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How Eckstein's wife became a 'Star Wars' icon

Hopefully we can land David a 'Clone Wars' cameo
May 4, 2020

David Eckstein finished fourth in the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year voting, earned some down-ballot MVP consideration, won a World Series and became a 5-foot-6 folk hero during four years with the Angels. And still, he might not even be the most prominent Disney-related member of his own family:

David Eckstein finished fourth in the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year voting, earned some down-ballot MVP consideration, won a World Series and became a 5-foot-6 folk hero during four years with the Angels. And still, he might not even be the most prominent Disney-related member of his own family: His wife, Ashley, is the voice of Ahsoka Tano, one of the protagonists of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" -- and the first starring female Jedi in Star Wars history.

Ashley Eckstein, née Ashley Drane, grew up in Orlando, Fla., in the shadow of Disney World, dreaming of being an actor. Her first television appearance came as a competitor on an episode of Nickeoldeon's "Guts" back in 1994 -- where, despite being saddled with the nickname "The Face," she finished in second place, and honestly handled the Aggro Crag pretty well. David can’t even claim to be the only athlete in the family now, either:

A number of roles on kids shows followed, from "That's So Raven" (she played Muffy) to "Drake and Josh," before Eckstein finally landed the role that made her famous: Tano, an apprentice of Jedi general (and future Darth Vader) Anakin Skywalker. Tano's been central to the Clone Wars saga from the beginning, appearing in the 2008 film and all seven seasons of the animated TV series -- including the final one, which has blown up since premiering on Disney+ back in February -- and eventually becoming a fan favorite. (A live-action version of the character will also appear in the second season of "The Mandalorian," played by Rosario Dawson.)

Much of that stems from Eckstein's voice acting: Adolescent girls haven't often been heard in the Star Wars universe, but Eckstein manages to roll up all that doubt and spunk and vulnerability into a single performance. (OK, it also doesn't hurt that she wields dual clear lightsabers, which is, objectively speaking, extremely cool.)

How Ashley met David is worth a movie of its own. The two grew up about half an hour from each other in Florida, but didn't meet until they'd both moved to L.A. -- Ashley to pursue acting, David as the starting shortstop for the Angels. Ashley scored a ticket right behind the home dugout, and decided to wear David's No. 22 jersey to the game on a whim ... only to awkwardly make eye contact with the actual No. 22 as he stood in the on-deck circle. One date to a film premiere later, they were a couple.

The two came from pretty different worlds -- at his first fan convention in support of Ashley, David referred to a lightsaber as a "life saver" -- but they've made it work. Even if David still feels a little out of his element sometimes. "I was once having this conversation with this guy about how excited he was to go play Dungeons & Dragons in the basement," he told Sports Illustrated. "He kept referring to LARPing [short for Live Action Role-Playing] and let’s just say the conversation was very quiet from my end."