Fan Expo Philadelphia 2024, Part 2: Highlights from Across the Galaxy

Fan Expo Philadelphia 2024
The cast of the live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Fan Expo Philadelphia 2024 featured panels with guests from the Star Wars universe and beyond.

A short time ago, in the not so far, far away city of Philadelphia, Fan Expo Philadelphia 2024 celebrated Star Wars Day with a weekend filled with guests from multiple Star Wars properties. Though Star Wars was the most predominant fandom represented, there were also guests for anime and gaming fans, multiple cast members from The Office, and a reunion of the cast of National Lampoon’s Vacation. The panels I attended throughout the weekend were enjoyable all around and featured plenty of fun moments.

The first panel I attended was Friday night’s showcase of voice actors from both The Clone Wars and Rebels. The panel featured Dee Bradley Baker (Rex), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Matt Lanter (Anakin), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), and Vanessa Marshall (Hera). When asked about their portrayals of previously established characters, Taylor explained that he tried to incorporate both Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness into his performance while Lanter commented that his portrayal of Anakin was an extension of Christensen’s performance in the movies.

Fan Expo Philadelphia 2024
Vanessa Marshall brought up a young Hera cosplayer on stage.

Eckstein shared that creator Dave Filoni initially wanted Ahsoka to have an Icelandic accent and admitted that she was thrilled when Ahsoka’s wardrobe was upgraded to a more practical battle outfit than the initial tube top. The cast shared that the years of working together strengthened their bonds and that they’ve remained friends after the conclusion of their time on the respective shows.

On Saturday, I attended Alan Tudyk’s panel. Though there was some discussion of Tudyk’s role as the voice of K-2SO in Rogue One, there was far more conversation about his other series including Firefly and Resident Alien. Tudyk shared that the Resident Alien producers nearly scrapped the series due to difficulty with casting the lead before he ended up in the role. He also declared that he believes that Wash would have lived if Firefly hadn’t been prematurely cancelled.

When asked if there was another series, besides Firefly, that he would have liked to have more seasons of, he named the short-lived DC Comics-based Powerless. Regarding his role as K-2SO, he admitted that he was initially hesitant about the role after seeing the lack of expression in the droid, but ultimately was excited to be a part of the Star Wars universe.

The “Voices of Gaming” panel featured Jen Taylor and Steve Downes from Halo, Patricia Summersett from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Neil Newbon from Baldur’s Gate III. Each panelist shared their unique paths into gaming voice acting, ranging from theater to radio. The panelists shared that motion capture is helpful in creating an immersive experience as opposed to being in a recording studio, and that creating multiple recordings of the ways that their characters can die is one of the most difficult parts of the process.

Next, cast members of the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender took the stage. Dallas Liu (Zuko), Ian Ousley (Sokka), Elizabeth Yu (Azula), and Maria Zhang (Suki) were all clad in cute anime hats and expressed their love for the original series as well as their enjoyment of being a part of the live-action series. Each cast member shared that the audition scripts they received had code names to prevent them from knowing what or for who they were auditioning for. Due to their love of the original series, most of them were able to figure out the characters based on the similar dialogue in the script. Liu confessed that Zuko was a dream role for him.

Regarding the recently announced two additional seasons, the cast shared the classic moments that they’re hoping to see adapted. There were shoutouts to classic episodes “Appa’s Lost Days” and “Zuko Alone,” as well as the introduction of Toph. Yu admitted that she was most looking forward to playing out some of Azula’s canon moments in the original series, as all of Azula’s material in the initial season of the Netflix series was created for the series.

Ahsoka was the last panel I attended, featuring Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Eman Esfandi, and Diana Lee Inosanto. On bringing the character of Sabine to live-action, Bordizzo admitted that she watched the series to prepare for the role and saw Sabine’s moments from the series as memories as she filmed her scenes. On the other hand, Esfandi shared that Dave Filoni instructed him to only watch five episodes of Rebels but did a lot of reading on Ezra from fan-curated Wookiepedia. Both Bordizzo and Esfandi explained that Filoni didn’t tell them much about their characters between the end of Rebels and Ahsoka to keep their performances focused on the present.

Inosanto confessed that she was told a lot about her character during her initial appearance in The Mandalorian and was excited to explore those reveals in Ahsoka. Each expressed their excitement about being part of the Star Wars universe, particularly in how fun the action scenes were to film. When asked about their inability to talk about their experiences during the actors’ strike, they admitted that they enjoyed seeing the fan reaction regardless of their own frustration and watched the episodes together in private viewing parties.

There was a lot to enjoy at Fan Expo Philadelphia 2024, and the guest panels were some of the highlights. Though the weekend mostly featured Star Wars guests, there were still plenty of things even for fans of other things to appreciate. Fan Expo Philadelphia will return in 2025, hopefully with more great panels for fans to experience.

Author: Jessica Wolff

Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.

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