By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer
The pandemic had some unexpected effects on people’s lives and in the case of the original Mulan, Ming-Na Wen, it literally forced her into the closet for her reprisal of Fennec Shand in the new 3D computer animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
Wen loves animation so when Star Wars: The Bad Batch creator David Filoni told her Fennec Shand was making an appearance, Wen recalls, “I was over the moon.” During a recent Zoom interview with AsAmNews, Wen said Filoni and the writers discussed at length what her character would be like.
“I’m really grateful for them listening to what I had to say or what my questions were because that doesn’t usually happen.”
The Bad Batch is about a group of elite clone troopers–Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and cyborg clone Echo–who had genetic mutations that make them unique. Each has special abilities and they were first introduced as Clone Force 99 in the computer animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The Bad Batch begins just before the end of the Clone Wars and shows the Bad Batch attempting to adjust to the changes brought by the war’s end (Episode 1, Aftermath, was released on May 4, 2021, Star Wars Day).
In The Bad Batch, Wen’s character is 28 years younger than in The Mandalorian. Wen explained, “She’s more ambitious; she wants to make her mark in the world. There’s a different energy to her, probably she’s a little more ruthless than the seasoned Fennec.” Wen found it interesting to explore Fennec’s origin story and had some say in her Fennec’s younger self, but she also had to spend time in the closet to say it.
Wen chuckled and acknowledged, that getting the show to go on was pretty amazing during lockdown. “What we were able to do is having very compact and expensive equipment sent to my house. We set it up, the computer, the recording, everything, in my closet, because that had the best sound. With all the clothes, it kind of muffles everything.” That’s a great tip for future animators and podcasters. No need for expensive sound proofing if you can fit into a closet.
“The directors, the writers, they were all on Zoom,” Wen continued. She found the experience, “very strange, but it worked.” While the animators weren’t privy to the secrets of Wen’s closet, they did listen to Wen while creating the younger Fennec Shand. According to Wen, she had such an iconic look that they ultimately decided to stick with it, but Wen added, “I am curious to see if she has anything else in her closet. Does she sleep in that outfit?” We’ll have to wait and see because even Wen doesn’t seem to know.
In this series, Force 99 is dubbed the Bad Batch by other clones. On the operations base at Kamino, they meet a young female clone named Omega (voiced by Michelle Ang) who works as a medical assistant. When one of the batch (Crosshair) goes really bad and betrays his companions, the others flee, taking Omega with them. The mercenary Fennec Shand first appears during Episode 4, “Cornered” (directed by Saul Ruiz and written by Christian Taylor) which was released on May 21, 2021.
In that episode, the Bad Batch is hoping to hide out on the planet Idaflor, but in need of repairs, they are forced to stop on Pantora where a landing bay attendant informs Fennec Shand of their presence. Someone has hired Fennec Shand to find and bring Omega back to Kamino. When Omega becomes separated from her companions, Fennec Shand appears, seeming to come to her aid, but eventually the Bad Batch are able to reunite with Omega and leave Pantora.
Yet the Bad Batch worry about who hired Fennec Shand and try to figure this out with the help of a Jedi informant named Cid who makes a bargain: The Bad Batch must retrieve another abductee, Muchi, in return for that information.
In the ensuing episodes, we learn that others are after Omega and why, but it’s in Episode 9, Bounty Lost, (directed by Brad Rau and Nathaniel Villanueva and written by Matt Michnovetz), released on June 25, 2021, that Fennec Shand returns and we learn who hired her.
Fans of The Mandalorian will realize that the Bad Batch version of Fennec Shand looks slightly different. She doesn’t have the facial scar that mars her face. “I’m curious to see if there will be stories about how she got that scar,” Wen said.
Wen first played the character Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian (Chapter 5: The Gunslinger) where she seemingly dies. But does anyone really die? In The Mandalorian, we learn by Chapter 14: The Tragedy that Boba Fett saved Fennec Shand and parts of her body were replaced by cybernetics. She becomes Boba Fett’s new partner and is scheduled to appear The Book of Boba Fett which will be released in December of this year.
All Wen was allowed to say about The Book of Boba Fett was it’s “what happens after she was shot in The Mandalorian. She sides up with Boba Fett.” She added, it is “like The Mandalorian 2.5, continuing chapters of this story line.”
At the 2019 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, Wen was named a Disney Legend on the same day her casting as Fennec Shand was announced. That meant Wen was moving beyond the Disney Princess Mulan and straying into the Star Wars villain territory. Almost two years later, in a sort of strange time warp, Wen is now playing the younger and older versions of her character at the same time and becoming a Star Wars legend.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch continues on Disney+ and will have a total of 16 episodes. Episodes are released weekly. Besides Wen the animated series features a number of voice actors of Asian descent including New Zealand-born Michelle Ang, Canadian Japanese rapper Andrew Kishino and Singaporean actress Gwendoline Yeo.
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