to, but I feel terrible when any of them are killed. Like the Umbara arc that we did back in the days of The Clone Wars was just... It was not easy for me to go in and do that. Not just vocally. Certainly there was a lot of yelling and a lot of fighting and vocally, it was stressful, but just the tragedy of how that was set up and what was playing out of them killing Clones, offing Clones, that was not easy for me too. And even when Clones perish, it's really unpleasant for me because I feel like these guys are real.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch arrives on Disney+ on May 4. May the Force be with 99.